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Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

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Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  gingeandhales on 5/4/2013, 9:18 pm

With a broken box and a tight budget this year, I decided to do some square footing in the ground this year. I sectioned off a bunch of 4X4 plots near my remaining boxes and I'm in the process of making grids with sticks cut to 1' lengths. We have pretty fertile soil, and I stirred in and topped off each 4X4 plot with Mel's mix.

I am hoping to inspire some neighbors by showing how much can grow in a small space so I am really hoping to have a successful crop this year. There has been some bitter feelings these past few weeks since someone went ahead and planted up the entire community garden this year with out any remorse for those of us who had been using the garden for many years. I'm hoping to lead by example and show that we can have impressive yields from smaller plots. And I know that the expense of building boxes will not be a satisfactory solution for those involved. I am also kind of done with building and filling boxes now that I am no longer afraid of weeds.

So my goal this year is to have successful, in the ground square foot harvests. Any advice? I have the New Square Foot Garden book, but that focuses mostly around boxes. Is there anything else I should consider that is unique to in the ground SFGs?

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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  Turan on 5/4/2013, 9:33 pm

Just little things if you do not have a problem site. They don't warm up as quickly in the spring, or cool down as fast in the fall. Generally speaking they need less water. If you are using your all ready good soil, think of it as 1 or 2 parts of your MM, and focus on adding compost. In the original SFG book there is a formula for a good garden soil mixing up peat and sand and vermiculite with compost and soil. It can seem rather sandy but that might depend on how much clay is in your soil. I just add compost and some sand to my soil.

Here is to happy gardens and gardeners

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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  gingeandhales on 5/4/2013, 9:43 pm

@Turan wrote:Just little things if you do not have a problem site. They don't warm up as quickly in the spring, or cool down as fast in the fall. Generally speaking they need less water. If you are using your all ready good soil, think of it as 1 or 2 parts of your MM, and focus on adding compost. In the original SFG book there is a formula for a good garden soil mixing up peat and sand and vermiculite with compost and soil. It can seem rather sandy but that might depend on how much clay is in your soil. I just add compost and some sand to my soil.

Here is to happy gardens and gardeners
Thank you for your quick response. That is all great info. I am really excited about my garden this year now that I don't feel limited by the amount of boxes I have or can afford to build.

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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  Gunny on 5/5/2013, 12:14 pm

This sounds like a great idea to me. My only concern with my heavy clay ground is drainage. It takes forever and a day for the water to perk its way down so that I end up with slushy stuff or rock hard cement when its dry. But this might be worth experimenting with. If I can find a balance where the plants get what they need without rotting the roots off them. I have been trying to find info on sunken mulch basins which would help combat my heat, but so far have only come up with one ref and that is in a sand type of ground not the clay I am dealing with. Trying to dig here is nigh impossible without power equipment. Any other ideas out there for dealing with clay that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Maybe I'm just afraid of what kind of stuff I'll find buried here as it used to have all kinds of old vehicles left to rot before we got it and I don't think they were hauled off before we moved in, but the price was very low even for back then.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  Turan on 5/5/2013, 1:37 pm

Gunny, there is a section in the original SFG book on how to help drainage for in ground plots. Basically it is the same as you would do for draining any site. Dig some very deep dry wells that hopefully punch through the clay layer to something that drains better below and fill them with gravel or sand. Then build your garden above that. Or do something similar with drain pipe or gravel filled trenches that let them drain further out.

I am guessing though that you might be able to merge several ideas and use your clay to form bed wall berms and a basin similar to Kay's pond beds. So your beds would be a bit raised but also partially sunk. Then fill the bottom of the bed with sand to act as a water reservoir and make drainage. Then put MM on top. The plants can reach down into the sand reservoir for water but not be drowned in it. The clay would form the bed and hold the water a bit. Being partially sunk and having thick berms would help it stay cooler. Or so my imagination is guessing. Does this make any sense?

Here is Kay's thread on her beds. She is combating the opposite extreme, but I see a possible similarity in possible approach to a cure. http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t5716-experiment-to-deal-with-pure-sand-and-high-water-bills

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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  Gunny on 5/5/2013, 2:13 pm

Thanks for that info. If I go down to far I hit a high water table. Its been like that here since we had all the flooding back in '88. Have been thinking on using that for a kind of self watering bed. So far its just thinking. I don't have the energy to be doing heavy work in this weather so those ideas will have to wait until it cools down to 85 or so which wont be until November or there abouts.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  plantoid on 5/5/2013, 3:34 pm

@Gunny wrote:This sounds like a great idea to me. My only concern with my heavy clay ground is drainage. It takes forever and a day for the water to perk its way down so that I end up with slushy stuff or rock hard cement when its dry. But this might be worth experimenting with. If I can find a balance where the plants get what they need without rotting the roots off them. I have been trying to find info on sunken mulch basins which would help combat my heat, but so far have only come up with one ref and that is in a sand type of ground not the clay I am dealing with. Trying to dig here is nigh impossible without power equipment. Any other ideas out there for dealing with clay that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Maybe I'm just afraid of what kind of stuff I'll find buried here as it used to have all kinds of old vehicles left to rot before we got it and I don't think they were hauled off before we moved in, but the price was very low even for back then.

Gunny ,
Recently I've read that in hot climates that get the odd down pour some folks are using a back hoe to dig a 4 foot deep trench and fill it with bundles of sticks /twigs or sawn trees , manure or straw . Then putting the soil back on it thus making a raised drainable bed .
The wood is supposed to absorb and offer up moisture when needed , as it is buried the air can't enter very well so you get a long slow anerobic rot .
They were talking about a good 18 inches of soil on top of the uppermost wood.
It sounds a reasonable idea to me if you can get hold of the machinery and materials .
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  Gunny on 5/5/2013, 4:37 pm

Materials are here. Its the cost of machinery that would be the problem. So I wait until it cools down some and thats not until November before trying to do this type of project. From what I know so far what this type of bed is called is a woody bed based on hugulkultur only down in the ground instead of on top. If I could get some trenches in like that then I could play with my ground water type self watering beds. I would only need a post hole digger to go down 3-4' more to hit the water table which has been high here for awhile. In some spots its only about 5-6' down. Have to catch BLM in the act when they come to measure it as there is a station at a corner of the property. Regardless will have to wait and see while I play with these ideas for now. Thanks for the input.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  plantoid on 5/5/2013, 5:10 pm

Hugulkultur .. that's the name that eluded me . Yes that's the type of set up I was aluding to but it was sub surface not above ground .
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  drixnot on 5/5/2013, 6:32 pm

Not to sound like infomercial but.....

http://www.lowes.com/ProductDisplay?partNumber=20294-1397-90214&langId=-1&storeId=10151&productId=4067496&catalogId=10051&cmRelshp=rel&rel=nofollow&cId=PDIO1

I would soak your hard ground and then use the garden weasel to break up the soil as good as you can then dump MM or plain compost on top and then garden weasel it again to mix it in. This of course won't be easy .... but it would be the cheaper option.

a good article on working with clay soil.
http://organicgardening.about.com/od/soil/a/improveclaysoil.htm
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  rosiecotton19 on 9/13/2013, 12:23 pm

I, too, am doing in-ground beds as a cost-saving factor. Also, I rent, and I don't know how long I'll be at my current location, so I want it to be easy for the next people to put sod over it if they don't want a garden. I've done double-digging before and had good results, so I went in to do that again last night. WOW, was the ground hard! It was like breaking up rock! Of course, it hadn't hardly rained in about a month, so that probably had something to do with it. I only got about 1/3 of the way done before I had to stop last night. Then we had a nice little bit of rain, so maybe when I get back to it after work today it will be easier!

I don't have a ton of compost to work in, which is unfortunate. I only started my compost pile this past summer. But, i'll just do what I can, fertilize my fall garden and hopefully add some compost in the spring. I plan on doing a little bit of Mel's Mix for the top of the bed.

Question: if I don't have my own compost yet, where's the cheapest place to get some?
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  Turan on 9/13/2013, 1:17 pm

Craigslist is always a good place to look.

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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/22/2013, 1:58 pm

I'm putting my Mel's Mix into my first square foot bed today and it is an in ground bed...

The area I'm using is actually part of the garden bed that wraps around my house...It's a 15 foot long section that backs up to the house and has a concrete garden border three feet from the house...I'm planting in the first two feet of it so it's about 30 square feet. I dug out the area, filled it with weed block fabric, and bordered the backside with cinder blocks so the native sand doesn't get into my mix. I don't have to worry about the drainage issues that you guys mentioned because of the Florida sugar sand...my only concerns are whether the tree roots will find their way through my weed block at some point and if the root knot nematodes that are common in our soil will find their way in...it seems like a worthwhile risk for a free 30 sq. ft. box.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  yolos on 10/22/2013, 3:42 pm

Yep, I think the roots from the trees will find their way into the bed and through the weed block..  They will even go through a concrete septic tank.  Of course it depends on distance from the tree and what type of tree it is.

I don't know anything about the nematodes.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  sanderson on 10/23/2013, 12:44 am

Brian,  Contact Dstack, or look for his topics.  He went through a lot get his beds above the nematodes.  If I find his topic I will post it.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  GWN on 10/23/2013, 10:02 am

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t12413-sfg-under-ground-instead-of-raised?highlight=in+ground

I put in an in ground SFG a few years ago and this was the thread I started.
I have continued to use the bed with great success, drainage is not a huge issue here... this year I grew garlic in the bed,
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/23/2013, 11:06 am

@yolos wrote:Yep, I think the roots from the trees will find their way into the bed and through the weed block..  They will even go through a concrete septic tank.  Of course it depends on distance from the tree and what type of tree it is.

I don't know anything about the nematodes.
Yeah I figure this will happen in time...My plan is to just run my hand through the mix in the front where the roots will come from...I can just clip them and I find them.
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Re: Anyone else have in the ground square foot beds?

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