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Let's THINK sfg

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Let's THINK sfg

Post  boffer on 7/7/2013, 4:59 pm

When the forum started in 2010, some of the most active, enthusiastic, and vocal members insisted that one could put a grid on a lasagna box and call it SFG. Or that one could make a box, fill it with Miracle Gro or topsoil, put a grid on it, and call it SFG. I was flummoxed! How could a person read the first page of Chapter 5 in the 2006 ANSFG book, and not understand that Mel's Mix was the heart and soul of SFG? When I gently suggested this to them, it felt as though their response was to gang up on me and threaten to beat me with their umbrellas! That is where the common understanding of SFG was when the forum started.

Fast forward to today. When I recently returned from a forum hiatus with fresh eyes, I was impressed to see first year SFGers who were willing to take the time to patiently, carefully, and correctly explain the SFG method to newcomers. What a wonderful improvement!

What happened between then and now was the slow, painful process of change and growth. It was difficult, and at times, resembled the sausage making process. Slowly, the disbelievers faded away, and one by one, more advocates of the SFG method began to show up and speak up in support of SFG. Talking about how to do the basic SFG correctly has become the norm on the forum.

Now, I think the forum is poised to take another giant leap forward. In a nutshell: we are doing SFG, but we're not thinking SFG.

In the 2006 ANSFG book, Mel often stressed the advantages of SFG compared to certain row gardening techniques and practices. It's easy while reading the book to nod our heads and think 'I understand what he's saying'. But putting those comparative ideas into action in our own gardens, and using those ideas on the forum to help each other, are much more difficult. They are difficult because some of us have row gardening backgrounds, or we have row gardening family and friends, or we are constantly being inundated with row gardening on the internet. There is nothing wrong with row gardening if it suits your needs. But we are not row gardeners or farmers, and much of what they have been doing for decades is not necessary for SFGing. Understanding that, and putting that into practice are two different things.

Frequently, the scenario goes like this: a new and enthusiastic gardener reads everything they can on the internet about gardening. They find a technique that they find appealing (for a variety of reasons), and post about it on the forum. Everyone replies 'Sounds like fun; tell us how it goes.' Rarely does anyone say 'It's a good idea for row gardeners, but it's not helpful for SFG.' One example is cover crops which are a valuable tool for row gardeners, but redundant for SFG. That's why I wrote a post with a chart for comparison. There are other topics where similar comparisons could be written to refer ambitious gardeners to.

The first time I read ANSFG, I was impressed with how many problems were solved with compost, and that Mel didn't talk about using amendments. Remember, Mel wanted to take SFG around the world to places that didn't even have stores, let alone amendments available for purchase. Obviously, we've seen on the forum that occasionally there is a need for amendments, but that should be the exception to the rule. Our objective should be to create quality compost so we don't need amendments. If you want to use amendments in your SFG, for whatever reason, that's your business. But on the forum, we need to be emphasizing that amendments aren't typically necessary.

Another practice that has become routine on the forum, is to suggest amendments as a preventative measure. One example is adding calcium when planting tomatoes to prevent BER. That is common advice on general gardening forums. I've seen websites, which are targeting general audiences, plagerizing each other's text as they just pass along the same advice without analysis. But when I look at scientificky websites, they don't suggest the need for additional calcium because most healthy growing mediums have adequate calcium, and there are other factors that create the problem. Quality MM shouldn't need amending to prevent BER. The addition of calcium may have some merit...in row gardens with barren soil. Why are we creating a lifelong 'need' for amendments in the new gardener's mind, when they haven't even seen the full-blown BER problem?

Gardeners have a desire to see their gardens succeed. They do lots of reading looking for ideas that they can copycat. Then they find an idea that sounds appealing, and they decide to try it without thinking through what they are doing. They see that Joe had great success adding amendment X to his garden. So the SFGer decides to use amendment X too. But they don't stop to think that maybe Joe's garden soil is so devoid of micro-nutrients from the use of chemicals, that anything organic that he adds to his garden will be an improvement. The use of amendment X in a SFG box would not provide the same results because it's not needed.

Let's start thinking SFG before using amendments.

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Let's think SFG

Post  Esteban on 7/7/2013, 5:24 pm

Boffer, you certainly have a way with words.  Great post.  It should be required reading before one becomes a full fledged member..self included.
Thanks for your time and effort.
Steve

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  Kelejan on 7/7/2013, 7:13 pm

@Esteban wrote:Boffer, you certainly have a way with words.  Great post.  It should be required reading before one becomes a full fledged member..self included.
Thanks for your time and effort.
Steve

I agree, Estaban.

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  sanderson on 7/7/2013, 7:24 pm

+1

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  Goosegirl on 7/7/2013, 9:50 pm

okay okay okay

GG

____________________________

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COMPOSTING:  The only time 'Garbage In' does not equal 'Garbage Out'!

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  landarch on 7/7/2013, 10:45 pm

I don't see a problem amending Mels Mix, espeically for beginners whose plants are stunted and yellow.  I have first hand experience with this and my garden was saved by Chickity Doo Doo and fish emulsion my first year doing SFG. 

It was very frustrating to have such high expectations after reading the book, spending time and money building the boxes, trellises, Mels Mix, etc...then be faced with stunted and yellow plants.

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/8/2013, 5:17 am

I just wonder if beginners (like me) tend not to have the knowledge to fix problems and might go too far in the wrong direction on a hunch or because they're swayed by an attractive argument or sales pitch whose validity they don't have the background to judge.

I think I've already learned that trying to be over-controlling or a perfectionist and a nervous tinkerer can do me more harm than good in the garden.  I notice that in other people too; friends and family tend to think that since plants like water, they must be watered every day or even more often than that.  Or if nitrogen is good, more nitrogen must be better.  I've been tempted to listen, sometimes, even though I know better, and then waterlogged plants, taking them from healthy to sick very quickly.  Or burned them.

It's good to confront problems and try to solve them.  Perhaps a lot of beginners like me, though, don't have the judgment and experience yet to stop cycling through one solution after another before we've really understood a problem.  Probably lots of beginners have better judgment than I do and reliably zero in on the right solutions.  For myself, I'm trying to have the discipline to not make too many assumptions or get wowed by too many advertising campaigns, so I don't come up with solutions that may just make things worse, confuse me, and cost me time and money pointlessly.

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  boffer on 7/8/2013, 1:54 pm

Marc, thanks for your post. It's helpful for us to be reminded what gardening looks like from a beginner's perspective. If you're a people watcher, a gardening forum is a fun place to hang out because a person's approach to gardening is a reflection of who they are in real life. Although we are all starting from the same place, the ANSFG book, our approach to the method is influenced by our knowledge, experience, personality, and interests.

When starting out, it's hard to remember that gardening is a marathon and not a sprint. And it's hard to accept, that no matter how hard one try tries, one won't get a perfect garden. There's a saying: 'Gardening teaches patience'. It takes some gardening experience under one's belt to appreciate what that means. Enjoy the process!

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

Post  LittleGardener on 7/8/2013, 2:25 pm

@boffer wrote:Marc, thanks for your post.  It's helpful for  us to be reminded what gardening looks like from a beginner's perspective.  If you're a people watcher, a gardening forum is a fun place to hang out because a person's approach to gardening is a reflection of who they are in real life.  ...
And it's hard to accept, that no matter how hard one try tries, one won't get a perfect garden.  Enjoy the process!
all Well said! Like a Star @ heaven 

My general attitude is "oh lookie, what's this? bounce And I wonder how I too can grow this goodie." Then (severe financial & physical strength limitations aside), I just go ahead & make do with everything I can scrounge, or barter, or sometimes afford. And I chat with Nature... giving wonderful  encouraging Pep-talks, & am happy with whatever plants surprise Smile me with next... to me life incldg. gardening truly is an ADVENTURE, and like Boffer agrees  the best thing is to ENJOY it. No matter where we humans are in life, we are perpetual beginners, so BE a happy gardener with the same enthusiasm + pleasure + boundless flower joy of a LITTLE-child, & why intentionally I chose my name here as "LittleGardener" happy hi

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Re: Let's THINK sfg

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