Vegetable Gardening in NYS/CT-- Pointers for a Beginner?

My husband and I finally have a yard to plant a proper garden. We have done patio container gardening with herbs, flowers, and the occasional peppers and tomatoes, for many years but are excited to finally have room for planting a sizable vegetable garden. I’m curious to know if any of you plant and maintain a garden what wisdom you have to share, especially anything specific to our area. We will be doing raised beds and I have big plans but I don’t want to go overboard.

I got a ton of books from the library on the topic and am looking for classes on how to begin. I found a couple of classes at the Cornell Cooperative Extension (is that what it’s called?) and at Hilltop Hanover farm. Does anyone have any resources to recommend for getting started? The area we are planning to plant in gets full sun for many hours. We have woods beyond our yard and get many critters visiting-- deer, coyotes, foxes, so we will definitely have to put up fencing.

Thanks in advance for sharing!

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FENCES AND NETTING. Don’t worry about planting too much (with veggies).Birds ,squirrels,rabbits will feast- you not so much.My father always had a small but meticulous veggie garden.Birds are a major concern so,even though it’s a pita-netting does help.Try to get things that “ripen” at different times/speeds- although all of a sudden- too much at once does happen. Planning is a large part- especially what needs sun/shade and how much water. Tomatoes do well but need to be tied and need plenty of room. We actually used to order (and receive) started heirloom plants from california- much larger choice than the local nurseries carry. Laurel’s heirloom tomatoes. good luck. It might seem crazy to order from so far,but the choices were huge and they always arrived in good condition to plant (also my father was not a computer person (neither am i)) but he used to call them and discuss his choices it kept him busy and they were always very helpful


Good news on starting a garden! You might want to see if your Extension also has a nearby Master Gardner that could give you advice.
We always put about 60 pounds of chicken manure in each 100 sq. ft. plot six weeks our so prior to planting but it’s best if you can have your soil tested first to see what amendments it needs. Your tomatoes will be more productive if you wait to plant until the soil and air temperatures are really warm enough…your Extension can give you information on when to plant for your area. Peppers like humidity so plant them fairly close together and, as Rich says, tomatoes need space and staking. You will have to be vigilant if you have that much wildlife in your yard…even squirrels and chipmunks will ruin your tomatoes. Good luck and keep us posted!

ETA: be sure you have good drainage and if you have clay soil try and lighten it with leaf humus


I don’t know your area well. if there are any animals who live in the ground in your area- moles, voles, gophers, rats, ground squirrels, you’d want to ask your neighbors who plant if they have problems from animals coming up from below and eat your plants. If so, you’ll need something like a chicken fence below your bed before putting in the soil.

My veg gardening book says that one of the common mistakes from beginners is that they start too big. Then the whole venture becomes too overwhelming and if the result is subpar the beginner becomes frustrated and is more inclined to give up, versus starting small, figure out the specific challenges in your garden, soil, water, what grows well etc before expanding. I’d agree with that. That pretty much happened to me. I enthusiastically started 6 beds without experience. Over time, because of various reasons including critters, soil conditions, subpar results and lack of time, I plant a lot fewer now than when I started. Not discouraging you at all, but its always good to start with a mangagable planting area.


@richb51, thanks, I hadn’t actually thought of birds but I should have-- we have quite the bird life here including a huge hawk that seems to have taken a liking to a certain very tall tree in our backyard. So netting over the top of it too in addition to deer fence? Thanks for the tomato plant recommendation. That is a fantastic website! What varieties do you like from them?

@gourmanda Ok so I have read about getting soil tested. Being a newbie so I know vaguely what that means. How would we get soil tested and what information would we be looking for from that?

Something that made me think of was where we can plant a vegetable/herb garden based on where our septic field is (we are new to gardens, wild animals, and… septic systems… some things are more fun than others in the country). I need to find out from my husband where that is exactly in our yard. I’m hoping it’s not in the sunny sunny spot I was thinking for the garden. What I am reading is that it is not recommended to plant over a septic field which makes sense. Hmm. Will have to investigate this.

Thanks and I do see a lot of people with gardens in our neighborhood so getting some local wisdom on critters who may visit is a good idea. My dad lives a bit south of us and he had a groundhog who would dig up through the bottom of the garden like you mentioned so we’ll have to think about that chicken wire below the bed. I definitely can see myself biting off more than I can chew but luckily my husband is the yin to my yang and will pull in the reins a bit on my overzealousness. :slight_smile:

It’s been a few years since we had a garden.Dad passed away and I was never too big on it and very limited mobility, so I don’t even remember the varieties of tomatoes. My mom was always partial to oddly colored or ugly varieties so always had plenty of those L.Seriously though,they have a great web-site and loads of info, and as I said they always came in good shape and thrived.Most local nurseries have maybe 1/2 dozen or so heirloom, so it is a fun site to consider and the prices (even with shipping) are pretty reasonable.

Thank you!!!

Contact your local agriculture extension for the nearest lab. You will need to order a soil testing kit from them; depending on the lab it may test for ph, lead, etc. also, do not underestimate the amount of time it takes to have a successful garden that produces more worth than the input costs. we put in an average of 5-8 hours per week on two 100sq ft plots in order to put up a winter’s worth of tomatoes, beans, rrp, chili sauce, etc. we are in the minority of those that make money on our community garden plots.

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That is a helpful website, Richb51 but at $6+/ plant…oof. That’s expensive. I would suggest to icecream that she starts scouting local nurseries now to find alternate options. There is a garden center 20 minutes from us, for example, that sells 20+ varieties of heirloom tomatoes for $1/plant (roughly 4" plants). At that price it’s not worth the headache for us to start our own plants from seeds.

Wow, that is incredibly cheap! I have space to grow things for the first time ever this year as well, but the only flat/sunny spot on our property is currently occupied by a privet hedge. I’m going to kill that off this year and spend this summer prepping the area and building a raised bed, then plant vegetables next year. I do have space for herbs and some hot peppers this year, though, and I’ve got some berry plants to get started as well. Definitely going to have to invest in netting for the birds!

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Yes, the birds can really attack your plants…especially the berries. What are you going to use to kill the hedge? If you want to grow vegetables there next year make sure it isn’t something that will linger in the soil. What kind of hot peppers do you want to grow? We’ll be growing some giant jalapenos, not sure if any other hots.

Someone on a gardening forum I read suggested triclopyr, which apparently breaks down quickly. Glyphosate would be another option, but supposedly triclopyr is better for woody shrubs.

As for hot peppers, I have seeds for Paper Lantern chiles, Bird’s Eyes and some standard jalapenos. This will be my first time growing them so we’ll see how it goes. Herbs I have grown before, but this will be my first time with space for a big variety. I have four varieties of basil, plus sage, tarragon, rosemary, chervil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, nepitella, chives, savory and a few mints.

Wow! That’s a lot of herbs…will be great choices for cooking. Watch the mint as it will take over and spread everywhere.

Yes, I understand mint can be very aggressive! I tried to grow it on my windowsill in my apartment but I don’t think I had enough sun, because it always died (even with its reputation as being impossible to kill!). I am planning to keep it in pots on the patio rather than planting straight in the ground to avoid a coup d’etat.

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So we are busily preparing our garden. We’ve been reading tons of gardening books. This weekend we staked out where we want our raised beds to be. We are doing two squares for lettuce and some other veggies and a rectangular one for the mass of herbs I pre-ordered from Teatown’s plant sale. We’ll do a few freestanding tubs for the different varieties of mint I got (love making cocktails with mint in the summer!). We bought kits to make the raised beds, we have the wire mesh to lay down under them, the landscape fabric for weeds, and we bought deer fencing. I am super excited about this! I’ll be on the lookout for seedlings pretty soon-- there’s a nursery I like on 133 in Ossining and we moved closer to another one (Pinesbridge). I took everyone’s advice to heart to not start too big-- I wanted four beds but we decided to start with just two this year and if we succeed we can always increase next year!

What’s the name of the nursery? I haven’t found a great one in Yonkers yet, although the people at D&D assured me that they will have a TON more plants in just a couple of weeks.

How is everyone’s garden going so far in NYS/CT (and elsewhere)?

We spent a ton of time fortifying our three raised beds against critters and creatures of all sorts. Landscape fabric and wire mesh line the bottoms, chicken wire goes two feet up the sides of each, and all three are surrounded by four feet of deer fence. I has to put flags up on the deer fence after our landscapers mowed over the deer fence, oops!

I planted lettuce, radishes, carrots, beets, kale and sugar snaps a couple weeks ago and zucchini just a day or two ago as the directions said to wait to sow outside until after the last frost and it seems we are in the clear for that now. The sugar snaps and radishes are going wild. The kale has just started to sprout, as has everything else except some of the lettuce and the just-sowed zucchini. These are all seeds from the really cool Hudson Valley Seed Library/Company. Im a little concerned about the lettuce. Might have to get some seedlings at the Teatown Plant Sale next weekend if it doesn’t start sprouting in earnest.

I’ve been watering in the early morning and afternoon which seems to keep them happy. We have a resident bunny who luckily seems more interested in our grass than anything else at this point. Let’s hope it stays that way!

I also planted rhubarb bulbs in a pot, which I understand take a couple years to produce. Anyone have experience with rhubarb?

Next week we will pick up a ton of herbs we pre-ordered from the Teatown Plant Sale. I have huge pots ready for my mint (mojitos all summer!) and lavender plants and the raised beds will take the rest. I’ll get some flowers and tomato plants and we’ll be all set!

I appreciate the advice you all gave, especially the advice to keep it small. Three beds seems just right for our first year although I can definitely see expanding next year.

@biondanonima sorry bio, I just saw this. I can’t remember the name. I’ll look it up.