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Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

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Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  SunnyB on 10/5/2015, 3:06 pm

Hey All!

This is my first post and already questions! Smile 

I have massive trees on my street, and my front yard is filled with roots so that nothing can thrive there. My plan is to bury 24 inch deep boxes with bottoms (made from 3/4 inch, waterproof plywood,) entirely underground and then to place open bottomed, 12 inch deep boxes on the surface to a total depth of 36 inches (I know! Not exactly the 6 inches of classic SFG!) 

In his book, Mel advocates drilling one hole per square foot and adding holes to the corners, but considering the depth of my boxes:

1.  I wonder if I should drill more holes, say every 6 inches rather than every 12 inches. 
2.  I couldn't find reference to the size of holes in the book (maybe I missed it,) and, for MY (deep) boxes, what size holes would be optimal?

Additionally, I'm planning to (and any thoughts on these items are welcome too!):

1.  Add a one inch layer of gravel under the boxes, and 
2.  Lay Fiberglass cloth to line the inside bottom of the boxes

Finally, If Mel's Mix is sufficient for the very top 6 inches of the growing area:

Any ideas on what would be best to fill the 30 inches that are under the 6 inches of Mel's Mix?


Thanks in advance for any advice you all may have for me!
Cheers, Sunny
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/5/2015, 4:49 pm

Sounds like a lot of wood usage and work and expense. Maybe I'm not reading right, but it sounds like you're putting two feet of a wooden box underground. I can't see what good it would do there besides preventing/slowing down root infestation in the box you want to put on top of that buried box.

Where I live, any wood at all rots sooner or later. With a bottom box buried underground, depending on the consistency of the soil underneath and around it, I could see it filling up with rancid water. And the top box eventually collapsing down into the other box, with all that nice soil and plants now stuck in a hole.

You might get a better result by simply burying posts in the ground and securing a growing box to them. Or putting the box on cheap paving squares at each corner. Or concrete blocks. Add another to the center of the boxes along the rim for stability and, depending on the size of the boxes, you should be good to go and will have spent a lot less time, wood, and money.

If using paving squares, maybe a second to raise it higher from the ground so you can more easily clean out any junk or critters that get underneath, or whack at the occasional root trying to invade.

Anyway, I'd keep it simple. I think you're making it more complicated and labor/expense-intense than you need to.
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  Scorpio Rising on 10/5/2015, 6:03 pm

I agree. I would get those boxes away from the roots. I think you will end up constructing a calling card to all the roots in the area by building a box underground, no matter what you put in it. Plus, it sounds like a lot of grunt work and expense. I would put my boxes up on cement blocks with some heavy duty cardboard/newspaper layers under to prevent the grass/weeds and give it a go!

Welcome Sunny! Good luck! And if we don't clearly understand your situation, pictures really help!
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  AtlantaMarie on 10/5/2015, 7:00 pm

Hi SunnyB.  Welcome from Atlanta, GA (SE US).  Glad you've joined us!  And I know the Canadian group will be as well!!!

I've got to agree with Marc & SR.  I think you'd be much better off (financially, time, labor, plants) to do some sort of raised beds instead.  Those roots would LOVE to get into your boxes due to better water & nutrition than what they've probly got now...
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  sanderson on 10/6/2015, 2:24 am

Sunny,  welcome to the Forum from California!  glad you\'re here

One of the best things about this Forum is that there is a lot of collective wisdom, mostly gleaned from failures.  Embarassed I have some questions about your proposal.

1. If you have massive roots in the front yard, how will you dig down 2' for each box? Will you have to cut through roots? If the roots are cut, can the trees withstand strong rain and wind storms without falling over?
2. Would you consider building 6-12" deep boxes and forgo the digging?
3. "waterproof plywood"? - I'm thinking that it means the plywood would be waterproof if used to construct above ground buildings, but not buried 2' down into the ground.
4 Is the front yard level? Would you mind leveling the areas for each box with pea gravel or wood chips? You could also cut sections of treated 2" x 4" boards, laying them down parallel every 2', making sure they are level.
a. Then build a box the size of the 1/2"-3/4" plywood piece for the bottom.
b. screw the plywood to the bottom of the box.
c. Set the box on the boards.
d. Drill 1/" holes, 1 per square, 1 in each of the 4 corners.
e. Line with weed fabric to prevent the Mel's Mix from falling out the bottom!
f. Fill with Mel's Mix, make a grid and plant!

As long as there is an air gap between the tree roots and the bottom of the boxes, you're should be good to go for a few years.

We are here to help you get your garden going (and thriving) for the least amount of cost, material and sweat!


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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  Kelejan on 10/7/2015, 12:11 am

glad you\'re here SunnyB happy hi
:canada:
from Kelejan

Drop in at the Canadian Regional Thread when you have time.
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  trolleydriver on 10/7/2015, 2:24 pm

Hi Sunny B and welcome.  I'm in Ottawa so its good to see another Ontarian on the forum.  I think the advice provided by those who posted before me is excellent and well worth considering. As already said ... keep it simple! Smile

By the way, are those trees going to shade your SFG boxes?
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  SunnyB on 10/8/2015, 1:28 pm

Thanks everyone who answered my question and welcomed me to the forum, and a special thanks to Sanderson for all the thought you have given to my dilemma!

I should have been more specific about where we're at so here goes:

1.  The digging has already been done and the boxes have already been constructed.

2.  Our native soil is very compacted clay, almost solid rock. There were not much roots in it to speak of initially, but after we dug a few inches last year and added a loose mix, the soil filled with very fine roots so much so, that it became more roots than soil, and every plant I pulled out had tree roots that grew right into and inside of its own very sad root system, and so we realized that the trees would never let us grow anything in that soil.

3.  This is a front yard situation where aesthetics are critical due to neighborhood "issues."

4.  We want to grow a combination of veggies and perennials, which do require more depth than the typical "SFG."

5.  Still wondering about the size and number of drainage holes. Since the replies I got initially didn't address this issue, we went ahead and drilled 1/4" holes (as per google hits on "sfg drainage holes" search,) and we did this at 6" intervals. We haven't filled yet filled the boxes, so if this is truly insufficient, it can still be remedied.

6.  We presently have a 2" high layer of 3/4" gravel under the boxes.

7.  Still wondering about the fiberglass screening specs for the inside bottom of the boxes, mesh size etc.

8.  Any other thoughts/advice...
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  SunnyB on 10/8/2015, 2:13 pm

@Kelejan wrote:glad you\'re here SunnyB happy hi
:canada:
from Kelejan

Drop in at the Canadian Regional Thread when you have time.
Kelejan,

Absolutely! Will do!
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  SunnyB on 10/8/2015, 2:17 pm

@trolleydriver wrote:Hi Sunny B and welcome.  I'm in Ottawa so its good to see another Ontarian on the forum.  I think the advice provided by those who posted before me is excellent and well worth considering. As already said ... keep it simple! Smile

By the way, are those trees going to shade your SFG boxes?
trolleydriver,

Yes it is nice to meet fellow Ontarians! What is you gardening zone? And yes, absolutely the trees will shade the boxes some in summer. The plants will get dappled shade for some of time, but there are some openings in the tree tops and so they also get a few of hours of direct sun. My front yard is my southern exposure and the plan is that this is where my winter garden can be. In the winter, there's no shade as the trees are leafless.. Smile
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  trolleydriver on 10/8/2015, 2:34 pm

SB ... It looks like we are zone 4b or 5a based on the website below but our hot humid summers seem to provide a good growing season albeit not as long as yours.

http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-ontario-plant-zone-hardiness-map.php
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  SunnyB on 10/10/2015, 1:28 pm

@trolleydriver wrote:SB ... It looks like we are zone 4b or 5a based on the website below but our hot humid summers seem to provide a good growing season albeit not as long as yours.

http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-ontario-plant-zone-hardiness-map.php
Trollyedriver.. According to the Canadian classification, I'm in zone 6a, or maybe 6b (on the border of Toronto/North-York,) but Canadian zone 6 is actually equivalent to US zone 5. Would have been easier to compare "apples to apples" (no pun intended?)
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  trolleydriver on 10/10/2015, 1:46 pm

SB ... At one time we lived in St.Catharines in the Niagara Peninsula. Now there is a nice growing season for a Canadian location. We even had an apricot tree in our backyard. Definitely a micro-climate sheltered by the Niagara Escarpment and moderated in winter by Lake Ontario. That website I posted says zone 7a.
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  AtlantaMarie on 10/12/2015, 8:33 pm

Sunny, on the mesh size, I'd go with weed barrier or window screen size.  I'd also put a THICK layer (1 inch or so) of newspaper and possibly cardboard boxes on top of the mesh.
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  jimmy cee on 10/16/2015, 8:10 am

It is my opinion, nothing you do will prevent TREE  roots from EVENTUALLY  growing up into anything you can build.
Cement slabs, they wont go through, however roots will grow around.
Here is a pic of 1 years growth from a locust tree 50 feet away from my beds..


Two layers of a quality weed barrier was placed below
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  sanderson on 10/16/2015, 2:55 pm

@jimmy cee wrote:It is my opinion, nothing you do will prevent TREE  roots from EVENTUALLY  growing up into anything you can build.
I have to agree. Sad

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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  yolos on 10/16/2015, 6:29 pm

@sanderson wrote:
@jimmy cee wrote:It is my opinion, nothing you do will prevent TREE  roots from EVENTUALLY  growing up into anything you can build.
I have to agree. Sad

Unless you raise the bed off the ground with space between the bottom of the bed and the ground.
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

Post  Scorpio Rising on 10/16/2015, 7:59 pm

Yep. Off the ground. But if you have already committed, grow til it starts to fail, and then you will know why. Keep us posted!
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Re: Box Bottom: Size and placement of Drill Holes; Use of Fiberglass Screening and Gravel

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