1st timer in need of help/ideas/suggestions
I recently started my first garden. After searching around for a vegetable gardening forum, I think this is it. I figure I'll need help sooner or later, probably sooner.
This is what I have going so far. It's going to be quite long so bare with me please.
I recently moved into my great-grandmothers old house. She passed away last year at 102 years of age. The property the house is on was once a hotel that burnt down 60 or 70 years ago. I have half the backyard fenced off for when my dog is outside. The other half consists of a porch, a large shed and a path from the porch to the shed. On one side of the path it is grass, on the other she had laid down a green turf mat for whatever reason. This green turf ran the distance of the yard next to a cement walkway that rounds the house. So I tore up a section of this turf to start my garden. There are several large trees around the home and I've heard that tree roots usually extend as far out as the branches. Well, some of these tree branches extend over the area of my future garden.
I found an old tilling tool, one of those claws, in the shed. I started tilling the area with this tool and found many small roots. The dirt itself is very fine, I'm not very knowledgeable about dirt, but I recognized it as possibly being a clean fill dirt. It does not have any rocks in it for about 6 or 7 inches down. It is very soft. Once the claw got below its reach, which happens to be 6/7 inches or so, I started hitting roots and fist sized and smaller rocks. So I pulled out a shovel and started digging. I read a bit online and determined that it would not hurt the tree if I tore the roots out, as long as they were smaller than my wrist, which they are. So I tore all the roots out and got the rocks out. I've tilled and mixed the dirt thoroughly and it seems to be a very good spot now.
Also, not only were there roots but I found remnants of the old hotel that burnt down. There were chunks of decomposing burnt wood and roofing shingles. Old rusty roofing nails and various other items. I haven't researched it yet, but I am sure all this junk is good for the soil. All the largest roots were concentrated around one pile of burnt wood. I had a time breaking it all apart, but I am sure it will help the soil, so I left all the burnt particle in the ground. It's about 1 1/2 to 2 feet down from the top soil.
I tore apart the turf and lined the area around the garden that the tree roots were coming from. Hopefully this will keep them out, at least for this years growing season.
So the gardening area is about 10'x7'. There is also another small area about 2'x2' that I was planning on growing strawberries. I wasn't sure how many bags of compost I would need so I grabbed two. The back of bag says to have at least two inches so have figured I will need at least 4 or 5 more bags which I will get tomorrow. I then started making two rows upon the two bags I had dumped. Well, first I tilled it. I think I can plant 4 or 5 Roma tomato plants on one row, the rows will run the 10' way. I planted 4 so far on the first row.
And that's all I have planted so far. I have seeds for various veggies. Cucumber, misc. peppers, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, misc. lettuce/spinach. Not sure if it is better to start with seeds or the little seedling plants you can get, so I bought the ready to plant kind of the Roma tomatoes, some big boys, some broccoli, jalapeno, habenero, leafy red lettuce, cilantro and zucchini, strawberry.
I'm afraid if I plant the seeds they won't grow. Or I won't plant them right. So I've stocked up on ones that are ready to plant. I think I might also have too little room for everything I am expecting to plant. Most of the seed packets say to space the plants 1' or more apart and rows 2' apart.. I'll only have 4 maybe 5 rows with 4-6 plants on each. Is this an okay amount of space and an okay amount of vegetables?
I also bought some "tomato food" which is Whitney farms organic fertilizer. It's 4-5-3. I have no idea how to apply this to the plants or soil. I'm not sure if I need to put anything else in the soil. The farthest I dug down it appeared to be clay. I didn't want to mix it with the soil so I didn't dig into it. And I live in zone 7 I believe. I really don't want to put pesticides on the plants or soil, so the compost I bought is organic as well as the tomato food. Should I buy lady bugs or praying mantis'? Are they good for keeping out potential pests?
Are tomato cages necessary for all types of tomato plants? Should I get cages for the cucumber or any other veggies? Any other useful tips?
Sorry for the long post, just want to get this right :D
Thanks for any help and I sincerely appreciate it!