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If you could start over- what would you do differently?

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If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  MsMinchin on 4/26/2010, 9:46 pm

What would you do if you were starting over SFG today?
For me, I would create a more attractive garden design, more like a French Potager garden.

Something like this:


or this:

We started our garden before we had heard of SFG - and built a 4x10' bed. We've expanded it this year to add a 4x4 pyramid and a 4x4 box. I'll keep working to make it more beautiful. (Google "potager", "potager garden" and "potager garden design" for some inspiration!)

What would you do differently if you were starting today?

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  boffer on 4/26/2010, 10:01 pm

1. Consolidate by beds to make critter fencing easier.

2. Make ALL my beds table tops!

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  Toastie on 4/26/2010, 10:22 pm

1. Not spill the whole bag of green onion seeds into a 4x4 plot
2. not confuse east and west with north when planting large vegetables
3. start earlier
4. when taking tomato cuttings, remember to mark them with what they are

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  nidiyao on 4/27/2010, 6:56 am

What a great topic!

I'd do different fencing. I made the 'cages' described in the book using 1x2 and chicken wire, but find them bulky and easy to damage the plants when taking them off and on. I'd construct a fencing with posts and fencing, and I will probably do that later this year.

I'd also move the beds out a little from the stone wall they are next to. 3 feet sounds good, but it's a little close when you are carrying a big water bucket or a tray of seedlings right next to the wall.

Otherwise, I love love love my garden, I ate lettuce last night. This is the first time I've ever had any success growing lettuce and it is so succulent! I must have said 10 times, 'oh, this is soooo good'! I can't believe how big the leaves get (buttercrunch) and how quickly they regrow. Everyone who comes to take a look is amazed. Love the Mel's mix!

Sandy

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  timwardell on 4/27/2010, 7:29 am

I'd plant my potatoes in a separate box of their very own. I haven't had luck growing potatoes for many years but opted to give it a try in the SFG this year. They are going CRAZY and growing larger and more bushy than I remember. The surrounding squares are becoming overshadowed.
... but that's an easy fix that I can make next year. Otherwise I'm very happy with my set up.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  Lavender Debs on 4/27/2010, 8:34 am

Good luck on that easy fix Tim!

If I could change anything it would be that only cooked potatoes went into the homegrown compost. At first it was cute, all the little potatoes coming up in the box. When seedlings were small it was easy to pick them out and put them in their own bins (where they apparently suffered NO transplant shock) Now it is just getting irritating, they come up everywhere ....and I am not a big potato eater.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  nidiyao on 4/27/2010, 9:04 am

I just threw a big bunch of sprouted potatoes in my compost pile - maybe I'll have extra potatoes this year!

I am experimenting with growing potatoes in a garbage can this year, and I'm also going to try some big cat litter buckets...

Sandy

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/27/2010, 11:00 am

I'd go with much wider paths. I'd been going by Mel's original book and set up the raised beds with only 2' paths (the original called for only 1'). I will probably be doing some major remodelling of the garden area this coming Winter to move a couple of beds to made more path room. But then I'll know more of what I'm doing and may try for a nicer look like in the potager garden above. Really classy.

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Do Differently...

Post  rds1955 on 4/27/2010, 12:57 pm

I'd start smaller and work my way up... I bought everything last year, enough to have a rather large SFG, and then became ill...Took the wind out of me and has slowed me down quite a bit, even to the present...It's nice to have all the supplies and materials, but if you get tired real fast & real quick, having all the needed things don't matter if you huff & puff, and have to stop every 10 minutes cause your back is killin ya...But like Boffer, It afforded me the opportunity to "Recalibrate" my plans, and I too am doing just about everything via table top method...Slow and Steady is my motto now...

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  mckr3441 on 4/27/2010, 1:22 pm

This is a GREAT topic

A very good way to learn! Toastie's #4 is a good example. That I will remember!

What I would do differently is research the internet 40 years ago (I know -- it wasn't even here then; neither was SFG) and learn about Mel's mix then.

Then I wouldn't have wasted all those years with my plant-and-fail gardening in clay!
Seriously, it's the Mel's Mix done properly that makes it all work!

I love flowers, too. And soon I'm going to make a long box just for perennials. I have a couple of perennials in my existing boxes and will leave them there until...

Claire

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  chexmix on 4/27/2010, 2:55 pm

This is my first year but there are a few things I learned and that I will fix or do differently next year.

Make sure you have the right mixture of Mels mix. My first two boxes I'm 99% sure I messed this up. My plants aren't growing as good in these boxes as they are in my other boxes. (Redone half a box and the plants are loving me for it.)

Make my boxes TT instead of just putting on ground. Like rds1955 said, they are harder to take care of if your back is killing you 10 minutes after you get started.

Plant more and lots of different types of lettuce. Didn't realize just how great a really fresh salad before doing SFG.

Figure out what needs a trellis before planting instead of after.

Figure out my watering system. I'm not an early riser and I'm sure my plants would appreciate a drink before the sun gets hot.

There are lots of things you learn along the way. Some times you can learn from others mistakes but MOST of the time you have to learn from your own. So make every day a learning exprerience and listen to your plants. Make a journal so you will remember what you did right and wrong from year to year.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  martha on 4/27/2010, 2:56 pm

Ms. Minchin - I am with you. My main regret is the garden layout. I am improving as I go this year, but I am frustrated, because I would like to have more started, but I have to carefully measure to know where the boxes gets moved....if I liked measuring I would have done it the first time!

However, I LOVE the top drawing in your post! I have seen the bottom one and thought it looked very lovely, but that top one........ Please, can I can I - I won't ask for anything else this summer, I promise!

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  willf650 on 4/27/2010, 9:16 pm

The beds would be on angle iron frames above the ground. This would make it easier to trim around, easier to work on and keep the dogs out without an ugly fence.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  bullfrogbabe on 4/27/2010, 11:12 pm

I wish I had used thicker, higher quality weed barrier under the two 4x4 boxes I installed last year. I removed the sod and used weed barrier under my boxes but grass and tree roots grew up through the weed barrier into my boxes. The roots and grass grew right through the root barrier, it wasn't thick enough.

This spring I had to remove all the Mel's mix, sift out all the grass rhizomes and roots, replace the weed barrier, and re-fill both boxes. Screening all the roots and grass out of the Mel's mix was a lot of work but I couldn't bare the thought of disposing it and starting over due to it being expensive. I had to shake the soil mix through a screen and pick out as many roots and grass rhizomes as I could.

I bought a heavier, more expensive, but water permeable weed barrier with a 20 yr guarantee with hopes that it will work better. The fine print on the guarantee indicated that this thicker weed barrier may not be effective against all types of aggressive roots and some types of grass. I hope it works better! I am amazed that the wimpy grass we have here that won't grow well on our sandy soils can actually grow through the weed barrier of my SFGs.

I will be adding more boxes this year. If the grass grows through again I will be discouraged. Wish me luck!

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  ColoradoNatureGirl on 4/28/2010, 12:13 am

This is a wonderful topic! Thanks for all the great insight!

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  chexmix on 4/28/2010, 2:33 pm

@bullfrogbabe wrote:I will be adding more boxes this year. If the grass grows through again I will be discouraged. Wish me luck!

Don't be discouraged. The reason the grass is loving it is because everytime you water some of the fertilizer (compost) is going to the ground and feeding the grass. If you can put some card board between the grass and weed barrier. That will slow it down even more.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  Odd Duck on 4/28/2010, 3:51 pm

@bullfrogbabe wrote: I am amazed that the wimpy grass we have here that won't grow well on our sandy soils can actually grow through the weed barrier of my SFGs.

I will be adding more boxes this year. If the grass grows through again I will be discouraged. Wish me luck!

Like Christine says, since that grass is used to getting by on poor, sandy soil, the Mel's Mix must taste like Thanksgiving!

I would have used Mel's Mix to start. I didn't find the website or the new book until after I set up my beds. I'm using a good mix, but not a great mix. It's light and fluffy, but just didn't have enough nutrients. The first 2 boxes I set up are just now getting there, the third has a ways to go. It'll get there, I MUST learn patience, NOW!


One thing I really like that I did, is I made my boxes taller. I was going to be having an abdominal procedure done and knew I wouldn't be able to be getting up and down, squatting down, etc, so I made my boxes with cinder block stacked 2 high (16 inches) and put capper blocks in 2 spots on each 8' long side for seats. So now, they are comfy seated height, I can sit and lean to weed/tend the beds. I will love that forever.

Sharon

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Wow, you guys are giving me a lot of ideas!

Post  LindainWarwickNY on 4/28/2010, 4:40 pm

First of all, I'm not sure I like the idea of bending down a lot. I'm 58 years old, 59 in October. Maybe I should make my beds with a plywood bottom with drainage holes and elevate them. I like your ideas of doing it in an attractive way! It would be easier to tend to them and maybe make it a little harder for the groundhog or woodchuck, whatever you call it to get to them. I have a tall wire fence all around my garden area, but the woodchuck burrowed right into the middle of it! So, I am liking the idea of putting the boxes up higher to begin with and try to make it look lovely while I am at it. Thanks for the tips and the heads up before I start making my boxes!

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Speaking of grass and trees that invade your boxes...

Post  LindainWarwickNY on 4/28/2010, 4:47 pm

that may be a good reason to put a plywood bottom on them. I have the same problem in my old garden spot. We have locust trees here whose blossoms blow all over the place in the wind. You end up having to go out and pull all of those baby trees out of the garden. I had hubby saw down the tree that was leaning directly over my garden spot, but my children don't want me to get too saw happy and get rid of them all. They like the shade for their cars. Wait until they bloom again this year and they are reminded of all the locust blossums on their cars! Hee hee! Maybe they won't be so crazy about the locust anymore and I can have hubby go out with his saw again. Hey, I can always plant other trees!

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changes

Post  aspiegardner on 4/29/2010, 6:47 am

My daughter started this last year at 13 and loves her sfg. However I really need to do a nice fence around the garden area.

I'd like to do a nice pathway design since its just icky weeds where the boxes aren't and I don't really want to do grass out there. Just not sure what yet.

The boxes sit south to north and I'm just not sure if that is right or not, need to figure it out LOL.

I would also build some more boxes, figure out something for shade out there and a better watering system.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  cherriesjubilee on 4/29/2010, 1:58 pm

What I'd do differently:

1. Get more transplants. They've worked out pretty well.

2. Be careful with seed storage.

3. Make every box a table-top box.

4. Plant more varieties of lettuce.

5. Make my own compost, if I could (just isn't going to happen!)

6. In general, plant more of everything.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  titans01 on 4/29/2010, 3:06 pm

@cherriesjubilee wrote:What I'd do differently:

1. Get more transplants. They've worked out pretty well.

2. Be careful with seed storage.

3. Make every box a table-top box.

4. Plant more varieties of lettuce.

5. Make my own compost, if I could (just isn't going to happen!)

6. In general, plant more of everything.

On the seed storage, what where you doing wrong? I'm planning on saving most of my seed packets and using them again next year.

I've only been doing the SFG for less than 2 months so there isn't a ton I've learned yet that I'd change but the one thing I would do over is start small with just a few boxes and keep adding a couple each year. I started off with 14 - 4x4 boxes, 2 - 3x4 boxes and 1 - 2x4 box and it was a ton of work and expensive to build boxes, make the Mel's mix and fill the boxes. It kind of dampered some of the advantages of square foot gardening (less work than row).

Oh and another thing I might change is to actually follow the book and not try to do my own transplants from seeds until I'm an experienced gardner. Trying to build and fill 17 boxes, plant and then trying to grow my own transplants has been a little overwhelming at times.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  momstitch on 4/29/2010, 3:43 pm

I have raised bed gardens that I have converted into SFG. If I had it to do over, I would have had SFG blocks constructed instead, would have been so much easier to get to some of the squares. But, I 've got to work with what I have...
Martha

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

Post  sbeach on 4/29/2010, 4:20 pm

I've barely started, so I don't know about starting over; however, if I had learned about square foot gardening earlier I would have:

1. Pulled up a patch of the sod the builder installed before the roots had time to take so it wouldn't be such a struggle to dig it up which we had to do to level the ground.

2. Asked the contractor who built our deck if we could have the leftover wood scraps for building our boxes, and maybe we could have had him bring in additional gravel (like he used under the deck) to use on the paths around the SFG boxes.

3. Used Mel's mix in our front garden. We just bought bags of 'black earth', which is better than the dirt that was there, but probably not any cheaper.

4. Considered selecting a bigger lot when we were first shopping for this house, so there would be more room for expansion.

We do love our house and the lot we built it on, but last month the builder put up a giant 3 storey house in the lot behind us, and it casts a huge shadow across our SFG after dinner. Good thing we built a bungalow so the garden gets some morning sun! We should still get 8+hours of sun. I hope that's enough for tomatoes, which is the main reason we started a garden.

I don't think I've had a really good tomato since I moved out of Toronto, which, despite being a big city, has great garden soil. My parents and grandparents grew lots of vegetables there, including huge flavourful tomatoes.

I'm trying Mortgage Lifters this year.

Someone mentioned they wish they knew which things needed trellises before planting and which needed them after planting. Would you care to share what you've learned?

Sharon

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In reply to Titans01

Post  cherriesjubilee on 4/29/2010, 5:35 pm

Well, seeds should really be stored in packets in glass jars in the refrigerator when your season ends.

I didn't do it right, and re-using some of the seeds from the previous year, the germination rate wasn't as good.

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Re: If you could start over- what would you do differently?

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