All Things Gardening forum: Suggestions needed for garden

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Name: Allen Kang
Australia
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AllenPKang
Mar 29, 2016 2:54 AM CST
Get expert advice on how to design a garden, with ideas and practical tips on garden planning?
Name: Myriam
Ghent, Belgium (Zone 8a)
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bonitin
Mar 29, 2016 3:34 AM CST
I'm not an expert at all, but I think an expert needs some basic info to get started.

We would need more info like:
What part of Australia are you in? It is a huge country with probably different climate conditions.
What plants/ trees grow well in the surroundings, this is important!
How big is the land? Is it empty or has it already trees, shrubs and maybe perennial plants in it?
What type of soil do you have? Sandy, loam, clay..
Does the garden gets a lot of sun?
What is the average rainfall?
What kind of garden would you like? A natural one, helping the local wildlife with the accent on native plants, or a formal garden?

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Mar 29, 2016 2:47 PM CST
Some overall guidance would help:

- crops or flowers or both? Shrubs? Landscaping?
- do you want rows and rows filling a big field, or scattered, small raised beds, or foundation plantings or ...?
- advice for a beginner or an experienced gardener?
- low-maintenance, low-cost, low-water-usage, or a retiree's pride and joy and major hobby?
- starting with fertile, well-drained soil, or sand, or clay, or ??
- level ground, slight slope, or on a grade?
- Sunny, or mostly partly shaded?
- long, dry, hot summer? How cold does an unusually cold winter get?
- (I'm guessing that drought-tolerance is key. Will you irrigate?)

I like narrow raised beds so I can reach the whole width of the bed from one side - say, 3-4 feet wide.

If you have multiple beds or many rows, you still need to be able to get a wheelbarrow fairly near each row. maybe the gap between every other bed, or every 5th row, is wide enough for a wheelbarrow.

If you make a bed longer than, say, 15-20 feet, consider partly burying a cinder block every 10-15 feet in the bed, as a stepping-stone, so you can step OVER the bed and get to the other side without walking all the way around.

Plant together things that have similar water requirements.

If you will be following a spring crop with a summer crop (or adding a Fall crop in the same bed after the summer things are winding down), try to plan so that you can cultivate, add compost and re-plant a whole section around the same time. Try not to have just a few plants hanging on for 2 more months after everyth8ng else int hat area has finished up.

Try to plant tall things (pole beans) along the north edge of a garden, where they won't throw as much shade onto shorter things.

If you plan to save seeds, remember what cross-pollinates what. When one thing bolts and starts to put out flowers, you'll not want a bunch of plants of the same species but a different cultivar NEARBY and bolting at the same time. Gardeners saving seeds for themselves don't need 99.9% pollen purity. 90% is fine and 80% is practical. You're "just" growing food, not acting as a global seed bank or seed conservancy.

If you ARE hoping to save "pure" seeds of some rare heirloom crop or flower "for future generations", you'll have to plan for long isolation distances or use bags to keep insects away from the plants you save seed from.

If you're a novice gardener, start small so you don't get frustrated.

You might have to spend more time (at first) cultivating the soil than cultivating plants, until you get your soil up to "fairly fertile". Invest in compost or build a BIG compost heap! And after seedlings have emerged, cover with coarse mulch to keep soil cooler and prevent water from evaporating as rapidly.

Focus on choosing a few crops that you LIKE to eat, or flowers that you think are pretty.

But if you're just starting gardening, plant mostly EASY crops or flowers until you get some experience.

If there are things that you like that most people think are hard to grow in your area, try only a few kinds of them per year so you aren't disappointed when those all die the first few years.

And always have SOME easy plants in the schedule, so that you always have SOME successes, which will teach you what works and what doesn't, as the "easy" plants suffer or thrive as you improve what they need most.

Each year that you kill a bunch of crops, you LEARN a bunch of things. Eventually you'll be the only person for miles in any direction who can grow those things!

All that said, I'll admit my own bias. What would it be like to PLAN a garden ahead of time???

I may have done that once or twice out of extreme necessity to shoehorn in many things I wanted to collect seeds from, but those plans all went for naught when I had to remove that entire bed!

Generally, I have many more seedlings than I have square feet, and things go wherever there is room.

PLANNING ... planning. Planning! Hunnh. I guess some people DO plan!
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Mar 29, 2016 6:51 PM CST
AllenPKang,
Are you offering advice or asking for some?

I saw your posts over on DG; welcome to ATP.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 2, 2016 2:51 PM CST
Thank you @RickCorey. This wasn't my posting, but I'm a novice gardener who has just bought a house. I'm trying to decide what to do! This was great advice!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 4, 2016 11:14 AM CST
Thanks very much, Barbalee! I appreciate that.

I know that many people would love to see a Before photo of your new house and yard, and hear garden projects you plan for the next few years. It would be exciting to have a whole yard to fill!

Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Apr 4, 2016 3:44 PM CST
I agree We here on ATP are a photo-hungry bunch. We love to see before photos, after photos and everything in between photos.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 16, 2016 5:59 PM CST
It'll happen, Greene and Rick, as soon as we get a sunny day!
Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 17, 2016 2:58 PM CST
Well, no, I think nothing will happen. I prepared a border and a bed this year, and bought plants for them both. We're dripping wet today, and now all of them are literally underwater. I fear all will drown before daybreak. Confused I don't like being a newbie to the gardening world. The only green you'll see on the image is from large shrubs that were here when I bought the house.

Thumb of 2016-04-17/Barbalee/a7a85f

[Last edited by Barbalee - Apr 17, 2016 3:12 PM (+)]
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Name: Mika
Oxfordshire, England and Mento
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cliftoncat
Apr 17, 2016 3:32 PM CST
Barbalee, your new plants may well welcome the extra water as they settle in. In my experience newly planted things are more likely to suffer from not enough water. They're unlikely to drown in a day, so don't worry about it, just see how they look in a few days. I hope they all thrive for you Big Grin Smiling
Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 17, 2016 3:34 PM CST
Thank you for the reassurance, Mika. I sure as heck hope you're right. Crying
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 20, 2016 8:17 PM CST
I hope they lived!

I have a big fetish about "drainage" since I've only gardened in heavy clay with near-zero perk. Really, I like digging trenches and building raised beds lots better than weeding. At least I don't need to re-dig the same trench one week later!

And one gardening book that I read a lot while I was laid up and could not garden made much of "grading". So that really sank deeply into my unconscious.

Or maybe I have 10% mole ancestry.


Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 20, 2016 8:26 PM CST
I like your ancestry, Rick! The landscaper came today and added another 40 bags of topsoil and graded them, he thought. We had rain again tonight, and it's not looking better. I wrote him and sent a picture... this will NOT work the way it is, that's for sure!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 20, 2016 8:51 PM CST
Well, in THEORY building up the soil level above the "flood water table" might help ... but I don't bet that way.

As a Junior Mole-Man In Training, I figure that digging DOWN is what makes water go where I want it (away from the root zone)!

Honestly, despite having an obsession with drainage, I was away from gardening for some years, and then started "improving" my new yard without much or any thought.

You might think that NO ONE could forget that water only runs DOWNhill. Think again:

BEFORE TRENCHING:

Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/6f1a08

This could probably have been fixed in some sane way, but that didn't appeal to me.

Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/9549f6 Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/6d5c59

Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/fab569 Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/14b199


Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/57092f Thumb of 2016-04-21/RickCorey/71c60c




Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 20, 2016 10:14 PM CST
Hmmm....so drainage pipe in rock bed is your recommendation? French drain style, right?? Major thank you @RickCorey!!
Name: Gary
Wyoming MN (Zone 4a)
hostasmore
Apr 21, 2016 8:26 AM CST
Or...start with sandy soil, like my lot. I have added compost and materials to help keep some of the moisture. Even after a very hard rain I have never had standing water last in the low spots for more than a day.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Apr 21, 2016 8:35 AM CST
I totally agree with Rick that adding more stuff on top of non-draining soil isn't the answer; we're very pro-trench here, too!
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Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 21, 2016 8:56 AM CST
Gary, if it doesn't last more than a day, is that still a problem? I'm up to a sunny morning, and no standing moisture remains. I added sand to the original mix of top soil and compost. Maybe I shouldn't worry if it's gone in a day??

Sandy, I was thinking trenching around the bed and/or adding French drains there. Might that be a solution?? We aren't supposed to have rain for another week, but I'm afraid to plant the bed at this point.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Apr 21, 2016 11:47 AM CST
Barbalee, what is the soil actually like (under the new topsoil, that is) ? When we started our garden at this house, 25 years ago, the soil was quite compacted and "heavy," and didn't drain well at all. Any sort of rain and there would be standing water in the garden. Over the years we've added tons of organic material -- we have a large area of lawn and use a grass catcher, and essentially all of that goes onto the garden for mulch, or else into the compost pile to be used later on, and we even went so far as to work a good bit of sand into the garden to loosen up the soil (disclaimer: although I've read that this isn't necessarily recommended by the "experts," it did work well for us). All of that eventually did get the garden to where there is never any standing water and I no longer use the rototiller.

That said, though, our yard slopes down to the house on one side, which of course means a lot of water drains down and into our crawl space; that problem was helped tremendously by running a French drain along the bottom of the slope.

Since the water is only standing for a day and then eventually draining out, my personal feeling is that your best approach would be to try to break up the deeper layer of your garden spot so the water is able to move on through. And as you continue to garden in that spot, and add compost and such, it should improve over time.

I'm pretty sure there are lots of people here that know more about how to deal with the problem than I do, though... you might try posting on the "Ask a Question" forum to get more input. Smiling
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Barbalee
Amarillo, TX (Zone 7a)
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Barbalee
Apr 21, 2016 12:18 PM CST
Thanks, Sandy. I will post there. Under the new topsoil, the soil is heavy clay, so heavy it's almost impossible to dig. I had the strong young things dig down 12" before putting in a combination of topsoil and compost + a small amount of sand. The bed, and its adjoining lawn are just as flat as can be, but I do get puddles in the bed as some of the new soil/compost/sand settles. My absolute favorite "solution" would be to do nothing and plant away. I'm in basically dry country, but we do get occasional heavy rains and snows. I don't want to raise the soil level against the house to ensure downflow from there as I feel sure that would not be good for the house side. I'll see what "Ask a Question" has to say. Thanks!

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