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Soil Planning for a new garden
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  1. #1

    Planning for a new garden

    This is my first full year at my new digs. I'm here by myself - with some occasional help from friends & family - whom I hope to benefit from what I'm planning here. I've got 10 acres to play with.

    I'm taking care of the big structural improvements/remodelling/maintenance issues this year... with an eye to laying out the map of the food production and breaking sod this fall. Probably LATE this fall. I knew I dare not spread myself too thin, by trying to plant yet. And I wanted the experience of a full 4 seasons before making any big plant or garden decisions.

    There may be one or two terraces involved in the field I've designated for growing. I'll make that decision, after the barn is up. I like having my equipment and tools where I'm going to use them the most. Field is about 1/2 an acre. There are other locations for fruit trees, if I think I need to spread things out. I'm NOT going to target any commercial growing, but am aiming for a surplus to trade. That said, there will be either a greenhouse or hoop house in the plan. Power and water are available there.

    At the moment, I'm not generating a lot of compost material. But that will be part of the overall plan, as my topsoil is generally thin and likely not all that "rich". Subsoil is going to be shale and decayed sandstone. Lots of bedrock outcroppings around here, where the mountains have worn down over millenia. Everything starts with the soil, so that's my first focus. I am still deciding about animals; I could use the source of manure. I'm just not sure about my level of commitment to learning to care for them properly. Never kept livestock; not even chickens.

    It's not my first garden, so I'm trying to apply what I've learned over the years and start off right... and plan to be able to maintain it and keep the full circle going, as I'm not getting any younger. I'm in decent enough shape and have the right tools that should make the work easy enough for some times.

    So, this is kind of a journal of progress. Maybe it'll help some newbies get acquainted with the decisions involved. And I'm always open to suggestions, shared experience, ideas and discussion. Progress around here moves like a herd of turtles, I'll just warn ya right now.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    W. Georgia
    You sound like you are making some wise decisions.

    My opinion, for what it's worth, is to not overwhelm yourself the first year with a big garden. You could start now and you do have this fall and winter to put down a lot of leaves and mulch and start building the soil for your spring garden.

    North Ga mountains are a beautiful place to be. I bet your place is going to be a showplace when you get done.

  3. #3
    I'll settle for it being functionally self-supporting, rabbit! I'm in N. WV mountains. A new place to live for me - at "home". I've lived in the area since 1980, minus some years at the beach - just to say I did live at the beach.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    W. Georgia
    I don't know why I thought you lived in the Ga. mountains. I bet it's beautiful up there too. It just sounds like a wonderful life you are building.

  5. #5
    Thanks Rabbit! I like making things and especially like growing things. When hubby died, and knowing I'm done with career stuff (altho in a pinch I could teach again) I needed to have a purpose to my life. I can't - alone - make a homestead from scratch like we did in the 90s.

    So, finding this place that was already half-way to what I ultimately want: a place that is designed to function sans electricity was a bonus. It's not a LOT of land, but no one is going to be able to build near me, as 3 sides is all owned by one person who has the woods in a conservation mode. I do have a deal with some locals who hunt that land - they help me out with some things around here and I give them a more comfy place to hang out here during the big week or two of the "season". Sometimes I get a nice roast, too. And they're teaching me the lay of the land around me.

    I'm repurposing over 100 concrete blocks that were used for raised beds - after a fashion - and building planting boxes for a kitchen & herb garden on the outside of my raised parking spot. The kids moved them all to the new location, so I can start on those - work in little stages - designing as go. Probably be 2-3 courses high (they'll all be different, working between some HUGE rocks too), lined with weed fabric, then I'll order a truckload of topsoil for them. That area is too rocky to do much with, so I'm going eventually have paths to walk between the beds and tend them. And certain shrubs will go there too, and flowers interspersed. The boxes help retain the gravel and dirt of the parking area too, and I should be able to cover with pvc frames and clear plastic for cold frames and starting some things outside, to transplant to the main area later.

    I'm also finding a lot of useful "weeds" around here that are natural to the area, and will nurture them too.

    Yesterday, I saw my first flock of wild turkey babies walking up the hill. Maybe a dozen young ones. Still haven't seen any bears yet - though we did find some old scat out in the woods.

  6. #6
    Prep work for the concrete pad for the garden barn is done; pour is Monday - and the building is ordered. It will be September before it gets here to be put up. (Metal barn)

    In the process, I noticed that most of the scraped up dirt looks like nice and rich. Much more of it, to a good depth, than I really expected. It's been a BUSY, but good week around here. I have a few more "have-tos" on this year's list... then I can hibernate for the winter.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    "outside the box"
    North WVa is about the prettiest place on earth- (Almost Heaven!)

    One of the best things that I did for my soil was to build a garden around the fenced-in chicken run. When it isnt garden season I drop a gate and let the birds rototill and fertilize the dirt

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    How very smart of you!!

    First and foremost, get a general idea of what you are dealing with. Look online for the specifications etc for an Extension office soil test from your anticipated plot. Find out your pH, organic content, minerals, etc. Then you know a little bit about what you are dealing with and get a better idea of how to proceed.

    Look at what you have around you, and maybe what your neighbor's might have. Do you have access to manure? lawn clippings? old straw? leaves? etc? A "sheet composting" or "lasagna? garden can be started now. And if you have wood chips (or a chipper and trees) available, then you can easily modify it to a Back to Eden style. If you have thin or poor soil underneath, you will want to build that up with more than just wood chips.

    Maybe you want chickens or rabbits? Come up with a fencing/rotation system to use them to your benefit.

    Can you haul in compost? etc.

    Best luck! Starting out is so much work, yet so rewarding!!
    “Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
    "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." - J.K. Rowling "Remember who the real enemy is." - Suzanne Collins "Winter is coming." - George R.R. Martin

  9. #9
    I haven't committed to having any animals yet. (I have two decent coops on the property - but they're located too far from the house and too close to predator territory).

    I have a chipper; I have trees. And I can get truckloads of both compost and garden soil, fairly locally. I'll be making my share of compost - once I figure out the locations for the bins.

    This first year, is simply addressing house issues and building new storage buildings - putting things where they're going to get used. I knew the house was going to need work - it wasn't a primary residence until now - and moving in at the start of the winter, I figured out pretty quick most of the windows/doors needed to be replaced; garage insulated; wood burning stuff inspected and upgraded... LOL. With any luck, most of this will get done in time, that I can at least start working on the garden layout and get it plowed up. I'll have all winter to sweeten and loosen the soil - but from what I've seen so far it isn't going to need much "help".

    We had an all-day deluge yesterday so the concrete won't pour until end of the week. My windows & doors came in, though - and contractor said he's rounding up enough workers to load/unload and get started probably first of next week. Fireplace insert/woodstove will probably be a couple more weeks out yet.


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