I'm really interested in starting my own little garden on the deck behind my townhouse, but I have no idea where, when, or how to start. The size of my deck is about 10' by 10' and I do have some room to have garden beds on the ground around the deck, too. I live in Maryland, so the weather is pretty cold in the winter, and humid in the summer. So my questions are:
1) What sites can you recommend for buying heirloom seeds? 2) Is it better to have raised beds on my deck or plant in the ground or both? 3) What have been your experiences with growing veggies, and do you have any advice for a green-thumb newbie? What are the easy plants to start with? 4) Do you compost? Does composting piss your neighbors off if you live in townhouse suburbia?
Thank you guys for any input you have! I'm in paleo-love with this site.
I live in the country but, since I farm livestock on a very small acerage, all but my wee kitchen garden is fenced for the animals. Subsequently I do both container gardening and in-ground and my veggies are interspersed amongst my flowers and my herbs.
I don't compost hardly at all since all of my kitchen and garden waste goes to my pigs but I do use the chicken and rabbit poo when I break up the soil in the spring. If you were to get one of those cool barrel type composters that you can turn by hand I don;t imagine it would take up much space OR offend the neighbours.
I can't comment on heirloom varieties - I get my seedlings from the local feed store or Lowes, but most common veg (tomatoes, onions, potatoes, peppers, greens of all kinds) are easy to grow. I leant everything through trial and error and asking other gardeners. A lot of it is common sense. Start with good soil, make sure there is enough sun, plant the seeds/seedlings just as instructed on the package, etc.
Off the top of my head two bits of advice: keep up with the watering! Make sure your plants are well drained and well mulched. They don;t need to get real dry but they also don;t need to stand in water! Also, be aware of each plant's needs as far as space and support. A single pot of pumpkin plants (say 3 vines) , for example, could totally cover your 10x10 deck!
And since I just have to throw out a thrifty tip, lol ; remember that you do NOT have to buy expensive planters and gear or spend a tonne of money. Tomato plants do just fine in 5 gal buckets out of a grocery store dumpster and potatoes thrive in a stack of old tyres.
best of luck in your gardening adventure! Keep us updated!
I've bought some heirloom varieties from Uprising Seeds. I just picked up a packet of heirloom golden chard and started the seeds yesterday. Very excited.
I find it easiest to start seeds by wrapping them in a damp paper towel, then folding up the towel and sticking it in a ziploc bag. Then, I leave the bag on top of my fridge for a few days. The heat from the back of the fridge keeps the seeds warm and they start really quickly. From there, I just stick 'em in pots and they do great.
I've never come across a packet of seeds that didn't have all the info you'd need for growing them. I don't know in what zone you are located, but I know (even as a newb) I've never been able to kill a tomato plant. Ever. Might be a good starter veggie.
I don't compost. I don't have to. My city has a food/yard waste recycling program. They compost it and then once a year we get coupons for free bags of compost. So sorry, can't help you there.
(1) I like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, at rareseeds.com. It's a small family business, started by a young man when he was 17. They put out a nice catalog with gorgeous pictures, and have a wide variety of many vegetables. (I had no idea there were so many kinds of eggplant, for instance.) We've bought from them for three years now, and always gotten our seeds very quickly. Prices are kind of high, so we buy common varieties at the local seed store, and then get the uncommon stuff from Baker Creek.
(2) I'd probably put raised beds on the ground. They shouldn't dry out as quickly there as they might on your deck, and you can save your deck space for other things.
(3) I think they're all fairly easy, so I'd start with what you like. Don't grow things you don't like to eat. That seems like "duh" advice, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to get excited when it's February and you're looking through the seed catalog and thinking, "Hmm, that Japanese fuzzy melon looks really cool; maybe I'll grow that and find recipes for it." Save experimentation for later, when you've got some gardening experience, or you'll just get overwhelmed when it's 95 in August and you're out there weeding around something you're not even sure is food.
For easiest plant ever I might nominate Swiss chard. You can plant it early, it doesn't bolt in hot weather like spinach and most other greens, and it'll last until a hard frost in the winter. You can eat from a few plants for several months. Most root vegetables are pretty easy, too; just plant them at the right time of year (most prefer cool weather, but check the package) and dig them up when they're ready. Green (or wax) beans are also very easy; plant the bush varieties if you don't want to have to give them something to climb.
Tomatoes are a bit more advanced; they need to be staked or trained up trellises, and they can get blights and diseases. Perennials like asparagus and most berries are more complicated too, but if you like them, give them a try.
(4) We compost, and when we had close neighbors, I honestly don't think they loved it, but they didn't complain. You can do some things to make it as inoffensive as possible. Put it somewhere your neighbors won't have to see it every day, even if that means building a little privacy fence around a side or two of it. If you put things in it that might blow out, like shredded paper, make sure to spread some soil or something over the top so nothing blows into your neighbor's yard. If you add "hot" materials like grass clippings, layer them with plenty of "brown" stuff like straw or shredded paper, so they won't rot in a big lump. Good compost doesn't have much odor, but a pile of grass clipping by itself sure does.
I compost at home but we are rural so we really don't have close neighbours to complain. My son in CA has a backyard container for composting that rotates to mix the material. No-one has ever complained about it.
The most important thing is to keep a good mix of materials in the compost pile- be sure to add dry materials like straw, not just wet ones like kitchen trimmings and I find the best way to get it cooking right away is some fresh chicken sh*t.
Also, you may want to check out square foot gardening online. It is a way of getting a lot of different veggies growing in a relatively small space. Several veggies such as cucumbers and pole beans can grow up vertically instead of taking up acreage.
I've bought a variety of tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers from http://www.heirloomseeds.com/ and will buy from them again.
My experience has been hit or miss with the output from each individual variety unlike the hybrids that always produce. I plant about 15 varieties of tomatoes each year but only 3 or 4 varieties will produce and each year it is different varieties. Same thing happens with the peppers and lettuce.
If I were planting on a deck, I'd do container gardening.
I compost, but live in a rural area so I can't comment on neighbors.
Horizon herbs is my go-to place for most things. They have vegetables, and some fruit, too. Many medicinal plants and herbs. They grow most of their own seeds, heirloom and organic. They clearly state which plants and seeds they get elsewhere.
I grow perennial herbs, both in pots and in the ground. A couple of perennial vegetables, and a few small leaves.
I have been very pleased with the seeds from Horizon, and the customer service has been especially helpful.
No composting for me, as it attracts rodents. I use steeped tea leaves, though.
Many seeds that you can buy Organic for sprouting or not specifically labelled as sprouting (lentils, buckwheat-yes even hulless, fenugreek, radish...) can also be planted/grown in the garden. Usually that is cheaper than seed suppliers.
Fava beans are super cold tolerant and super healthy unless you are possibly at risk for favism. The green beans at an early stage are good with the pods; later shell them.
Purslane is an under-appreciated weed that can be grown from improved edible variety seeds. Good to eat raw but also when cooked as in stir-fry it stays crisp and succulent.
Straw bale garden is a good way to go in urban or other locale. I live where the soil is clay and rocks covered with inextricable grass sod. Put down small pad of plastic to keep the grass from growing through then cover the top of the bale with compost or planting soil an inch deep. I use soil scraped off the chicken pen that has already broken down from the fresh chicken droppings. Be aware of the "dirty dozen" for produce, those items that it is worth buying Organic or growing, vs. the items that don't test high for pesticide residues even if conventional Ag, such as onions, cabbage, broccoli.
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