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NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

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NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  DKChowan on 5/14/2015, 10:53 pm

First off, Hello all. This is my first post. I am a recent college graduate (as of last sat) and now that I am finally home I can build a SFG which I have wanted to do for years. I live on a farm and I am no stranger to gardening. I plan to build an off the ground bed. I know this is more trouble but I will not have a plant if its on the ground. What ever we plant in the front garden out of the yard the deer eat and whatever we plant in the yard the German Shepherds will destroy. The rabbits eat it no matter where we plant. Normally we have a very large garden however my dad has become so annoyed with everything besides himself eating his crops that he has decided not to do one this year....to my great disappointment. I like growing my own food and having the satisfaction of knowing that at least a small part of what I eat isn't Monsanto's GMO garbage. I digress, my question to you all is what should I plant now that I am getting a late start on the season? I also need suggestions on my soil. My 6'x4'x1' bed will be 24ft cubed, right? I have done that math and that is going to cost alot to fill with "mel's mix"...more than I can afford at the moment (remember that recent college grad part^lol.) My plan as of right now is to fill a large amount with our soil which is rich and typically grows good plants then add a bit of each item in "mel's mix". I am also curious about composting for next years soil. I will attach a quick rendering of my plans for additional scrutiny. Ideas?, Thought? Suggestions?



Last edited by DKChowan on 5/14/2015, 11:22 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  Kelejan on 5/14/2015, 11:09 pm

glad you\'re here DHChowan happy hi Even if you do not have enough money to do what you would like to do, just do your best for now with what you have. You seem to have a good idea what you want to do.

I suggest you plant the usual basics of lettuce, radish, carrots etc. but don't plant what you do not like. 

I can understand your dad feeling like giving up, but once you start with raised beds it will benefit you both in the long run and I am sure he will get his enthusiasm back.

I am off to bed now but others will soon come along and give you lots of good advice. I think most of our world are now heading for bed. Very Happy

Glad you found us.

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  yolos on 5/15/2015, 1:14 am

Warm weather crops.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, southern peas, corn (but you may not have enough room for this), sweet potatoes etc.  It is a little late (depending on where in NC you are located) to plant lettuce and radishes.  We have a few forum members in NC that can give you more advice on what to plant.  And a few experienced table top builders also to help with the plans for the table top bed.
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  mschaef on 5/15/2015, 1:45 am

I would suggest finding farm compost or just getting different types of compost to add to you garden dirt not so much vermiculite and peat moss since your using good gardening dirt. As for plants get warm weather crop transplants from a local nursery. They are more likely to have plants no GMO or Monsanto. Good luck and congratulations on graduating.
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  sanderson on 5/15/2015, 2:07 am

DK,  Congratulations on graduating and Welcome to the Forum from California!  glad you\'re here

It's getting late or more folks would be replying.  I have only raised beds, now.  Invasive roots from neighbor trees and my shrubs just loved the Mel's Mix and tore through the weed fabric.  The tallest beds are 2' high.  The mix in most is 6", some 7".  You do NOT need 12" of Mix.  This will be a pleasant surprise to your dad.  Mix, or ground dirt, is very heavy when wet so the 6" will be half the weight of your planned 12." I really, really have to encourage you to use the 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite or perlite, and 1/3 5-way compost. You will only be adding new compost to replant from here on.

Have you read All New Square Foot Gardening, 1st or 2nd Edition, by Mel Bartholomew?  It's a quick read but it (to Me) totally changes what gardening is all about.  Sooo much easier.  I need to do a drawing to post showing what I think is an easy but strong way to build a Table Top.  You can use 4" x 4" for legs or screw two 2" x 4" together with bolts at the weight bearing members.  Plywood is used for the bottom with 1" - 3/4" holes drilled, then lined with weed fabric to keep the premium Mix in.  Here are a few of my beds with 6" of Mel's Mix.


Yes, corn and beans.

Winter squash and cantaloupes.
Some photos are from last year before all of the beds were raised.  But, my point is, 6" of Mel's Mix in table top beds (and mulch on top) really, really works.

There are several threads on composting.  Nothing like making your own to ensure a well rounded product.  We are here to help you through the whole process.

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  walshevak on 5/15/2015, 7:27 am

Welcome fellow tarheel.  If you haven't read the All New Squarefoot Gardening book 2nd edition, I highly recommend that you do.  And per your drawing, forget the rows of plants, think in squares.  And I highly recommend you follow the recipe for Mel's mix.  Ok off my soapbox now.

 I concur on the garden beans, eggplant, southern peas (blackeyed, crowder, etc) peppers, tomatoes, soybeans, corn if you have space, collards from starts if you can still find them and cukes.   I would try sowing kale or look for starts.   BTW, I am a tabletop gardener.


  If you really want lettuce, you might try what I did in May last year (coastal NC)  I got 2 cement mixing tubs from Lowes and filled with fresh Mel's Mix.  I put them on top of cinder blocks under a tree that gave filtered shade (a river birch in my case)  Plant your lettuce mix in the first tub and keep watered.  Three weeks later I planted the second tub.  The very first lettuce was the thinnings and after that I got some really nice leaves that I cut off leaving the center intact for more growth.  By the time the first tub was starting to go bitter and bolt, the second was ready.  I pulled the bitter first tub, replanted, and got a third set of lettuce before the heat just would allow it to grow.  Key was early morning and late afternoon watering.

I don't like soil in tabletops.  It is too heavy and dense.  But you can fill the first 4" of your bed with it and then put 6 or 7 " of Mel's Mix on top of that.

Will your dad help out on financing the first box(s). If he is as frustrated about the loss of previous gardens, I'll bet he will get interested.   I know I would if I could get my 23 yo grandson interested.  Oh I forgot summer squash.


Kay


Last edited by walshevak on 5/15/2015, 7:39 am; edited 3 times in total

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  AtlantaMarie on 5/15/2015, 7:32 am

Hi DK.  Welcome from Atlanta, GA!

First of all, congratulations on your graduation.  That's HUGE!  What's your major?

Second, I have to agree w/ Sanderson.  She's very wise in these matters...  And she has a lot of success.

My SFG is on the ground.  That will be changing over time as I have the same issues w/ stuff coming thru the weed barrier.  (including the neighbor's privet!)  So I think you've got the right idea to have the beds raised from the get-go.

Take a look thru the archives for Table Tops (TT's) for some great ideas.  Ask lots of questions!!!

But most of all, HAVE FUN!
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  ralitaco on 5/15/2015, 9:28 am

@DKChowan wrote:First off, Hello all. This is my first post. I am a recent college graduate (as of last sat) and now that I am finally home I can build a SFG which I have wanted to do for years.
DK, Welcome to the SFG forum from Hampstead, just a stones throw from Surf City. Congrats on graduation, that is a great accomplishment. where did you attend? Where in NC are you...by the beach, in the mountains, near Raleigh...knowing this may help answer some of your questions. I think you will find the people on this forum to be the nicest around and they are very knowledgeable in a variety of areas.

Disclaimer: I am not a farmer, gardener or generally knowledgeable about agriculture in any form or fashion. Also, I am not a contractor or construction worker but I do own some woodworking tools. Anything I post or suggest may or may not be the proper method. It may or may not work AND it may or may not result in improving your crops.

@DKChowan wrote:  I live on a farm and I am no stranger to gardening.
My first suggestion is that I would recommend that you read the All New Square Foot Gardening book. It is the most popular gardening book ever and most likely in your local library. After you read the ANSFG book, you will see that it is a very different mind set than row gardening, so be open to changing how you do things in an SFG vs in rows.

@DKChowan wrote:I plan to build an off the ground bed.
Because this is the SFG forum, we tend to have our own vocabulary (sort of) we plant in squares not rows, we use Mel's Mix not soil, we weed with our fingers not hoes, etc. But best of all we consider gardening as a joy not a chore. 

Now what you call "Raised (off ground) beds" we call Tabletops (TT for short). Do a search of the forum for Table and you will find lots of threads and ideas. ("Table" search Results) Some folks use plywood for the bottom and others use hardware cloth while others still use plastic or HDPE tubs. Obviously there are plusses and minusses to each so you will have to decide for yourself what works best. 

@DKChowan wrote:I know this is more trouble but I will not have a plant if its on the ground. What ever we plant in the front garden out of the yard the deer eat and whatever we plant in the yard the German Shepherds will destroy. The rabbits eat it no matter where we plant. Normally we have a very large garden however my dad has become so annoyed with everything besides himself eating his crops that he has decided not to do one this year....to my great disappointment.
It is only trouble up front. Once the TT's are built they should last for several years. Some folks use pressure treated lumber, others untreated, some use cedar and others use cinderblocks. So again it is a personal preference. For me, I used a combination of treated and untreated wood then painted them and lined the insides with 6mil plastic. Again, search the forum and you will see all sorts of styles.
As far as keeping critters out, there is a design in the ANSFG book and others have posted it here for a box cover made out of chicken wire...I am thinking that would help you close the "Whitetail AYCE Buffet". It will also help keep out squirrels, cats, etc.

@DKChowan wrote:...my question to you all is what should I plant now that I am getting a late start on the season?
As far as what to plant, that is the hard part. As a matter of fact, I am going thru that too. I am working on building my Tabletop beds and have 1 of 3 planted. the other 2 are still a work in progress (Adventures in Table Top) There are lots of websites out there that offer planting by month based on your zone. I like Gardenate.com  and Almanac.com, both email me reminders. (if I did this right, clicking on the links will take you to what you can plant now)(BTW - both of these sites I found referenced on this forum). 
While you may have missed the optimal time to plant, I believe that you can still get a good yield on most summer veggies, they just may not be as prolific as you'd like. I planted some swiss chard and leaf lettuce transplants on 4.18 when most places told me it was too late for them. I found a few plants at a garden shop and put them in anyway. I cannot eat them fast enough.
One more suggestion as to what to plant: Be sure to ask you Dad for his input on what to plant. His experience is invaluable. Besides, it may get him interested in gardening this season.

If you decide to plant in squares, you will be looking at 24 squares per box. Depending on what you sow in each square you may have 9 plants per square, 4 per square, or 1 per sqare. (zucchini is special and gets 2 squares for one plant). With that said you can get a lot of variety in your box. 
As for specifics: See what transplants are at your local greenhouse. I know there is one in Jacksonville that has tons of Tomato, squash, okra and more. they also had lots of herbs ready to transplant.

Oops almost forgot, there are regional forums. I believe NC touches a couple of them so you may be in Lower South or Mid South, etc but they are great resources too.

@DKChowan wrote:I also need suggestions on my soil. My 6'x4'x1' bed will be 24ft cubed, right? I have done that math and that is going to cost alot to fill with "mel's mix"...more than I can afford at the moment (remember that recent college grad part^lol.) My plan as of right now is to fill a large amount with our soil which is rich and typically grows good plants then add a bit of each item in "mel's mix".
I am going to jump on the band wagon for Mel's Mix too. Keep in mind that this IS the SFG forum and most but not all of us use the SFG method.

Almost forgot, as far as the depth, I would suggest you start with 6" of MM. If you decide that you want / need deeper soil, you can always build a 1' tall square extender. (I know lots of folks here do that for carrots.) If you go with a 6" deep box, then you will need 12'cu of MM. The Coarse Vermiculite comes in 4'cu bags and runs about $20-25 per bag in my area. The Peat moss I got was in a 3'cu bag and sold for $12 at the local big blue box. The 5 different composts were the hardest for me to get and each bag cost about $7 each. So that works out to about $75 for the 12'cu. Not free but not overly expensive either. (yes, I know it's not quite 4'cu of peat but most of the compost has peat in it so I think it would suffice)

@DKChowan wrote:I am also curious about composting for next years soil.
Not my area at all. Learning about composting is down the road for me.

@DKChowan wrote:I will attach a quick rendering of my plans for additional scrutiny. Ideas?, Thought? Suggestions?

Not sure if you are planning on putting that many joists on the bottom. I think the consensus is to put a support every 2'. As far as the water lines, I know some here have put them under the MM and others use a PVC grid on top. 

Best of luck and I look forward to seeing your progress. Please post pictures of your progress when you can.
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  DKChowan on 5/15/2015, 7:31 pm

I have changed my method of construction very similar to the pictures posted. what is the rate of holes that should be drilled in the plywood. Also will pressure treated plywood leech anything into the dirt which will kill the plants... I pray you say no because I already bough a 3/4" think piece of treated plywood which I have no desire to return.
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  ralitaco on 5/15/2015, 7:32 pm

@DKChowan wrote:I have changed my method of construction very similar to the pictures posted. what is the rate of holes that should be drilled in the plywood. Also will pressure treated plywood leech anything into the dirt which will kill the plants... I pray you say no because I already bough a 3/4" think piece of treated plywood which I have no desire to return.
The ANSFG book says: 1/4" holes...1 per square and 1 in each corner.
To be safe you could line the bottom with 6 mil plastic.
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  DKChowan on 5/15/2015, 10:55 pm

To begin thank you all for your advice, I have used much of it. Seeing as how I canot figure out how to work the multi quote I will do it manually. 

Sanderson. I agree that you are right about the bed depth. 12" likely is way to much....but thats why I came here. I have changed my plans and now My table top will be build very similarly to yours. 

Ralitaco. To answer you I attended Chowan University located in Murfreesboro NC. Also I will post pics for you as soon as I have something built. 

AtlantaMarie. My major was Criminal Justice. 

Walshevak. You are also right I realize I must think in squares. I plan to read the book. Also cool camel 

All. I agree and I'm quite sure you are all right as has been proven by your success with Mel's Mix. I would love to use but unforgettably I cannot even find the ingredients. I went hunting today and only found the peat moss and manure compost, no other variety such as mushroom which I saw online. The only place with Vermiculite was Lowe's and it was $10 for 8 quarts, and they were out. Therefore I will not be using Mel's Mix this year. I am hesitant to say this as I sure I will catch some manure (haha) over it but I will be using garden soil and some veg soil I bought today. However I will say that this year is only an experiment for me. My primary goal for now is to get started. I want to build my table top and acquire knowledge for next year. They do say experience is the best teacher. So if I fail with soil this year then I know. Between now and then I do plan to find where I can get the components for MM and use it next year. I have my seeds to plant. Now I just need to finish the table. 

My primary question right now is will treated plywood hurt the plants. Sanderson I notice in your pics that your plywood is not treated. My concern was that untreated wood would rapidly rot out. Also I know you are suppose to line the bottom. Ralitaco suggests 6mil plastic. Where do you get that? I have a feeling I'm going to keep running in the issue of where do I get that. I live in a the middle of no where and the only places reasonably close are Walmart, Lowe's and Tractor Supply. Also a newbie question do you drill the holes before or after you insert the lining? I do not see what good they would be if you do not also have holes in the lining for drainage. Sanderson I notice you say to use weed fabric as a lining? Is the concept that it is permeable and water will escape with no hole in the fabric, or am I confused? I do not quite understand the purpose. 

Thanks all your sage advice has been a God sent. Also thank you for being so welcoming to a newbie, your hospitality is rare.


Last thing. I have a 10'x10' dog kennel, the 4 panel kind you can move from when my German was a pup. She is in a much larger pen now. Next year I plan to do on the ground boxes inside in the 10x10 kennel. No critter will get to my plant then. Not sure if this is a common practice but it was an idea I thought was neat. It also serves as a wall trellis for some plant to use. 

That is all....
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  ralitaco on 5/15/2015, 11:32 pm

@DKChowan wrote:My primary question right now is will treated plywood hurt the plants. Sanderson I notice in your pics that your plywood is not treated. My concern was that untreated wood would rapidly rot out. Also I know you are suppose to line the bottom. Ralitaco suggests 6mil plastic. Where do you get that? I have a feeling I'm going to keep running in the issue of where do I get that. I live in a the middle of no where and the only places reasonably close are Walmart, Lowe's and Tractor Supply. Also a newbie question do you drill the holes before or after you insert the lining? I do not see what good they would be if you do not also have holes in the lining for drainage. Sanderson I notice you say to use weed fabric as a lining? Is the concept that it is permeable and water will escape with no hole in the fabric, or am I confused? I do not quite understand the purpose. 
I know some folks here use the marine grade plywood, since it will be separated from the soil by plastic, I would say no worries. You are right that the wood will rot, Boffer posted his only lasted 3 years. That is why he uses hardware cloth (Building a tabletop thread}
The 6 mil plastic is available at lowes. it is just a heavy plastic, I used the black some use the clear. 
I drilled the holes in the plywood then poked a drillbit thru the plastic at the holes. You need to do that so the water can drain out. The weed fabric is used to prevent the soil from falling out the holes. (some folks put in 3/4" holes)
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  sanderson on 5/16/2015, 3:15 am

Hi DK,  I spent the evening trying to draw plans using Word.  Very rusty.  They may actually be more confusing???


I only have the 1st Edition of ANSFG.  My holes are 3/4".  The weed fabric allows water to drain through and is laid over the plywood to keep the Mix from falling out.  Ralitaco did a good job explaining different aspects.  My plywood is untreated.  The treated 4x4" posts do not come in contact with the mix.  Only virgin wood is used for the 2x4s.  I got some free scraps at a residential construction site.  Just ask permission from the site manager first!

I would love for you not to have to use dirt in the box.  You will never be able to remove it in the future.  I looked up Lowes in NC to see what they carry.  Miracle Grow organic garden soil (cough, cough), Black cow composted manure, 3 cu. ft. of peat moss, and small bags of perlite and vermiculite.  Since you are going with 6" of mix, you only need a total of 12 cubic feet.  2 cu. ft of a 3 cu ft bag of compressed peat moss fluffs up to 4 cu. feet.  Check one item off.  Maybe, choke, you can use 4 cu ft of black cow and 4 cu ft of Miracle Grow organic compost for the rest.  Does anyone in your neighborhood have horses?  If they have a pile of aged horse manure (like a year old) you can use some of that as part of the compost.  Free is always good.  [Later we will get you started on composting.  Fresh horse manure is a good additive for composting.]

Try to buy a copy or download All New Square Foot Gardening.  I bought my gently used first copy online to save money.

Regarding the dog kennel fencing, good thinking on re-purposing it.  Please sanitize the lower part first.  You know, doggy pooh and piddle.  If you want to locate the boxes around the 3 sides, try to keep them only 2 feet deep so you can reach all the plants for care.  Recommendation.  Lay weed fabric on all the floor.  Then set the boxes down, lining each one with weed fabric.  Keep weeds and grass away from on the ground boxes. If you hate the idea of wasted space put a 3 or 5 gallon buckets down the middle isle. Sometimes you can get food grade buckets free from bakeries or places with pickles. I can't remember exactly what someone said regarding places with pickles.

I guess that's it for now.

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  walshevak on 5/16/2015, 5:09 am

DK, Where in NC are you located.  Perhaps some of us fellow Tarheels can help you located what you need.  And check the vermiculite database on the home page https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkxGrCEb40U2dExrM09fbk9zWnE4cC1Gb2oyamVOMVE&hl=en#gid=0 for places that sell it in the 4 cu ft bags.  All of us are pushing the MM because we know your best chance of success lies with having a good medium for your plants to grow in. especially TTs.  This high intensive planting we do begs for it.

And the camel was in Petra, Jordan.  The site is large and I didn't want to walk in the heat.  Sorry to say I lost the disks that have the picture of me riding the elephant in Thailand. 

Kay

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  DKChowan on 5/16/2015, 12:14 pm

Sanderson why do you say I will never be able to remove it if i use soil? Also I too have looked for the ingredients on Lowe's site and what the internet claims they have did not reflect in any way what my store had.
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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  sanderson on 5/16/2015, 1:33 pm

DK, What I meant is that if you use ground dirt in your mix to start with, it will always be in the boxes unless you remove the mix and start over. Dirt is a rock, like sand, and never disappears. The rocks of choice are popped rocks that make vermiculite or perlite. They hold water and make the mix lighter and provide air spaces. Tiny air spaces in the mix are important to the roots.

It will help us help you if you would show your "shopping" city or town along with the state. You said you were in the middle of nowhere. Just go to your profile and add it under "location." Folks near you may have places to find stuff.

The bottom line is that this is your garden, not ours. Please do as you need to do. We are just on-line shopping for you. Do your stores carry Kelloggs mixes?

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  talentetta on 5/17/2015, 10:45 pm

I use weekend trips away from home to pick up MM ingredients. When I visited my son in Blacksburg, I bought my first bags of vermiculite. It was a much better price than anywhere in my area. Today I stopped off in Richmond, on our way back from Williamsburg, and bought 2 more. The database Walshevak mentioned is a great source. I do want to update the entries there, so I need to figure out who to give the finer details to, after calling at least 12 places within a 4 hour radius of home.

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  talentetta on 5/17/2015, 11:21 pm

Christmas in Cape Cod? I came home with 5 bags of lobster compost. Luckily we had a car top carrier with tools in it, so the compost wasn't a problem for the 3 day trip home. My family thinks I'm nuts, but I like a practical memento of our trips. thinking

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  sanderson on 5/17/2015, 11:29 pm


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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

Post  talentetta on 5/18/2015, 6:08 am

That'll work. Thanks, sanderson!

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Re: NC First time SFG in raised(off ground) bed

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