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Brand New Garden

January 28th, 2009, 09:44 AM
I just ordered all the seeds for our non-existent garden :D. As there wasn't a garden here previously, we're going to have to start from scratch. The ground is pretty much all clay so I was wondering if anyone had any tips on how to actually start...what kind of machinery/tools will I need to turn the earth over and what kind of soil should I mix into it, etc?

We had a small garden at our old place but we built it up about 2' from the ground and just ordered a truck load of gardening soil. Because we have the space for a much larger one here, I want to work into to the ground and not above it. Any advice :o?

January 28th, 2009, 10:11 AM
:laughing: lots of fun.

You will need a very good tiller to till the clay and then I would mix some sand, peat moss and compost into the tilled clay with the tiller. I would do about a 1/3 clay, 1/3 sand and 1/3 peat moss/compost.

Good luck.

January 29th, 2009, 10:42 AM
I was just reading this morning LP on amending soil and for Clay Soils - it says to use Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss (not regular peat moss) and Compost. Clay soil is high in nutrients with the downside that it does not drain well.

Regarding the addition of sand it says:

......if you are working with Clay, the addition of a little bit of sand will make matters worse, 30% or more by volume would be needed of very course sand to improve the soil.

Sphagnum Peat Moss:

......Canadian sphagnum peat moss is excellent for improving aeration of clay soils to increase drainage. It is sterile and weed free. When used in combination with Compost it helps reduce compaction that sometimes occur when compost is used alone.

Hopefully this will help a bit.

Where is 14k she is the gardener :frustrated:

January 29th, 2009, 10:51 AM
from lots of experience I can tell you to not turn the earth over. You will need to remove any grass first. truning it, the grass will still grow and any weeds, ect.. the first year it will look ok, but by the second year your garden will be full of grass and weeds and almost impossible to stay on top of. It is possible and not that difficult to remove these first.. Of coarse I do not know what kind of soil you have, or what is currently on the place where you are putting your garden. I just know here what happens.. Good luck, there is nothing like a garden and all that you can get out of it! I love it too!

January 29th, 2009, 11:56 AM
Better yet, don't dig at all.

Cover the ground with flattened cardboard. Take empty cardboard boxes from the grocery store. Then makes raised beds with treated lumber. Fill with good potting mixture. If you can afford it, order a truck load of good quality top soil and have it dumped at your residence.

With raised beds, you can line walking paths with a weed control layer fabric and cover with stuff like bark chippings or even gravel. This will cut down grass mowing and weeds. Recycle old carpet, lay down newspapers. Lots of things you can put down for paths as a base and cover with something else to make it attractive.

Also with raised beds, you don't have to dig and never need to walk on the soil, which compacts it. Especially with clay. It can get so packed that it will starve the roots of oxygen. Many times this is the main trouble with clay with drainage a close 2nd. (Some plants like wet feet.) Also if you dig in clay the shovels tend to smooth out the edges of where you dig and then roots can't get a grip to venture out. If digging in clay soil you have to loosen up the base and sides of where you dug.

And if you dig, you're gonna have to double dig which is mega hard work. Take one spade depth out and then another spade depth in a trench. Loosen the base with the garden fork. Then dump in some composted manure. Half fill the trench from the next trench, dump in some more manure, put more top soil from the next trench on top of the manure and yet another layer of compost. That's a lot of work. Plus with clay you'd have to mix in some sand and even small gritty gravel with that composted manure.

Here's a tutorial with pictures.

So unless you want a killer workout by double digging, make raised beds. :laughing: No need for a gym membership when you have a large garden and compost heap.

Get a compost pile going. It can be just a pile or contained in a large heavy gauge wire cage that's standing up. Pallets are another good compost retainer.

Get a good garden fork, the best you can afford.

That is Monty Don from the UK talking about compost from the UK show "Gardener's World."'

Here's another version

Why buy seeds when you can get them for free??

Join a seed exchange group for between 30-40 bucks a year and you will get free seeds. The membership fee goes to pay for the annual seed catalog and what's available from the seed bank.

Beg cuttings from friends. This forum would be a great place to start because many are in your area.

I have some nice easy tough perennial flower seeds if you want any. Also some hardy self seeding annuals that will perform well. If you send me a self addressed stamped envelope I can load you up with some good old fashioned varieties like pink or purple Columbine, Jacob's Ladder, Calendula officinalis. I even have wild water Iris that grows well in a regular garden bed as long as you give it a good deep drink once a week.

Also people can use the bus lines to send you some plants. The bus can be quicker than Canada Post in my experience. Anyone in Ontario or Quebec can dig up some perennial roots when the snow goes away, and wrap in damp newspaper. Put into a plastic box, and ship off.

I've even transported plants this way personally. Went to Nova Scotia once to pick up a relative who didn't drive and had a mini-vacation there. Stayed at a friend's house. They were more than happy to dig up some stuff for us to take home. I wrapped each plant's root ball in several layers of wet newspaper and put those into plastic grocery bags, put them in the car trunk. Three days later I planted them out and every plant survived just fine because it had moisture. So I know it can be done.

February 10th, 2009, 09:28 AM
Well, what did you decide LP? Dig or no dig? :)

If you already have your seeds you can do what is called Winter Sowing. Sounds crazy but I've been doing some reading and I think it's an ideal thing to do, especially with perennial flower seeds. With annuals it's probably not needed much unless you want an extended bloom season. I'll be doing this with some new seeds that are hopefully in the mail now. I get to participate in some veggie breeding trials this year and am getting free seeds from heirloom vegetable breeders to try out and report back. These are not GMO plants, but the old fashioned way of hybridizing by manually moving chosen pollen from one plant to another to make new seed. I'm excited! If I end up with good varieties for cold, short growing seasons I'll be sure to pass seeds on to others.

So anyway, for winter sowing, all you need is some containers that have lids from stuff that you can recycle. Like take-out containers with lids. Poke in some drainage holes in the bottom and a couple of air holes in the lid. Put in your potting soil, water before putting in seeds, sprinkle seeds lightly over the area, gently pat the seeds down so they have good contact with the soil. And depending on whether the seeds need light to germinate or not, sieve a bit of extra soil over the top of them. Generally, seeds need about twice as much soil as the seed is thick. My explanation isn't so good. lol

Stuff like lettuce or poppies can be just scattered over the top with no covering because the seeds are small, whereas pumpkin seeds need to be a good inch under some more dirt.

So you get all your containers ready, and put them outside out of doggie reach. Let them get snowed on. No need to protect these containers. Seeds have an intelligence and know when it's safe to germinate.

Once the snow goes away from the containers, keep an eye on them to check for germination and water as needed. As the tiny plants begin to grow, cut away more of the lid to allow for air exchange. Don't want the little seedlings to be stuck in a solar oven and cook, so they need the lid cut up.

The reason for doing many flower and some veg seeds like this is winter sown plants will already be hardened off and tough enough to be planted out much earlier than other plants started indoors which then have to acclimate to cooler environment. Plus there's no spring rush to get seeds started because you'll have plugs that you can just plop into prepared soil.

Now is the time to start winter sowing! Read more at

February 10th, 2009, 02:45 PM
I have never bought any perenials yet my yard is full (5 huge flower beds)friends and I have traded off, I also put a wheelbarrow full of bulbs/plants at the end of my driveway with a sign and grocery bags saying "please help yourself but leave some for the next person and if so inclined, drop off any perenials you may have"'d be amazed at what I've received that way !!

February 10th, 2009, 02:47 PM
I have never bought any perenials yet my yard is full (5 huge flower beds)friends and I have traded off, I also put a wheelbarrow full of bulbs/plants at the end of my driveway with a sign and grocery bags saying "please help yourself but leave some for the next person and if so inclined, drop off any perenials you may have"'d be amazed at what I've received that way !!
That's a great idea, Melinda!

February 10th, 2009, 02:50 PM
Hazelrunpak, would you believe I mailed (illegally I might add *L*) hens and chicks (cactus like plant) to zulu africa? *L* and she mailed me some of her daisies

February 10th, 2009, 04:24 PM
Hey Melinda

Do you happen to have any of the other colored Echinaceas like Orange, Red or Yellow (the wild Paradoxa)? They name them stuff like Sunrise, Sunset, etc. Except for the natural wild yellow version.

I'm trying to get locals here trading and just posted some stuff on a town message board and will see what kind of reaction I get in my email inbox. :laughing: We no longer have a plant nursery in town, they closed up. All that's left plant-wise is the massive order from Canadian Tire that gets set up every spring and is hardly ever taken care of or watered. I saw people buying crappy looking plants last year that were beaten up by the sun.:shrug:

Once I saw a woman about to throw away a huge clump of Stella d' Oro daylily :eek:and I asked if I could take them instead. Most of my flowers except for the Iris and Lilies were free, traded with others.

You'd be surprised at the amount of plants that get sent around the world, missing the phytosanitary certificate. :laughing:

February 10th, 2009, 09:23 PM
I think we're going to be digging Ceara. We're looking at about 1500 sq ft minimum so I think it'll be a little costly to bring all that earth in. Thanks for all those links...they're great :thumbs up. I've bookmarked them to read again thoroughly when I have a bit more time. If I can get around to it this Spring, I may try raised beds to start my perennial gardens. I want to plant a bunch of trees too so I'll open a new thread about that when I start researching what kinds.

Melinda, I used to do the same at our old house...even Freecycled numerous perennials and vegetable plants. It always ends up being 'my eyes are bigger than my garden' :o :laughing:. Then along came the dogs and I relinquished my garden space to them :rolleyes:.

I do love to start all my plants by seed though. There's just something satisfying doing it that way for me. I get to watch my babies grow up :D. I've never heard of Winter sowing, Ceara...the seedlings don't freeze overnight?

February 11th, 2009, 09:43 AM
ceara, I only have the purple coneflowers, I did have deep pink but planted them too close to my purple and they changed...