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First Timer - Planning my first bed

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First Timer - Planning my first bed

Post  BrianDorry55 on 6/21/2013, 3:51 pm

Hello everyone. I am excited to being constructing(?) my first garden bed in the next few months.

I am in Zone 9B in West Central Florida. Let me tell you about the area and description of where I intend on putting my first bed. 

My new home has Northeast exposure. There are garden beds wrapped around the house that have concrete borders cemented in place. There is an area that seems destined for my first bed, it is separated by the stoop for my side door/air conditioning unit. The bed has Northwest exposure and it measure 15 feet long x 42 inches wide. I have a few simple questions on the layout of this bed that I'm hoping some of you can help me with.

1) Firstly, when I first measured out the bed, I figured I can use the extra 6 inches (36 inches wide of full squares) as partial squares for smaller things like carrots, radishes, arugula, etc. I'm wondering if since my bed is backed up to the wall of my house, would it be wise to use that extra 6 inches as extra breathing room for air circulation? I intend to use the back row for taller/vining plants like tomatoes and beans so they don't shade out my greens and other things. This will give me a full foot between the stems of those plants and my wall. Do you think I will have any issue with air circulation?

2) Do any of you "stagger" your squares? My thinking is if one plant is not planted directly in front of the one in the square behind it, it will allow for better circulation and room for sunlight. Does anyone else do this?

3) I'm wondering if since the concrete border is already set in place, should I bother raising it up at all? I've considered ripping out the border and laying some cinder blocks in their place and using that as a cheap, easy "raised bed"...(I have access to free cinderblocks). 

4) Finally, how deep does my Mel's Mix need to be? I'll be putting it right on top of our sandy Florida soil...I was thinking 10 inches would do the job without me having to go completely broke.

Thank you all for any help! I know its a lot to ask!



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Re: First Timer - Planning my first bed

Post  walshevak on 6/21/2013, 6:16 pm

Welcome Brian

If you don't have it yet, get the book ALL NEW SQUAREFOOT GARDENING, 2nd  edition. It is the latest version of the SFG instructional manual and well worth the price.  Lowes, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Amazon (book or kindle) are all sources. This book will answer a lot of your questions and provide you with handy references.  For instance, you would already know that a SFG grows in 6" of Mel's Mix (although I personally use 7")  Some of the Florida members can advise better.

I like your idea of leaving some breathing space between the wall of the house and the planting area.  I can say though that harvesting that back row can be a pain if you can't reach the rear of the plants.   Somebody who has worked with long 3' beds will probably be a better source of how well it works.  All my beds are open on all 4 sides. 

How many hours of  direct sunshine is this space going to get?  My house faces NE and I have shade loving plants in certain parts.  But they get good protection from the HOT southern afternoons.



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Re: First Timer - Planning my first bed

Post  sanderson on 6/22/2013, 2:10 am

Ditto.  Get the book and save some headaches.  I got mine used on eBay.

My advice is to only plant 2 feet deep from the edge of the bed.  You can remove the back foot of soil and place the free cinder block against the house so you can squeeze back there and walk to attend to the plants, especially those that will be trellised.  Ditto on being able to walk around all four sides.

Make sure that the soil does NOT reach to the height of the house flooring. Can cause all kinds of wet problems for the house.

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Re: First Timer - Planning my first bed

Post  brainchasm on 6/22/2013, 3:23 am

Nobody likes trying to reach the third square in a 3ft wide bed. It's just too much.

If you really want to plant that back foot and a half, I would do something that you don't necessarily harvest, like marigolds, or sunflowers, etc.

I notice your concern for air flow, and it's warranted, especially with FL humidity. The more I think about it, sunflowers sounds like a good idea - one thick stalk, pretty spare with the leaves, so plenty of air flow. No need to harvest unless you really want to, and you'll likely be standing to do it anyway (sunflowers get TALL).

Plus, sunflower "fences" against the house are just fun...so long as you like bees...


I think my sunflower plant can take me in a fair fight...it's taller than me, and it keeps giving me dirty looks. Shocked

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Re: First Timer - Planning my first bed

Post  BrianDorry55 on 6/22/2013, 8:44 am

Naturally, the most obvious issue being ease of access to the plants didn't even occur to me. Now that I think about it, it does sound like a big pain to not only have to reach that far to harvest, but to have to reach through the trellises to get any fruit in the back...I really wanted to use that extra space in order to grow as many greens for the winter as possible...but I'm thinking I'll just reserve this bed for mostly taller, vining plants and root vegetables...I intend on starting two more beds at the same time constructed of doubled up wood pallets (48" x 42"), and if I use these mostly for my greens, it should work out fine.

Kay - I haven't taken a day to really time how much direct sunlight it gets...right now I would estimate that it gets direct sun from 1pm until right around sundown (naturally that window will close a little bit later in the year)...My nightmare of a camphor tree is threatening to steal some more of that time, but he's going to be seeing a few amputations here in the near future.

I will definitely look into buying the book asap before I start.

Thanks everyone.

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Re: First Timer - Planning my first bed

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