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New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

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New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  cpl100 on 6/25/2012, 4:55 pm

Hello! I am new to vegetable gardening (and only started flower gardening three years ago). I have read and searched the web for three days now and have decided to do a SFG in a small space my neighbor generously allowed me to use (since I do not have the required sunlight and she is not using the space). This space formerly was an open 'sandbox' area for her son (who is now 17). Part of it has weeds/grass growing and part is just sand.

I plan to put together the box from a kit on the Home Depot website and stack the kits two high for a size of 4x4x14. I want the extra depth for plant flexibility and to hopefully deter the few rabbits and one gopher seen in our area. (Will it?)

My plan is to put newspaper and/or cardboard down on the soil and then chicken fencing or whatever it is called and then the box on top of that. Is that good? Or do I reverse them? Or do I have to attach the wire somehow to the box? Can't for the life of me figure out how I would attach it if requred and only own a hammer and electric screwdriver for tools. (Okay, I do own a shovel, rake and trowel but those are of no assistance in this.)

I am hopng to buy the pre-mixed MM and have consulted the calculator for the required quantity. (Bless you, whoever installed that here!) I was also wondering if it is okay to use the MM only on the top half of the soild and regular organic soil for the lower half or perhaps organic soil and peat moss mixed since this is higher than the required depth. I was thinking this may prove less costly without the results suffering. But that is just logic talking without any gardening sense!

Do I need to put any kind of fencing at this height? If so, what is recommended as both easy to make/install and use?

I welcome all comments. Thank you.
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  cheyannarach on 6/26/2012, 12:10 am

Hi and welcome! You only need the top 6" to be Mel's Mix so you would be just fine sticking with your plan there! Do you have underground burrowing critters in your area? If so I would attach the chicken wire, you can buy a construction stapler pretty chear at a hardware store or you could by little U shaped nails that would do the trick too! As far a fencing it depends on your critter problems, I personally have no fences and I live in the woods, on occasion there will be nibbles taken by deer but not very often so I prefer to not fence it in and "share" just a little bit. Good luck, hope you have a great gardening season!
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  walshevak on 6/26/2012, 10:04 am

Welcome to the forum.

Just a suggestion, but hardware cloth has smaller openings and is more protection from the gophers than chicken wire. And the U nails work great and install with just a hammer. That's what my son uses on his beds. You will need a wire cutter. Chop down all the weeds in the sandbox area and cover with cardboard and/or layers of newspaper. Attach the hardware cloth to the bottom of one bed kit. Attach the second bed kit and place on top. Fill the lower box with topsoil (add some compost if you wish. Place a layer of newspapers over that to separate the topsoil from the MM. Fill the top box with MM.

If you wish to get a second box, you can put hardware cloth on the bottom of both boxes,

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  walshevak on 6/26/2012, 10:10 am


If you wish to plant a second box, you can put hardware cloth on the bottom of both boxes, line with weedblock, fill both with MM and set both on 5 cinderblocks each. No construction to get them above the rabbit. Double the planting space.

Which Home depot kit did you order? I have 10 kits, but they no longer carry the ones I bought.
Kay

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  cpl100 on 6/26/2012, 10:53 am

Thank you both for your replies. Here is the one I plan to buy today.

(Well, I am apparently not allowed to post the link. But it is Greene's cedar raised garden. I am sure you can find it on their website. Sorry!)

My neighbor's garden has been severely eaten by the gopher (and to some extent the rabbit). She has a decent sized garden. Since mine is going to be quite small, I do not really want to lose any of it.

Your responses have inspired more questions. If I put hardware cloth on the bottom, the plant roots cannot permeate that, correct? And you are saying that a gopher can go through the chicken wire, correct?

I am confused about the comment regarding the cinder blocks and cannot picture that in my mind. What is the configuration of the 5 cinder blocks and how is the soil being held in the frame if it is not on the ground? I can't really take up more space in her yard than the 4x4 area so cannot put the boxes side by side; additionally, I very much want to plant carrots which I believe I have read need more depth than 6". Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Why do you recommend placing a newspaper barrier between the two soils?

I am now concerned, too, with filling the boxes as I am having difficulty locating Mel's mix (and also have read on this forum that there is an issue with the mix this year). My next plan was to buy the Gardener and Bloome compost but it seems neither HD or Lowes has that either. Any recommendations on where to find that one? I am in between Boston and Salem NH and can drive a bit to get it if someone knows a place.

Thanks again!
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  walshevak on 6/26/2012, 11:10 am

search on tabletops in the forum and you will get lots of ideas for a really raised bed. But since you don't have the space to spread out then it's a moot point.
Most of us have mixed our own MM. I'm not in your region and don't know what is available. Check out the New England regional forum and see if you can get some answers.

Kay

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  quiltbea on 6/26/2012, 11:40 am

If you cannot get the five different composts or Mel's Mix, you can still garden. Fill your box with garden loam/soil, mix in a little vermiculite or perlite, peat moss and a 5-10-5 organic fertilizer according to the directions on the package. Then add whatever bagged, aged compost you can find locally and mix it in. It'll give you a garden, maybe with more weeds, but it'll grow crops. Being that small, the weeds won't be an issue. You can pull them quite easily as they show up. Each year and each time you add a square of seeds or a transplant, replenish with good aged compost.

When Mel builds beds in areas without all his Mel's Mix components, he stresses that the most important is to add compost, compost, compost, even if its only from one source.

Later if you can find pre-bagged Mel's Mix, add a bag to your bed. Just be sure you keep adding aged compost spring and fall and each time you plant something. We love seeing gardens in progress.

Good luck and welcome to the forum. Keep us posted on how your garden is doing. And later, when the forum allows it (after you've been a member over a week), you can post pictures.
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  CharlesB on 6/26/2012, 11:48 am

Hardware cloth has squares of about 1/2 inch. The roots go through it, the gophers can't.

You have nurseries all around you. Finding peat moss is easy. Call around for the Vermiculite and use the database for it on this site. The composts you can go with worm castings, bagged composted cow manure, then 3 other's you can find. If you visit a hand full of nurseries you should be able to put it all together.

Check with feed stores like Agway if they are in your area, then nurseries, then big box stores, then hydroponic stores.
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  cpl100 on 6/27/2012, 10:28 am

Last night I got the kits, the hardware cloth, a wire cutter and something to use to attach the cloth to the box. Neither my local HD or Lowes had vermiculte or any type of compost. Was not too happy about that. Already have peat moss.

Today I hope to put together the boxes. I am not clear about how they are going to stack given the picture on the packaging but hopefully it will go smoothly.
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  walshevak on 6/27/2012, 5:46 pm

Check the vermiculite database for sources in MA.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkxGrCEb40U2dExrM09fbk9zWnE4cC1Gb2oyamVOMVE&hl=en#gid=0

Theses places may also have composts.

KAY

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  floyd1440 on 6/27/2012, 7:17 pm

@cpl100 wrote:Last night I got the kits, the hardware cloth, a wire cutter and something to use to attach the cloth to the box. Neither my local HD or Lowes had vermiculte or any type of compost. Was not too happy about that. Already have peat moss.

Today I hope to put together the boxes. I am not clear about how they are going to stack given the picture on the packaging but hopefully it will go smoothly.

@cpl100

I found some vermiculite at a local Agway, but it is medium grade, and it comes in 4 cu.ft. bags for about $20 per bag.

Checked the big box stores and also struck out there as well......

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  walshevak on 6/28/2012, 1:35 am

Medium grade while not the ideal, will work.

Kay

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  Goosegirl on 6/28/2012, 8:19 am

About 1/3 of my boxes are made with medium grade - it is working just fine.

GG
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More help needed! I am stuck!

Post  cpl100 on 6/29/2012, 4:12 pm

Having computer issues so have been offline. Having a heck of a time trying to find the stuff to use. Agway said they had the vermiculite and after driving there found they did not. Was able to get the chickidy stuff and two bags of regular garden compost. They had cow manure but had been told by the state yesterday that it didn't meet the specifications printed on their packaging so could not be sold. Called Mahoney's which does not have it.

I found a couple products from Coast of Maine but they are a blended product. One is a blend of lobster, crab and aspen bark. Another is a blend of cow manure and peat hummus. This company does sell earthworm castings but it wasn't at Agway.

I am so frustrated! I sent the company an email to ask them what percentage was the actual product and what percentage the bark or hummus. I was thinking that if it was 1/3 of it, I could just use it and not add the peat moss. What do you experts think of that? Not sure about that mention of aspen bark, though. That does not really seem desirable (or maybe it is as I know nothing!).
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  CharlesB on 6/29/2012, 4:28 pm

Sorry to hear about your troubles. Unfortunately nearly all of us have gone through this as well when we first started. The gardening stores are not used to selling to SFGr's. They want to give a bag full of bark and a jug a miracle grow to the customer and call it a day.

Did any of the nurseries have a simple blended compost? or just compost? If you are near a big city sometimes their public works offers free compost.

At the end of the day you have to just go with what you can get. The Coast of Maine and Cow Manure and Hummus will work well actually. Don't worry if they have some bark in them. It will break down over time. You can always supercharge the mix with compost tea to make that happen quicker.
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  cpl100 on 6/29/2012, 4:37 pm

This is probably an elementary question, but what is compost tea?
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  plantoid on 6/29/2012, 4:44 pm

A liquid evolved from either direct juices from a plant that may / may not be diluted prior to use.



or

A infusion made from plants or manures whereby the plants or manures are steeped in a rot proof sack for several days or weeks stirred squeezed daily till the nutrients seep out into the water . Again this can be used neat or diluted further.

It is usual to put it on the soil rather than as a foliar feed but the method of application depends up on what you have used to make the tea.

Apparently it is not reccommended to use such teas directlty onto soft fruit especailly strawberry fruits becasue of e Coli concerns etc.,
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  southern gardener on 6/29/2012, 5:39 pm

@cpl100 wrote:Having computer issues so have been offline. Having a heck of a time trying to find the stuff to use. Agway said they had the vermiculite and after driving there found they did not. Was able to get the chickidy stuff and two bags of regular garden compost. They had cow manure but had been told by the state yesterday that it didn't meet the specifications printed on their packaging so could not be sold. Called Mahoney's which does not have it.

I found a couple products from Coast of Maine but they are a blended product. One is a blend of lobster, crab and aspen bark. Another is a blend of cow manure and peat hummus. This company does sell earthworm castings but it wasn't at Agway.

I am so frustrated! I sent the company an email to ask them what percentage was the actual product and what percentage the bark or hummus. I was thinking that if it was 1/3 of it, I could just use it and not add the peat moss. What do you experts think of that? Not sure about that mention of aspen bark, though. That does not really seem desirable (or maybe it is as I know nothing!).



This is the reason we went with the Pre-Bagged. I SURE hope they get it fixed. It's so exciting to read the book, make boxes, buy seeds etc, but when you run into this it's SO frustrating. Then people say "make your own", well, sometimes we can't! We don't have the muscle power to mix all that, much less even find all the ingredients! cpl...I sure hope you can find your things you need. I also hope to hear from GroWell soon regarding getting the mix "fixed". Good luck!
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  boffer on 6/29/2012, 11:49 pm

@cpl100 wrote:This is probably an elementary question, but what is compost tea?
At it's simplest, it's the water that has had compost soaking in it. More complexly, it's made from various recipes using different compost, mineral, and natural ingredients to create a liquid that satisfies specific nutritional needs of one's plants or soil. Then, one must determine whether the aerobic or anaerobic process is best for one's recipe. As plantoid said, it can be applied to the soil, or sprayed onto the plant, depending on one's objective.

Fortunately, there is a Rookie Topic scheduled for Compost Tea sometime in the near future. cheers
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  floyd1440 on 6/30/2012, 6:38 am

@cpl100 wrote:This is probably an elementary question, but what is compost tea?

Actually I never heard of compost tea until I started using SmartGardener a few weeks ago I received an email suggesting I apply compost tea to many of my plants.

So I got on a search engine to see how to make compost tea. Some are quite elaborate but it is basicly compost and water in a bucket but some suggest using an aquarium pump so the bacteria don't die, and then after a certain time using the finished product.

Supposedly it gives your plants a "jolt" of nutrients, but to me it sounds very labor intensive and I do enough of that just making compost.............

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Compost Tea is Easy

Post  quiltbea on 6/30/2012, 9:14 am

Compost tea need not be elaborate or difficult.

Take a couple of trowels of aged compost, shovel into an old sock, tie the top of the sock to the handle of a bucket or pail. Add water to the container and swish your sock around in the water. Use an old pitcher or measuring cup and add some tea around the base of your plants every week or two. A stick in the bucket to stir the tea at couple times a day when you're out checking your beds, is sufficient to add oxygen. When the water is used up, add more water to the bucket and stir well. You can use this diluted water for quite a while before you need to replenish the sock with fresh compost. As long as there is color to your water, you're getting nutrients. When the color fades a lot, empty the old contents of the sock into your compost pile and add fresh trowels of compost and repeat.

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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  cpl100 on 7/1/2012, 7:01 pm

Thank you for all the replies. I am going to step back from the compost tea I guess since I don't have the compost!

I am away for a few days and found a place that sells dehydrated manure. Can I use that as one of my composts?

I think I may have a lead on the vermiculite nearer to my home so will try that when I return. If it turns out to actually be there, I will post the location for others' use. It's listed on the store website but we shall see if it actually is in the store this time!

They also seem to have something that is the worm castings in a product called Wiggle Worm. Is anyone familiar with that? Is it acceptable as one of the composts?

If both of these are acceptable, then that would make four that I've found (including the Chickidy and the garden compost bought last week). In that case I guess I would get the Coast of Maine lobster mix as my fifth and just reduce the peat moss quantity when I blend it. How does that sound for a plan? How do you fluff out the peat moss to decompress it sufficiently/accurately?

I am dying to actually get some seeds in the soil and tired of these delays!

Thanks again!
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  plantoid on 7/1/2012, 7:10 pm

If the peat is in a compressed form such as a block , break some off and rub it in your hands or a 1/4 garden seieve so it breaks into the small grains /granules .
Use a pair of garden gloves when you do it if you have soft hands or want to keeep them soft .
If it is in a bag and not compresed still rub it through your hands or the seive.
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  SwampCatNana on 7/1/2012, 7:24 pm

Yes, but how do you actually measure 3 cu ft of peat, and 3 cu ft of vermiculite? This is what has me flummoxed!
I have read, and re-read, all the info and still don't know how to measure all this material. I'm not usually this stymied but I think my brain has decided to take a vacation without me! Embarassed
Lee
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Re: New Gardner requests assistance/advice.

Post  camprn on 7/1/2012, 7:33 pm

@SwampCatNana wrote:Yes, but how do you actually measure 3 cu ft of peat, and 3 cu ft of vermiculite? This is what has me flummoxed!
I have read, and re-read, all the info and still don't know how to measure all this material. I'm not usually this stymied but I think my brain has decided to take a vacation without me! Embarassed
Lee
My brain just can't go there. I use a red paint bucket to measure and do thirds of each. I mix in my wheel barrow, only as much as I need for the bed.

I use the trowel or garden fork to break apart the compressed peat. Break the smaller clumps by hand until it's not clumpy anymore.

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