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Mel Would Like Our Help

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Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  sfg4uKim on 3/9/2012, 8:22 am

I received an email from Mel recently asking for ideas:

"We're trying to concentrate on educating and motivating beginners this
year. We want to make it easy for them to get started and not have to
buy a lot of stuff like tools, fertilizer and all of those things. Would you do a little brainstorming and see if you could suggest some ideas on how to reach out, connect with and motivate both young and old to start just one box and learn the basics of SFG?"

SOOOOO, any ideas?

One of the things Mel talked about was getting organizations to fund & build 2x2s with bottoms provide MM, books and even seeds and "tools" which are then shrink wrapped and given to those in need.

I can't find it, but didn't someone here post about a scout project where they sold a kit which paid for a second kit to be donated?


Last edited by sfg4uKim on 3/9/2012, 8:23 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : changed one word)

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/9/2012, 9:07 am

My plan is to make 1x3's or 1x4's (more window box size) of salad gardens for may-day. I have a determinant tomato (both Silver Fir Tree and Beaver Lodge Plum) that take up very little space but make salad size tomatoes, mixed lettuces, scallions, radishes, parsley, probably a basil, a nasturtium and fingerling carrots.

The peeps I have in mind have patios and apartment decks. I'm hesitant to post this because I am fairly sure this is not what you have in mind, but what the heck.

Debs ....what else would I do with all those tomatoes in the window?

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  walshevak on 3/9/2012, 10:58 am

I would like to see 3x3 or 2x3 which are 7" deep boxes distributed. They would offer space for more variety. Why 7", because you can get a decent carrot in a 7" depth. To me the most important help would be making premixed Mels Mix available. Finding 5 GOOD composts has become a real challenge and a 4 cu ft bag of vermiculite is more than what's needed for this "teaching boxes" I've had several people tell me they would try one bed if they didn't have to search fo and mix up the growing medium.

Another thing, nothing discourages a new gardener more than bug eaten plants, so a piece of lighweight row cover might encourage a newbie to keep going.

I've seen research that the most popular item in home gardens or containers is tomatos, so make sure there is a cage for at least 1 plant (maybe a determinate).

And for instant gratification some starts, maybe 1 tomato and 1 three pack of chard which can stand summer heat better than other greens.

Small seed packets of lettuce, carrots, radish (they grow fast)

Suggested kit: 2x3 box with bottom, cage ( or attachable pole on one corner), piece of lightweight row cover, book, trowel, gift certificate for starts, small packs of seeds, MM to fill, and a small bag of blended compost for replenishing empty spring square for a summer square.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  JK on 3/9/2012, 11:08 am

I know local businesses and organizations often fund/sponser local sports teams... Might be a stupid idea but maybe approach local lowes, HD, even small feed and seeds?

Heck, try to pitch it to local gyms, restaurants, or even doctor offices/dieticians? Everyone can always use a tax right off, and it helps them promote the business/practice along with healthier eating... or at least make it look like they do lol.

In addition to the book, make up handouts that go more in detail on tabletop boxes that can be geared toward the elderly/disabled?

Maybe another handout thats really simplified and somewhat cartoonish to get children involved?

Give the businesses a breakdown of the materials and overall price involved. Using the MM calculator on the forum a 2x2 6" deep would need 2cbft of MM. From what I paid, buying everything, about $80 or so would buy enough MM for at least 4 boxes. I know prices will vary in different parts of the country so local prices could be drastically different from place to place, especially for the vermiculite I think? Wood for 4 boxes would be less than $20? Not to sure about plywood prices but I would imagine it wouldnt be to far from $20 again but I could be off on that one. So $120 give or take for 4 boxes? Then seeds and Mels book. Not sure what sort of tools you really need.

I can keep going but I'm not sure if these are the ideas you are looking for. Hope that 2 cent is helpfull Very Happy

PS - Walshevak posted while I was writing... I'd go with what she said lol.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  walshevak on 3/9/2012, 11:22 am

JK, you brought up some points I was not focusing on. I was thinking of one box, you were thinking of a community of boxes. Good for you. But it does play into the need for furnishing premade MM with the box. I like the cartoon book for kids idea. And you focused on where to get the support. Great ideas.

Kay

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  Windsor.Parker on 3/9/2012, 11:53 am

Seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting Is believing...
Set up tours of local gardens (SFG & others too!) so beginners can see and compare for themselves!
Host gardeners could allow a few newbies to sample (taste), pull for transplant, and even understudy!
Garden visits should be sensory directed.
Encourage participants to bring a camera (still and/or video) and a friend or relative.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  boog1 on 3/9/2012, 12:17 pm

my one concern would be if it were a table top sfg. if they are to be free standing, is the legs for these kits. in my eyes they would have to be adjusable in some way. not everybody is the same height. other than that i think a 2x2 would be a good starter kit for jus starting out. the book a must!!



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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  Unmutual on 3/9/2012, 12:19 pm

@sfg4uKim wrote:I received an email from Mel recently asking for ideas:

"We're trying to concentrate on educating and motivating beginners this
year. We want to make it easy for them to get started and not have to
buy a lot of stuff
like tools, fertilizer and all of those things. Would you do a little brainstorming and see if you could suggest some ideas on how to reach out, connect with and motivate both young and old to start just one box and learn the basics of SFG?"

SOOOOO, any ideas?

I'm not sure how fast you want the "pay-off"(might not be the best phrase) for this project, but in my opinion the absolute first thing anyone should do, even if they're just thinking about gardening(no matter what method they use), is to start composting.

I realize that there is a lot of information involved with compost...an awful lot. I could probably think of a 4-hour class on just compost(if not more!). However, making your own compost can cost as little as nothing, or as much as you want to invest.

Traditional piles, tumblers(can make your own), vermicomposting(can make your own worm farm, but you're kind of stuck buying the right worm - Eisenia fetida), 1 bin, 2 bin, 3 bin composting systems, etc.

I realize that getting enough compost can be an issue when you're making it yourself, especially the initial 1/3 of the mix, but since SFG in other countries where vermiculite and peat moss might be non-existent you just plant into 100% compost. There are definitely ways to create 6" of compost by using the lasagna gardening method also. Slap on a grid, and you have SFG.

While I'm not sure how strict Mel can be with the Mel's Mix, I know he does have some leeway, especially in developing countries. The upfront costs for making Mel's Mix for a large garden can be intimidating, and I think(personally) that growing the vegetables in a healthy, environmentally conscious way is what's really important.

Though I would still heavily suggest that if you can afford the vermiculite and peat moss, that you go ahead and use that along with the compost. It still works, and works rather well(3 years and going strong!). But the way people look at the economy, prices are going to be out of whack for a while. For some reason people expect exponential growth and the stock market reflects this(even though we have steady growth, and have for some time, it's just not enough for some people..namely those with the investing dollars).

I would further suggest that, as far as SFG goes, we lean more towards a cheaper(ie: all compost) mix instead of using a strict vermiculite/peat moss/compost mix for the US. Call it SFG Lite if you want to. Throw in different variations of all compost gardening(I am unsure of trademarks, etc.) in a booklet that supplements the ANSFG book, and go from there. You could even put it on CD with URLs to websites, so people with internet access can do some further reading(which should make distribution cheaper), or even have people bring thumb drives so they can get a copy from the instructor's laptop. Heck, you could even provide a small 1GB thumb drive with SFG and Mel's picture on it(they're cheap, reusable and can store a LOT of data, though I'm not sure if 1GB are still available, might have to be 4GB).

I'll stop here, as I could probably ramble on forever.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  Smartchick on 3/9/2012, 12:22 pm

Maybe set up a booth at the "Home and Garden" show or Farmers Market in your area? Sell "sample boxes" - 2x2 boxes with bottoms with MM, seeds for easy growing stuff, some extra compost, a "Readers Digest" or "quick start" version with say a $5 coupon to buy the full book), a pencil (with the forum website on it : ) ), a small shovel and a piece of row cover. Then include an "order form" for larger boxes and/or a list of local suppliers that sell the ingredients to make more. Once people realize how well MM works, they will want more boxes (as evidenced by pretty much everyone on this forum that started with 1 or 2 boxes and how has 5 (or 10, or ...)

This may be kind of cheesy, but maybe market the sample or larger boxes to realtors in the area, like "Buy a home, get a starter garden". Or sell them as a school fundraiser - with a percentage of the profits used to provide large boxes for the school or a community garden.

That's all I got. Very Happy

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  sfg4uKim on 3/9/2012, 1:00 pm

I guess I should also ask . . . how is a group/non-profit organization/church/business, etc. to PAY for these?

Selling at a Home & Garden Show is a GREAT idea, but for the Maryland Spring 2-weekend show (5 days total) a booth is $650 and the 1-weekend Fall show is $450. The one in San Antonio is $350 for a booth for a 3-day weekend.

A tour is also GREAT, but how do you get from place to place? A convoy? Rent a van (and buy gas)?

ABSOLUTELY NOT criticizing, just asking for help with THAT issue too. Very Happy

AND who will make the initial investment for the kits?

I was going over some numbers:

A cheap cedar (using 1x6 lumber) 2x3 with bottom & grid would be around $15-20 to make. If you make 100 of them (a modest number) it could be $2000! Can't even imagine how much time/labor this would take. The reason I went for the $15-$20 is the cost of replacing blades, drill bits, or renting the equipment for cutting & assembling them, etc.

The ingredients for the Mel's Mix for these 100 boxes (300 cf) would be about $1500. Even with the cement mixer & someone helping I can only bag about 20 cf/hour - and I can only last a couple hours a day. If you need to pay someone to help bag . . . ?

Wholesale books would be about $12.50 each x 100 = $1250.

Seeds, shrink wrap, extra compost and some row cover would add a few hundred.

SOOOOO where can someone get about $5500 to start this project? PLUS labor? PLUS the cost of a booth at a home show or farmer's market?

How much do you think someone would be willing to pay for a 2 x 3 kit? $65? $75? $100?

At $65, if you had to pay for labor, you would probably lose money. Shocked

Even at $100 each that's not a lot of profit for a TON of work.


Last edited by sfg4uKim on 3/9/2012, 1:09 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added info regarding "high" cost of boxes.)

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  boog1 on 3/9/2012, 1:32 pm

kim there is a place here near me that hosts a plant sale thats run by the master gardener program last year one of them who does sfg. all he did was talk about it. he and i talked about setting up some displays so people can see what it looks like this year. that could cause some interest in it if anything. i'm trying right now to get in contact with the group but its proving harder that i thought. i'll keep ya updated when i find out more.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  JK on 3/9/2012, 2:08 pm

@sfg4uKim wrote:I guess I should also ask . . . how is a group/non-profit organization/church/business, etc. to PAY for these?

AND who will make the initial investment for the kits?

SOOOOO where can someone get about $5500 to start this project? PLUS labor? PLUS the cost of a booth at a home show or farmer's market?

How much do you think someone would be willing to pay for a 2 x 3 kit? $65? $75? $100?

At $65, if you had to pay for labor, you would probably lose money. Shocked

Even at $100 each that's not a lot of profit for a TON of work.

Id still have to go with the local businesses, etc trying to get donations for the material cost. The labor... I dont see this getting to far off the ground if labor cost gets factored in. Later, maybe, but initially... Seems more like a donation/volunteer based project. Whole point is getting the method out there, getting initial gardeners who for whatever reason werent confident enough or simply unaware, and also helping/donating to those who cant afford. Right? I know $100 isnt much for the product were talking about but to the initial gardener and/or low income it would probably still be pushing it.

As a business venture I would say small loan, out of pocket, or however it can be found. As a non-profit... donations, volunteers, and a break down of cost/profit to the penny befor you ever begin..

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  plantoid on 3/9/2012, 5:59 pm

I've given this a bit of thought and come up with

In the so called civilized world a first year set up as being made from milk , beer crates coke crates secured round the outside with normal kitchen cling film ( which I think is called CERAM WRAP ) in the USA to form a block of crates that can be filled with soil less growing medium .

Lightly damaged crates could be used . The block of crates could be set on a sheet of polythene giving a cheap instant raised bed of set sized squares /oblongs .

The fill could be the garden centre bags of tomato growth medium as it is usually impregnated with a wetting agent ( heavily diluted liqiud soap dish drops ) various nutrients and is good for around six weeks of curbit , salads , carrots etc.or tomato growing . These bags are quite cheap ,usually much cheaper than buying peat and they are available all over the place rather than specialist garden supply shops.

This would give the new people time to source their ANSFG ingredients , get them mixed and to get their sfg's constructed as per ANSFG . they would have has some limited success in soil less growth medium at sucessful cropping and would have had ample time to buy and read the ANSFG book and explore this site .

The spent contents of the " growbags could be the peat content of Mel's Mix in future beds so nothing gets wasted.

I see this as beneficial because not only does it give the newcommer breathing space , a gentler hit on the finances and success, it allows for a gradual correct setting up of Mel's raised beds at a very minimal cost.

It could also be applied to beds made higher & raised up on blocks as well as using a sheet of ply as a table top but still keep the polythene idea to keep the ply dry . In very dry climes it could be constructed so that the bottom plastic sheet could be made slightly larrger than the base of the block of crates and swept up the sides and held in place with more cling film making a sump for water .



What has struck me about ANSFG is that the volume of a 4 x 4 foot square bed by six inches deep is a practicable one that will not dry out too quick whereas small tubs/ beds will .

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  Roseinarosecity on 3/10/2012, 12:29 am

Our neighborhood church just started a garden club with the intention to help each other start our own SFG to eventually give our surplus to our local food bank. So far we have some gentlemen willing to help build these raised beds for club members for free as long as material is paid for by the gardeners. Meetings will be weekly and are open to all of the neighborhood. I am participating so that I learn but also eventually present this same idea to my church. We help each other to help others!


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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  walshevak on 3/10/2012, 7:13 am

Is this campaign supposed to make a profit or just break even enough to stay a non-profit venture? Are any profits directed back to the foundation for their educational program?

Somewhere in the back of my aging mind I seem to remember a campaign to get mini computers to school children in Africa. The sales campaign was directed to American children and was for every mini computer you buy at regular price, a matching computer was donated to Africa.

So, if the target audience was more affluent visitors to Home and Garden Shows, Local demonstrations in Farmers Markets, schools, Scout troops and churches, the local big box store or nursery (encouraging them to carry the supplies for future boxes Very Happy ) then the hook would be buy one and donate one to a target in subsidized housing, food bank participants and other qualifying low income folks. Distribution would include a seminar on the planting and care of the box with either a SFG teacher or a SF gardener plus a video from a certified teacher.

Like all of my ideas though, this doesn't help with start up costs.

Kay

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Easy availability of components

Post  tomperrin on 3/10/2012, 7:27 am

In my search for compost both this season and last I was struck by the total absence of awareness of the square foot gardening method among nursery workers and owners. All this in spite of Mel's teachings and promotions over the last 30+ years. The result is that we have to search a dozen or more places to find components, especially in the weeks before Easter. This suggests that we have not yet reached critical mass, although I suspect that the method is growing by some exponential factor.
I don't have a simple, now, solution to the issue presented. But I know that I would like to see a Square Foot Gardening Center organized as a cooperative in my state and every state. It could double as an Organic Gardening Center. With all the components organized in one place it would be worth the trip. (I already drive 40 miles round trip for some of my stuff).
A coop could provide classes on all aspects of square foot gardening, food preservation, etc. to say nothing of providing employment for SFG Certified Teachers.
With a central location in place, the SFG movement would have a base to provide demonstrations and to reach out to garden clubs, churches, community food banks, etc.
Cooperative memberships with a nominal entry fee would return some of the profits to the customers in the form of dividends.
Pending any such organized venture, I suggest educating existing nursery and garden centers in the square foot method, suggesting that they stock vermiculite and at least 5 different kinds of compost as well as Mel's books. The pitch to the garden centers would be that the method is so successful that the happy gardeners will want to continually expand their gardens, and will return again and again for more components. And they might as well reap the profits.

Tom

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  sfg4uKim on 3/10/2012, 7:54 am

Kay: The "target" audience is BOTH. The FOCUS is on BEGINNING SF gardeners. I only threw out Mel's idea as a starting point to get our minds going. Some of us can work on ideas for "for profits" and others on helping "non-profits". He just wants ideas.

Tom: Great idea about a SFG Center/co-op is good because once existing garden centers & co-ops find out that you don't need tools and don't need seed . . . they stop being interested. Mel was originally sponsored by seed and tool companies until they realized . . . HEY, he's telling people you can SAVE on seed and you don't NEED tools. Shocked

I will occasionally play Devil's Advocate to try to draw out more information on our ideas, so I hope no one gets insulted.

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Further thoughts

Post  tomperrin on 3/10/2012, 1:05 pm

There are several means by which a potential gardener can be converted to SFG:

1. The Book! ANSFG is what got my attention. I heard of it through word of mouth. I immediately went out and bought my own copy based on my friend's enthusiasm. Since then I have given a copy to two nieces, one a vegetarian and the other who had a traditional row garden. The mother of one niece asked me if I had another copy to give. I don't. SO the suggestion here is to include rip out coupons in each copy of ANSFG for a second copy of the book. The coupon could be redeemable at squarefootgardening.org, or other retail arrangements could be made. Free standing coupons could also be distributed at garden centers, garden clubs, churches, etc. The idea is to get the book in as many hands as possible. I suggest at least $5.00 a book, or 20%, whichever is better marketing and easily feasible. The point here is that the purchaser has already paid full price for the book, and the second and subsequent copies are to give away. I would also use the coupon services like Val-Pak and Money Mailer as well. I would try saturation of neighborhoods in order to create demand, and give the nurseries a heads up telling them what they might want to expect.

2. Vermiculite: Enlist the support of the vermiculite & peat moss manufacturers, such as Schundler's in NJ, and those in PA and elsewhere. They have a vested interest in selling the stuff and finding new outlets for their products.

3. Garden Centers: Encourage the garden centers to stock the book(s). Do a tie-in promotion that if they do a demonstration square using Mel's Mix, they get so many free books per square. They can validate the demonstration by sending in photos of the square as it develops over the season. If the centers see that there is a real profit to be made with SFG, perhaps the critique that SFG4uKim made can be overcome. If all that eventually happens is that the garden center stocks 5 different kinds of compost + vermiculite, that part would be a success.

4. Failed gardeners. There plenty of us out there who still want to garden, and don't know how. Some message can be found that will reach them. The answers, of course, are in the book. The idea is to connect the failed gardeners to the book.

5. Taste. Nothing beats the taste of vegetables organically grown in MM. My hypothetical coop would also have a large market garden to sell what it grew.

6. Independence. SFG is probably not economical the first year, at least the way I did it. However, the economics did not dissuade me as my vision was for the long term. This is going to be a problem for the entitled class who have a problem with deferred gratification in any event. I would stress independence and freedom from want over cost, and then taste and freedom from adulterated and artificially manipulated foods. There is also the idea that we should grow our own food in the US, and not be dependent upon South American and the Far East.

7. Economics. Conservatively estimated, a single Beefsteak tomato is going to cost more than $2.00 at the supermarket. So economics can be a factor, even if the first year or two just break even. The cost of vegetables this year is projected to rise at least 5%, and will probably go even higher as the price of fuel rises.

Tom

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  llama momma on 3/10/2012, 2:32 pm

Chamber of Commerce business participants might be interested in donating time and money for a helpful way to help others and of course have their names attached to the effort.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  Chopper on 3/11/2012, 12:12 am

@sfg4uKim wrote:I received an email from Mel recently asking for ideas:

"We're trying to concentrate on educating and motivating beginners this
year. We want to make it easy for them to get started and not have to
buy a lot of stuff like tools, fertilizer and all of those things. Would you do a little brainstorming and see if you could suggest some ideas on how to reach out, connect with and motivate both young and old to start just one box and learn the basics of SFG?"


  • 2X2s, 3X3s, and 4X4s. Premade with bottoms and grids.
  • Mel's Mix in bags
  • Handy 8X11 1 page front and back of everything you need to know about SFG in pictures, laminated - eg. Sample squares, sample rotations, pictures of in production boxes, simple bullet list of 'to do' items. Make it international - no reading really required - but clear pictures and/or illustrations of what to do - maybe those could come with the premade boxes
  • As far as getting the word out - community events, garden shows and of course Lowes - perhaps a sample of some sort for display. Maybe a little computer screen you could touch for more info on display by the MM.

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Two Things

Post  CharlesB on 3/11/2012, 9:05 am

1) Educate people about the usage of their organic garbage as compost. They are throwing away treasure, and their best ingredients for their gardening success is free. Free as in they are currently throwing it away and paying someone to dispose of it.

2) Educate the nurseries. As so many others have posted they don't carry what we need and don't have a clue what we are talking about when it comes to SFG.

People want to go to nurseries and see knowledge, not just products.

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knowledge base at the plant shops

Post  tomperrin on 3/11/2012, 9:10 am

@CharlesB wrote:
People want to go to nurseries and see knowledge, not just products.

Sadly, there is not much of that to be found, especially in the big box stores. It pains me to see plants in these stores neglected, left to dry out and then sold to the unsuspecting.

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  camprn on 3/11/2012, 9:59 am

I think keeping it as local as possible is part of the philosophy of SFG. I try to get all my seedlings from either the local nurseries or the greenhouse at the high school and the horticulture students. That may be a good place to do some education, in the local high schools.

If I can help it, I won't buy from big box stores, as so many of the plants are so, so stressed. I am also quite wary of bringing home plant diseases on those plants. Shocked

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  walshevak on 3/11/2012, 10:04 am

IRONY-- We are encouraged to buy locally grown plants. Around the corner and about 1/2 mile away is a plant growing facility, Bonnie Plants. Big box store sell Bonnie Plants. Rolling Eyes

Kay

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

Post  squaredeal on 3/11/2012, 4:42 pm

@sfg4uKim wrote:I can't find it, but didn't someone here post about a scout project where they sold a kit which paid for a second kit to be donated?

I typed in "scout" in the search box and it came right up, at least something like that came up Smile What a great idea! Love the idea of taking an old dresser drawer and repurposing it for an herb or salad box. When I lived in a downtown apartment with no access to a garden area I used styrofoam packaging and filled it with potting soil mix and grew bibb lettuce in my windowsill. It grew great. I still think styrofoam panels glued or velcroed, somehow connected together would make a great, cheap lightweight box for the "hammer and screwdriver" challenged (i.e. me).

I'm on the "garden committee" at my community garden and I'm going to push for SFGs. Skip the plowing, put in permanent paths, and "rent by the box".

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Re: Mel Would Like Our Help

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