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First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

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First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/7/2012, 10:13 am

Everywhere I turn it seems someone is telling me this cannot be done.

"You have to add dirt..."
"You can't plant that next to those..."
"Six inches is not deep enough..."

I'm sticking to the book and videos this first time out...no matter what. But I would appreciate advice from an experienced SFG person. I have been assured that my tomatoes will NOT grow without sinking a taproot. Tell me it ain't so...that my tomatoes will be fine. And how is that? Do the roots just spread out? Does it affect other squares?

Also, any tips on supporting my tomatoes and cucumbers - other than what is in the SFG book?

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Taproot

Post  CharlesB on 6/7/2012, 10:27 am

Just because you have a box with a few inches of Mel's Mix doesn't mean the plants won't shoot roots down through the sod.

There are many ways to do the tomatoes and cukes. All depends how much work you want to do and how much you want to spend. You can let them free range out the side of the box. For me I have problems with disease if I don't get them up off the soil though. You can just use a pole and tie string around them. Training them up the pole. I bought remesh and made a bunch of tomato cages out of it. I needed a lot and so did friends so I made up like 30 of them.

In terms of cost, versatility, asthetics and the tools required I suggest the conduit and nylon netting from the book/website. If you have a hack saw and a hammer you can put one up in less than an hour.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  RoOsTeR on 6/7/2012, 11:49 am

You are making a wise decision to go by the book. Six inches is all you need, and there's plenty proof of that here on the forums.
And WELCOME!

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  Lindacol on 6/7/2012, 11:51 am



Here is a discussion on tomato roots with pictures. The roots go sideways even when planted one per square side by side.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t4156-tomato-roots

My trellis for tomatoes is a cattle panel but I may change that next year. I would like easier access to both sides so am thinking of putting the toms in a narrower bed possibly with a taller trellis(or stringing them) down the middle.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/7/2012, 12:23 pm

Wow! Good advice and fast! Thanks.

Most of my tomatoes are in two 4x2 boxes (with a bottom) over concrete - so the roots will not be going anywhere else. I wanted something right outside the patio door to watch - so I'm putting in tomatoes and leaf lettuces and maybe a few herbs.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  Sunsanvil on 6/7/2012, 12:33 pm

Whats this about taproots and tomatoes? I cant claim to have SFG cover to cover (yet), but while I thought I had digested the lion's share I don't recall anything on this subject....

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/7/2012, 12:43 pm

That is what I was told at my local nursery. I just smile and move on. This one lady was pretty adamant about it. I'm just as adamant about following the book my first time out. I was beginning to wonder if she was going to sell me the plants. Smile

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  walshevak on 6/7/2012, 1:10 pm

They just don't get it. I carry my camera in my purse and whip it out and show the pictures of my tabletops and my son's selfwicking "pond beds" with the hardware cloth/weedblock bottoms. I make no comments about the beds. After they ooh and ah over the lush greenery, I just happen to mention that there is only 6-7 inches of soilless mix in the beds. That shuts them up.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  stripesmom on 6/7/2012, 1:13 pm

Last year was my first time and I had the same question. But, I found that 6 inches is just fine. In fact, my mix reduced to around 4 1/2 inches through out the summer. My boxes have bottoms on them and they set on my patio (see my avatar picture). The tomato plants were indeterminate and they grew 6-7 ft. tall. The cherry tomato plant was 8+ ft. tall. They were planted in the back of my 2x8 boxes right next to each other, one per sq ft. The roots did grow out to the other squares, but that didn't effect my beans that were planted in front of the tomato plants.

I used the same system Mel did to trellis. It works well, but can be a bit pricey.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  RoOsTeR on 6/7/2012, 2:02 pm

I find it refreshing for a new member to be so adamant about following the method!

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/7/2012, 2:43 pm

lol - by adamant I mostly meant a) I wasn't going to let her talk me out of it, and b) if I am going to say I did SFG, I should stick with what they say.

I'm going to give it a real go...journal my plantings...keep track of watering...two locations in my yard...I also have a non-MM soil so I can have a side by side to see if it is really as good as the book says.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  Squat_Johnson on 6/7/2012, 4:23 pm

The roots will go where the water is located. I used soaker hoses, and the roots will sometimes follow the horizontal path of the water. One was almost 3 feet horizontal.

If you plant old style in a row garden, and don't give additional water, the roots will go deep. That's where the residual water is located, hence the idea that you _need_ a tap root.

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My first year too!

Post  wishfulgardener on 6/7/2012, 6:14 pm

This year is our first year as SFGs. I have to tell you that you only need 6 inches. Our tomato is growing so fast and we are getting fruit off it already. I cannot believe the progress! We planted in April, and the tiny plant is about 4ft tall now! My husband is even impressed. When we bought the lumber, the salesman said you HAD to have a minimum of 10 inches. He even went as far to ignore what I was trying to say and would only talk to my husband. We got home and I handed my hubby the book. He is now a SFG believer.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  RoOsTeR on 6/7/2012, 6:16 pm

@wishfulgardener wrote:This year is our first year as SFGs. I have to tell you that you only need 6 inches. Our tomato is growing so fast and we are getting fruit off it already. I cannot believe the progress! We planted in April, and the tiny plant is about 4ft tall now! My husband is even impressed. When we bought the lumber, the salesman said you HAD to have a minimum of 10 inches. He even went as far to ignore what I was trying to say and would only talk to my husband. We got home and I handed my hubby the book. He is now a SFG believer.

Thanks for sharing your great results

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  kstephens on 6/7/2012, 6:40 pm

I ended up going with 8 inches of a raised box out of doubt myself (this is my first year with a SFG). I don't think the added height did much, besides increase cost of making MM by about 20%. Aside from that it is still a far cry from the recommended depth as perceived by conventional row gardeners. My garden has definitely surprised me. The first four weeks there was typical growth (germination times for planted seeds, and transplants). However, once the roots have seemed to establish, the past week has been like the Jack and Beanstalk tale. They have taken off (beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant....)

My neighbor behind me has been thoroughly impressed. He has a nice row garden, but likes the small space and variety with the SFG. I explained to him some of the basics, and he likes the idea - he actually is borrowing the book now. I wouldn't be surprised if I am helping him mix up some Mel's Mix next spring.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  RoOsTeR on 6/7/2012, 6:44 pm

@kstephens wrote:I ended up going with 8 inches of a raised box out of doubt myself (this is my first year with a SFG). I don't think the added height did much, besides increase cost of making MM by about 20%. Aside from that it is still a far cry from the recommended depth as perceived by conventional row gardeners. My garden has definitely surprised me. The first four weeks there was typical growth (germination times for planted seeds, and transplants). However, once the roots have seemed to establish, the past week has been like the Jack and Beanstalk tale. They have taken off (beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant....)

My neighbor behind me has been thoroughly impressed. He has a nice row garden, but likes the small space and variety with the SFG. I explained to him some of the basics, and he likes the idea - he actually is borrowing the book now. I wouldn't be surprised if I am helping him mix up some Mel's Mix next spring.

Excellent! It won't hurt anything to go deeper (other than your wallet Razz ) with Mel's Mix. It's just not necessary as you've discovered. Thanks for sharing your positive results! Like a Star @ heaven

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/7/2012, 6:45 pm

Thanks for the feedback - very encouraging to hear those first year results. My plants go in the MM tonight.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  kgooding on 6/7/2012, 7:33 pm

Have fun planting! Just as an FYI the garden I put in this spring is only 6" (and totally by the book) and it's going well. Just don't forget if you want to do long carrots or potatoes you will need to go a bit deeper! Personally, I'm amazed at the number of people out there with misconceptions about SFG. It seems like every time I'm at the nursery either a fellow customer or employee asks me about my garden and I tell them I SFG. Every time they say, "Ohh, that's just raised beds, I have some raised beds too" and then they start going on about the dirt that they used and how they planted in rows and how it's not working for them. I just tell them to get the book.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  Daniel9999 on 6/7/2012, 9:32 pm

If you decide to purchased bagged compost make sure you buy the best stuff you can afford and make sure you read the labels VERY carefully....

That and don't be in a rush to get started....take your time and thoroughly search your area to find the stuff you will need.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/8/2012, 12:15 am

I've got my beds full of MM - tomorrow I grid and start planting.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  landarch on 6/8/2012, 12:38 am

@ramarks wrote:I've got my beds full of MM - tomorrow I grid and start planting.

Make sure you water in your Mels Mix really well before planting...it will tend to settle and you'll need to add several more inches to the box before planting...at least that's what I've experienced. I added more and several of my boxes have soil levels that are still down a few inches.

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  ramarks on 6/8/2012, 1:05 am

thanks for that tip

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  gwennifer on 6/8/2012, 3:11 pm

Hi there and welcome to the forum! So neat to hear you have your beds made and filled and are ready to go! Hey - I did the same thing as you - I went exactly by the book. I was just telling another member here that although I did want to fight it (due to all the conventional wisdom out there), I just kept telling myself that this guy (Mel Bartholomew) had been doing this for thirty years and what did I know? I kind of had to grit my teeth and force myself to just do it, reminding myself "He says it works - who am I to say it doesn't"?

So I'm with you. Do it by the book first, then use your actual experience to tell you if something needs to be different. So far for me, nothing needs to be different! I'm a believer. I'm not a tomato grower, so can't share experience with that yet - this is my first time trying and I just have one in there. So far so good!

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  rebeccalizzie on 6/15/2012, 11:33 pm

Another newbie telling you to stick with it! I have been gardening off and on for years and this year for the first time I did a "by the book" SFG. Next to it I have a bed I made where I just dug out the sod, added two bags of cheap topsoil and fertilized when I planted (I didn't have enough money for another SFG so I figured what the heck). I bought a 4 pack of tomato plants and planted them May 15. The two in my SFG are 4 feet tall, bushy and have tons of blossoms. The two in my regular bed are half as tall with fewer blossoms, even though I've top dressed them with compost and fertilized a bit.

My SFG is full, lush, and we've been eating TONS of lettuce and spinach and peas from it. Row gardening is great on a large scale but for home gardens I'm a total SFG convert!

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Re: First time SFGardener - questioning the questioners

Post  GWN on 6/16/2012, 10:18 am

I have a question about the settling effect.
Mine started at a good 6 inches and settled to about 4 inches after a month or so.
What I have done with all the beds is to cover dress them with compost and now everything is doing well.
I gather I should have used more mels mix, but I have about a hundred SF of mels mix now and no where to get more vermiculite (have bought up all the locals)

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