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Converting an existing bed to a SFG

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Converting an existing bed to a SFG

Post  AliSmith13 on 6/3/2010, 9:15 am

I just stumbled onto this site and these forums late last night and am already LOVING them! Just had to say that. So onto the question...

Alright, so this is my first year of gardening and I have already begun my garden...however, I began them BEFORE I stumbled upon the SFG way of gardening. I have two 4x6 raised beds:





There are two things to notice immediately from the pictures...1.) I did most thing in rows 2.) My soil is NOT very good. I went on the advice of my local Zamzow's and did only 1 part compost to 2 parts topsoil. Agh! I knew immediately upon putting it all into my bed that that was going to be a big mistake. Sad Any who...it's too late now.

So I'm looking for some tips as to how to convert this to a SFG. How do I get my existing soil up to par? When and how much compost should I add? I am sure the easiest would be to simply take all of the soil out when the growing season is over and replace it with compost, but I don't think I want to waste the existing soil, plus that would cost more than I would probably want to spend. So maybe take out half and replace with compost? Or should I just add a little each year?

Now, as far as the rows, I guess I will just have to convert as I harvest and replace items. As I replant, I will do them in SF sections instead of rows for my second planting. I can't wait until next year when I can start the SFG technique the right way and see the difference from this year!
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Re: Converting an existing bed to a SFG

Post  Retired Member 1 on 6/3/2010, 9:29 am

Very nice looking boxes you've built. SFG planting techniques are a lot more intensive than row planting, so even in raised beds so you definitely want a rich soil base. I'm not sure how deep your beds are, but 6" of Mel's mix is enough to grow just about any kind of crop (except potatoes and long carrots). If I were in your shoes and had already planted, I'd get several kinds of compost, mix them together and gently dig it in around your existing plants. If you have an area that isn't planted yet, pull out the top layer of soil and, if you can afford it, add Mel's mix to the top 6". If that is beyond your budget then use as much compost as you can afford. Just use several different sources (Mel recommends 5) mixed together. That will give you a good nutritional base.

AND, the only real definition of a SFG is having a permanent grid in the garden -- not the kind of soil mix or whether it's raised or in-ground. So, as you replace your rows, make a grid and begin planting according to the instructions in the SFG book. You could start, for example, with a 1x4' grid placed across your existing garden and use it as a guide as you replace the existing crops. Eventually, the grid will "grow" to encompass the whole garden.

Glad you found us and I hope you will become a regular contributor here.

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Re: Converting an existing bed to a SFG

Post  AliSmith13 on 6/3/2010, 12:06 pm

Thanks for the info! I actually can't take credit for these cute little boxes...they were pre-made at Lowes. Lol.

But thank you for the great tips! My beds are 9" deep. Unfortunately all areas of my bed are planted (these pics are actually a couple of weeks old and I need to get some new ones taken. I like the idea of adding some compost around the existing plants. I think I may try that. If I get a few different kinds and mix them together, as I slowly add it in, how should I store the unused compost to keep it fresh?

As for the grid...I am still trying to get sold on that. I will definitely read more about it and why it is so important when my book arrives, but in the meantime, I just really would rather do without it. Yes...I'm very much into the asthetics and want my garden to look pretty...and well...I'm just not really a fan of the whole "grid" look. Sad Hm...maybe if I just did the grid with twine or something that wasn't quite as visible as the actual wood/lattice/etc.?
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Re: Converting an existing bed to a SFG

Post  Wyldflower on 6/3/2010, 12:21 pm

My grid is Mason's Line, and though it doesn't glare out at you like the lattice ones, it does demarcate the square-foot sections, so that I don't over-plant the sections (I'm always tempted to put more in.)
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Re: Converting an existing bed to a SFG

Post  Retired Member 1 on 6/3/2010, 2:19 pm

Just close the bags of compost up and store in a shed -- it will stay fresh. One of our members mixes up the compost (or Mel's mix), turns the bags inside out and fills them with the combined compost or MM. He then uses a marker to mark the bags as to what's in them.

My gardens are made out of recycled materials, including the grid. I found some stout wire, cut to the inside dimensions of the garden beds and zip tied it together in the grid. It rests on the soil and is just about invisible. Actually, I skipped the grid on my squash/ melon box as they are planted farther apart (yeah, I know, SFG heresy!).

When you harvest a row and pull up those plants, use the SFG method to replant. In time your whole garden will be converted over.

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Re: Converting an existing bed to a SFG

Post  Kabaju42 on 6/4/2010, 8:11 pm

Here's a couple thoughts:

After you've read the book, you might decide to go ahead and replace the soil (there's several good reasons to do that in the book.) If you do then can you put the soil somewhere else in your yard to help another area? You might be doing different types of gardens elsewhere that you can put it, or if you have uneven ground then you can use it to level the ground.

The grid materials are really flexible. People have posted anything form twine to using painters tape (now we just need someone to use duct tape ) Look to see if you can find a black or green wire to use. The grid materials may be flexible, but the grid itself really helps organize everything.
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