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Beginner Gardening

 
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Which fruits, vegetables, or herbs would you suggest a beginner gardener start with?

We're going to try to figure out a means to keep the obscene number of squirrels and chipmunks in our neighbourhood from getting to it as my dad and I work together to build some raised plant beds.
 
master steward
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Rony, welcome to the forum!

What kind of vegetables do you and your family like to eat?

I recommend starting with the kind of annual vegetable that your family will eat.

If they like lettuce it is easy to grow.

What about turnips, peas and beans?  Those are easy, too.

Best wishes for a great garden.
 
gardener
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Wow, those critters are a garden threat where you are?  Other than incessantly burying acorns in my pots, squirrels and chipmunks have not ever been a problem for me in my area. (It's the deer, oh the confounded deer here...)

I suggest, for quick gratification, now that cooler weather is coming along, lots of lettuce and some tasty peas! Greens like kale, etc., if you like them, too.  
 
pollinator
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We have 7 to 9 weeks of frost-free days left and if I were just starting out with herbs I'd pick up oregano, sage, thyme and chives as I think they'd have time to establish if planted from transplants.  I'd add some lemon balm and a contained mint of some sort for tea as well.   Of course this is what I'd grow.   Make your choices depending on what you like and the length of your growing season.
 
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I would concentrate on building your beds and fencing for them, as well as getting a good soil base started before worrying about what to grow.  Once you have a suitably fenced area and good soil, Anne is exactly right.  Grow what you like to eat.  If you have good soil and a protected area, most garden vegetables are pretty easy.
 
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft Grafter, veggie gardener
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I would amend my soil and plant as I've finished digging up that soil. You thus don't have to wait for construction and completion to get started growing. It's getting late to start broccoli and cabbage but still possible. You can plant the seeds in any soil you've prepared. It's a little early to plant lettuce and spinach. In my area I plan to start sowing these leafy vegetables starting slowly from mid August.

One problem this time of year is finding the seeds you want. The big box stores send their seed back to the supplier starting in early June it seems.

I would assume you don't have home made compost if your just starting to garden, Options are buying bags, buying bulk by the truck load or finding free manure. I would never buy bags of any product to amend my soil as you can't control and or trust those who control what's in it. A good option if you need enough is to buy mushroom compost from a garden center. I'm paying $40 a cubic yard and $40 for delivery. To give you an idea how much a cubic yard is; 2 cubic yards will fill a pickup truck well over the sides. The third option is to google horse boarding facilities in your town. The advantages are it's an excellent soil amendment and a wonderful fertilizer. The disadvantage is that I wouldn't grow root veggies or leafy veggies in it till next spring if I amended my soil with it now. You should also test it for herbicides by planting a few bean seeds in a mixture of your soil and maybe 20% of the manure. Do the test before you haul it. The manure will be free. I rent a pickup truck and it costs me $42 for the rental and the mileage I drive.

I have clay so cover the soil with three inches of manure or horse manure; which is manure used to grow a couple crops of mushrooms. I then dig it in by turning the soil over with a spade. It's better to turn it twice so I dig in 2 inches the first pass and an inch the second pass. If you have deep rich black soil then I'd only add an inch. I've never grown in sand but think I'd probably go with the same 3 inches of mulch. I leave the grass from the soil as it's the best soil I have. I try to get it to flip so that it winds up on the bottom. If you flip it so it's on the edge of what you dug it'll slide into the hole when you dig the next pass.

Good luck with your gardening!

edited to add: From my experiences fencing won't keep out squirrels, chipmunks or raccoons as they'll climb over it. It will keep out rabbits and possibly deer, but you don't have them.
 
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Everyone is giving you great replies from their own experiences.   A lot of how that might work for you depends on location. As an example, rosemary grows so well here that it's often used as an ornamental shrub in parking lots.  Try that in England I don't know if the rain or the cold would kill it first.

We are just starting our fall planting season here.  A lot of people are starting seedlings indoors.  In a few weeks they will be planted outside in the hopes they can survive the heat and grow big enough to thrive into the winter.  

If you can give a general idea of where you are gardening it can help us give information that is most likely to work for you
 
gardener
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Location: Zone 6 in the Pacific Northwest
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I understand the problems with the squirrels and chipmunks. At our previous home, the squirrels got so territorial of our yard and garden that they started chasing my children! They would dig up plants they didn't like eating, like tomatoes, and just leave them on the ground for spite! And I never was able to grow any peas or beans because they ate every single seed, seedling, plant, etc.

I don't mean to be discouraging, just commiserating. We eventually got them a little less comfortable in our yard. My husband would sit by the window with his airsoft rifle at random times and pop every one he saw. It didn't kill them, just stung and they would run away. Eventually they got to be waaay more skittish and would run away anytime they heard any type of "click" sound. We came to a truce where they would still eat all the peas and beans but they would leave everything else alone. Yes, we could have shot and killed them but squirrels are territorial and new ones would just move in to replace the dead ones so we thought it wise to teach the existing squirrels to have some fear of us.

If they are really, really bad and destroying a garden, the most effective way would be to build a garden that is enclosed on all sides, including a wire ceiling. The wire has to have pretty small spacing that they can't get through. Hardware cloth, not chicken wire. I don't recommend bird netting. I once had to detangle a dead squirrel body from bird netting i was using in a chicken coop. Yuck!
 
gardener
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I'm of two minds when it comes to those darned squirrels... On one hand, if your garden's not getting eaten, you're not contributing to an ecosystem. On the other hand, I once lost out on a whole years' cucumber harvest because the damn squirrels decided to dig up any seeds I'd plant, and replant, and replant. ARGH! Just remember: One squirrel = one burger. 1/4 pound of meat. Doesn't take much to nab one! lol!

Beginner crops, according to me:

Tomatoes, lettuce, nasturtiums, mint, anything in the mint family, strawberries, pole beans, miners lettuce?, pickling cucumbers, maybe zucchini to distract the dang squirrels from everything else. I had good zucchini luck except for the year the squirrels decided to take every flower they could get.

Good luck with it! Have fun and keep a light heart as you learn to work with the pests. Some years will be better than others.
 
Anne Miller
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rony said, "We're going to try to figure out a means to keep the obscene number of squirrels and chipmunks in our neighbourhood



Some folks trap them and then relocate them to a new home.
 
gardener
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Location: 5,000' 35.24N zone 7b Albuquerque, NM
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Ground squirrels and chipmunks move into the spaces where I bury branches for berms. This year I lined the outer perimeter of every garden bed and fruit/nut tree with edible allium bulbs: onions (red, white, yellow), garlic (bulb is the clove), shallots, Egyptian walking onions and potato onions. Very tasty for me and repugnant to the critters. When my storage onions become old, I plug the blender into an outdoor electric outlet and puree the smelly “smoothie,” dilute with water in a bucket (1 part onions to 4 parts water) then pour wherever the squirrels and/or chipmunks create a problem. Alliums are easy to grow, delicious, and beautiful.  They are fun to plant (since they're large), inexpensive (since the multiply on their own) and are a healthy deterrent for the family Sciuridae.
 
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Basil,did anyone mention basil??? Easy to grow and you can harvest before frost no matter what size it is,turnip, radish,fall carrots are awesome too.

Alliums are a good idea Amy.Stupid squirrels,one year we must have had a better than average nut crop in the woods behind my house.About the beginning of summer just when the tomatoes were getting big on the vine but just before they were ripe,the many newly weaned squirrels ran out of nuts from the previous fall and decided my tomatoes were easy to chew.They would eat half of one for lunch,get full then go home just to return later to get a fresh one for supper.I trapped and relocated several young ones and a couple older ones.Chipmunks dont eat as much but they do like to dig.  
 
gardener
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I see an opportunity here!

If you have to protect your garden from squirrel type critters, then you could take the time to set up your raised beds to be easily netted by spacing them for arched supports or the like. Setting up for nets makes it a lot easier to grow brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, etc) and other vegetables that are notoriously preyed upon by caterpillars). Some critters won't be stopped by nets, but it should help with many.

A large portion of my young cabbage, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts get eaten by caterpillars before they mature enough to harvest. I don't have nets... but this is why I'm suggesting it anyway!

Then again, I don't know how well nets will discourage squirrels/chipmunks. They might just chew through or burrow under.
 
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Location: Berkeley CA
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The best advice I ever got when starting out gardening was "Hold it loosely."  

You will fail, and you will succeed, and you will fail again.  But you'll be learning, and you'll be outside getting to know the natural rhythms of where you live.

For me, by far, my favorite thing to grow is lettuce.  It's easy in my climate, and if you buy seeds from small, unusual sources, you can eat varieties you could never get anywhere else.  I love Wild Garden Seed in Oregon for their wide selection.  https://www.wildgardenseed.com/

Good luck!
 
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