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#81609 January 24th, 2007 at 06:55 PM
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I'm brand new to the board and brand new to gardening, so I hope I don't frustrate anyone with questions that might seem a tad ignorant at first. I promise I do have a little common sense about other things! LOL

Okay, here is my question. I just moved into a house in IL last year (from NC) and I want to have a small veggie garden- a few tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce if I can, and maybe some green beans. However, the problem is that I get FULL scorching sun in my front yard and just some late sun (think 2-3pm and later) in the back.

I live in the suburbs of Chicago and I'm sure the neighbors would not take kindly to me digging up the front yard or cluttering it with totes or big containers either.

Soooo... I either need a pretty way to present the veggies (I don't have a fence or anything to hide them behind either...) OR a way to make it work using the back yard OR just my basement (I have a grow light that hubby bought me for my b-day that I have yet to set up.)

Another big prob is animals- we live by a lake and have ALL kinds of critters. It's not unusual for us to see a yard full of bunnies in the summer, as well as squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats, beavers, ducks, geese, other birds, etc. I even saw a deer dart across the yard last April, though I don't know where in the world he might have been heading!!

On the plus side, I do have some compost started from last summer, though I really didn't do much other than layer dirt from the yard with our fruit and veggie table scraps, so I will be continuing to work on this too!

Any links, advice, info and plain ole well wishes are welcome.

-- 'Manda

#81610 January 24th, 2007 at 08:16 PM
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With that wildlife around you had better grow it in your basement. Otherwise you'll never get to eat any.

I would suggest that you get a heating tray for your sprouts. That is if you are going to grow from seed. That's always the first thing you have to decide once you know what you want to grow. seed or starter plant.

I'll assume you are thinking about seeds since that is what I do. Then the next questions is what are you going to grow them in. Some people like peat pots I don't because they dry out to quickly. Some use egg cartons. I tried that but again they dried out to quickly. These year I'm going to try 6 oz yogurt cups. It's going to require a bunch more potting soil but for me I think it is going to be worth it.

Now about your grow light. if you want to you just buy 4 ft florescent shop lights with the T12 cool and hot tubes for it and you will be fine. Just keep the light two to four inches above the plants. That means using very long chains for them lol.

Potting soil. I don't like starting soil because it has a bunch of peat in it and it drys out to quickly for me. I use a regular potting soil withing fertilizer in it if I can find it.

Heating trays will make germination that much quicker which is always nice. peppers will germinate almost a month faster with the use of a heating tray.

About tomatoes. Find a type that is made to grow in pots and plan on it getting 8 feet tall by the end of the "growing season". So if you are going to use stakes or a trellis or anything make sure you put it in place when you plant because you don't want to mess with the plants roots once it is up and growing. Although with tomato plants if it breaks just stick the top in more potting soil and keep it moist and it too will root.

lettuce is a cool weather plant so you could start it in your basement now. loose leaf varieties are usually more productive because you can just harvest the leaves you want to use and let the plant keep on growing. Only plant about 4 every other week so you have it all year long.

If I remember correctly on average you want 6 tomato plants per person and the same with peppers. Of course that depends on how much your family likes a certain veggie.

I would go for the bush beans rather than the pole beans but you are going to need a bunch of them to make it worth your while. Personally with limited space I would try for something else rather than beans but that's just me. Someone else may have a different take on the matter.

With the prices of spices being what they are you might want to have a nice little herb garden in your basement along with your veggies. Chives, garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, and sage have all worked well for me inside.

#81611 January 25th, 2007 at 12:33 AM
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There are LOTS of tomato varieties that won't get 8' tall. Look for varieties marked 'determinate' or 'dwarf' next to the name. Let me know if you plan to go the container route and I can set you up with a few to get you going.

#81612 January 25th, 2007 at 01:31 AM
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green peppers, lettuce, and french beans would all look good in borders mixed with flowers.
you may need another plan if the creatures like the taste though!
maybe grow a screen, if you dont want the neighbours to see what your growing.

#81613 January 25th, 2007 at 02:46 AM
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I would suggest raised beds in your front yard, You can place taller flowers on the street side and your veggies behind the flowers. Also big pots will work fine for tomatoes, peppers and also you could lettuce in a flower box. I would go with as much sun as possible, if you decide to grow in the back yard, you may have to put up a little fence to keep bunnies and other critters out...using something like chicken wire or something with very small holes.

#81614 January 25th, 2007 at 07:54 PM
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Sorellina, I'd be interested to know what container varieties you meant?
If I have the info I can order from a good source.
I also am a container gardener.
BTW, did you move yet?

#81615 January 27th, 2007 at 02:57 AM
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You suggest the backyard gets insufficient light but it's now winter. The angle of the sun changes and the days are longer thru the warmer months. Have you taken this into account? If not, maybe your sunlight in the back will be OK for growing vegies thru spring/Summer.
The front yard is obviously the best year round light but the animals will be your problem. So you'll need to build a fence to keep them out. It could be a painted timber fence with an arch and a gate on either side of your front pathway and the vegies could be grown with annuals and perrenials to pretty things up. Marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, herbs etc can all be used to great effect and some of these have benefits for the vegies too.
Keep the critters out and plan the layout and you'll have a nice front garden which is also productive. Consider things like a grape vine or a fruit tree on the western side to give a little shade on hot Summer afternoons for example. Use the basement for early germination and storage of produce.

#81616 January 27th, 2007 at 04:34 PM
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What about a greenhouse. As I was reading the posts it just came to me. You could have a great greenhouse. keeps the animals out. Allows you to add light where you need it. And even control temperature to some degree. Ok, it's just an idea lol. I also love the idea of a tree. I'd want to of the dwarf fruit cocktail trees but that's just me.

#81617 January 31st, 2007 at 01:53 PM
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Most critters don't like the stronger smelling herbs so you could put them around the edge of your garden. I have lots of deer in my yard and have discovered I can plant the strong smelling herbs without having to put up a fence--they simply will not eat them. Also, if your back yard does stay shady during the summer, try cucumbers--they really don't like too much sun or wind as they dry out through the leaves so fast.

#81618 January 31st, 2007 at 03:38 PM
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WOW- haven't been on for a few days and look at all the wonderful responses!!

Let me attempt to respond! smile I love being outdoors, so I do'nt want to have *everything* in the basement or I will go crazy! smile But I do feel like it is the best option for most things.

I don't have any sort of fence, unfortunately, and I do'nt think that is an option right now for us- we bought a house that had a lot of problems crop up immediately so we have been pouring quite a chunk of change into the house itself (new heating, siding, gutters, etc!) We did get estimates last year for different fence solutions, but all of it was VERY pricey for us right now.

The shady back yard: I moved in last April and I was judging from the spring/summer sun that it was shady smile There are big trees on one side of the property line and then there is shade from the house, then on the other side there are lilacs that are pretty tall as well, so we only get the late sun.

I like the cucumbers idea. I actually grew a couple of green pepper plants on the back patio last year. I would have had more, but I started them too late! I was surprised at how well they did considering how little light they received. I'm not opposed to putting some in the front beds as long as I can semi-hide them with flowers!

Another thing I did, was my MIL gave me 2 little raspberry bushes (she has huge ones in her backyard- very yummy!) and I could not find enough sun for them, so I put them in some HUGE pots and set them on the 2 stumps in the middle of my flower beds last year! I didn't think they would do much, if anything, but we actually did get a few raspberries before the animals got to them. I'm terrified of putting them IN the ground in the front- I don't want them to take over!!

My goal for this week and next is to get the basement in order so I can start setting up down there and get some things started. I have a light, but no warming trays, so that may be a purchase I make too.

I have spring fever- can't wait to get started!!
--Manda

#81619 January 31st, 2007 at 09:59 PM
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lilacs.... I'm drooling with envy-I've never even seen one !

#81620 February 1st, 2007 at 05:06 PM
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The lilacs have been here longer than we have. The house was built in 1965 and those owners must have planted them- they are pretty huge. They bloomed for about a week last summer and the smell nearly made me sick it was so sweet... similar to a gardenia smell. I have pics in my photobucket, but not sure if there are any of it in bloom on there.
smile
My goal for this week and next is to make a space in the basement for my grow lights and to order a warming mat (asked for it for Valentines Day and hubby said I was the only girl he knows who wants to grow her own flowers and things for Valentines! ) It made me smile!

-Manda

#81621 February 1st, 2007 at 06:21 PM
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Ciao Deborah-

Victory seeds has a lot of determinate and dwarf tomato varieties, some of which don't even get 2' tall. Some of my favourites:

Sophie's Choice
New Big Dwarf
Golden Dwarf Champion
Kimberley
Mountain Princess
Patio Orange
Whippersnapper
Mirabelle Multiflora
Quinte
Scoresby Dwarf

Some of which are new to me but are on my list to 'grow at some point':

Citron Compact
Victoria Dwarf
Lime Green Salad
Florida Petite
Lucky Leprechaun
Red Russian
Red Robin
Yellow Canary

And no, we haven't moved yet. It will happen when it's meant to. I'm going to spend a month in California from Mid Feb to Mid March, though, to escape the tundra which is starting to really get to me.

Cheers!
Julianna

#81622 February 2nd, 2007 at 08:35 PM
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Thanks for the list, Sorellina.
I'll go through these and make a list-I think I'll probably try three of them.
Hope you have a nice time out here ! wavey


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