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Saving my SFG garden

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Saving my SFG garden

Post  gurgi1970 on 10/14/2012, 5:45 pm

Hi everyone. I've only been doing SFG gardening for the last two years, ever since we moved to the area.

My first year was a 4' x 4' bed created out of cedar and filled with Miracle grow garden soil. Tried planting green beans and corn in it. Lost the corn and got only 1 serving of grean beans for the entire season.

This year was again a 4' x 4' bed (same as last year). I did not add anything into it, except for some Micracle grow nutrient moss like stuff (it was supposed to supply nutrients back into the ground). Planted brocoli, two tomato plants (vining), cucumber (vining), radishes, carrots, spring onions, lettuc and green beans. Green beans loved being next to the tomatoes and grew nicely. I lost my lettuce due to sunburn, didn't get any onions or carrots. Got a few radishes, good bit of tomatoes, though most of them didn't rippen soon enough. Got alot more green beans (enough for a serving or two for each of in my family of three).

My issue is not with getting things to grow right now, as I know that will come. My issue is with my box itself. Since I only used garden soil, I need to add and amend things into it, to make it better, any ideas? I really want to get this box going correctly before moving to another box. I'm looking for inexpensive options right now, as I don't have alot of funds to completely redo the box.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  llama momma on 10/14/2012, 6:42 pm

Gurgi1970
Welcome to the square foot gardening forum. This forum supports the method from the All New Square Foot Gardening book, by Mel Bartholomew. I started about 2 years ago also. But the soil mix we use is totally different from what you have. You should be able to have a very successful garden the first time and ever since. If you have the book at your library please check it out! It is also available in bookstores and is a very friendly reading experience. For a great preview on the topic of soil, go to the white search box above and left, you can get a head start by typing in How strong is your backbone. It will discuss at great length the soil mix we use. Once we make our soil the only thing we need to add is compost.
Again welcome to the forum and please keep us posted!

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  gurgi1970 on 10/14/2012, 7:39 pm

I do have the All New Square Foot Gardening book. However I was not able to purchase the required mix to put into my box. I purchased what I could and now would like to know what I can do to make it better, until I can replace it with the appropriate mix ratio.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  Nicola on 10/14/2012, 7:56 pm

I would check the Miracle-gro package, and see how its ingredients compare to Mel's Mix, (One-third each of peat, vermiculite, and compost) and fill in where you think it's weak. Without actually reading the label, I'd be willing to bet it will be in need of good compost--especially if it's the regular, not their "organic choice" or whatever they call it. If it has perlite, that is sometimes used like vermiculite, (tho' Mel prefers V over P), and I wouldn't sweat not having a lot of peat, which they could have subbed with coco fiber, or some other things.
Good luck, and, oh, yeah: welcome

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  camprn on 10/14/2012, 8:13 pm

Compost! it is your garden friend! glad you\'re here to the Forum!

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  gurgi1970 on 10/14/2012, 9:27 pm

I've never done any composting before. I want to try it, but don't really understand how to start or what from my kitchen can be composted. We have a recycling program in our community which recycles alot (plastics, bottles, cardboard, glass, etc).

I've also looked into starting a worm farm.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  camprn on 10/14/2012, 9:52 pm

gurgi, there are a lot of threads about composting here on the forum. At the bottom of the 'Latest Topics' list on the left is a search feature, type in 'Are you a hottie?' for a good thread and compost has its's own subforum that you can link to at the main page.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  GloriaG on 10/15/2012, 1:59 am

Hi gurgi1970,

Welcome to the forum.

Like camprn, I also believe compost is your answer, but starting your own composting system will take a little time since all the fresh material you add will need to break down, especially since we're heading into the colder months. If you are on a tight budget, I would suggest you get one bag of well composted manure or worm castings to add to the bed now so it can incorporate over the winter. That way, when it's time for spring planting - your bed will be on the way to achieving the proper mix, even if your own compost isn't quite ready yet.

Also, be sure to check the composting threads on this forum. Frequently you can find free sources of compost in your area. For example, we live near an alpaca farm. I can get all the "well composted" alpaca manure I want if I'm willing to pick it up. Where you are in PA, I suspect there are some farms not too far away that would be happy to share a little manure.

Every SFG is different, and everyone starts with different resources. But each time you add a new compost it will bring your garden closer to the SFG mix even if it doesn't happen all at once.

Good luck,
Gloria


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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  llama momma on 10/15/2012, 5:56 am

As mentioned above go with manure!
I am glad to see you have the book. When I started I didn't know anything about composting either. Go with Mel's directions in the book, I can say from experience it really works beautifully. And it is free. Now is the perfect time to collect spent plants, grass, leaves, kitchen scraps, etc. I live next door to you, statewise - here in Ohio, so we both have a garden season that is ending which means lots of leaves and yard scraps for a wonderful compost heap. Collect more leaves than what you need and also store it (if possible) for later use. In the end, the very best compost is what you make yourself. Best wishes and keep the questions coming, we're here to help.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  Kelejan on 10/15/2012, 10:52 am

Welcome gurgi. As Llama Momma says, collect what you can. These past few weeks I have been collecting grass clippings and drying them, and now I am collecting leaves. So far I have collected 16 garbage bags full, shredded 12 of them and they are in my new compost heap and mixed with a couple of bags of grass clippings and I have added some composting worms in a couple of worm towers. All these ingredients have been free, only needing the labour to collect the stuff; the worms came from a bag of compost I purchased last year and found they contained some worms and had multiplied in last year's compost pile. I handpicked about a 1,000 worms from that pile to start my worm bin.

So in my shed I have four bags of dried leaves, three bags of dried grass, and a heap of shredded newsprint and cardboard. All of these can be used in my compost or worm bin. I have pursuaded a couple of neighbours and friends to donate all their kitchen scraps on a regular basis and any I cannot use at once I freeze in my old chest freezer until I can use them.

My results this year were not stellar, and I put that down to the very wet spring we had but mostly to the lack of good compost that I purchased. It is taking time to rectify this but I am lookling forward to next season to see the improvement I am hoping for.

I wish you a better season next year. happy hi

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  walshevak on 10/15/2012, 4:41 pm

@gurgi1970 wrote:I do have the All New Square Foot Gardening book. However I was not able to purchase the required mix to put into my box. I purchased what I could and now would like to know what I can do to make it better, until I can replace it with the appropriate mix ratio.

After you get your compost pile started, you can start now buying 1 or 2 bags of commercial composted manure or a bag of vermiculite per payday and store it until spring. That way you will not be trying to buy everything all at once. The purchased compost can help stretch the compost you make yourself. I started with a garbage can composter I made and set outside the kitchen door. Got one can full that spring and added the rest of the stuff to that base.

Good Luck.

Kay

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  gurgi1970 on 10/15/2012, 6:24 pm

So I got onto Scotts/Miracle Gro's website and looked up the garden soil I purchased the other year. There are 30 reviews for the thing. NO listing of what the ingredients in it are. Some of the review though claim that the soil does not retain moisture (which I have experienced) and needed to be watered daily. Some stated that there does not appear to be any fertillizer in the mix.

So I guess based on this information (unless I can find better proof of what is in the bag), I should at the least get some peat moss and compost to put into the garden.

I did plant a cover crop [Winter Cover Crop] for this winter (purchased the seeds from Burpee and just planted them today), giving them a good watering. I've also started looking at worm composting, but will probably have to wait on that due to finances. Will have to see what I can gather locally.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  quiltbea on 10/15/2012, 9:12 pm

I also agree you need to add compost, even if its bagged from your local big box store (Home Dept, Lowe's, Walmart) or a local feed and grain store (Blue Seal, Tractor Supply). You can also pick up bagged cow manure the same places.

Look up the compost threads here to learn more and check out your local library. Google has thousands of articles on making your own compost. There are great videos on Youtube, too. Just type in the words 'making compost' and start watching. With winter coming on, you'll have plenty of time to read and take notes. In the spring add compost and manure to your bed and start a new season off right.

If possible, check out your local Lowe's next spring which I understand will be selling bagged Mel's Mix by next year in many locales.


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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  camprn on 10/15/2012, 9:18 pm

Shot in the dark. there is free manure compost on Harrisburg PA craigslist.
http://harrisburg.craigslist.org/search/gra?query=compost&srchType=A&minAsk=&maxAsk= <~~~Click

Phili
http://philadelphia.craigslist.org/search/gra?query=compost&srchType=A&minAsk=&maxAsk=

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http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-weeks-until-frost

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  gurgi1970 on 10/15/2012, 9:28 pm

So any ideas for when I add the compost? Do I just put it ontop and use a trowel to work it into the soil, or should I try to til it in? I have a tiller attachment for my weed wacker.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  camprn on 10/15/2012, 9:38 pm

If it was me, I would dig out at least half of the growing medium in the boxes and fill the box with compost and mix it up with a garden fork. I would do this either in the fall after the harvest or the spring before planting. Typically I add at least a wheel barrow full of compost to each box, mixing it in to what is already there and bring the mix level with the top of the box.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  littlejo on 10/15/2012, 10:46 pm

Also check out the 'expensive' landscaping places. I asked if they knew anywhere I could buy compost by the truckload. They pointed me in the right direction. Mushroom compost, truckload, for $14, and yard waste compost for $10 per yard, my truck would only hold $7 worth. They knew that I could not afford their landscaping, and were very ready to get me gone from there!
Good luck!
Jo

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  Chilliard on 10/15/2012, 11:04 pm

Hey Littlejo, where did you find that place? I know there is All Seasons in Johns Island..Is that where you went?

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  GloriaG on 10/15/2012, 11:45 pm

gurgi1970,

Per your question about how to add the compost - your 4' x 4' SFG is too small for any type of "tiller". And going forward - the goal is to never have to till.

When you add your compost, put it on top then use a trowel or small shovel to work it in lightly. Add enough compost so the mix is level with the top edge of the bed when you're done. If you can remove some of the old "soil" before you add the compost, it would be great, if not, use what you have and keep amending it.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  littlejo on 10/15/2012, 11:55 pm

@Chilliard wrote:Hey Littlejo, where did you find that place? I know there is All Seasons in Johns Island..Is that where you went?
I went to the Bees ferry landfill area. They have the yard waste compost.
$7 for a truckload. It is right at the landfill that you can buy the compost.
The mushroom compost, which is real good, was on Dorchester rd. in Summerville, for the life of me cannot remember the name of the place. I think it begins with an S. When I next go to town, I'll pm you with the name.
Jo

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  quiltbea on 10/16/2012, 9:55 am

I find working in the compost and/or manure with a long-handled cultivator (looks like a rake but with 4 long tines) much easier than using a trowel or hand cultivator. You only need to scratch and mix into the top 2-3" of soil so you don't bring up dormant weed seeds from below. It works up faster and does a 4 x 4' area in a short time. Its also easier on one's back. I've done it both ways.

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Re: Saving my SFG garden

Post  Kelejan on 10/16/2012, 1:32 pm

@gurgi1970 wrote:
. . .I've also started looking at worm composting, but will probably have to wait on that due to finances. Will have to see what I can gather locally.
I have managed to start worm composting with the princely sum of $20.00. My worms cost me nothing as I discovered I had compostworms (for the first time to my knowledge) in this year's compost. When I sifted it to add it to my boxes, I hand-picked and put them aside to start a worm bin. I bought three Rubbermaid Totes and prepared a Wiggler Hilton. Cardboard and paper for bedding and can be gathered for nothing. Mostly now I need time, patiently waiting through the winter for my indoor bin to provide Castings for spring, then my outdoor compost pile I am hoping for some more lovely compost after I have turned the pile for a few times.

I think the reason the worms appeared is the sheep manure I added. I had an extra bag left over which I added to my current pile of leaves and grass etc., and although the bag had been lying on the deck for the past year, they had loads of red worms there.


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