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Why 4x4?

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Why 4x4?

Post  AliSmith13 on Wed 2 Jun 2010 - 22:39

Ok, so I JUST (at 11:00 at night) stumbled onto a youtube video which led me here, to Mel and to the whole SFG idea. So I've been scoping around the forums and website, in addition to researching on google and one question remains unanswered for me. Why 4x4? I am just curious as to why that is the dimension that is suggested by Mel. I am guessing it doesn't REALLY matter what size you do, as long as it's only 4ft max in width so that you can reach the center from both sides without walking on it, but I am just curious why 4x4. Anyone know? I just ordered his book and can't wait to dive into it when it arrives, so maybe the answer is in there, but just had to ask.
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  LaFee on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 0:39

Mostly because 4 x 4 is a manageable size -- it can be moved easier (if one would want to move it....) and you can walk all the way around it.

Lots of us have longer boxes -- mine is 4 x 8 -- somebody has a 2 x 10 along their fence (sorry, don't remember who...)

The length is flexible...but anything longer than 4' wide means you have to step on the soil to get to the stuff in the middle...which compacts the soil in your box and is probably the biggest cardinal sin in SFG. The growing medium in SFG is very light and airy, and very, very rich...so keeping it that way is crucial. (Makes weeding easier, too...lighter soil means it's easy to rip them out!)

You've found a really terrific method of growing a garden. I'm growing my first garden since I was a little girl having an old-fashioned row garden...and I'm finding out that my thumb isn't nearly as black as I thought it was...I'm even finding a little hint of green in a few places.

I'm having great success with my vegetables -- it's early here, still, so I've had radishes and tomatoes, but I have things growing in every square...and I'm turning the pent-up energy into renovating the various flower beds around our house....and starting to get compliments from friends and neighbours as to how nice my flowers are looking.

(I still really, really prefer the SFG, though...tilling up clay flower beds is hard work!)

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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  jenjehle on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 4:52

(AliSmith13) "I just ordered his book and can't wait to dive into it when it arrives, so maybe the answer is in there, but just had to ask."

Just a thought... you could see if your local library has it and check it out so you can start reading right away! Then pick up where you left off when your book comes in the mail Smile That's what I did btw, just b/c I was so eager to get reading!!

Here's just one quote in the book that may shed some light:

If you decide to use lumber, you'll be happy to know the advantage of 4 x 4 gardens is that all lumber comes in 8-foot lengths.

You can produce SO many veggies in 16 squares! It's a good size to start with and not be overwhelmed. But there are many other variations to go with like LaFee mentioned.

Mel says in the book that many ppl give up on their gardens b/c it's it turns out to be more work than fun. And it's just not enjoyable b/c there's so much to be done (tilling each spring, amending soil, pulling weeds) But with a SFG, you only need to add the Mel's Mix once, then you're done! After the initial set up the first year, after that you can get up and running each spring much earlier than the average gardener. While they're still getting their soil ready for the season, your first seedlings are emerging Smile

That's one of the best parts. Since the soil isn't in the ground, it warms up faster and you can plant things much earlier in the spring. Not to mention, many row gardeners have to wait for their soil to dry out from the winter months. The Mel's Mix in a SFG dries much faster and it workable much sooner. Your neighbors will be jealous and next thing your know they've wondered over into your yard to ask about your garden!

A 4 x 4 box can easily be placed close to your house that you can simply step out your door and there's your freshly homegrown food! You can easily grab what you need for the meal your preparing. I even send my kids out to pick what I need! And since they helped me plant they know where things are. Not every kid these days could spot a crookneck squash!
The book is great. I'm confident you will thoroughly enjoy it and if you decide to try SFG'ing, you'll love it. Don't know anyone who hasn't! If you haven't done so already, find your way to the "Gallery" to see what others have done with the simple SFG idea. There are so many creative ppl here on this forum!

Welcome to the forums... by the way!!! Any other questions that pop up, please ask away! You'll be amazed at how many nice, helpful, experienced gardeners you'll find are here in these forums!
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  AliSmith13 on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 5:50

Ok. I already LOVE these forums! Smile What great responses! Definitely love the idea of checking out the library. Why didn't I think of that??

Alright, so that definitely makes sense about the 4x4. I can see how with being a beginning gardener you would want to start small.

As for me, we moved into our first home a couple of months ago and started my first garden in the backyard. I put in two 4x6 raised beds and had already begun before I found out about the SFG technique. Sooo...I will have to transform my beds into the SFG bed next year. The biggest challenge will be getting the soil up to par. I went on the advice of my local Zamzow's store and they had me put only 1 part compost to 2 parts topsoil in my garden beds. I found out quickly afterward how hard that made my soil! My plants still seem to be doing great, so it seems to be ok, but I definitely can't wait to have nice fluffy, healthy soil!

I think I will post a topic right now with some pictures and ask for advice about making the switch.....Smile
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  Retired Member 1 on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 6:18

Welcome! Several folks here started with raised beds and gradually (or not so gradually) switched to SFG. Look for timwardell's posts -- he layered Mels mix on top of top soil since his beds are 12' deep. I did something similar in that I started with lasagna beds (basically sheet composting) and have layered MM on top of some of those, plus have a few beds that is all MM.

I started with SFG in the mid-80's when I found the first book. It is a great way to garden, and doing raised beds makes it all the more easy.

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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  martha on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 7:52

Welcome, AliSmith! Yes, post photos please. First of all, it is easier for us to know exactly what questions people are asking, and second, I love seeing people's gardens!!

And I am even going to finally post a photo of mine today!
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  AliSmith13 on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 8:15

I did post a couple of photos HERE

I will be posting more soon...Smile I, too, love roaming through the galleries to see photos of everyone's gardens. I do wish you could leave comments on photos though! Or can you and I'm just not seeing it?
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  Colin.B on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 8:34

Love the half posts you used to make the beds ,good luck with the veggies

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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  AliSmith13 on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 8:59

Uh, yeah...I can't take credit for those. These were pre-made beds I bought at Lowes. I wanted to build my own, but was impatient. I also just loved the look of these. Now the only bad thing is when I expand my gardening area next year and want to put more beds in, I will have to find the same lumber to somewhat match these if I build myself or else I'll have to buy more of these pre-made beds (which I would really rather build my own). I want them to all look uniform as I expand...
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  Colin.B on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 9:04

I built mine out of 2 by 10's so they'd last ,it cost a bit but nowhere near what those horid green plastic pre-built ones would have cost . I built 3 x 4 feet by 10 feet for the price of 3 x 1 metre by one metre thats including all screws and corner stakes . They look prettier now i painted them a green colour too

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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  Wyldflower on Thu 3 Jun 2010 - 9:17

Those are beautiful, but I sure can understand wanting to build your own. One thought.... when you build additional boxes for next year, you could shift one or both of these to a different spot, in order to make sure your garden design balances. The other boxes don't have to match, as long as they 'blend' with the feel of these.

I'm going to be shifting my boxes and building additional boxes next year, so I do know it will be a pain to empty the existing boxes before moving them - but it will be a small price to pay for a garden that works the way I want it to.
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Re: Why 4x4?

Post  Kabaju42 on Fri 4 Jun 2010 - 17:05


Welcome to the fourms!

I think you pretty much answered your question in your post. The standard SFG box size is 4' wide so that you can reach in without stepping in, and 4' long just makes it nice and square and manageable like the other said. I made a 4'x4' box to start off with in mine and I just added a 4' by 2' box for tomatoes and peppers.

I'm sure you'll enjoy the method.
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Re: Why 4x4?

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