We're (my wife and I) doing SFG for the first time this year. We've been reading books and reading articles on the Internet, but we realize that there's nothing like first hand knowledge. So if anyone has any hints, tips suggestions, ideas, etc please send it to me. I appreciate everyone's time with this. I hope everyone is doing well.
My friend that got me started in 2005 does square foot.
1st he does ONLY veggies. Anything he cant eat he dont like to deal with.
He has several beds. None of them are more than 4 feet wide except his corn. That way he can reach in with his arm or hoe/rake to weed without struggling. Also he can pick just one bed at a time to weed.
He will plant corn and after established and growing, he will plant cukes at the base and trail them going up the corn stalk. He plants radishes every where in between.
He gave me a book - Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.
One thing I can add for anyone else who is trying this is to use copper self-drilling screws, 3" long, when assembling the wooden planting boxes. The nails will pull out rather easily as the plants and their roots grow or so I've been told.
I started these about 4 years ago and love them. i actually have 7 4' square and 5 2'x4'. Very productive and easy to use (I use mini blinds to create the squares instead of string because they are so cheap.) I started out using Mel's mix, but didn't think it worked as well as good old Miracle Grow Garden Mix.
Cubed Foot Gardening is an excellent book, and provided me with additional information that i found very helpful.
We do all of our gardening with raised beds. If you are serious about the square foot, you can put small nails into the wooden rails every 12 inches and run twine to mark your squares. I just usually eyeball it.
Some plants that are easy for square foot gardening are green beans and peppers. The problem with some other plants are they like to wander. LOL.
Start with plants you really like to eat a lot of. Even if you don't do the sq. ft thing exactly, the beds are easy to maintain. A lot of veggies can be trellised and this will leave you with space in the front of the bed for other things like lettuce, basil or rows of carrots.
Welcome to Dave's.
Edited to say if you have specific questions, fire away. There are several veggie people here. This message was edited Feb 25, 2009 6:19 PM
I'm also planning on square foot gardening this year. I bought the latest version of Mel Bartholemew's book at Barnes & Noble. There is not much sunny space left in my yard and I like the idea of getting a large crop out of a little space. I also like the chicken wire covers to keep the vermin out ( i have a resident woodchuck). More on how the project progresses...
To Jan23: Yes Abington is a quaint little town outside of Philly. I really love it here!
To Schickenlady: Thank you so much for the welcome. Rest assured that I'll be here a lot!
To JWLW: No, I'm not reading the book but I plan to go to Barnes and Noble to pick it up tomorrow.
To Sequee: I haven't talked to the better half about it yet, but I'll do so tonight and let you know tomorrow. Are you going?
I have some beds that are not full sun all day. My green beans do well with only about half the day of sun. So if you have some areas like that, you can experiment with what will tolerate a day with only part sun.
bluekat76 is coming up from MD on Sunday and we're staying at the downtown Marriott, then going to the show on Monday. We tried to get it together last year, but we didn't start making plans early enough and it just fel through.
I understand it's really something special though. At least we can DREAM of summer and heat!!! Been mighty cold around these parts this year!
There are charts for how many rows of each type of veggie to grow for a family of four. I will look for it for you. I think your plan is good. The key is to plan for filling in spots as you empty them. Some veggies provide more yield than others in a short time frame. What are you planning on planting?
Myself, I have many beds, over 8( not all just 4x8), and there are just two of us. I freeze or can the surplus. When you get into gardening, there are never enough beds. I especially love squash and they use a lot of space.
Raining today so no physical work to do. I am going tp pick up Mel's book today. We've decided to make some changes to the yard (planting beds). Instead of 9 2 X 12 X 4's, we're going with 5 of the 2 X 12's and 4 2 X 8 X 4's. We got to thinking that we didn't need all the planting beds to be 2 X 12's. The weather has been in the mid 40's-low 50's every day lately so I'm hoping to be able to start the tilling in the next few weeks. Going plant some more seeds in the plantroom today. Baby steps I suppose... I'll post a pic of the finished planting beds when my camera battery gets a charge.
This week is testing my patience. My car battery went dead and had to be replaced. I blew a front tire yesterday and had to replace both front tires and an alignment. I do get a free oil change out of the deal though. Had to cancel one of my credit cards because they we're doing some pretty shady things with my account. Then the rain today. As bad as we need it, I just can't stand the rain...
Hope everyone is having a great day!
P.S. Sequee, we're not going to do the Flower Show this year. It's supposed to have an Italian motif with wine tasting rooms and wine for sale. A little off-track IMHO. My wife's dad works the show every year. His name is Earl Fowler so if you see him tell him his son says hello.
Mezzo - what size boards are you using for your beds? I have yet to price out the hardware (boards, nails, dirt, landscape fabric) but I'm betting that the dirt (mels' mix) will probably be the most expensive component of this enterprise.
Cyndie - thank you for the link to the charts. Once I get the computer for more than 5 minutes (I have 2 teenagers) I'll get a chance to print and study.
This is what happens when you let your garage get a life of its own...
John, yes, I'm very close tp Philly. What zone should I be in. I'm having trouble figuring it out. Thanks.
Deb, I actually used two sizes, 2" thick by 12" tall by 48" long. And then I have 2" thick by 8"tall by 48" long. We figured that we didn't need all the planting beds to be 12" tall. They will be in 3 X 3 rows with a 30" wide pathway on the top, sides and bottom of each bed. We have a little rider to drive around the beds so we don't have to bend over so much when taking care of the plants. We both have bad backs...whoopee.
P.S. I've had my username changed to gbwhite. All my posts will be under that username.
Hey Greg - Like Cyndie, i have all raised beds. Most are 4 x 8 and range in height from 1' to 2'. They were built using 4 x 6's - very sturdy. I live outside Seattle; our weather is usually cooler with lots of rain, so the raised beds provided better soil conditions, heating up sooner & excellent drainage.
I have used the square foot method for over 20 years. It works well for me, and I have no complaints for all the time I have spent doing so. I used to keep a notched bamboo pole in the garden - a makeshift ruler, but my Ridgeback thinks bamboo is a treat for her: I no longer have it, so I just eyeball everything now.
I think Mel B. explained everything quite well in his book, so it's worth reading. I grow as much as i can vertically, but I have 20+ beds & not hurting for space. 4 - 6 beds will give you room for a lot of produce. Crop rotation: i think he addresses this, but cannot remember. I keep a log of what I grow in which bed & rotate accordingly.
Also - before you do the final layout:
Make sure you have wide paths between the beds - wider than your wheelbarrow!
Consider how you will manage the watering: access is important and dragging hoses around is a time waster.
My beds are gravelled in between - this helps hold the heat in spring & fall. Cleaner, too, and any weeds that emerge get torched.
Hope this helps!
I bought my wife a mid-range/size tiller for Xmas. We used it for the first time today and was expecting to have trouble with the sod and do OK with the dirt. But it went thru the sod like a hot knife thru butter. Craftsman really does make the best tools. Although I'm sure some of you will disagree.
I'm looking at all the boards, thinking "Gee, I wish I could do that, but I'm afraid of circular saws." Der, I can have the lovely people at Home Depot cut the boards to length! Sometimes I think 50 is the new 70, too much brain jam. So, this is going to be the year I have raised beds! Keep those pictures coming.
gbwhite, you mention that you will be tilling. Does that mean that you will be following the original SFG book's direction of using your native soil and amending it? M. Bartholomew's later book says to fill the box entirely with purchased bags of soil and amendments--the "Mel's mix" mentioned by other posters in this forum--and NO native soil.
These are completely different plans. Which one are you planning to use?
schickenlady, sorry but we have to hang on to those goodies, but all the stuff on the left side racks is going out for our yearly garage sale so help yourself :)
onewish: What side of NJ is Denville? We have friends in Cherry Hill but that's about all of NJ I know.
drumlin: yes, Home Depot or Lowe's (I prefer Lowe's) will cut your board to whatever length you need. I started with 2"X12"X16 foot and had them cut into quarters.
NisiNJ: We're going to till the native soil, rake it all flat (removing al the weeds and rocks), then lay landscaping fabric, then whatever we select for the soil for the planting beds and then put down mulch on the pathways between the beds.
Greg: If you lay Newspaper down 6 to seven layers and you use 10 to 12" raised beds you do not have to till anything. Fill your raised beds with SFG Mix and mulch between raised beds with 6 or so inches of wood chip or similar mulch.
Grass works also except you have to trim it.
You can also use lower raised beds and dig out in the beds to a lower level.
All you need to start is 6" Raised Beds.
Suggest you read the latest SFG Book in detail and the check around the internet for additional info.
His new book ("All New Square Foot Gardening") has some intriguing advice. Using all artificial grow mix actually seems reasonable. But using only 6 inches of it seems like it might not be enough for some plants like tomatoes, and needing no fertilizer sounds overly hopeful. Maybe he has better compost than I do, but I would be interested in hearing of other people's results with his new method.
Well, we're getting started on the yard this coming weekend. My wife (Jo, short for Jocelyn) have decided to till the soil (mostly done), lay some weeding blanketsSP? over the soil, and use the mushroom compost/soil mix for the beds with a bag of nutrient rich soil called Bumper Crop for each bed. I'll take pictures along the way so you can see how we're progressing. We got a neat little toy. It's a wheel barrow that detaches at the rear to make it very easy to dump the soil in the beds. An opinion for me? I want to plant our watermelons and pumpkins using trellises along the gates but independant of the planting beds. Jo wants to plant them in the planting beds. Any opinions out there?
Hoping everything is well with everyone out there!
Well, we've got the landscape fabric down, the planting beds in place and all the trellises (for climbing plants) in place. We have one of the planting beds filled with soil and the rest will be done today. I've been taking pics as promised, but our computer died on us and I've been getting it ready for use as time permits. I'll post the pics this evening. Tomorrow will be planting day, at least we'll be planting what the weather will allow.
I hope everybody is doing great. BTW, when we're done planting, is there a way to trade our remaining seeds or just give them to somebody?
drumlin, we've been dealing with very cold in the am and warmer in th afternoon. We have two planting beds to go and then we'll start marking off the sections for planting. This has been a lot of work but it will all be worth it in the end. Once we mark everything off, we can start planting. I hope this thread is helping someone.
Actually it does. Bizarrly, I didn't think about just covering the whole thing with landscape fabric. I'd have been out there cutting little rectangles. The soil should warm up nicely for you. It also occurs to me that even in my area raised beds would allow earlier plantng, I would think, or at least faster germination. You'll have to post pics of the plants!
onewish, please do all the lurking you want. And if you want to give me a cyber-pat on the back, I'll take that too. Well, I'm putting the separating slats on the planting beds now and then WE GET TO PLANT, WHOOPEE!
I also bought the grow beds from Gardener's Supply. They were so easy to put together and the plastic wouldn't ever rot. I bought three beds, and used the twelve (3-foot) sides to make TWO 3 ft x 6 ft beds. So as a result there was a fourth 3x3 foot area without having to buy afourth bed. Was so proud of myself at the time to eek out the fourth growing area. Others must have done the same, because now they sell an extension. Of course it was still expensive--Gardener's Supply always is. And I have to admit I bought some more this year.
drumlin, You can buy 4' long by 1" wide slats in a bundle of 50 for around $20-$25 per bundle at Lowes. I was going to just use string but the slats were more astetically pleasing. If you do this use a small diameter, 1" long brad to nail the slats down. Or, come to think of it you could probably use a staple gun. The slats split easily. We're expecting rain for the next 3-4 days so our planting is going to be delayed for about a week and a half.
Are you going to plant those tomato (and pepper?) seedlings in early April? Won't it still be too cold? (I'm inquiring because I think I am in the same zone, and if you're going for it, I might dare too, also.)
Anyone have any experience growing carrots in raised beds? I like the idea of covering the boxes with chicken wire, that makes a lot of sense. Also, is there any real reason that you can't just use good ol compost mix in the beds? What's special about "Mel's" mix?
Greg; There is nothing special about Mels Mix, I think in the Latest of his books he tells you how to mix your own. Or perhaps in one of his Video's.
I use 1/3 Compost, 1/3 Peat Moss, 1/3 Vermiculite as the first fill, then I add compost as I plant or as things grow. I also mulch with partially decomposed Leaves. You can also supplement with organic Fertilizer, Slow Release or water with one of the liquid type. You may also need to control the Ph a little.
One thing you have to remember is that the compost and the peat moss are decomposing and depleting
as the year go's by. You will need to keep replacing them mostly with compost as the years go by.
Look around the internet there is a lot of information out there about Gardening in raised Beds.
A good link http://www.douggreensgarden.com or just do a search for Gardening in Raised Beds.
I tried carrots in mine year before last and it was awful. I think, though, that I started them too late and that my soil wasn't fine enough at that time. May try again this year - wish me luck!
I am thinking about putting in a couple of cool-weather veggies this week, though - broccoli, cauliflauer, chives, lettuce... Will they be ok? Is it too soon to start my peas (from seed)?
Crop rotation is a mystery to me, too. The chives and parsley will go into the herb garden, so not competing for space. The broc and cauli and lettuce, though, will be in the raised bed. Won't they still be working at Memorial Day - Ohio's official tomato planting day?
I think the lettuce etc will be pretty much bolted by around Memorial Day. It gets pretty hot and the aphids do them in, in my experience. Or, even if they're not, they soon will be by then, so it may not make sense to try to keep pushing the envelope, and you may want to just make room for the next crop.
Hi, I'm happy to find this thread. I bought the All New version of the book and this is inspiring me to start reading it. I've set out peas, lettuce and spinach so far and am not exactly using the square foot method as I haven't read the book yet, but I've definitely modified my layout. I plan to add some more raised beds using the square foot technique and look forward to getting advice from the crew here I hope.
This is Greg's wife, Jo - I hope he doesn't mind if I hijack his ID for this reply. : )
We won't be putting the tomatoes and peppers out until mid-May probably. In the past, I have put them out in April, but they don't really grow at all until the weather warms up, and if we get a real frost, it will kill them. I have repotted all of the seedlings into 3" pots, so they have a little more room to grow. Hopefully, we'll have some nice strong plants by the time they go outside.
Yesterday, we planted some asparagus crowns that I rescued from the old veggie bed, plus strawberries, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings that we bought over the weekend. I'm going to try to get some seeds in today, radish, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and arugula.
As far as peppers this article (not long and good reading) really caught my attention. I posted it before but if you have not read it you might want to. Peppers are finiky this is part of what it says:
Pepper plants will survive as long as there's no frost or freeze. However, if you plant them out before the soil warms, they will just sulk. It's better to leave them inside under the lights if the weather is still cool. A good rule of thumb for peppers is to plant them out at least a month after your average date of last frost, or 2 weeks after setting out tomatoes.
The more I think about it. Last year I had to do everything by myself. I mean everything. I started with 2 rows, corn, 1 r spinich, 1 row cauliflower, 1 row, brocolli, 1 row cherry tomatoes, 3 rows beef steak, 3 rows big boys, and 3 rows romas. Then I went into the jalapeno's and bell peppers. By the time I did all the tomatoes and stuff - it had to be close to 1-2 weeks and I could not get the green bell peppers to grow to save my life. It was mid June and I plucked 1/2 the bell peppers out and replaced them. You could see the difference in the plants that I replaced! In other words - they are finiky! They dont like the cold.
Thank you, Jo. I guess I'll also have to keep my tomato seedlings under the fluorescent lights for awhile.
Question for anyone concerning Mel's Mix--He says in his new book to use at least five different sources of compost because each bag you buy probably contains only one type of composted material. The only bagged compost I know of locally is the "composted humus and manure" sold by K-Mart. I don't want to spend the money (+ extra S&H) to order Gardener's Supply Vermont compost. What other kinds are sold in bags? (Preferably from chain stores so there will be one near me) Thanks.
The soil we used is a combo of top soil, mushroom compost and Bumper Crop. Jo says that is very "fluffy" and I must agree. We started planting (YAY!) day before yesterday and as usual I have pics. We planted several varieties of lettuce, cabbage, red and green grapes, mesclun, arugula, leek, rainbow carrots, mustards, ching-chiang (what is that anyway?), beets, half long carrots, spinach, cosmic purple carrots, radish, watermelon radish, romaine lettuce, summertime lettuce, sugar snap peas and swiss chard. We have a lot of seeds still to plant but we'll rotate them as the summer gos by. Here are the pics.
one of the beds will be an experiment - the 3 sisters... according to the native americans... corn, beans and pumpkins...
tomatoes basil and garlic (4) my family is big on tomatoes...
pepers, basil and scalions
one with lettuce, arrugula
leaks, chives, scalions, parsley, tarragon, rosemary,
cukes, zuccini, beans (4 different )
I plant my garlic in October and it is starting to perk up now. I'm thinking of paying close attention to companion planting as well. As an example, I will plant some borage with my basil and tomatoes. I am also interested in rotating crops and it's necessity or not. If anyone else is interested in companion planting, this is an excellent bit of info - http://www.geocities.com/green_cache/companion.html
today I surveyed my garden... oh I have so much work... so I hope to do some real cleaning tomorrow morning... actually I am excited about it... today I just rested because the week was really stressful...to say the least...
I am doing companion plants also... I am thinking of where I have some plants and mix some of my veggies with that... I just read today that celery - marigolds, snapdragon and daisies are good to each other...
so far marigolds seems to be a good companion for everything... and I love marigolds... I have tons of onions and chives among the roses... I am glad I do... this year I am adding leeks...
GB, your garden looks great, real progress. Kassia, since I've seen your gardens in person, I can only say yes it's a lot of work, but MAN, so well worth it! Yesterday was totally yucky. I pulled weeds from the Senior Center where we meet for our garden club (keeps the rent low!) but I just cowered inside the rest of the day. Today I have so much to do, moving plants around. I agree, trying to "sample" compost from here and there would be way too costly. I'll be interested to see the analysis at the end of the season as to what people actually used and how it worked.
Here are some pics of our new babies, things are coming along well. We're getting concerned about our tomatoe plants though. We're still getting an occasional frost which will kill the plants. We bought a mobile greenhouse and are going to move the tomatoes into it and expose them to the outside during the day so that they can start getting acclimated to the outdoors. Here are the new pics:
Anyone know of local (CT) sources for the coarse vermiculite specified in "Mel's Mix"?
None of our local nurseries, garden stores, hardware stores or Lowe's carry it.
I've found several mail-order sources on the net, but the shipping charges almost double the price quoted. I wonder if Coconut coir plus water-absorbent polymers would be a good substitute?
Thanks for the tip. They are the first people (out of 17 other places I called) who even know that there is a difference between coarse and fine varieties. It is a 90 minute drive from here, but I guess I'll have to make it since after FedEx and UPS rate changes, the online nurseries charge more for the shipping than they do for the vermiculite!
Everything is coming up great! I'm going to take some shots in the next few days so y'all can see it. Even the grapes are budding a little. The lettuce is going absolutely crazy. We're going to do the last of our planting this weekend, weather permitting. We've also been working on the front yard, Roses, Roses and more Roses. I sectioned of an area for the roses and it should look great once they start to bloom. I picked 3 varieties, Moon Dance, a white rose with large petals, Henry Fonda, a yellow rose that is beautiful and grows just the right height for making bouquets and Black Magic, a blood red rose, long stemmed but doesn't bud in large quanties unfortunately. How's everyone else's gardens coming along?
Yep, that's what I meant. In fact, it's so dangerous I've avoided going, I know I'll fall in love with much too much, and I don't have the room (or funds) for anything more yet. Our garden club had a plant sale, and at the end we all "adopted" what was left. I have stuff I don't even know what it is!
GB, looking forward to your pics! Your roses sound lovely! I only have two tomatoe plants as far as veggies, but I adopted what I THOUGHT was a rose of some sort from an abandoned property, and it turned out to be a very prolific blackberry bush, so I'm rather looking forward to that, and also see if my raspberry bushes bloom this year. I cut them back rather severly. Roses and Iris are starting to show promise. This time of year right now doesn't have many blooms, but in a couple of weeks the garden will make up for it big time I'm thinking.
drumlin, Raspberries usually give a large yield of berries with very little maintenance. We pulled our bushes this year because we have some much of them canned already. I wish you the best of luck with them!
WOW, great job indeed! All those veggies, that is really amazing. You really are a lot further along, I see those peonies are popping all over the place, and mine are just about in full bud, but not quite. Your yard will look even better with the roses in bloom.
HA, SL, stinks, don't it, but the heat's a comin. I think.
here are my March & July shots from last year... if you want a photo overload I have pictures of when we bought the house up to two years ago... can take a long time to get through all those.. let me know if you want the links
Just as an experiment I built two square-foot beds this year. Naturally the day after I started planting, I spotted a rabbit casing the joint. In self-defense I added the rabbit-bane covers–netting on the ends of the near one, chicken wire on the far one. So far, so good. (My DW asked if the plant marker at right is to scare the creatures to death. Not such a hare-brained idea!)
DonS, we have a resident rabbit in the back yard, but so far, he has not visited the veggie beds. I don't know if it's the height of the beds, or that the weed smorgasbord in our back yard is more tasty than the veggies, but he seems content to munch away at ground level. The real test will be in the next week or two, when the beans begin to sprout.
The funniest thing is that the rabbit seems unconcerned by the presence of our golden retriever. Of course, the golden pays absolutely no attention to the rabbit, and practically tripped over it once before she noticed it!
Between the rabbits and deer and chipmunks, I should get stock in that Deer Away stuff. DonS, that looks positively impenetrable! Just too bad you need it in the first place, but I think you have something there. With the worse winter than usual the deer and rabbits really did a number on the new growth. I really don't grow vegetables, although I do have a row of carrots as an experiment. Let's see what Bugs does with that!
Some random pics of the latest shape of the garden. Everything is coming along nicely. We have lettuce, cauliflower, carrots, tons of peppers and tomatos, grapes, chard, cherry tomatoes, several varieties of corn, asparagus, and more that doesn't come to mind. Here's the pics...
HOLY GREENERY, BATMAN! Looks like your backyard has become Eden! I've never seen a square foot gardening project in this much detail, it's sure inspiring. Now that you have all the boxes set up it should be cake to do this year after year. Good job! Keep us updated as your crops continue.