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Newbie Gardener Needs Your Input

I purchased a prefab raised garden bed measuring 4'x4'x7". The packaging says fill with 8 cu ft soil. Another calculator says 10 cu ft. I've come up with a formula using 6 cu ft soil, 2 cu ft worm castings, 1 cu ft vermiculite and a 4# bag of Dr. Earth Veggie and Herb fertilizer to be used as directed. Now I'm trying to decide what soil to use? Would a fertilized soil be overkill? I plan on using plants not seeds. Should I use a starter fertilizer when transplanting? HELP!

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LOL- adopting an 18 yo

With the tax breaks you get for adopting - I might start adopting 17.5 year olds - every year!!!!!! ROFLMAO.

AHH- back to plants - two things I see here:
1. Yes - your house may be colder and that does affect the growth. I heat my house with wood- it is never cold - my kitchen stays around 80 all winter - we often open the doors for fresh air. I usually have seedlings started well before we stop burning - towards late April early May we slow down on burning - but the house is still warm -just not hot.
And the P deficiency is often not caused by lack of P in the soil - the cold soil will inhibit the uptake of the P. By warming the soil - you getter better utilization of the nutrients.
2. One think I see people do - they put the plants near the windows - trying to get the good old direct sunlight. The problem is the air at night comes right through the glass and can be significantly lower than the air temp of the house. I use a wire rack(24 x 60) and hang 4ft shop lights with 6500k bulbs. I put the rack on the inside wall of the kitchen(which is the only south facing room I can use) - it gets some natural light during the day - but it doesn't really matter - the bulbs do the real work. This keeps them from getting a chill at night.

I did buy some replacements this year(and might have to do some more since we are getting a hard frost tonight - really odd here this late) - and I do chuckle - tomatoes peppers eggplant(and they are only about 1.50 to 2.00 for a six pack so 30 cents a plant isnt crazy) - I can see getting the small ones in the trays if you cant start from seed - but cucumbers and squash - it doesn't get any easier - throw in the ground and they grow.


I read your comments above with much interest. Yes, I've come to understand that leaving the plants near the window at night is a BAD idea. So I've recently wised up, but not before 4 of my 15 toms. had keeled over by my diagnosis from Bacterial Wilt. I don't think this is caused by bacteria in a meaningful sense of that word, only that the plants were overstressed and became susceptible to the bacteria. And I am sure you agree and understand.

Tks. for telling us about your lighting method. What are shop lights? I'm a girl and don't know these things.

We have a wood heated house, too. But never enough wood and so the fire goes out at night.

Ah, well. Green Thumbs up, fellow gardener. Green.Thumbs.Up!!!!! I'm in Zone 3.

Zone 3 - well that sucks - you need to move south

I am in zone 5/6 depending on the day and what the global warming theorists say - lol. I think I am actually 5A.

Oh well - neither here nor there.

My indoor setup consists of a 24 x 60 set of wire shelving(found at your local home depot or restaurant supply store). The shop lights are flourecent lights - they are called shop lights because they come pre-wired and can simply be plugged in(also found at local home depot/lowes). They come in different lengths - I use 4ft lights since it fits my shelf right. I have five sets of shelves on my rack - so four lights - I leave one set without lights due to space. The lights are hung from the wire shelving with chains (find lights that come with chains). I then use flourencent bulbs that with a color rating of 6500K(next time in the store - look - this is the color spectrum of the bulb). Works great.

Ah--as to wood - you are right - never enough- lol. I actually get log length wood now - delivered in bulk and cut and split it. I am just about done with my first load - it will be about 6 cords. I have another load coming next week. I used to do the old go find people getting rid of it - get it for free - but I found it was more expensive in the long run.

Well - good luck - I did end up losing two more tomatoe plants Tuesday night to frost - I even covered them but it did not help. Not common for where I live.

Am curious...

How many cords, and what kind, of wood might you need in an average winter? I do collect some deadwood in the forest. The Price is Right.

I live in Northern

Illinois. I plan on tomatoes and peppers for sure. I'll have to see what else is available. I was thinking lettuce, broccoli, brussels sprouts, onions, cauliflower, beans. Be sure to give your mom a hug Sunday. Thanks for your reply

To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

Kendall County

I see you are in northern part of the United Soviet Socialist State of Illinois - like me.
I have very clayey soil and add my own compost and horse manure from local farms. Adding sand also helps to soften the soil for root vegetables like carrots. Kale, brussels, spinach, lettuce, garlic, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes all do very well.

"Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms."
Ron Paul

I read below about your soil being clay

1. Most places have coop extensions that will test soil for free - I would do this just to see how much "clay" there is.
2. If the reason for going with a raised bed is the clay soil - personally I think you are making a mistake by looking short term.

As I mentioned before - your roots are going well below the 7in mark. This means the soil below that must be improved. That will become hard with a raised bed. I would work the crap out the clay this year so it is usable(even if I had to dig 7 inches DOWN and replace it all) - the advantage is - from here on out you wil have an easier time improving the soil. Every year in the fall you can now put organic matter on top in thick layers. The next spring you do not till it(that would kill all your worms you have now inticed to come to your garden) - just mix it in by hand(and of course expand it because every year you will want a bigger one - lol- i plant stuff nobody in our house even eats - i just like growing it).

That is going to be a lot of stuff in one space. When planting try to get the most bang for your buck - a 2 dollar tomatoe plant will give you great return- lots of fruit from one space. A two dollar brocolli plant with give you ONE head of brocolli worth 99 cents in the summer(not sure your planting zone - but you may also be late on brocolli - it needs planting very early). I dont think you have room for a squach - but in the future if you have room - they give you the most bang for the buck. Cucumbers are another one with great return.

Good advise

I'm hoping to move after next year's harvest. Just trying to get my feet wet, so to speak. I appreciate your help and hope I can call on you again when I land at my FINAL destination.

To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

I think you are putting too much in one bed

I practice companion planting and tomatotes shouldn't be near brassicas. Tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce, arugula, cucumber, cantaloupe and carrots. No onions or peppers near beans.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison

I agree - too much

and companion planting is a must is such a small space.

You Are Making It Too Hard

Gardening is fun. Just get some good compost from somewhere like Lowes or Home Depot, or a local farmer that mulches stuff and some top soil. Don't try to make a chemistry session out of it. If you want to go organic that stuff and some local cow manure will do the trick. Tomatoes and Peppers are easy. Timing is everything though so check out the farmers almanac online. Also, be sure you have plenty of ladybugs around to keep the aphids off the tomatoes etc. Also go online to learn about cabbage moths and so on. Good Luck!


Maybe too much

research on my part. My brain has been compromised, lol

To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

BMWJIM's picture

Just a tip I learned that seems

to be working. Planted Marigolds about every third tomato and pepper this year. 1 and 1/2 month in the garden and not a single pest. What's more the bees seem to like it and the flowers really stand out in the large garden. Lol!

Just wondering if anyone else has tried this. Other than that it looks like it is going to be a bumper crop for tomatoes thus far. Should get another 600 pounds again this year. Not bad for 30 plants.

Just pick a few yellow squash yesterday for the grill. Always great tasting the first of each veggie.


1976-1982 USMC, Having my hands in the soil keeps me from soiling my hands on useless politicians.


I didn't know about the marigolds as pest control. Wikipedia and a lot of people who've replied seem to support the idea. I'll have to try it out as I'm growing a bunch of tomatoes this year. Is there a particular type of marigold that works best? or is there pretty much only one kind available?

I plants tons of marigolds in my garden

As a means of pest control. Works wonderful. :o)
I make a border around the garden and then I put them in between
plants that tend to get more bugs. Works like a charm. :o)
I also dust the vine plants like sqash with food grade Diatomaceous Earth. You can sometimes find Food Grade DE at places that sell
animal feed in bulk. I found a place here in Nebraska and I pick it up for less than $30 for a 50lb bag.

I use the marigolds to mark my rows

makes it easy to see before they seed pop and keeps the bugs away.

I am trying them near my fruit trees this year as well. I figure it can't hurt and it is so time comsuming keeping the bugs off the trees(they are 2 years old - so I do it by hand).
I read the reply below saying they wont work for japanese beetles - which stinks cause those suckers can wipe out an entire tree in one afternoon(just ask my cherry tree!!)

I have started seeing articles trying to saying marigolds in the garden is a wife's tail. But from my experience it works excellent.
Something tells me it is the pesticide companies putting out the false info.

I am very jelous you are 1.5 months in - we had frost 2 weeks ago - killed off a few of my plants.

Well, it is this wife's tale, and I'm sticking to it.

Yes, marigolds are a WONDERFUL companion plant. If you want double duty, go to calendula, or "pot marigolds." They are pretty much my favorite plant.
They are self-sowing annuals.
They bloom nearly all summer.
They make lovely cut flowers.
The petals can be soaked in alcohol for a couple days, and a tincture that is excellent for sore muscles and tendons is derived.
The petals can be soaked in oil, and a wonderful salve, with healing promoting properties is derived.
I still do some low growing ones, but I love that sunny calendula face that smiles at me every time I go to the garden.

Close runner up is borage, another excellent companion for any garden. Edible flowers taste like cucumber, and are a stunning shade of blue.

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.

Yep! Been doing that for years!

It works well for most bugs. It doesn't work for Japanese beetles, which can devour a TON of folliage overnight! So, I've been playing with alternatives for Seven...I've had good luck with powdered lime and just throw it on the plants by hand..but rain washes it off and you have to start over! Urgh!

Silence isn't always golden....sometimes it's yellow.

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." - Patrick Henry

Used Marigolds for years keeping most bugs away...

BUT... Northern beetles and Southern stink bugs require Kryptonite.

BMWJIM's picture

Would it hold if mixed with a non-toxic based

mineral oil. Just wondering if applied and allowed to dry if it would last through a rain or two.

Anyone have an idea.


1976-1982 USMC, Having my hands in the soil keeps me from soiling my hands on useless politicians.

I've tried it, Jim!

LOL...have made a solution using lime and mineral oil, lime an Dawn dish soap...the mineral oil resulted in bad things...the oil droplets acted like little magnifying lenses and burned holes in my potatoe leaves!! I had the best luck just dusting with powdered lime, by hand, and doing it early in the AM so it would stick to the foliage with the dew. Still, it didn't last through a good rain. Oh well...

Silence isn't always golden....sometimes it's yellow.

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." - Patrick Henry

What he said

Only thing I would add is that I would recommend you look into "Square Foot Gardening" and / or "French Intensive Gardening" to get the most out of your bed.

Love or fear? Choose again with every breath.

Don't you have nice soil up there?

The only reason for raised beds are if you anticipate large volumes of rain or floods. Most plants don't like saturated roots. If you fill the bed to the top you need ten cf of soil. You could get one of those big cubes of magnum peat and mix that with your native soil for a very rich mixture (if you do indeed have nice soil to begin with).

Hope that helps.



To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

No topsoil then?

I still like the Spagmam Peat for price and nutrient quality. You shouldn't need fertilizer with it. It may be too potent to use solo, but any silt, sand, or topsoil found around could be used to mix.