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A few beginner questions

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A few beginner questions

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/24/2013, 7:32 am

1.  We just bought 7 acres and plan on building a 1 acre garden.  We are self employed and work 50-60 hours a week.  We are looking for the least amount of work as possible.  I really like the SFG plan as it seems to be very efficient.  Does anyone have experience with SFG on a large scale and do they have any tips in box sizes.

2.  Can you build boxes 12" instead of 6" tall, so you don't have to bend over as much?

3.  I have an idea of building my grids with water pipes and drill small holes along pipes and use it as built in drip irrigation system.  ANy thoughts on this?

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Plan

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/24/2013, 7:53 am


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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  Goosegirl on 8/24/2013, 8:23 am

welcome  NC7acreproject!

Our best advice on your questions is:  Get the Book!  You will find lots of help on the forum, and we do have some members with large-scale gardens, but for a basic knowledge of the SFG method, the ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING book, 2nd edition being the most recent (came out this year) is the best guide you will find.  If you do not have it yet, get it as soon as you can.  It is an easy read, and explains the concepts of SFG, as well as the backbone of the method, the soilless growing medium:  Mel's Mix. 

We have had lots of discussions on types of irrigation systems to use in our boxes.  I wil try to find some of the threads we have on them and post a link for you, but in the meantime try the search box in the upper left corner of the screen to find some of our irrigation threads.

Again, WELCOME!!!

GG

PS - some links

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t13136-gravity-feed-irrigation-grid?highlight=irrigation

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t13490-irrigation-grids?highlight=irrigation


Last edited by Goosegirl on 8/24/2013, 8:29 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : added links)

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  camprn on 8/24/2013, 8:25 am

Greetings and Welcome to the SFG Forum. There are a few back threads about large scale gardening and farming.

1 acre is a lot of work regardless of how you go about it. I suggest start small and do some homework regarding the growing needs of particular crops. On a plot that size row gardening will suit squashes and corn and tomatoes. Raised beds with intensive planting can make less work after the initial push to get the beds made and soil amended or you choose to make the Mel's mix.

If you are relatively new to growing vegetables, I strongly urge you to contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for advice regarding best crops for your area, the plant requirements and potential pests and diseases.


What do you want to grow in your garden? WIll it the food be just for your family use?

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  TxGramma on 8/24/2013, 10:03 am

NC7 Welcome!
1. Here is a good thread that shows a large scale garden. 2000 SFG As far as box sizes it's really personal preference just be sure you keep the width where you can easily reach all the squares. I have beds that are 2' wide x 10' long and I love them. I have trellises on the north 10' sides so I have plenty of trellis to grow vertically with. All of my future plans are for beds 2-3' wide since they are so easy to work with, personally I won't be making any 4' wide except maybe my strawberry patch.

2. Yes you can build deeper boxes...mine are 10". You can even build Table Top boxes(beds on legs lol). If you go with deeper boxes you can put a filler of some sort in the bottom of the box and then MM on top of that so you don't have to fill the entire depth with MM to save money if you want. In my case I filled my 10" boxes with MM all the way but I was only making two at the time to get started not an acre full of boxes. There are some on here that have boxes 18" and deeper.

3. As GG mentioned there are several back threads on exactly what you have in mind.

Good luck and can't wait to see your garden as it comes together.

P.S. Since you are wanting to do large scale with the least work possible SFG is a great way to do that since it does cut down on gardening tasks once the initial work is done building the beds. But another thread that you may want to look at and consider since you are talking such large scale is this one Back to Eden It's a great thread to read with lots of good info that can be incorporated into SFG too (or even do both methods as some here are doing)...the mulch helps out alot no matter what method of gardening you do.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  boffer on 8/24/2013, 12:24 pm

Welcome to the forum.  

This is the correct code for the picture that didn't display in your second post.
Code:
[img]http://gyazo.com/19a0f5dd37148dec6d185d3711064006.png[/img]


An acre is a lot of space, or a little space, depending on your objective.  Are you interested in commercial crops, being self-sufficient, having an orchard, growing feed for livestock, or something else?  We can give more specific feedback if we know what your intentions are.

I see you have a tractor shed.  In my experience, once the space was established for my SFG garden, the only  thing I use my tractor for is managing large compost piles.

Dreaming and planning are fun to do; please keep us in the loop!  

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More info

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 7:59 am

[img][img]http://gyazo.com/09d15b1c9b91983e5facdd1137742258.png[/img}[/img]
Posted a new pic of overall property plan.  Boffer, thanks for fixing pic, I tried to mimic you changes on new pic.  Feel free to fix as well if I did not do it correctly.

[/img]

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Same pic

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 8:00 am


Not sure what I am doing wrong on pic posting.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  bnoles on 8/25/2013, 8:17 am


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Thanks

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 8:18 am

Thank you for fixing pic post.

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What we want to grow

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 9:50 am

For our own use
1.  Lot's of tomatoes, for marinara sauce, salsa, soups, chili, etc.  When fresh just to eat and hamburgers.
2.  Corn
3.  Squash, all kinds we like it all
4.  Green Beans
5.  Egg Plant
6.  Potatoes
7.  Carrots
8.  Turnips
9.  Onions
10. Cabbage
11. Greens, collards, spinach, etc.
12. Cucumbers
13. spring mix
14. Strawberries
15. Rasberries
16. Blackberries
17. Blueberries
18. Trees: Peach, apple, pear, cherry

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  boffer on 8/25/2013, 10:00 am

Code:
[quote="NC7acreproject"][img]<img src=[/img]
Posted a new pic of overall property plan.  Boffer, thanks for fixing pic, I tried to mimic you changes on new pic.  Feel free to fix as well if I did not do it correctly.
" />[/quote]
You're getting closer!  Your first pic didn't have an image file extension in the url (png).  Your second pic had a mix of BBc and html codes.  What you're looking for is

Code:
[img]url with .png on the end[/img]
We'll help you get it right 'cause we like pictures! Wink

(image file extensions also include jpg and gif and a few others; your pics happen to be png)

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Thanks

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 10:31 am

I will try with next pic I send.  Going there today to do some work on the house.  Maybe I will take some on the ground pics of what I have to work with.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  garden_gals on 8/25/2013, 10:39 am

I love North Carolina and will be watching your progress!! Thanks for sharing.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  boffer on 8/25/2013, 10:43 am

Great!

You'll want deeper boxes for carrots and potatoes, and I like deeper boxes for corn, too.

For most veggies, all you need is 6 inches of MM.  You can make deeper boxes, fill the bottom with filler, and put the MM on top of the filler.

I understand the convenience factor of taller beds.  Another option is tabletops.  Do a forum search for 'tabletops' to see a lot of ideas about them.

Most of my boxes are different sizes because I made them from used materials. (none wider than 4 feet).  If I were starting from scratch, I would make most of my boxes 4x4, and some 4x8, since I have the space to spread out.  I think the 4x4 boxes offer more flexibility to adapt to various gardening techniques and planting schemes.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  martha on 8/25/2013, 10:57 am

I have a few 4 X 12's, and they are not my favorites. If they were tabletops, I might not mind as much, but when you are on your knees crawling around, and you see something that needs to be done just out of reach, it's a lot of getting up and down - at least for my creaky knees!

NC, I am envious of your property and your capabilities. Keep posting photos!

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/25/2013, 5:44 pm

@NC7acreproject wrote:1.  We just bought 7 acres and plan on building a 1 acre garden.  We are self employed and work 50-60 hours a week.  We are looking for the least amount of work as possible.  I really like the SFG plan as it seems to be very efficient.  Does anyone have experience with SFG on a large scale and do they have any tips in box sizes.
If I recall correctly, Mel says efficiencies are lost when the garden gets too big. At some point, all that walking and bending up and down may feel less attractive than using a tractor. Yet I saw a video on youtube by "growingyourgreens" in which he interviewed a market gardener who planted everything, or at least lots of his stuff, in SFG boxes.

2.  Can you build boxes 12" instead of 6" tall, so you don't have to bend over as much?
Yep, but it will take a lot more soil to fill them, and Mel's Mix isn't cheap to start off with. Once you get your own compost going, it is, but the initial 5-way compost, vermiculite, and peat cost can be a stiff hit when starting up. Amortized over the ten years Mel says the soil mix will last, it's not pricey, though.

It seems to me that you could fill the bottom half with anything you like, though, like gravel or woodchips.

You could also build raised beds -- up on sawhorses, 4x4 wood posts, or concrete cinder blocks. I've seen pictures of all those being used to raise beds, and people being quite happy with the results. It would mean you would need to put a bottom in your bed, though. I've seen pictures of people doing it with plywood, regular wood, and hardware cloth -- whichever suits their fancy or their materials at hand.

Besides the DIY (do it yourself) section of this forum, youtube has lots of videos about people doing similar things.

Another thing to consider that would make for a lot more work and expense initially but that you might be happier and happier about having tried out as time goes by is making a self-watering bed with a reservoir on the bottom. Some people have even made raised self-watering beds. Talk about taking the work out of gardening! There are illustrations of that in the DIY section of this forum, too.

Remember too that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. You could make some beds one way and some the next and some another. Some taller, some shorter, some raised, some with extra room for a nice thick layer of mulch, some with different styles of trellises, etc. You could try out self-watering containers by building a self-watering 5-gallon bucket before going all out and building a big self-watering bed. Give you a chance to test the wicks, see if you find mulching a self-watering container helpful, etc. Sometimes going in manageable steps and learning as you go can be a great way to keep from making expensive mistakes, keep the learning process fun, and avoid getting intimidated or exhausted by undertaking a huge backbreaking project all at once.

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Thanks for all the feed back

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 7:12 pm

Welcome all ideas.  I love NC as well, I have lived here since 95', I can't imagine living anywhere else.

The south side of the pasture is about 50' higher than where the gardening will take place, so I was thinking of slow pumping water up to a storage tank up there from future fish pond, rain catchers, and well if needed then gravity feed back to beds thru some type of irrigation.  I plan to read some of the irrigation ideas for beds in forum.

I didn't get a chance to take any pics while there today.  I will try to get some next time i'm out there.

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Shale and rocky soil

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/25/2013, 7:17 pm

Area I want to do gardening is full of shale and very rocky.  This was one of the main reasons I went with using raise beds for most of the gardening as it will take just as much work to improve existing soil for row gardening.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  sanderson on 8/27/2013, 5:21 am

NC7,  Welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here 

I've been out of town, but I see folks have been welcoming you.  I see a lot of good advice, also.

Raised beds are a great way to overcome poor soil conditions. Taller beds are nice on the back and knees, but will cost more in lumber.  I've been able to score free wood at residential construction sites.  Just get permission first!  I used a tape measure to make sure that the pieces were long enough for my needs (4' min.)

If the native soil is not too horrible, you could use the tractor to help fill the lower parts of the beds with the free soil as a filler! Lay weed cloth on top of the fill soil, then add the Mel's Mix.  6 inches of MM is all that is needed for most produce.  Plus allow a couple of inches of head space for mulch.

If there are burrowing critters in the area, you could first lay 1/4" hardware cloth on the ground, then the boxes, soil fill, weed cloth, finally the MM.

Adding some table top beds should be considered.  Besides being a break from bending over, they are great for produce that you don't cook, such as lettuce and strawberries.  You can sprinkle Sluggo Plus around the feet of the beds against snails / slugs, sow bugs, etc.

You mentioned a 50' drop in elevation from the "pasture" to the garden.  Are you planning on having livestock in the pastures?  If so, make sure that the rain run-off from the pasture does not reach the garden.  Raw manure can contaminate the produce.

Can't wait to see how your garden develops. Very Happy


Last edited by sanderson on 8/27/2013, 3:45 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)

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Pasture

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/27/2013, 9:12 am

Pasture will possibly have animals at some point, but not for now.  Way to much other stuff to do.  I do plan to get some guineas right away for tick control.
As for run off from pasture that should not be a problem.  Not sure if you seen property overview, but the pasture is up on a bigger hill and garden area is on a small hill and they both slope to the middle, so any run off would go to the ditch line.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  jimmy cee on 8/27/2013, 9:13 am

When I started SFG early this year I already had raised beds that used 1 foot wide planks.
After leaving the soil in place I added 8 inch planks to it, then added my Mel's Mix
I'm very happy I did that, much easier to work on, less bending.
I'd most likely be happier if it was another foot higher.
The angle iron you see are imbedded 4 feet deep, gives me secure hardware to work with, everything is attached to them.

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Nice Beds

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/27/2013, 9:24 am

I like your beds and the angle iron idea.  I can see where that would give some extra side support, especially for a long bed.

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Re: A few beginner questions

Post  llama momma on 8/27/2013, 9:24 am

You mentioned you already work 50-60 hours a week and that's a lot to me so it is very impressive to think of a 1 acre garden in addition.  Mel mentions to start out small and build from there.  I think it's the Very Best advice for anyone starting out.  Give yourself the gift of time to learn the system and work out the bugs during the learning curve.
 
I keep thinking of all the composting effort it will take to sustain that many beds. If you purchase all the compost that is needed to get started it will for certain be one gigantic gamble.  There are so many threads on this forum that complain of sub standard bagged compost results since there is no regulating entity for quality control.  I would advise to start small and learn the system and learn to regulate your efforts in composting to sustain what you have then expand more naturally from that point. 
 
But - If funds are unlimited and (bagged compost) gambling is not an issue, then ignore everything I said and go for it, and best wishes.  I Apologize for sounding so somber!

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Good ideas

Post  NC7acreproject on 8/27/2013, 9:31 am

I actually plan to start building three compost bins and start composting right away.  I will buy some compost to start a bin and then add to it over the winter.  Hopefully it will be ready by spring.

I will probably only build enough beds to fill maybe a quarter of an acre this winter as there is lots of other stuff to do, plus I like the idea of learning as I go and maybe be able to improve as I continue to build.

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Re: A few beginner questions

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