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Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

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Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/26/2016, 6:41 pm

Over the years, I've done container gardening, raised bed gardening, whole big honking field farming sans tractor (three rows of okra, four rows of corn, bathtubs full of greens...NEVER AGAIN). I have now spent the last four or five years frustrated with no garden, trying to grow things indoors under lights or hydroponically, and I'm about crazy to get my hands back into some outdoor sunshine-warmed dirt.

Originally from Georgia, next mid-March we are moving back to Athens, Georgia (Middle South? Lower South?) from Lexington, Kentucky. We have found a rental house with two existing raised 8x8 beds (on a diagonal on the compass) that I will not be able to modify in any permanent way. I know 8x8 is problematic for SFG, and I'm also in my sixties, so I'm trying to come up with a plan for how I'm going to do SFG with the existing setup. Preferably not too costly!

I would be very grateful for any advice on what to do with those beds to make them workable for me. Should I just stick a 24"x24" air conditioner slab or four 18"x18" pavers in the center of each bed and go from there? Or should I try to do a keyhole-style walkway into the middle of the beds? If I put in a walkway planted with dwarf white clover or mother-of-thyme, would I regret it? Or could I plant a big patch of comfrey in the middle and just work from the edges?

Please point me to the best region for me and threads to jump into! If you live in or near Athens or Atlanta, let me know! I'm very excited about being able to garden again and know that by the time we get there I'll have a narrow window to ready the beds and get planting. I may have to get something in, then work on 4x4 quadrants to convert them to Mel's Mix over the course of a year.

Glad to be here!

Diane


Last edited by dkistner1111 on 11/26/2016, 6:47 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : word order wrong)
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  trolleydriver on 11/26/2016, 7:24 pm

A warm welcome dkistener from a cold Ottawa, Canada.  We are vey happy that you have joined our forum.




Just to get things started, let me ask a couple of questions.  What are the sides of the existing 8x8 beds made from and what kind of soil is in the beds?  This may sound crazy but maybe you can make new and smaller beds on top of the existing beds and fill them with Mel's Mix.  That way they will be at a nice height at least on the outer sides of the existing beds. As an example you could make each existing bed into two 2x8 (or one 2x8 and one 3x8) raised beds with a pathway down the middle on top of he existing bed or maybe even dig out the soil where the pathway will go down the middle of the existing bed. 

I am sure others will have have some good ideas for you.

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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/26/2016, 7:37 pm

Thanks, trolleydriver. That's a thought about building beds on top of the beds. The beds themselves are built with landscape timbers. From the photo I have, it looks like they are three timbers high; maybe four. I was thinking I could dig down into them to do a path in the middle. But I'm also having to worry about keeping little dogs out of them, so it may be that instead of investing in a fence, I could invest in building up higher and putting beds on top. That would allow me to do it in stages as I can afford to do it.

I'm not sure about the soil. I know that when the owner lived there, she composted leaves and was always dumping in leaf mold and such into the beds. But she hasn't lived there in several years, so there's no telling what I'm going to encounter when I get there!
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  countrynaturals on 11/26/2016, 8:16 pm

WOW! I can't wait to see how this thread develops! bounce Welcome to the forum, dk. I hope you have a good camera cuz we're already looking forward to photos.  (I can't help with your project, but I'll be your biggest fan when the time comes.) geek
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/26/2016, 8:39 pm

Shucks, Suz, thank you!

Yes, my first plan for my camera is to take timed shots of the sunlight. I know one of the beds gets some shade from surrounding trees. And I just found out that the beds are four landscape timbers high, so that's about 14" high. I should be able to do the 6" Mel's Mix into that, because from the photos I have the soil is below the top of the timbers.

I'll have to figure out how to post images....
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  yolos on 11/26/2016, 8:40 pm

Yea, another Ga gardener.  I don't have time right now to give a reasonable answer to your questions, but here are two threads I posted in in the past two years to give you some kind of an idea of when and what I grow.  I live in Brooks, Ga. about 30 minute drive south of the Atlanta Airport.  I count myself in the Middle Ga group but I am actually right on the line of middle and lower south.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20392-2016-sfg-in-brooks-ga

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t18828-2015-sfg-in-brooks-ga
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/26/2016, 8:54 pm

Oh my goodness. I am experiencing what can only be called lust after reading those posts. Oh, wow! Thank you for giving me something to dream about tonight. (I can hear my partner Robert now: "You dreamed about a compost bin?!?") Wink
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  yolos on 11/26/2016, 11:20 pm

Here is a little help to determine whether you are in the Middle South or Lower South.  I am right on the line but I relate more with Middle South weather than Lower South weather.  I looked up your weather for the next few days and compared it to my weather and you are about 2 degrees warmer than I am.  Take your pick because I bet you are close to being on the line.   but who cares.  We all post where ever it fits best.


Middle South
http://garden.org/regional/report/description/full/9



Lower South
http://garden.org/regional/report/description/full/10

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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  sanderson on 11/27/2016, 1:06 am

Kistner,  Welcome to the Forum from California!  glad you\'re here  Moving to a place with two 8x8' designated garden areas is great.  I can't wait to see your photos.  You could frame out a 2' wide walkway down the middle to create two 3x8 beds.  Top off the walk way with wood chips, 1x1' pavers or bricks.  Or create a key hole garden with a 2'x5' walkway.  Normally, a 3' walkway is recommended but if you keep bushy, spreading plants away from the squares along the walkway, you could manage. We are excited for you! bounce

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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  AtlantaMarie on 11/27/2016, 8:39 am

Hi DKistner. Welcome (belatedly) from your Regional Host! I'm AtlantaMarie & I live in Buford, about 35 miles northeast from where you'll be. You're in Mid-South.

I like TD's idea of putting boxes on top in the middles. It might be a good place for decorative plants that you don't have to harvest... But I don't know what your goals are. Are you the type that only wants medicinal or food items (like me) or do you want all sorts of stuff to bring beauty to your life (like I'm becoming)?

Looking forward to seeing your garden developing! And welcome home...
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/27/2016, 9:37 am

I am feeling so very excited now to be here! Thank you so much, everyone, for your suggestions and your warm welcome. 

AtlantaMarie, my partner Robert was born in Buford, so we know the area. Glad to know I'm Middle-South in Athens.

My goals in terms of planting are mainly food, but I also want to nurture beneficial insects and bees, so maybe that's what could be planted in the hard-to-access areas.

The suggestion of putting beds on top of the beds gave me an idea. Those beds look deep enough that I think I could build a 2 x 2 box (or use concrete blocks) to sit in the center of each bed and plant something in it that attracts beneficial insects. That would leave me an outer "courtyard" of 3-foot beds, and I could dig them out just enough to do the 6" of Mel's Mix in those areas. Would I be able to reach across three feet from each side? If not, I could make the center larger. What do you think?

Here's a picture of the beds from Googlemaps.

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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  Kelejan on 11/27/2016, 10:36 am

glad you\'re here  dkistner happy hi 
from Kelejan :canada: in British Columbia.

You have been given lots of ideas and have some of your own, but I can mention one thing that applies to me as a small person.

I started out with 4 x 4s but found that 3 feet wide is ideal for me as it means that I can stretched comfortably 18 inches to the middle from one side and the same with the other side, so I made my later beds 6 x 3s as that was the most use I could make of the job lot of wood that I bought when I began. With four feet wide beds, I was liable to fall in to the beds and flatten the plants.

With regard to the height, go for putting another layer on top.  As one gets a little older, working down at an eight inch level gets harder. Very Happy   Next year I will begin topping up the height of my eight inch beds by adding another layer as and when I can.

Looking forward to seeing your development of your plots.
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  countrynaturals on 11/27/2016, 12:22 pm

@yolos wrote:I bet you are close to being on the line.   but who cares.  We all post where ever it fits best.
No Border Patrol here, thank goodness. I wander into Canada and down to FLA/GA all the time. I think I've even "crossed the pond" a few times. Wink
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/27/2016, 12:55 pm

Kelajan, thanks for mentioning being small and getting older. I fit both of those boats! Okay, looks like I need to pull out some paper and sketch some ideas, because reaching all the way across a 3-foot bed sounds like it's going to be a problem for somebody under 5' tall.

Thank you, everyone, for helping me get started!
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  jimmy cee on 11/27/2016, 1:08 pm

If I am reading you correctly, my additions may be of interest to you. I elevated because of tree roots, however a few more positive benefits came along with them. Going into second season and it was all worth the extra work and
finances .










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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/27/2016, 1:53 pm

@jimmy cee wrote:If I am reading you correctly, my additions may be of interest to you. I elevated because of tree roots, however a few more positive benefits came along with them.
Oh, wow!
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  sanderson on 11/27/2016, 2:02 pm

Jimmy did an excellent job of both raising the beds AND leaving an air space so that tree and shrub roots would no longer invade his beds.  When you get access to the beds, you can dig down and see if roots have invaded the beds.  If so, we will all work on a way you can create an air gap.  Wink

If the beds looks okay root-wise, you can proceed with creating walkways and enriching the rest with Mel's Mix..  As another more mature, short gardener, I don't care to have any challenges reaching plants that would topple me into the bed.  A three (3) foot wide bed is just fine.  Most of mine are 2 feet wide.  Wink  Remember, we do not walk on the Mel's Mix.

For attracting pollinators, there are a few threads to help you select some plants.  Cilantro is one of my favorites.  Borage can get out of hand with its re-seeding so I wouldn't plant in in the beds.  Maybe in couple of pots close to the beds.  Here is a link with more links to get you started.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t17075-attracting-pollinators?highlight=pollinators

Don't even get us started on building compost bins, another of our favorites! Razz

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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  jimmy cee on 11/28/2016, 7:24 am

@sanderson wrote:

Don't even get us started on building compost bins, another of our favorites! Razz

Very true, in my opinion the most important part of the Square Foot Gardening program..
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  dkistner1111 on 11/28/2016, 12:04 pm

Compost...absolutey! Okay, I'll be ravenously reading/lurking between now and next spring. Thanks again, everyone, for the nice, warm, informative welcome. If I don't speak up before then, Happy Holidays and enjoy those gardening catalogs coming at you in the New Year!
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  trolleydriver on 11/28/2016, 12:08 pm

@dkistner1111 wrote:Compost...absolutey! Okay, I'll be ravenously reading/lurking between now and next spring. Thanks again, everyone, for the nice, warm, informative welcome. If I don't speak up before then, Happy Holidays and enjoy those gardening catalogs coming at you in the New Year!
You can see what composting has done to me. I've become addicted to it. I'm out there every day measuring the temperatures in my three compost bins. I was turning the contents as well but with the onset of cold weather I'm no longer doing that. 

See http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t21022p125-trolleydriver-s-compost-thermometer#256284

Happy Holidays.

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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 11/28/2016, 12:25 pm

@trolleydriver wrote:
@dkistner1111 wrote:Compost...absolutey! Okay, I'll be ravenously reading/lurking between now and next spring. Thanks again, everyone, for the nice, warm, informative welcome. If I don't speak up before then, Happy Holidays and enjoy those gardening catalogs coming at you in the New Year!
You can see what composting has done to me. I've become addicted to it. I'm out there every day measuring the temperatures in my three compost bins. I was turning the contents as well but with the onset of cold weather I'm no longer doing that. 

See http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t21022p125-trolleydriver-s-compost-thermometer#256284

Happy Holidays.
Watch out, it's contagious! I just nearly emailed someone I was trying to help with IT stuff, suggesting they start by "First, compost a new email."  pale I'm glad I caught it, because spell-check wouldn't have!
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Re: Moving to Athens, GA, rental house with two 8x8 beds (HELP!)

Post  sanderson on 11/28/2016, 2:16 pm

rofl

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