Ask a Question forum: How to prepare fall garden spot

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cynthiawh
Oct 20, 2016 3:51 PM CST
Hi, My name is Cynthia from Huntsville, Alabama. I am seeking advice on gardening. I attempted to garden a small plot for my best friend this past spring but had no harvest. There is a cloth lining over this plot...should I dig it up? The green beans (from seeds) started out beautiful and actually I got a couple of messes out of them. The yellow and zuccini squash I started from plants...they thrived for awhile bloomed some but to no avail. The squash worms got in them and I dug them out of the stems but we never did have one squash to cook! The cucumbers ran and had some blooms but not one cucumber. I am frustrated because I put so much work in this garden. I believe we may need more soil and have it tested. Is it true you need about a foot of soil? And, if we need more soil, do we need to test now or in the spring before planting? Does it need to be sprayed before covering it? Should we put leaves on top of the soil before covering? Help!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Oct 20, 2016 7:09 PM CST
Hi Cynthia,

Gardening is frustrating sometimes. Especially when you work really hard and it fails anyway. Here are some suggestions:

Get rid of that landscape fabric. Its not doing your plants any good. In fact, depending upon type, it may be souring the soil.

Make sure your garden spot is getting at least 6 hours of sun every day.

Instead of trying to fix the soil in the whole garden, decide where you want to put plants, dig holes (at least 5 gallon size) and improve that soil with compost, garden soil, manure (for the squash and cucumbers) and time release fertilizer. Adding a couple of handfuls of alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) and a handful of bonemeal will also help. In a 5 gallon size hole, you can plant 3 or 4 cucumbers or squash, or 1 tomato plant or eggplant, or 5 - 6 bean seeds, or 2 or 3 pepper plants.

Water consistently and regularly. If you are watering by hand, make sure you water enough to get down to the bottom of the roots. Also, if you water only the planting holes, you will save water and cut down on weeds.

Insects are an entire new problem. You may have luck spraying your newly planted garden with Neem Oil. It is a systemic that only kills sucking and biting insects (the good insects are safe) and is harmless to humans. If you do use Neem, spray it in the evening after the sun has set. It takes a couple weeks to work but will last a month or more.

There are also the old fashioned insecticides ie: Sevin or something equally scary. DON'T under any circumstances BUY THIS STUFF!! Do you know what DDT is? They used to spray it on people to kill lice and fleas and on food crops to kill everything else.

http://www.panna.org/resources...

Sevin will someday have a similar story. Please don't add to the problem.

Choose plants that will grow to maturity and produce vegetables before the end of your season. Check the "Vegetable Planting Calendar" under 'Tools and Apps' (top of this page) to find out how long your average growing season is and choose varieties accordingly. For instance, my average growing season is 135 days. I grow short season tomatoes that will mature in 60 to 75 days so that I have another couple months to enjoy my home grown tomatoes before the frost kills them (that happened last week Smiling ). Cucumber and squash produce male flowers until they reach maturity, then start producing females flowers also. I suspect that if your cucumbers bloomed but never set fruit, they never matured to the point of producing female flowers.

Good Luck! Keep us posted.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
[Last edited by DaisyI - Oct 21, 2016 4:37 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1302318 (2)
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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sallyg
Oct 21, 2016 5:47 AM CST
Ditto, gardening can be frustrating, it can takepersistence.
Couple of messes of beans is good! They don't keep making forever no matter how good.
SQuash yes, terribly frustrating, I have the same problem and didn't plant any this year.

I would say yes, put leaves on, and I would use the fabric to cover them , help them saty moist so worms and fungus(good) can break them down over winter. I am not aware of what Daisy said about the fabric being bad for the soil?

Yes, as long as you have the sun, and can water, I would do as Daisy said, pick some places and do some individual plants, keeping the whole garden mulched and the whole area will gradually improve.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
Plant Identifier Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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stone
Oct 21, 2016 7:07 AM CST
Ditto on getting rid of that cloth...
While a weed barrier seems like a really neat concept in theory... In practice, that ground fabric creates problems.

The squash issue might be solved by growing a different type.
Those so-called summer squash have hollow stems that the SVB moth love.
Pretty much impossible to grow those types without a cloth to keep the moth out. Keep out one bug, lose the pollination services from the rest....
Try a cushaw or butternut, or one of the other solid vine (moschata) varieties.
The cucumber vine.... Shoulda produced... Sounds like a pollinator issue.
Plant flowers... You need to attract pollinators.

Personally, I disagree with the concept of trying to improve the planting hole while ignoring the rest of the garden.

I had decent results this year by dumping truckload after truckload of horse poop in the garden spot, and after the ground softened up under the piles, spreading a nice thick layer over the entire garden patch several inches deep... The compost held moisture, and added nutrients every time I watered.

Because pollination is sooooo important, you are going to want to avoid pesticides of any kind. Even those so-called organic poisons kill the essential bugs that we rely on to pollinate our veggies. No pollinators, no veggies!

I have carrots up... I still need to purchase seeds for beets and kale, spinach, and whatever else.
You really need to start getting this stuff planted...
I was planting poppies last week too.

Pretty much need to till under the finished summer garden spots and scatter the seeds on top of the soil. Add as much compost type materials as you can lay your hands on.

Incidentally, a couple of pickings of beans sounds about right...
The secret....

Is to keep planting.
It's called succession planting.
Our summer weather outlasts the plants...

I plant a new patch of beans every month... Or more often... Same goes for corn... Even tomatoes!
I get like 3 or 4 generations of beans!
That's where I let some of the beans mature on the plant, and then plant as soon as they're ready... I even do this with corn and cosmos and zinnia!
Very long growing season in the southeast.
[Last edited by stone - Oct 21, 2016 7:18 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1302529 (4)
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Oct 21, 2016 10:33 AM CST
Welcome!
get rid of that cloth !!!
😎😎😎
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Oct 21, 2016 11:10 AM CST
Dang! Where did you get the idea of using the cloth, she asks sheepishly as she's too lazy to go back to read your original post.
And no matter what, no matter what plant, Ms Humble Opinion here says to never ever use Sevin.
Good luck!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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sallyg
Oct 21, 2016 11:30 AM CST
I am surprised by the votes against cloth. I used cloth for the first time this year. Very pleased with keeping weeds down, zero weeding needed.. And had a very good year.
I crested this new garden because we cut down two trees in January and ground the stumps ourselves. We spread the ground wood and dirt mix over the area a couple inches, right on top of thin, weedy existing lawn, (chopped/turned over sod parts). We placed tomatoes, peppers eggplants and sweet potatoes just digging with a trowel and fertilizing with organic dry fert around the plant.I will be saving fall leaves, mowing them, and laying them on soil, using the fabric to keep them in place and help decay.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
My dogs love me; some people don't.
Deer Bookworm Keeper of Poultry Vermiculture Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Georgia
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greene
Oct 21, 2016 11:45 AM CST
I rely on landscape fabric under every raised bed to prevent weeds from coming up into the bed from below. The key word is "fabric"...not plastic. It is the plastic landscape fabric that will cause soil to sour. Using the fabric type I have never had any problems - period. This is the one I use.

http://www.samsclub.com/sams/p...

Have you checked to see if there are pollinators working on your plants? Sometimes we have neighbors who use poison to kill insects and that reduced the population of pollinators available to insure a successful harvest.

What size is this garden, please? and how deep is the soil? Did you start with native soil or have you amended it with bagged soil or compost? Are you watering by the overhead method? or using base or drip watering? Sometimes overenthusiastic overhead watering can wash away the pollen before the plants have been worked by the pollinators.

Lastly, did you take any photos of the garden? Pictures would be helpful.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Oct 21, 2016 1:33 PM CST
Piling leaves in the garden isn't a good idea - you will create a safe haven for every bug and disease within flying distance.

My experience with fabric landscape cloth/weed guard is that the weeds come up through it anyway but are impossible to pull because of the fabric. The new little weed tops are a whole lot smaller than the roots underneath.

I plant new bean hills every two weeks all summer to continue a good harvest. Bean plants wear out fast.

I have used nothing but planting holes for years. I wouldn't do it any other way.

I don't think you can buy Sevin anymore, at least I hope you can't. Anyone who seriously considered Sevin after my comment, I'm sorry I gave you the wrong impression. The only things I use are Neem, insecticidal soap, alcohol and 409.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
My dogs love me; some people don't.
Deer Bookworm Keeper of Poultry Vermiculture Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Georgia
Plant Identifier Rabbit Keeper Composter Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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greene
Oct 21, 2016 4:19 PM CST
DaisyI said:
There are also the old fashioned insecticides ie: Sevin or something equally scary.


Daisyl, you might consider editing that line out of your post to avoid giving the wrong impression.
And, yes, they still manufacture, advertise and sell Sevin in many different forms and yes, sadly, there are still some gardeners who buy and use the stuff. Sad

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Oct 21, 2016 4:39 PM CST
Hi Greene,

Not edited out but edited to (hopefully) educate folks to the dangers.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
My dogs love me; some people don't.
Deer Bookworm Keeper of Poultry Vermiculture Garden Ideas: Master Level Region: Georgia
Plant Identifier Rabbit Keeper Composter Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Herbs
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greene
Oct 21, 2016 5:05 PM CST
Daisy, thank you for that. Thumbs up
Here is another link in case anyone is considering using Sevin.
https://foodtruthfreedom.wordp...

Sometime for new gardeners who are not old enough to remember. Put this on your reading list - a book by
Rachel Carson, "Silent Spring".
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Minnesota and Alaska (Zone 3a)
freezengirl
Oct 21, 2016 6:17 PM CST
Hello Cynthia,
I concur with the rest of the posters regarding the landscape fabric, especially in a vegetable garden. Here is a link for you from your Alabama University system. Most states universities are wonderful resources for agriculture and horticultural help (indeed on many topics).
http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/...


Also check out your local library, most have a good selection of materials on all topics relating to gardens and landscaping (and free!). Local garden groups and gatherings are a great way to meet people that share similar interests and in all my years on this earth I have yet to meet a gardener that didn't like to share information about their passion for gardening.

The one tip I can give you that applies no matter where you live is to enjoy your journey and if you take care of the soil, the soil will take care of you.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 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.
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RickCorey
Oct 21, 2016 6:46 PM CST
Adding mulch, compost and/or manure to your garden will definitely help the soil. Over a few years it will even soften and loosen the soil 3, 6, 12 and more inches down, because it will attract worms and also feed other soil organisms that move through the soil and loosen it and mix it, and make it more fertile.

I don't know why that is - soil organisms attracted by compost are either ALL beneficial, or the benefits outweigh the drawbacks so much that it seems to be 100% beneficial. My guess is that higher plants, soil itself, and soil organisms co-evolved, and 90-99% of the ones that survived benefit all the other ones that survived - because these "winners" outperformed any combinations that were less mutually beneficial.

Over millennia, it turned into "winner take all", and now all or most soils and all or most plants host micro-organisms and worms and "bugs" that are extremely cooperative at turning plant parts that fall to the ground (mulch) into (compost and) fertile soil that support LOTS more plants that will drop LOTS more mulch and compost to feed ever more microbes and bugs and plants.

That's just a theory of mine, I don't claim that anyone else supports it.

Except, maybe, Alexander Pope, who got me started thinking along those lines.

Alexander Pope
Essay On Man
http://www.gutenberg.org/files...

Look round our world; behold the chain of love
Combining all below and all above.
See plastic Nature working to this end,
The single atoms each to other tend,
Attract, attracted to, the next in place
Formed and impelled its neighbour to embrace.

See matter next, with various life endued,
Press to one centre still, the general good.
See dying vegetables life sustain,
See life dissolving vegetate again:
All forms that perish other forms supply
(By turns we catch the vital breath, and die),
Like bubbles on the sea of matter borne,
They rise, they break, and to that sea return.


Nothing is foreign: parts relate to whole;
One all-extending, all-preserving soul
Connects each being, greatest with the least;
Made beast in aid of man, and man of beast;
All served, all serving: nothing stands alone;
The chain holds on, and where it ends, unknown.



Thumb of 2016-10-22/RickCorey/a4e137

Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Oct 22, 2016 4:22 AM CST
Landscape cloth is evil unless you pull it up every season. It embeds into the soil like crabgrass except that it is in in every square foot.

I once thought it a great idea and I STILL can't dig the stuff out completely.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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sallyg
Oct 22, 2016 6:56 AM CST
I would never use it around flowerbeds - have seen the problems you all describe.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

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