5 answers

Garden - Mashpee,MA

OK.....so I thought it would be a great experience to start a garden with my little ones. However, I had NO time to educate myself on the best way to it...so I just went for it and hoped for the best! I thought you could all be of some help. At this point, the garden is in place and plants are growing! I'm not sure if I gave enough space for everything to grow or not...they are about 3-4 inches apart. I have things like cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and squash...didn't label everything the best, so there are a few surprises coming I think. So, what do I do know? Should I be using any extra fertilizer? What healthy things can I use to keep the bugs away?

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you will get better each year when you discover what you did wrong. Spacing is important. Squash needs a lot of room. Good luck with it, it's always fun.
I used to spray mine with dish soap and water if they appeared to get bugs, if you dont get any bugs try not to use anything if you dont have to.... thats what "organic" is. There are certain plants that you can plant around your garden that naturally keep bugs away. You need to check out a bunch of different websites and glean the expert advice. One thing that I could always grow really well was pumpkins and watermelons. We always planted pumkpins on the 4th of July and they would be ready for halloween, they require a lot of room tho, but you can grow HUGE ones. My sons won lots of pumpkin contests at school when in the elementary years.

1 mom found this helpful

Most things just need regular water, sun, and soil! You will learn some things just from trying.

You might find some of your plants to be too close as they grow, so you could either just leave them and hope for the best, Or if you planted several of each type, you could go in and "thin" them by pulling out every other one or whatever to give them a little more room to grow. I remember doing this with carrots with my mom when I was a girl. The squash plants could get quite big and spread out depending on the type.

The need for extra fertilizer depends on the type of soil you have. I'm spoiled here in Minnesota with really good black dirt. If your soil is sandy or clay, your plants might benefit from some extra fertilizer.

Have fun! I love gardening and right now am living in a condo, so only have a few tomato plants in pots.

You can find some good advice at www.dirtdoctor.com

I think you are a little close together, especially for the squash which needs quite a bit of room. Every year is a learning experience, so don't worry about getting it right the first year. I don't worry about bugs until you see culprits then address specifically to the pest (ex. slugs, put out beer bottle lying down in the garden with some left behind, they'll crawl in and not come back out). Different crops need different fertilizers, but compost is usually a good bet. Be sure to add to the soil this fall or before planting again in the spring. If you are looking for something easier and low maintenance I have used "Earth boxes" for years. We have horrible (read NO soil, all rock/ledges) soil, so I have done containers on the deck. It needs almost no maintenance. The kids like to water (can't be overwatered) and the intitial set-up is just the soil, fertilizer and planting...the plants grow so fast and strong...love it. They are heavy once set-up so you need to have the space and the support to use them.

You have a great attitude - enjoy the surprises. I agree that things sound close together but you can wait/watch. Thin by pulling out every other or at least the weaker of the two shoots. For tomatoes, cut off the "suckers" which are little branches off the sides that product no flowers. The flowers are where the fruit comes in and the other branches just take energy. Put a 2" high collar of cardboard around each plant (a few inches in diameter and both above the soil an inch into the soil about 1 inch - it stops cutworms from shearing off the new plant. You also need to support tomato plants - you can find tomato "cages" at garden centers and yard sales. They are worth it. For cucumbers in small space, try letting them grow upwards - use garden netting and some stakes, or even some old stakes/broomsticks and twine between them to make a grid - the vines' tendrils will grip and support the plants once they get started. The squash will need room to roam, depending on what you planted - butternut and those types will vine all along the lawn. Zucchini grows in one place but it's a huge plant, so thin things out and pick young squash as they are more tender and they can double in size after a good rain.

When you water, do it thoroughly and deep to encourage the roots to grow deep. Surface roots dry out quickly and the plants don't flourish. Once the plants are established with deeper roots, you won't need to water every day.

In MA, especially at the Cape where you are, you need to add compost or manure (deodorized, don't worry!) or organic fertilizer to enrich the soil. Since things are already planted, scratch the soil around the plant but not right up against the stem - sprinkle on some fertilizer or dig in some compost (but don't nick the roots), cover with regular soil, and water thoroughly.

For slugs, I've heard that you can use crumbled up eggshells at the edges of the garden - the sharp edges deter them. Just rinse them thoroughly so the animals don't want them. You can plant marigolds to deter rabbits or use a fine mesh fencing or chicken wire around the edges. You can also use the fencing as a vertical support for the cucumbers. I think garden centers also sell fox urine which deters a lot of things that consider the fox a predator. You have to reapply after the rain but urine is safe and actually sterile (at least I think so - human urine is). Just spray it around the edges on the ground but not actually on the plants. I think you can buy it online too. If the kids catch lady bugs, release them near the garden - they don't eat everything, but they eat some things. If you find a praying mantis, you're golden as far as bugs are concerned! There are traps for Japanese beetles too but some people think they lure your own beetles as well as those from all the neighbors. LOL

When the weather gets cooler in the fall and you have harvested a lot of your current crop, you can put lettuce in between the existing plants - as they die, the lettuce grows in their space and in the cooler weather and you get fall salads. Don't bother with lettuce now in the heat of July. Next spring, try radishes - the seeds are big enough for the kids to handle and they grow quickly in cool spring weather. It's often the first crop.

Have a great time!!

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