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FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

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FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  syphlix on 9/12/2013, 11:04 am

Hello everybody,

I've been a long time reader of this forum after reading the book, and will soon finally have the space to plant my own SFG.

This is my plan, and I'm hoping to get some feedback:


  • My yard in Austin is all clay and rocky soil - big mix of rocks all the way up to fist size chunks.
  • I'm planning on starting with a single 4x6 or 4x8 box and planting some fall veggies since it's late in the season.
  • I know in the book he talks about no digging, but in the Austin heat I want a box I don't need to water every single day 
  • I'm thinking of digging about 6-8" down, removing the biggest rocks, and replacing w/ compost, and mixing it all up so it's not a straight clay bottom and hopefully w/ some added structure roots can go down there.
  • On top of that I'll add 6" of MM with 3" of pecan shell mulch on top for temp/water control


What do you guys think?  I know it's going to be tough digging into that rocky mess, but at least it's dry and not a big moist clay pit.  Also I wonder about having the clay bottom below the intermediate level - the whole box will have somewhat of a pit below that probably won't let too much water drain through if it rains (not that it rains often here).  Also, the reason I want to dig down a little and use some of the existing dirt as a foundation is because I've read that 6" of mix makes for a lot of watering in the heat here, and 12" of MM is going to start getting pretty expensive!

Thanks!
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  cheyannarach on 9/12/2013, 12:26 pm

I think it would work just fine! Hope you don't stir up a bunch of dormant weeds though!  I have boxes that are 6 inches and boxes that are 24 inches deep and I just filled the bottom with compost and they have thrived.  The results I have had with MM compared to topsoil are unbelievable!!  Good luck and happy digging!
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/12/2013, 1:50 pm

In the do it yourself section here, there are a few threads featuring people who built self-watering beds. With really lousy or non-existent soil, or in especially hot places, that seems like a neat idea to me. Does that have any appeal to you?
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  walshevak on 9/12/2013, 3:48 pm


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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  syphlix on 9/12/2013, 5:42 pm

Ah thanks for the replies!

I probably won't make a self watering bed since this once is going to be thrown up quickly so I can get some seeds in the ground in the next two weeks.

I will definitely use some sort of filler at the bottom though and have the overall depth be at least 12".  Hopefully by next spring I will have a good amount of homemade compost to amend beds with!

Does rocky clay drain well when it's not compacted into a lump?  Or does it always just hold water?
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  sanderson on 9/13/2013, 1:01 am

I was thinking of table top beds.  What do they have underneath? Air.  The bottoms are plywood with drilled holes, one in the center of each square and one in each corner.  Covered with fly screen or weed cloth to keep in the 6" Mel's Mix, and the MM covered with mulch.

So, you could build a 4 x 8' legless table top directly on the sand. Think of it as a bed on cement patio.  Plywood bottom, then screen or weed fabric, wood sides, then MM, and at least 1-2 inches of mulch on top to slow evaporation and keep the mix soft. The vermiculite should help hold moisture in the mix.  The plywood will become wet and slow water loss at the bottom.  My only thought is do you need to drill any holes in the plywood.  I don't think you need to. My motto is KISS.
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  Rambo on 9/13/2013, 2:17 am

What I did with the bottom plywood( in my case 4" timber butted together) was drill 1" holes in the timber then 1/4" holes in the black plastic sheet covering the 1" hole. This forms a little funnel for the excess water to drain without saturating the timber. The Mels Mix does not escape out of 1/4" holes and it's impossible to over water the box. What does drain, I capture underneath with a tray which empties into a bucket, I then reuse the nutrient rich water on the plants again.

This is obviously different to on ground beds, mine are TT's.

Thanks for the tip on top mulch for the TT's, our weather is hot here and this will help retain the water better.

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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  sanderson on 9/13/2013, 2:57 am

syphlix,

I've changed my mind (after all, I am female!). I would drill holes per Mel's instructions. Soggy roots are a killer!
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  TxGramma on 9/13/2013, 12:21 pm

syphlix, I'm in the Houston area so very familiar with the heat that you experience. When we built my beds I decided that I wanted to go with something deeper than 6" for several reasons. 1) Water retention- because of our really hot summers and room for extra thick mulch layer. 2) In doing research on SFG and raised beds I ran across some that had compared 6" beds to deeper beds and found that beds that were 8-12" did better than 6" beds. There plants were healthier, larger, etc and they had less water loss. While this may not be the case for everyone it was enough, considering our weather for me to opt for deeper beds. I ended up deciding on going with 10" deep beds and I love them. I have about 2" of mulch on the beds, was going to go 3 or maybe 4" but we filled the beds with MM a little more than we had to and so didn't have as much room when it settled as I had planned on. But it has held water nicely. I have actually been able to water my beds once a week or less if we got rain, after adding the mulch, in the heat of the summer. Before I mulched the beds earlier in the summer I was having to water twice a week and that was before the temps got very high. And my beds are on the ground with no bottoms and no weed cloth.
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  camprn on 9/13/2013, 3:24 pm

What does FP stand for. It is annoying that I do not know this and cannot figure it out. It would be much easier if it was English.

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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  martha on 9/13/2013, 11:34 pm

Food Politics. It's called Food Business, now, but I do believe Politics was its original name.
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  boffer on 9/14/2013, 12:04 am

Feedback Please thinking  ?

(It was never Food Politics.)

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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  martha on 9/15/2013, 1:14 pm

Oh, fine, Boffer. Just shoot me down. My self esteem is now in tatters on the floor, and I may never recover. Sniff.
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  syphlix on 9/16/2013, 8:34 pm

Hah - it was supposed to be First Post (not sure why I put that in the title)

I think I will go with the 12 inch box w/ no dig.

For filler at the bottom of the box, would a mulch/compost mix be a bad idea?  I need something easy to come by that doesn't cost too much!
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  camprn on 9/17/2013, 7:03 am

Yes, compost is a great filler for the bottom of the boxes. Also, because of your location, you may want to leave room for a nice thick layer of mulch to protect your plant's roots.

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http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books



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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

Post  plantoid on 9/17/2013, 6:20 pm

Perhaps put some six inch tall sides around them there clay pits your digging & fill them with well trodden down /compacted wet straw.

Then then put your six inches of MM on top over several layers of broad sheet news papers.

As the straw decomposes it will give a bit of compost but it will also make for a real good water retaining bed /mat that helps the MM stay moist and feed the plants. , any plants that grow down through the paper will be able to take up any nutrients released out of the clay .

 Clay being fine broken down rocks & well decayed pant mater of many years gone by  tends to have most nutrients needed for plant growth , it is the water absorption or the lack of water that causes the problems .
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Re: FP: Open bottom SFG box feedback

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