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Is it really worth it?

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Is it really worth it?

Post  kat51415 on 3/19/2012, 9:40 am

My husband and I are over the road truckdrivers. We are gone 6 weeks straight. We then come home for a week. My son and daughter-in-law live at our home. Last year, we tried a normal long row garden. Due to the kids' inability to be there for weeks at a time during the growing season (college graduation, wedding/honeymoon, etc.) it became an epic fail. We bought the new SFG book and thought maybe it might work. We live in SE OK in the mountains (Zone 7).

We have begun to build 10 4ft x 4ft x 1ft boxes to place in the existing garden plot. This has turned out to be a fairly expensive project so far and we haven't even gotten to the Mel's Mix yet. We need a fairly large volume of produce due to the size of our extended family. I'm wondering if the cost of this method of gardening is balanced by the amount of food produced? We want to be able to have enough to eat fresh while in season, then preserve for the winter until next season.

We are planting all heirloom varieties. The squash, cucumbers, canteloupes, watermelons, potatoes are going in the existing soil in the ground because they take up so much room. In the SFG boxes, we are planting sweet potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, jalapenoes, turnip greens, corn, lima beans, green beans and strawberries.

I guess we'll see how it goes. I'm beginning to feel some depression just based on the start-up costs. I understand that those are a one-time cost but still...my gosh...and I still haven't been able to find 5 different kinds of compost, only 3, and not sure of the quality of those. Compost bins are built now but haven't got much to speak of to put in them other than grass clippings. Somebody cheer me up, PLEASE! pale

kat51415

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compost varieties

Post  curio on 3/19/2012, 9:52 am

What forms of compost have you been able to find?
Some varieties are: cow, chicken, mushroom, leaf/vegetable matter, fish based (might be impossible to get in land-locked Ok)
If you know people with horses, chickens, rabbits, alpaca, llamas... all of those can be added to your compost pile. If you don't have leaves to add, adding straw will provide the brown matter.
Once you have compost of your own going, you will be able to reduce the varieties of the compost bought. The more variety in your home-grown pile, the fewer you'll need to outsource.

My only concern in your area would be making sure the garden gets the proper amount of water. Any way to use drip hoses in the boxes, set with a timer?

curio

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Re: Is it really worth it?

Post  kat51415 on 3/19/2012, 10:06 am

I've found cow, mushroom and pine burr. We are planning on getting some rabbits to raise, both for the compost and for meat. We have some chickens so that will be added. We will have leaves to add also. As far as the watering issue, that's one of the few things the kids are going to have to be responsible for. Part of the reason we went to SFG is to limit the things they have to do, like weeding and fertilizing. They will have to do most of the planting, harvesting and preserving so we tried to limit as many other areas of responsibilty as we could.

kat51415

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Re: Is it really worth it?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 3/19/2012, 10:11 am

@kat51415 wrote:I guess we'll see how it goes. I'm beginning to feel some depression just based on the start-up costs. I understand that those are a one-time cost but still...my gosh...and I still haven't been able to find 5 different kinds of compost, only 3, and not sure of the quality of those. Compost bins are built now but haven't got much to speak of to put in them other than grass clippings. Somebody cheer me up, PLEASE! pale

I'll tell you kat.....composting is probably the cheapest thing you can do for gardening. Build your boxes with store-bought compost now and work on your compost bins as you garden. Hey...check craigslist for your sources of compost.
All I had for my compost bin at the end of last summer were grass clippings, fruit and veggie scraps, and coffee grounds....that's it. Ask around your friends and family and see if they can save their fruit and veggie scraps, coffee grounds, etc. You can even check local farmers' markets in your area and ask if you can take some of their produce scraps. Starbucks is a great source for free used coffee grounds.
Last fall, I found, through craigslist, a woman who raises horses. I got probably close to 50 gallons of free horse manure. I also found a woman who raises alpacas and rabbits and got a lot of manure from her. A local trout hatchery/processing facility even let me take two 5 gallon buckets of fish parts.
Come fall, I can drive up and down streets and get as many bags of leaves as I want. Some municipalities have curb-side leaf pickup. Check into that.
You might surprise yourself with how much compost material you can get for free.

afro

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Re: Is it really worth it?

Post  Unmutual on 3/19/2012, 10:29 am

Hehe, yeah the start up costs can be up there(I just finished making my permanent beds and have just filled everything up, though I did reuse a fair amount of MM), so I feel your pain. However, I expect all my money invested to be returned on my first year of growing vegetables and fruit.

There are a few suggesting that I would make to you, however. Sweet potatoes and strawberries do well in the ground. I'm not sure if you've grown sweet potatoes before, but when you harvest them for the first time, try to leave some of the upper vine intact with a little bit of root(called a slip). Replant these immediately, because those will turn into yet more sweet potatoes. I recently got a sweet potato plant from a friend and I turned that single plant into 23 thriving plants.

Although I planted my initial strawberry plants into MM, I plan to take all runners and plant them into the ground, thereby freeing up some prime growing area for annuals(and therefor further increase to my yield). With SFG, you have to take into consideration not only growing space, but also that 5th dimension of time(you could have grown 2-3 crops in the space of those strawberries with only a single crop).

This all might be moot if neither strawberries or sweet potatoes are perennials in your area.

The other aspect of my suggestions will be regarding irrigation and weed control. Nature abhors empty ground(and empty Mel's Mix!). Try to have something planted in each and every square at all times to keep down the weeds. A good mulch(depending on your area and what you can get cheaply) will also keep weeds down. Mulch will replicate the leaf litter on a forest floor, and if you notice in forests, that layer of humus will also keep weeds at bay for a while.

Investing in drip irrigation might also save you some heartache since you are away from home for an extended period of time(it can also save you further on watering costs). I'm not saying go out and buy drip irrigation after the large initial investment, just keep it in mind for later. Order some drip irrigation catalogs so you can read up on what you need(dripworks is the only company that comes to mind at the moment, but there are others). You only need 1 drip emitter every 12", and if you have it set up so it will irrigate at a rate of 1/2 gallon each time, then you should be set(you can just increase watering time if hot summers are an issue, but 1/2 gallon per week per square is generally what you're looking for without evaporation or hot weather..you will need to tweak it throughout the year).

There is a fair amount of learning involved with drip irrigation, so I'd focus on getting the garden growing and then sink your teeth into automatic irrigation when time and money permits. Gardening is an ongoing adventure, not an end result.

Last, but not least, if you have a very successful garden your first year, then congratulations. My first year was not so great, I just accepted it as learning and continued on. Each year I learned something new.

Good luck with your SFG garden! It is the easiest method that I know.

Unmutual

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Re: Is it really worth it?

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