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What does a new veggie gardener in New England need?

{{gwi:2110308}}Image by: pixie_lou
Wonderful basket of cherry tomatoes
This is a thread that was posted in the New England Gardening Forum in September, 2013. A few minor edits have been made to correct typos, but otherwise the content is as posted.



What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by ontheteam 5a-6 (S.Eastern, MA) (My Page) on
Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 21:51

Hi gang!
A friend of mine wants to start growing her own veggies. She asked me what she would need to get started...and I drew a blank LOL It's been a long time since I was a newbie. SO I told her

1) A strong back

2) hand trowels

3) a pitch fork

4) a square headed shovel

what would you say?

I also told her to make her plot area now by laying manure down covered with several layers of news papers. 
What do you think is the best way to start a veggie plot from scratch? 
She may stop by because no new gardener advice would be complete with out a link to this forum lol..I know you all will be super kind and helpful to her!
Follow-Up Postings:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by defrost49 5 (My Page) on Mon, Sep 16, 13 at 7:59

I like to start beds using the lasagna method so wet newspapers go down first than top with alternating layers of green (fresh grass clippings, kitchen waste) and brown (chopped leaves). I top with composted manure in the spring. Bed should be about 24" high. It will settle, compost, etc over winter. Using the lasagna method, you don't need a tiller.

I use a spading fork but also have a hay fork for grass clippings,etc. 
- hoe for making rows 
- a really good hand weeder. I originally had a Cape Cod weeder and use something similar. I think a Cobra headed weeder is also similar. I never find a good hand weeder in any store. I think she'll have to order this unless there's no witch grass within 10 miles. This is esp good to use if you have wild sorrel that sends out runners. Drag the L-shaped weeder thru the soil to get as much of the roots as possible. I usually find several little plants attached to each other. 
- garden gloves. I like the inexpensive cloth ones with fingers and palm dipped in rubber. Better to grip weeds with and keeps my hands from getting worse callouses. 
- 5 gallon buckets. Great if you can find them free from a dry wall cdntractor. 
- liquid fish or seaweed fertilizer. Great when you transplant to give plants a little boost. 
- a really good seed catalog. I love my local farm store but there is a far better selection from catalogs. I think Confection winter squash from Johnny's is the best. I also like poona keara cucumbers. But it's also good to find a really good source of tomato and pepper plants. My source sells individual plants @ 60 cents. My favorite marigold is lemon gem (lacy foliage, tiny flower, wonder lemon fragrance) is very hard to find since the local backyard grower stopped growing. I grew my own from seed this year. 
- good gardening guide. I still refer to Crockett's Victory garden which is a nice month-by-month guide for New England gardeners. Used copies are readily available.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by diggingthedirt CapeCod Zone7ish (My Page) on Sat, Sep 21, 13 at 13:05

Nice summary, defrost! The only things I can add is that she'll probably need:

1. a location with easy access to water and plenty of sunshine

2. fencing, unless she lives somewhere with very few bunnies, fewer deer, and NO woodchucks (my veggie bed is raised about a foot, and has rigid wire fencing about 18 inches above that)

3. a slew of non-gardening friends to take her extra zucchini next summer

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by spedigrees z4VT ( on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 12:53

I would say:
a shovel with a pointed end for turning over the ground
a hoe
a rake
(or you could substitute a rototiller for the first two tools to save on manual labor)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by nhbabs z4b-5a NH (My Page) on Sun, Sep 22, 13 at 15:19

A stirrup AKA shuffle hoe that cuts weeds coming and going.

Enough hose to reach from the hose faucet to the garden, and a good hose nozzle and sprinkler.

I use a spading fork for digging in compost, digging potatoes, etc and a square-ended flat bladed spade for digging holes, edging, etc.

Some type of plant supports for tomatoes, cukes, melon or squash or whatever she is growing)

Lots of organic matter annually to use to mulch beds and improve soil

5 gallon buckets for hauling weeds, water, compost

a garden cart for hauling weeds, compost, etc.

large plastic baskets or those big rectangular containers to use to wash potatoes, garlic, onions

a basket for bringing in produce from the garden

lots of old yogurt cups or something similar to use for cutworm collars on the young plants

I like light weight goatskin gloves - wash well, last forever, don't get stiff like many leathers

I agree whole-heartedly with the suggestion of good seed catalogues (Johnny's and Wood Prairie Farm are my most frequent non-local vendors), a site with good sun, and Jim Crocket's Victory Garden book (though please ignore the advice on pesticides in it!!) There are also some good books from Rodale Press on organic pest control and gardens.


RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6a/MA (My Page) on Tue, Sep 24, 13 at 12:52

7+ pair of Atlas Nitrile Garden Gloves, so I have a clean pair every morning. They get thrown in the washer. Fit is very comfortable and can do any gardening chore with them on. Nice to have a pair for someone helping you too. :-)

Stainless Steel Hand Trowels and hand tools because if you leave them out in the rain, they won’t rust and they last a long time

A pitchfork

Quality hand pruners and good pair of kitchen shears and something to sharpen them with

5 gallon buckets are used every day for one thing or another

Liquid Fish Emulsion/Seaweed Fertilizer combination with a large watering can to mix it

FEDCO seed catalog in addition to Johnny’s

Eliot Coleman’s book, ‘The New Organic Grower’

Kneeling Pads and/or a rolling seat

Large milk crates, for many uses, especially good for shading a newly planted transplant on a sunny day

Comfortable Work Clothes with lots of pockets and a pair of LLBean Rubber Mocs

A headlamp from LLBean if you want to go out to the garden at night


RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by diggerdee z6 CT (My Page) on Wed, Sep 25, 13 at 18:22

Being an organic gardener, I've found my laminated Mac's Field Guide to Good & Bad Garden Bugs of the Northeast to be very helpful.

It's only one page, bad bugs on one side, good on the other, with small color photos, size info, and what the bug eats, and being laminated it's so easy to bring it out to the garden with me.

It's not as comprehensive as I'd like - I have admittedly seen some bugs that were on neither side and therefore needed more research inside at the computer - but this thing is pretty handy!

P.S. Hmm, strangely, I just realized I ONLY use this in my veggie garden. I've never consulted it in the perennial beds, but I'm a lot more lenient and less worried about bugs there than in the vegetable garden.


RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by pixie_lou 5 (My Page) on Thu, Sep 26, 13 at 8:10

Dee makes a good point about being lenient in the perennial beds. Leniency does not make a successful veggie bed.

I've been thinking about how I have a different attitude with my veggie garden. I'm more vigilant, diligent. If I have a perennial flower that doesn't bloom one year, I'm "Oh well. There's always next year." If I have a tomato plant that doesn't produce fruit, I'm pi****. I'm cursing. I take it really personally. Whereas the flowers are there for my enjoyment, I eat my veggies. Which is a more personal level of enjoyment. A more intimate level of interaction.

With perennials, I feel like I can stick them in the ground and ignore them. It's survival of the fittest. Eventually you get rewarded with flowers. Not so with veggies - you need to spend the time. Weed. Eliminate bugs. Stake plants. Fertilize. Water. Harvest. Or else you are setting yourself up for huge disappointment. There is no "next year". Since veggies are annuals.

But in the end, nothing tastes better!


RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by diggerdee z6 CT (My Page) on Thu, Sep 26, 13 at 11:55

Agreed, pixie lou! If you have a perennial that doesn't do so well, you know there's always next year. Even annual flowers - if they don't thrive and bloom, well, your plan for your pretty bed is affected.

But if your tomatoes don't grow, thrive, and produce fruit, you've got no tomatoes to eat and pretty much have wasted your time and money. I guess you may have wasted time and money on the annuals and perennials as well, but I think with veggies you expect a more immediate and concrete result - i.e. dinner, lol.

And then after all your work you have to go to the farmers market and spend even more money...



RE: What does a new veggie gardener need?

Posted by spedigrees z4VT ( on Thu, Sep 26, 13 at 12:22

After growing tomatoes every summer over the past 40 years, I gave them up entirely after the late blight claimed my little crop a few years back. If it were a blight that struck early on, I'd try tomatoes again, but no way am I ever subjecting myself to the disappointment of caring for the plants throughout the season and watching the fruits start to ripen, only to have them rot just before harvesting. Never again!


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