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Hello from Southeast Michigan!

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Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  Stoven2 on 3/26/2017, 7:00 pm

Just wanted to introduce myself.  I recently read both the original SFG book, as it was given to me, as well as the ANSFG book.  After reading the first, the second made MUCH more sense!

I purchased my parents house on 2 1/2 acres, which was the house I grew up in.  We had a 30' x 45' garden that I remember working in as a kid and spending most of our free time weeding, feeding, watering, fighting pests and sometimes even harvesting. As I got older I began to lose interest in all of the maintenance.

Fast forward to now and I have this giant dirt patch in my backyard to deal with.  I figured my options were as follows:


  • Leave it be
  • Seed it with grass
  • Garden it!


If I left it, I'd end up with a big bare dirt spot that continues to sprout winter wheat that my dad decided to plant to till back into the soil to add nutrients.  It looks pretty scraggly, but I've grown used to it.

I could seed it, but then I'd be sure to end up with a giant mismatched patch of grass.

Gardening it sounded like a fun idea.  Then I remembered the time I spent out there, how much I hated pulling weeds, fighting off pests and having an often limited selection of produce to harvest.  At first I thought "well I'm getting older, maybe I'll enjoy it," but I kept having flashbacks of the work and it didn't fit well with my busy work schedule.

I started thinking about doing some kind of raised beds.  I could mix my existing soil with new compost, or buy bulk top soil/compost mix and have a little more control over the weeds.  Even with that, If I constructed the beds the way I wanted, with taller 2x12's to help shield the gardens when I come by with the mower, that's a LOT of dirt to buy.

Just the other day, I was talking to my neighbor about my raised bed idea, and his wife sprouted up and said "I have this book you need to read!"  She handed me the original SFG book.  I started reading it that night and couldn't put it down.  It made so much sense and I could see the benefits in it.  I wasn't a fan of digging down into my existing soil, and still figured I could still build some raised beds and get good fresh mix in them.  I then looked around and found the ANSFG book.  I downloaded it to my Kindle and read it in less than a day.  Now I can't wait to get started.

I still plan to build my bases out of 2x12, to get them up off the ground, but now plan on using plywood and stacking either 2x6 or 2x8 boards on top to form the actual beds, now that I know I only need 6" of planting medium for most crops.

The biggest challenge I'm seeing is sourcing the mix - I'm thinking about doing 4 3x8 beds to start, and the planting media seems like it will cost just as much as the building material that I'm going to be buying.  I'll need 48 cu. ft. for my 96 sq feet of bed, and that's not even including the additional 4x4 I'd like to build for corn and the asparagus plot I'd like to get started on!

I'm sure that I'll find some useful info in these forums on sourcing mix, but if anyone has any "quick" tips, I'd greatly appreciate them!

I can't wait to get started!
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  Scorpio Rising on 3/26/2017, 7:08 pm

Welcome, stoven2!  Glad you are going to give SFG a try, you will never go back.  I have done both traditional and the original SFG, and now ANSFG...no comparison!  So much less back breaking work!  And fun varieties to try that otherwise you wouldn't....

Keep us posted on your progress, and, we love pictures!  

glad you\'re here
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  ralitaco on 3/26/2017, 11:39 pm

Welcome from Coastal NC.
I'm glad you found the ANSFG book. While the Mel's Mix may cost you up front, it pretty much is a one time expense, especially if you start making your own compost. I look forward to seeing your progress
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  AtlantaMarie on 3/27/2017, 8:14 am

Hi Stoven2. Welcome from Atlanta, GA. I have to agree with Ralitaco, It's a one-time expense that will pay for itself over the long haul.

Looking forward to seeing what you do!
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 3/27/2017, 10:45 am

Welcome to the forum Stoven!

I grew up under similar circumstances, and like you, read the old SFG book then found the new book. There is much less weeding with ANSFG, and it's much easier (but make sure you don't let grass creep up under the beds and into the MelsMix - mostly only a problem if your MM is in contact with the dirt.) The watering chore is still required, perhaps slightly more for ANSFG than for dirt gardening in my experience, but having the garden right next to the house makes it so much easier. There was nothing quite like pulling that old hose all the way to the edge of the backyard as it attempted to tie itself in knots, trudging back to turn it on, watering, trudging back to turn it off, and trying to reel the whole thing back again without it crushing something in the garden...

I do have some old-style double-dug SFG sections in my garden (and some that are more of a single dug amended with compost), partly due to the cost of getting all the MM at once for the size garden I wanted. I converted more of it to ANSFG raised beds this year as the funds became available. You may be able to do one of your 3x8's in ground this year, partly as a comparison, partly to save costs, and grow shallow-rooted vegetables that don't require heavy feeding, still using SFG spacing: lettuce, bush beans, peas, arugula, collards, and herbs. ... but I'm not sure how much weeding you'd end up doing!
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  Scorpio Rising on 3/27/2017, 10:09 pm

Agree!  Also, don't forget to chime in on the Regional Thread, N & C Midwest so we can share ideas, thoughts, and help each other out as we share some similar weather and climates....
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  sanderson on 3/28/2017, 12:48 pm

Hi, Stoven,  Welcome to the Forum from California!   glad you\'re here What a wonderful blank slate you have to work with.  ANSFG is expensive to get started, but it is a one time expense.  Compressed peat moss fluffs up to almost twice the size, i. e. a 3 cu. ft. bale is almost 6 cu. ft. fluffed.  Have you checked our Vermiculite Data Base.  I see Menards and PVPind on the list in your area.  http://www.pvpind.com/  You want coarse, garden grade, not treated construction grade.  As far as finding 5 composts, here are 4 possible sources in the Ann Arbor area.  (not knowing exactly where you live).  Worm castings, composted manure, composted yard waste and llama "beans".  Home Depot may carry Ecoscraps Compost, a veggie-based compost. Making your own compost for the future is another option.

https://annarbor.craigslist.org/grd/6063440768.html

https://annarbor.craigslist.org/grd/6062157398.html

https://detroit.craigslist.org/mcb/grd/6040546003.html

composted manure -    https://jxn.craigslist.org/grd/5991688620.html

If you have a "grassy or weedy" environment, higher beds may help.  Having weed-free isles and perimeter can also help (weed fabric and wood chips).  All of my beds are off the ground with treated wood legs.  My boxes are only 2' wide, various lengths, and have 2x4 braces underneath every 2 ft. O. C.  Well, you can see, I'm very excited for you and your SFG journey.  Keep a journal, and post photos.  We love photos.

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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/28/2017, 3:09 pm

Hi Stoven2! glad you\'re here

One thing I wished I'd done from the beginning was to make all my boxes the same size. Not sure what the size is yet because the 4' trellis' that Mel gives us the instructions for are fabulous, but I'd like narrower longs beds for reaching across. Also, the hoops and netting used to cover some beds could all be the same size, where in my current set up I have to have different sizes. Etc.

Anyway, something to think about. Have fun, and please show us photos of your progress.

CC
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  Stoven2 on 3/28/2017, 7:56 pm

Sanderson, good looking out.  I'm actually not far from A2, so I'll have to check that out!  Do you have any photos of your beds?  I'm still looking for ideas on how to construct mine so they are raised a bit.
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  sanderson on 3/28/2017, 8:19 pm

I have different styles of elevated beds.  

This one was made from scrap 3/4" plywood.  http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t19807-new-table-tops?highlight=table+top

Here are plans for my 2'x8'.  I show 2 styles of legs.

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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  Stoven2 on 3/28/2017, 8:28 pm

WOW!  Those look good!  I think you've changed the direction into something MUCH cheaper than my original plan that looks much better.  I actually just came across a HUGE source of free pallets and wooden spools in Ann Arbor that I think I'm going to check out this week and keep my fingers crossed that they aren't treated.  I'm thinking I can break them down and use them for this project vs going out and buying all new lumber.

A few questions:


  • What height do you have the tops of your beds at and are you happy with it?
  • Are you happy with having them 2 squares vs 3 or 4 wide?
  • Do you have climbing fences on the elevated beds, or do you have a different setup?


I really like the canopy setups you have as well!
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  ralitaco on 3/28/2017, 10:29 pm

I know you directed this to Sanderson and I too look forward to her answers, but I thought I'd chime in too.


@Stoven2 wrote:A few questions:
What height do you have the tops of your beds at and are you happy with it?
There is no single answer. My TableTops (TT's) are about 3' off the ground. I thought they would be the perfect height, you know about the same height as countertops. Weeeelllll, yes and no. They are a great height for my lettuce, carrots, onions, garlic, some herbs, etc. However, when my cherry tomatoes get about 5-6' tall, and they already have a 3' head start, well, you can imagine how that ends.
So, with all that rambling, I would say it depends on what you want to plant.

Another consideration, is physical ability. My 76 yo mother is very happy with her 2 - 2x4', 3' high TT's. She can easily reach them to work the soil and watch here "babies" grow.

@Stoven2 wrote:Are you happy with having them 2 squares vs 3 or 4 wide?
Another it depends answer. I have 1 - 4x4 and 2 - 2x8's. In some ways, I like having the 4 middle squares in the 4x4 for my peppers and tomatoes. But then again, my wife really likes the 2x8's and the ability to work them with ease.
Just don't make them wider than 4', you will struggle to reach the inner squares.

@Stoven2 wrote:Do you have climbing fences on the elevated beds, or do you have a different setup?
I have incorporated trellises on the ends of my 2x8's and had success with my cucumbers and beans growing up them last season.


BTW, here's a shot of my setup:
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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

Post  sanderson on 3/29/2017, 4:09 am

Stoven, I just realized in my drawing that I noted 3/4"-1" holes drilled in the bottom plywood. I now have 1/4-3/8" holes and silicon seal the inside seam between the plywood bottom and the side walls. The beds are lined with weed fabric to prevent the Mel's Mix from washing out.

1. Most of the beds in the photo are 2' in height. (a 8' piece of 4" x 4" cut in 4 pieces) The box on the right, that is used for vining beans or cucumbers has a 5 1/4 " space underneath. You can see 2 trellises leaning against the fence, waiting to be put back in for the summer. The short PVC frame over the bed is for winter covers to keep weed seeds from blowing in. I didn't cover them but I did set them up. Shocked

2. I love that all of them, except 2, are only 2' wide. I can reach from both sides to pick beans or cucumbers, tend to the plants, pick flushes of peppers from both sides. Also, the gable ends of the PVC frames are all the same and interchangeable. (Except for the 2 beds on the left which are 2.5' x 4' and 3.5' x 3.5'. They were constructed to fit the space available yet leave 2 1/2' isle, like a key hole garden) There are other beds not in the photo, plus 5-gal buckets and 2 large tote for sweet potatoes. There are are and additional five 1' x 3' beds, one 2'x2' bed, a 2'x3' bed and two more 2'x4' beds. Also, I am babysitting for the summer two 2'x4' beds on wheels.

3. I have a lot of trellises of both 1/2" EMC and 1/2" PVC. Nothing is glued together so I can tinker to my heart's content. On the beds in the photo, there are 1" PVC "cup holders" in which to set the frames/trellises.

Footnotes: As RT stated, the height is a personal choice. 2' is a little awkward to plant but great for tending and harvesting. I only need a plastic step stool to reach the tops of the trellises, well except for 2 that are 1x3' for pole beans/peas (I garden year around) and they have 8' trellises.

If you want to grow corn, I would recommend a 4' x 4' to ensure pollination. 2' x 2' are great for summer squashes and artichokes. They are such bed hogs that I don't grow them in the beds.

I have to have table tops because the roots of trees, rose bushes and shrubs invaded the boxes for the great Mel's Mix. I have been SFG since March 2013, so I learned a lot about plants, irrigation, boxes and frames to finally have all the extra do-dads I can possibly fit into this tiny suburban backyard. I also put up sun shade during the 110*F summer.

I hope all this rambling helps.

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Re: Hello from Southeast Michigan!

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