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At a loss for starting in the NW

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At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  kaliedra on Wed 23 Jan 2013 - 20:29

I'm suffering a bit of climate shock with what to do to keep a garden alive here in the northwest. I grew up in Michigan which has far different summers; humid with intermittent rain and where I lived there were enough mature trees to give plants a bit of a break from the heat of the sun if I placed my gardens right, I also had wonderful soil comparatively so I grew a wide variety of things in the garden.

My concerns/issues, my back yard faces south and oh my is this sun brutal compared to what I'm used to so I don't know if I need to do something more with regard to the sun. My yard is clay with just enough soil for the grass so I know I'll be building up for my bed, I tried digging into the clay and it was not pretty. I don't have anywhere that isn't in full intense sun for most of the day aside of under a flowering cherry which is smaller and would provide too much shade. I work during the day and I'm not able to get home so any watering would have to be done in the morning or evening.

Before I even start trying to build a raised bed with the intensity of the sun here is the recommended depth really enough to hold up to the day upon day of sun with no rain? Do I need to "create" a filter for the sun or are the vegetables really able to withstand this sun? I tried some flowers in a small bed to test things and even with a good watering every morning so the soil was wet through they were gasping when I got home that I hate to start this and miss a step and lose the whole gardn
I'm looking to start with basic veggies, my husband and I are both picky eaters. Tomatoes for canning, strawberries, beans, carrots and lettuce and the things I'm hoping to grow, that come to mind at the moment starting with easiest first so I don't discourage myself with something more finicky dies

Thank you



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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  Nymiko on Wed 23 Jan 2013 - 21:42

Hi Kimberly,
I live in zone 10b in Florida and my yard also faces south with no tree shade or anything and my plants have all been doing fine. I have a SFG with box dept of 10.5in but the recommended 6 in should be fine, if the soil is drying up too quickly you can always mulch after the seedlings have sprouted or if you are transplanting then mulch right away. I only water twice a week for 20 mins at a time and everything seems to be fine(depending on rain). when you build your box putting a weed barrier is important to lay down. it still lets the box drain but i think it helps hold the moisture in. The vermiculite, peat moss and compost recommended by the SFG book helps retain moisture while letting excess drain out.


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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  gwennifer on Wed 23 Jan 2013 - 23:13

Hey there neighbor! I'm just across the river in Vancouver and my yard with my SFG is also on the south side of my property in full sun. Yes we have dry summers here, once they finally start, but they aren't intensely hot. Many members here live in hotter climates and do just fine. Although I can't imagine only watering twice a week - the book does say Mel's mix needs more frequent watering then regular garden soil. But once a day worked just fine for me last summer. My box is 5.5" deep with weedcloth on the bottom. I did not mulch last year but may try to get around to it this year.

Just start small if you're worried about it. You can always add more boxes later! Definitely give it a shot though - homegrown produce is worth the trial and error process.

Welcome to the forum!


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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  llama momma on Thu 24 Jan 2013 - 2:40

My beds are in full sun and summers in central Ohio is very humid, and at times even hotter than Alabama. The beds were not mulched but should have been, some are eight inches deep others are twelve inches deep. During last years heat and drought I watered every day. Then bought a roll of light burlap. If you use critter cages than the bulap can be clothes pinned to it. Others have pounded a couple of poles or green u posts and attached some sort of shade covering for late afternoon protection. How did the burlap work? Perfect. I think the stuff is terrific. Hope this gives you a couple of ideas.

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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  Goosegirl on Thu 24 Jan 2013 - 5:46


The heavy clay soil that you have should actually help your water retention if your boxes are built right on the ground. Since the clay will not drain well, it should act as a nice water block on the bottom of your Mel's Mix (which drains VERY well!).

I moved the opposite direction - from CA to SD - weird getting used to green, wet summers!



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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  cheyannarach on Thu 24 Jan 2013 - 9:27

Hi and to the forum! You should deffinately get Mel Barthalomew's book All New Square Foot Garening for starters. It will teach you how to make your Mel's mix when you make your raised beds! If you are concerned about the 6 inches you can always make your beds as deep as you would like and just have the top 6 inches be Mel's mix. I have beds that are 5 1/2 inches deep to 3 foot deep and I just used city compost for the bottom fill on the deeper boxes.


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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  GWN on Thu 24 Jan 2013 - 19:06

Hi there
I have lived down in Oregon and now live up in British Columbia and I really do not think you need to worry about full sun. It is what you want more than anything.
I know it seems hot, but the plants will LOVE the sun, even when you feel a little parched.
Where I live now is hotter than it was down in Eugene OR, and our days are much longer, and the plants just love it. Clay soil is a drag, but as many others have said here, putting raised beds on top of it will solve that. I also like "concentrating" all the goodies I add to the garden.


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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  cindre2000 on Thu 24 Jan 2013 - 20:03

The most important thing I have learned with our hot dry summers, is to mulch. First year I did square foot gardening, I had it easy since I inadvertently 'mulched' my plants by over-planting my garden beans.

It was not until this last summer when I actually mulched for the first time, that I understood. When I turned over the soil in the fall; all the beds with mulch still had lovely black soil. The 2 beds without mulch were badly nutrient eroded and needed extensive composting. I did not realize I could avoid this fate with proper mulching!



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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  FamilyGardening on Thu 24 Jan 2013 - 20:44

++ on the mulch.....we use free wood chips from local tree services and it works great!

happy gardening


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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

Post  kaliedra on Sun 27 Jan 2013 - 14:17

odd, i thought i had sent this reply already but it isn't showing up :/ Thank you everyone for the replies, my husband was snickering behind me as I was reading your recommendation cheyannarach, to buy the book, I have a few times Smile I have the current one it in print, an older version and i have it on my eReader.

My concern was mostly the climate, I manged to grow anything I tried in Michigan but I knew the summer and how to manage the sun. I apparently need to improve the yard itself to improve its tolerance of the sun, I usually end up with a lot of dead grass after only a few months despite watering which is what has been putting me off planting a garden here.

Now I just need to wait to get a bit closer to the end of rainy season so I can work outside properly.

Thank you!



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Re: At a loss for starting in the NW

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