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Thread: Starting from scratch

  1. #1

    Default Starting from scratch

    Ok guys, need big time help here. I am starting a garden from scratch and would like to make a rather descent size one as far as personal home gardens go. Perhaps a 40ft by 30ft or more if necessary.

    What I want to know is what to do from the very beginning. Do I need to bring in dirt? Should I have the soil tested? Will the current dirt do just fine?

    Should I simply tile up the original ground? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    I am a complete novice here and don't know much, other than the fact I want to learn.

    Thanks guys!
    Marc Theiler

  2. #2
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    Look down about 10 posts below this one. There is one from Foxx with a link to old agriculture literature from the early 1900's. It will tell everything you need to know.

    Basically, just clear the land, till it up and plant. You will have to fertilize heavily the first year and less and less in the future. Choose plants that do well in your area. Potatoes and carrots are a sure bet anywhere in AK and probably need the least fertilizer and care other than hilling dirt on the potato plant. Lettuce grows good and you get real early salads which is nice.

    Have fun!

  3. #3
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    I have some advice - take with a grain of salt as this is only my second year of gardening.

    Try raised beds and containers where possible. You can make long raised beds. You do not need to buy dirt - it' just easier than tillling/double digging, etc. One old friend of mine just raised her entire garden, it was maybe 15X15. Her garden grew very well.

    Go out and find the Alaska Garden Guide vol. I. You will appreciate the book and read it over and over again.

    Hope this helps.

  4. #4

    Default Thanks Guys

    Thanks guys. Time to hit up the library.


    Any suggestions on what grows really well up here? I am also wanting to plant berry bushes, and strawberries. Any suggestions?
    Marc Theiler

  5. #5
    Member grcg's Avatar
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    Default another thought.....

    The last garden I made, I only made one raised bed the first year. Grew some peas and beans and something else I don't remember.

    That was very educational. It helped me build the rest of my garden the next year with good data about my location. It helped me think about sun exposure and understand better how I could water easily.

    I am going to do the same thing with my next garden starting this summer.

  6. #6
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    Plants need organics in the soil to prosper. Whether your soil is good enough or not is for you to determine. We prefer organic gardening and avoid chemicals. Good topsoil, blood meal, compost, etc makes things grow just fine. There are lots of sources of information and one of the best it the Cooperative Extension Service. They'll even test your soil for you and make recommendations for how to amend it. We use raised beds because it raises the ground temperature. That's a big deal in the Alaskan spring when you want things to start earlier. Covering the soil with black visqueen or mulch will hold moisture, help heat the soil, and will reduce weed growth.

  7. #7
    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    Soils vary quite a bit. How much top soil do you have in your area? If you don't have much then you might want to consider having a load of topsoil delivered.

    As for things to grow I sugest carrots, lettuce, zuccini, peas, broccoli, califlower, cabbage, beets, onions, and radishes. The broccoli, califlower, zuccini, and cabbage you may want to get starts for. The rest should not need it.

  8. #8

    Default Thanks Again - Fertile Soil?

    I have no idea of the quality of our topsoil here. I am going to attempt to have it tested. I want to go purely organic. I am interested in composting and enriching the soil next year, but this year I don't have that luxury.

    What would you suggest I use as fertilize to get my soil up to grade? What's the most economical way to get my soil ready for its first year? What are my choices for organic fertilizers? Is the dirt more than likely fertile enough for the first year?

    Any advice?
    Marc Theiler

  9. #9
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Marc - I'm learning right along with you, and also really want to avoid chemicals - mainly for the health of my family, but also because it is a more efficient system once you get it figured out. I've done a lot of listening to and reading of Jeff Lowenfels, and I'd suggest you get his book (and listen to his radio show when you get the chance). He's definitely the guru of organic gardening in Alaska.

    http://teamingwithmicrobes.com/

  10. #10

    Default Thanks

    Thanks Brian, I'll check him out.

    What I really need to figure out is how to simply setup the right soil situation, then I will be in a much better position to start composing for next and subsequent seasons. Right now I merely need some guidance as to exactly what I need to do to the soil to have it prepared correctly for planting.
    Marc Theiler

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    In the past few years my wife and I have changed our soil a few times for different reasons. I can tell you for sure that not all commercial topsoils are equal. They look the same but the plants don't grow the same. We got lucky with last year's batch. All it needed was blood meal, bone meal, and bat guano. The production was spectacular, bugs no problem, and weeds easy to keep up with. Of course last summer had great weather, too. I'm hoping for a repeat!

  12. #12
    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    I would suggest you find a some one who raises goats or similar critters. It is not un common for them to allow you to shovel all the "organic fertilizer" you want.

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    My advise would be to clear and till the land and then create a raised bed with some wood, about 6 inches high. Fill the bed with sand if or where you would like to grow root crops (carrots, kholorabi, turnips, raddishs, etc) and soil for other leafy crops. Use a lot of fertlizer that is high in nitrogen to promote green leafy growth. If the raised bed(s) are outside, I have found that carrots, broccoli, kholorabi, brussel sprouts, califlower, turnips, raddishes, strawberries, potatoes, raspberries, currents, peas, beans, onions (all types), kale, and leeks do best outside. If the raised beds are in the greenhouse or on any protected area like a porch, then tomatoes, squash, zuchinni, cucumber, all herbs, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, chard, and celery do best there. I keep all lettuce, chard, herbs, and cabbage in the greenhouse to keep the slugs away from destroying them. Green onions can over winter in a greenhouse. Do not overwinter strawberries in a pot, they will survive better if left in the ground. Pototes do not need much dirt, I grow potatoes in buckets with only a little bit of kelp, no soil, and I add more kelp to the buckets as the plants get bigger. This way you can pull up the entire potato plant to see how big the potatoes are and can place the plant back into the bucket with out doing any harm to it. Also, all nutrients in kelp are in a form that can be readily available to the plant, so I would encourge you, if you have access to a beach, to collect as much kelp as you can and cover all beds 4 inches high with kelp even when there are plants in the bed. Kelp also serves as a good insulation protector. If you would like to get a head start on vegetables for Alaska, I would advise you to start tomato, celery, eggplant, and other slow starting seeds in March and all cold weather crops (squash, zuchinni, cucumber, pumpkin, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kholorabi) in April--this will make sure that your plants are ready to grow outside when our short seasoned summer arrives.

    I also advise you to start a compost pile, your plants will be much happier with the collected waste.
    Last edited by Green Onion; 04-07-2010 at 16:15. Reason: add more content

  14. #14
    Member matjpow's Avatar
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    Raised bed soil -

    An optimum garden soil is made up of 2 parts fertile topsoil, 1 part fine compost, and 1 part sand, all mixed well and allowed to settle in the forms after being saturated with water. Every year thereafter you can continue to enrich the soil by adding compost and manure and other conditioners like wood ash, blood meal and bone meal.

    www.dorothyainsworth.com/garden/beds.html

    Also, soil in Alaska tends to be fairly acidic, but if you are going to get it tested, you should know the ph balance.
    That's what she said...

  15. #15

    Default

    What I am trying to figure out here is a procedure.

    Ok, first of all, I am structuring off my garden parameters. Next, I am going to roto-til the soil up. From this point on I am rather vague as to how to continue. Should I pay for compost to be spread around the garden? Should I dump some sand into the soil? If the answer is yes to both of these, how much should be spread out? Lots of questions. I just need a protocol.
    Marc Theiler

  16. #16
    Member matjpow's Avatar
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    My original post was more specifically if you are using raised beds and you are starting with no native soil. If you are using existing soil first dig up some soil. Feel the soil in your hand, if you feel sand in the soil, you probably don't need any. If you need sand, you can just guestimate with the sand. Spread it around evenly and then compost it in. Keep the soil moist (not too wet) while you are doing this and it will help incorporate the sand.

    Then if you don't have good compost of your own, go buy some. If you have access to a Home Depot, they have some composted steer manure for around $1.50 per cubic foot. Its good stuff and it goes a long way. Just till some in with the sand (if needed). You don't need to worry about exact ratios. Just put in as much as makes sense to you. Keep in mind you will be adding a little more compost every year so your garden will improve every year. You could add a little peat moss too if you want.

    After you do all of that, you should test the pH of you soil. That will effect your plants much more than how much compost or sand you add. Later in the year you could add some compost tea or vegetable fertilizer. Just keep in mind that gardening is a lifetime of learning/experimenting.
    That's what she said...

  17. #17
    Member Rock_skipper's Avatar
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    The one thing nobody has mentioned is that you will need a fence if you are in moose country, or all that you grow could be gone in a night.

    That being said, for your first try, til the land, hoe some rows, sprinkel some fert. down, drop the seed's in, and watch it grow.

    It basicly requires about 12" of topsoil, it helps if you have drainage underneath, like sand or gravel, so the water is not trapped. If this happens it will rot your bounty before its ready.

    Potatos and onions are almost always planted in a raised bed. The rest can be planted on level ground and will work fine.

  18. #18

    Default Fence

    Good point. I was actually getting ready to make a post regarding fencing. I am planning on setting up a 30ft x 40 ft garden. I would like to fence in the entire garden, plus use an electric wire. I don't know how high I need to make it, and how tough? Any suggestions for a typical fencing setup? I plan on driving 8 treated fence posts outlining the perimeter, then wrap the fence around the posts. Any advice? Best place to purchase fencing materials?
    Marc Theiler

  19. #19
    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    From what I have seen moose don't usually push their way through fences. Just make sure it is high enough that they won't step over it and if you use fine wire run some thing highly visible along the top, like surveyers tape.

  20. #20
    Member Rock_skipper's Avatar
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    Moose are pretty well set in there ways when they want some broc. lett. califl. and so on. I have heard planting sweet peas around the fence deters them, and someone else on here last year said the the bars of soap " Irish Spring" hanging from the coner's would do the same. Dont know if that is true, but would'nt hurt.

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