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Many Questions!

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Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/19/2012, 5:50 pm

Hello everyone.

I'm looking for some answers about getting started in Central Alabama. I have an intro thread explaining my basic situation here: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t14227-hello-from-central-alabama#145380

Here's what we're looking to do. We plan to make 2 4x4 beds (or 2x8, maybe, but 16 sq ft/ 8 cu ft none the less!) at Cat's house and herb containers at my house. (Might make a 1x4 box, might use pots. We'll see when we're further along in planning.)

We're planning to plant the following plants, tenatively:
Broccoli, Carrots, Cucumbers (2 kinds, pickling and slicing), Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Tomatoes (Slicing and Cherry), maybe a couple peppers (Jalopenos and Banana) and green onions.
I'd also love to add Grapes if we have room. Those are the plants for Cat's boxes. (11 total varieties to go in 16 square feet. Hmm... does that work?)

My herb garden may contain:
Chamomile, Dill, Chives and Garlic Chives, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Mustard, Oregano, Peppermint, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and maybe Strawberries. (Might also keep a Cherry Tomato plant here.)

My curiosities:

Does this sound good or too ambitious? Does this sound like it'd work in our planned boxes? Do we need more, or less?

Also, I can't seem to find local suppliers of Vermiculite. I have found very little of the materials for Mel's Mix. Any ideas on where to look?

What is a good price for the total soil in a 4x4x.5 box?
My figuring on the prices I found would make about $132 for all our boxes, but those were just my first prices I could find. (I guess thus about $60-70 per box?)
Does that seem about right or can we probably find it cheaper?

Cat's willing to compost but I don't have a good place for it. Might just buy bags for mine. She's probably going to get a barrel for compost. Any idea how long it will take to get compost started so we can start seeds?

Also, since I can't find the mix right off, might have to wait til Spring for the local garden store to carry it... Should I start seeds in something else that need starting now like garlic? If so, any idea what?

We were considering building one of those hoop houses over our gardens to keep cats out of the garden and help with moisture and temperature. Do those stay on during the Summer like a greenhouse too or are they just good for Winter? We can have some REALLY HOT spells during Summer, and even some bad drought times tho it's usually so humid here you wouldn't know it. Any advice on that would be great. Had plants scorch a couple years ago in my MiL's garden and I don't know much about protecting against that.

Okay, that's about all I can think of at the moment.
Appreciate any advice a lot and thanks everyone!

Fox Smile



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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/19/2012, 8:29 pm

Oh one more question.

Mel's mix... does it need to be replaced every year, or just added to with more compost?

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  camprn on 12/19/2012, 8:40 pm

Hey Fox...... do you have the All New Square Foot Gardening book yet? Also, go to the front page and on the left you will see a tab that says 'hover'. Click on that and it will take you to essential threads.
Mel's Mix does not need replacing, just add compost to recharge the mix.

____________________________

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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: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/19/2012, 11:17 pm

I do have the book. Like I said in my other thread, I'm working on reading it. I'm just a slow reader. My sis is reading it and she reads faster.
I realize there might be some answers already in there, but I'm just laying down what I'm already wondering so if anyone wants to comment, that's awesome.

Thanks again. I'll check that area out. Smile

The pricing is the big one for me right now because I'm not sure where to find these things and how much they should cost. I don't know if what I've already found is a great deal or highway robbery at this point! Very Happy

Thanks again,
Fox

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  camprn on 12/20/2012, 6:35 am

I always try to go budget so when I was looking for my five different composts I tried to think out of the box. I found llama poo on my local Craigslist, for free. You may try Freecycle and see if you can touch base with someone who may have other types of manures. Horse, cow, rabbit, goat, llama, chicken, etc. If you can find a seaweed, shrimp or crab leavings compost, that's pretty good too. Take your time to find at least the five different kinds or more. Are there any horse stables in your area? Any dairies? petting zoos? Try farmer's markets and grain stores, the folks there may know someone who has some free or inexpensive compost. Read the labels of store bought compost and decline anything that says 'soil' on it. If the product has peat or sphagnum as a component, go for something else. You will eventually find what you need. Don't skimp on your Mels' mix, because if you do you will have poor results in the garden.

Sphagnum (peat) moss comes in compressed bales and will nearly double in size when you open it and fluff it up, which you want to do before measuring for the mix. Vermiculite can be found in a variety of places, garden stores, as insulation at building supply houses, in ground pol installers use it too. Vermiculite seems to be the most difficult to find. Perlite is an acceptable alternative.

____________________________

40 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
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: Many Questions!

Post  Lindacol on 12/20/2012, 12:17 pm

The Vermiculite Database lists several places in Alabama.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/Vermiculite-Entry-Form-h1.htm

Also Uline carries it and if you pick up at one of their locations there is no shipping. I don't know how far it is from you but they have a location in Atlanta.

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  quiltbea on 12/20/2012, 1:07 pm

Your crop choices will work but being in the south allow more space for tomatoes than the one square. They grow for much longer and fuller in the southern states. You'll need to string, stake or cage them. Also be sure to put your tomatoes along the north side of your box(es).
Your herbs will also work. Check the placement for those that may be perennial in your area and give them a permanent space in the box.
For strawberries, that's iffy. Depends on how many you expect to get. You won't have much room in 1,2 or 3 squares and it might not be worth your effort.
Grapes, I don't see it. They are a permanent feature and need lots of room to grow and spread.
After you've read the book you'll get a better idea on how to lay out your crops.
Once your beds are established, you just have to add fresh compost the next spring and whenever you plant a new crop.

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/20/2012, 2:06 pm

Thanks so much guys! These advices really help me out.
I am reading the book now and I've gotten a bit further. I read the chapter on Mel's Mix. He mostly talks about the math and I figured that part out fine. It's the prices I was unsure of. I guess I will search the forum and see if anyone has generally polled the question... how much did one 4x4x.5 box worth of Mel's Mix cost you in your area? Because a general average on that would help us get an idea of whether we've found a good deal or not.

I guess it's like... if we were mixing apples and oranges and lemons... I'd know if I had a good deal. If I had apples at roughly $1-2/pound, Oranges about $2-3/pound and lemons about 33 cents each... I'd know it was a good deal. If the only lemons I could find were $3 each instead, I'd know those were a total rip off and I should look for lemons elsewhere.

I'm not familiar with these materials tho. So I have no clue if the prices I've found so far are reasonable or high or low or what have you! That's why I'm looking for some point of familiarity or some frame of reference to compare them. I know lemons are a good price at 33 cents each and a steal at 10 cents each. What is a good price for vermiculite? What's a steal for it? Same for the other two things. (I imagine a steal for compost is... "free" Wink But you know what I mean!)



For tomatoes, do they need lots of space if they are going to be climbing vertical rather than spreading larger? I was going to run them up the trellis along with the cukes. We are considering building a larger structure for the garden to enclose it against cats and dogs since Cat Sis has (no surprise) a lot of cats that seem to flock to her house and a dog that lives next door. I was thinking we might could run the grapes up the right side of the cage. That wouldn't be too different from how my grandparents grew grapes in their yard, on a trellis. But I don't know!

Strawberries, I was going to make a mini trellis for them. Vines like going UP, right? Smile I've read that vertical gardening is better for plants that grow on vines because they want to go up naturally anyway. I figure that also helps me maximize space. Am I wrong?

I've grown strawberries before in a pot. Would have gotten more out of them if I'd given them better light but I wasn't in a good place to keep them outside before. Still got a few out of a strawberry pot. I'd like to set up a better place for them. I guess I'll see what we come up with for my herb box.

Thanks for the tip about the perinnials. I'm not sure which are which. I didn't know Basil was an annual until just the other day because I have been growing one Basil plant in my kitchen window for nearly 2 years! (It never flowered and never died o_o I even made cuttings and rooted them and grew them too until I used up their fresh leaves for Italian food!)

Thanks again everybody! I'm going to keep reading. I'm slow to finish a book and it's worse right now as I'm finishing up my finals and preparing for the holidays with my family. I hope everyone here has a great holiday!

Fox

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/20/2012, 2:14 pm

Oh thank you for linking the Vermiculite Database! Is there a similar tool for the other ingredients? Finding the point of references for the price on Vermiculite really helps me! I guess what I found before was a little high but not too much so. I just need to find the 4 cu ft bags because they're priced better. Otherwise, ordering them from Home Depot's website isn't a bad price.

Thank you guys!

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  quiltbea on 12/20/2012, 2:58 pm

You can tie your tomato plant to a trellis, no problem, so they can grow on the north side with the cukes.
Strawberries are not vines tho they have runners that grow off the main mother plant to establsh new plants, in the soil, the following year. I've never seen them grown on a trellis.

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/20/2012, 3:03 pm

I've seen it somewhere before.


Offhand is a shot of some growing up.
Not sure what is required to get that to happen. I guess I was just confused. I thought they were trellis-able. ^^

What do we recommend for growing strawberries? Is a strawberry pot good or should I just plan my box bigger for them to have an end?

Thank you!!

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  bnoles on 12/20/2012, 5:49 pm

Hi Fox,

As far as strawberries go, I am going to dedicate an entire 4X4 bed to them next spring (can't ever have too many strawberries). Right now I have collards planted in the bed, but come Spring that will be changed Very Happy Big reason is for better bird and insect control with tulle netting.

Also.... be careful ordering your Vermiculite from Home Depot. I ordered some and did not read carefully enough and learned upon delivery that it was medium grade and not course.

Welcome and have fun with your new adventure.

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/20/2012, 6:22 pm

Thanks much Bob!

I have limited space at my place. I rent a lot and while my landlord doesn't mind what we do with the yard, I have to protect anything I put out there from roaming dogs and children.

So a raised herb bed should do pretty fine because I plan on putting it up off the ground. If I do a 4x4 bed, I have to build a support for it. I guess that's not tooooo hard, but I'd need a design I think. I'm not good at designing wood structures. I'll ask SisterCat's hubby because he's better at that. Mmm. I can just imagine 2 4x4 beds on legs so I don't have to stoop. That sounds lovely and would fit out near my house just fine, keep the dogs out and hopefully the kids will leave my strawberries alone. Might have to put a cage over it.

But we won't be able to get that far this year. This Mel's mix is expensive as far as I can tell, so we'll have to work on getting it together a bit slower. I'm a starving artist and college student, after all! Smile

Thanks again for the help!

Fox

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  camprn on 12/20/2012, 6:32 pm

A few suggestions, try to get some free stuff (compost), as much as you can. Use simple pine for a budget box... When I started and I could not find the vermiculite I ended up using a product called BM8, which is basically a mix of sphagnum and perlite and some minerals. It is used for seedling in greenhouse growing. That worked pretty well because I made darned sure I had some good and varied composts to go in the mix.

Just a thought if you are on a super duper tight budget and really want to get the garden going.

____________________________

40 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
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: Many Questions!

Post  yolos on 12/20/2012, 6:57 pm

As to your question about the cost of the mels mix for a 4 x 4 bed. My bed was 10" tall therefore it took twice as much mels mix as you need for your bed. But my total cost for the 4 x 4 x 10" was $103 (built in the fall of 2011). That includes the cost of the wood (which was about $15). The second bed cost $123 which was built in the spring of 2012.

I can't find my notes right now because my office is full of notes I have taken about various SFG things, pests, etc. I am on vacation this week and one of my goals is to get everything filed away or scanned into the computer so I can find what I am looking for.

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  bnoles on 12/20/2012, 7:58 pm

Hi Fox,

You are welcome to copy my design if that will help.


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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/20/2012, 8:18 pm

Thanks everyone for all the answers! I guess we're on the right track with our budgeting for the mix then. Woo! Going to be a bit rough to get my box too. May go with 2x4 this year for mine and expand it later. I think I can plant most of my herbs in 2 square feet. I'll do logistics on this later XD Haven't had time yet because of finals. Just a few more days and I'll be finished and have all of Winter break to plan!

Sistercat's Hubby looked at this when we were drooling over it earlier and said it'd be pretty easy and cheap to build:


Woo! We love that design! It'd keep the local wildlife out of SisterCat's garden and it'd be great for being able to adapt to add a shade or plastic for winter.


I have one more question at the moment. How do you keep ants off your fruit and veg? I want to put strawberries in my box, so I'm working that idea out... but I don't want ants all over them. I get just devastated by ants every late spring/summer where I live. Tons of ants. Just sugar ants mostly but it's a pain. How do you keep them out of the berries?

I was thinking I might construct a vertical support on my 2x4 box and hang my strawberries from one of the hanging containers since that seems to work for strawberries. At least I'm reading that it does. Will do more research on this.

May use cinder blocks to stand up the box if I can't build that support yet. Depends on what wood we find. We're looking for free wood and compost material. Just asked a country grocer nearby for compost material and it was a maybe! So I need to call them tomorrow and ask their produce guy. Smile Yay!

Thanks everyone again!

Fox

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Re: Many Questions!

Post  Fox on 12/20/2012, 9:28 pm

Hmm. That didn't work. Here's the pic.


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Re: Many Questions!

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