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Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

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Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/16/2010, 6:26 am

I wasn't sure if I was going to find a adopted home for my Wild Florida Everglades tomatoes, so I spent the weekend starting my second SFG box.

In the interim, it appears that I may have found a new home for the intended occupants, so this may turn into a bell-pepper box for spring;

I went with a 1 x 8 box (.875" x 9.75" x 96"), all pvc-composite wood, with low-volume irrigation, for this one;











Still thinking/designing on the trellis system & attachment method ....


Initial construction thoughts on the box size ....... BLAH.

The 1' wide boxes dont leave a lot of working room inside & took about twice as long as the 4x4 build did.

I was also concerned with "outward bow" due to the box length & relatively thin (roughly 7/8") side walls; so I added internal stiffeners on the bottom.

We'll see how it goes from here though.


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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  happyfrog on 11/16/2010, 7:14 am

ooh, exciting!!!! can't wait to see it all planted!

love the irrigation planned!!!!

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  Lavender Debs on 11/16/2010, 8:51 am

That is SO kewl. And it is only your 2nd box? What a great mind you have.

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Narrow boxes

Post  ander217 on 11/16/2010, 9:41 am

We have five 1' x 8' boxes and intend to build one more, so it is obvious that we really like them. Since they are placed next to our hog panel fence we can only access them easily from one side, and the narrow width is a must. We could have built them 2' wide if we hadn't needed the extra room for walkways between the raised beds in the center of the garden, but the narrow width makes it much easier for me to sit in a chair and work with the crops.

The boxes next to the fence help keep grass from encroaching under the fence, and they provide a useful border inside the fence to plant things needing to be trellised. We built conduit trellises next to the fence and tied string from the conduit to the top of the fence panels which made a stronger trellis.

My husband put our boxes together with screws and reinforced the outside corners with L-shaped metal plates, so there was no problem with working inside the tighter space. We had no trouble with the sides bowing out. Ours were built of 1" x 8"s.

We use our narrow boxes mainly for trellised crops including tomatoes, peas, pole beans, and vining crops such as winter squash and muskmelons. We also plant peppers and eggplants in them so we can tie the plants to the fence if they get top-heavy, and we also planted a sunflower in the corner of one this summer and tied it to the fence when it began to lean out of the box.

I like our 4' x 4' box, too, but I found that my arms are a bit short to easily reach the center squares. If I were gardening without my husband I would probably build any future boxes no wider than 3'.

Once again, I say one of the best things about SFG is its adapability to so many different needs.


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Any problems re the small size?

Post  bettyd_z7_va on 11/16/2010, 9:50 am

Did y'all run into any problems with such a small size.

I was wondering if the soil got too hot with such a small box. I've been thinking about trying this size myself, but this past summer was SO hot and dry.

Just wanted to cover all of the bases before putting out the $$s.

Pros vs Cons after experience? Thanks.

Betty

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Forgot to say....

Post  bettyd_z7_va on 11/16/2010, 9:56 am

I don't have a fence. Mine will be sitting in the garden with the heat hitting all four sides all day. No shade in summer, either.

What 'cha think? Will they still work well for me, or should I go with more soil to protect the roots from the extreme heat?

Thanks,
Betty

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/16/2010, 10:48 am

Out of complete ignorance on my part .....

Is this / should this be a concern?

I"ve lived in either Miami or Central Florida most of my life & never even heard anyone even mention being concerned about "extreme heat" on the roots.

I've only "evolved" to pretty planters and SFG's in the last year or two, but almost everything else I've done with tomatoes has been in a black 3 gallon plastic nursery bucket, or a terracotta pot, if I had the spare cash.

Scald/burn on leaves/fruit, yes ...... ? Too hot for the roots ....that's new on me

Is this concern specific to certain varieties of plants.... or something specific with Mel's Mix? Or have I just been lucky/unaffected because I always did transplants before this year?

Never even occured to me to wory about overheating the roots, in a container with 6 cuft of growing medium, after growing full-sun stuff in Florida, almost exclusively in 3 gallon buckets.


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Heat?

Post  ander217 on 11/16/2010, 11:18 am

I don't believe overheating roots were much of a factor in my boxes. We had two heat waves this summer in which the heat index reached well over 100 degrees for many days straight. Humidity was in the 90 percent range with high dew points. The plants were stressed, but most came out of it once the temps cooled.

We have several SFG raised beds with soil in addition to our SFG boxes with MM. The high heat and humidity stressed all of the garden plants about the same except maybe the okra and watermelons which seemed to love it. Our winter squash did fine in the narrow boxes, as did the basil, sunflower, baby pumpkins, and muskmelons. Some of them stopped growing during the heat waves, but when temps cooled they picked up again. The tomatoes and jalapenoes didn't set fruit during the heat wave but once the temps cooled they also picked up again. Our corn planted in soil did not pollinate during the heat even though the plants grew tall and strong.

We lost a few of the tomatoes in mid-summer, but that's not unusual for us even when we grew row-style. Next year we are planting varieties bred specifically for high heat and humid growing conditions to see if that helps. We noticed that all the heirloom tomato varieties we planted were dead by the end of summer but the hybrid Sweet 100, Italian plum, and Big Boy plants were still going strong up until early November when a freeze did them in. They even survived a light frost. As much as I love the flavor of heirlooms, I will always plant a few hybrids too, for their vigor. I suggest you research the varieties which do best in your climate. If possible find seeds from plants that have been locally grown for years or developed by your state universities. Neighbors can tell you which varieties do well in your climate, too. If the plants are adapted to your environment they should do well even in boxes.

My plants didn't do well at first and I thought it was because of the peat moss in our hotter climate. I now believe I used poor compost. Once I amended the mix by adding bone meal, blood meal, and epsom salts, the plants took off and grew very well. I think the lack of fertility had much more to do with the initial poor plant growth than the temperature of the MM.


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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/16/2010, 3:21 pm

Yeah, I've done all the Florida hybrids (all the University of FL "boys"), but to me they aren't much better tasting than the cardboard box they ship in en route to the grocery store.

Growing them yourself & letting them vine ripen definately improves any variety...hybrid or heirloom, versus something that was picked stone green and gassed at the final destination; but IMHO, the complexity in flavors/textures in a vine ripened, room temperature heirloom has no equal in the hybrid tomato world (at least not in any of the varieties I've tried over the years).

Arguably, the "improvement" between the two may not be worth the additional "heirloom headaches" of pest, temperature sensitivity, rigid growing requirements, suceptibility to disease and lower production rates ..... but I always feel better getting a single heirloom to maturity, than I do with an entire box of hybrids.

Maybe it's all mental that they taste that much better to me ..LOL Very Happy Very Happy

Anyways ....it's good to hear that I may not have been "doing it all wrong" for years and unknowingly baking root systems on my tomato plants outta ignorance.

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Mental?

Post  ander217 on 11/16/2010, 3:56 pm

I don't think it's all in your head that heirlooms taste better. For me there's no question they do. It's just that along with fresh-eating tomatoes I want some for the freezer, and so far I haven't found any heirlooms that have produced enough for me to can or freeze. I bought some heirloom seeds from Baker Creek this year of varieties that have been grown for years in Missouri, so maybe I'll have better luck with them. I'll let you know next year.

Have you tried Tropic? I saw it recommended online for growing in hot and humid areas and I ordered seed from SESE to plant next year.

I forgot you're in Florida. I suppose you have a lot of tasteless varieties there bred for the commercial growing regions. In our area we have some good tomatoes bred for local conditions including Arkansas Traveler, released by Univ. of AR in 1970, and Show-Me developed by a Univ. of MO breeder, but that one seems to have disappeared from seed racks.

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/16/2010, 5:10 pm

Yeah ... the imports & dumping of non-domestic crops killed any ability/desire by FL commercial farmers to produce anything that even holds a candle to what was grown here prior to 1990.

Some of the real early hybrids like Homestead had an acceptable trade-off .... but the stuff that come out in the last decade really leaves something to be desired. Most recent epic-face-plant has to be solar-fire ..... grow it in 100-degree heat, sit it on the shelf for a week, play tennis with it ...no problem .... but I've had tastier packets of ketchup in the drive-thru Embarassed

I miss the days when the hardest part about making a Ruskin Beefsteak tomato sandwich, was finding a piece of bread big enough to accomodate a slice of tomato.

I suspect thats the real reason that so many people grow their own tomatoes here in FL ..... it's not the growing season .... it's the fact our home produced varieties are so bad ...LOL Very Happy Very Happy

Thank god for California, OH, VA, GA and TN ... otherwise we would probably never see a decent tomato come to market.

But it's all relative .... if you never had a "real" tomato ... you never miss it Very Happy

For now (at least this next growing season), I'm committing to the Russian heirlooms and the Cherokee Blacks/purples (both from seeds...yikes)...... but, I'd like to try some mid-West varieties if I can get my hands on some transplants.

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/17/2010, 9:32 am

@ander217 wrote:My husband put our boxes together with screws and reinforced the outside corners with L-shaped metal plates, so there was no problem with working inside the tighter space. We had no trouble with the sides bowing out. Ours were built of 1" x 8"s.


Thank you for this tip .... I went back last night and put the "L-braces" (internally) on the top 4 corners and I'm a lot happier with the stability (squareness?) of the corners now.

The longitudinal "flex" is due to the material (PVC) & I should have anticipated having to brace anything over a 4' unsupported span with over 100# of applied force......silly-silly me, but easy enough of a fix.


Last edited by acara on 11/17/2010, 9:46 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/17/2010, 9:45 am

@bettyd_z7_va wrote: should I go with more soil to protect the roots from the extreme heat?

Thanks,
Betty

Betty,

Do you have any more info on this ?? I'd kind like to figure this out before I finish this box & get it planted (unlike the 4x4 SFG fiasco in September, where I learned (8 weeks after I finished/planted the box) that you don't just dump in the whole compressed 4cu bail of peat in your Mel's mix...LOL)

There's a lot of really great "expert opinion" floating around here & I don't want to discount anyones helpful advice or opinion, just because of the "I've been doing this for years & it's never hurt me yet"....LOL

Is there a ratio, or a minimum cubic feet of soil, or anything like that?

Should I be monitoring/regulating soil temperature in order to get better results?? (honestly just figured .... I live in FL ...soils always "hot"). Or is this something that I only need to be concerned on seeds and certain varieties of plants I'm transplanting.

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  LaFee on 11/17/2010, 10:38 am

Acara, I know a lot of people in Florida who are using the Earth boxes (a self-watering planter), and there are a couple of hydroponic farms in Plant City and Ruskin that use styrofoam boxes not much bigger than 12" cube. They're stacked on poles, so in full sun and all the heat a Florida summer can dish out...and nobody seems to have any issues with the roots being too warm.

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/17/2010, 11:04 am

I've seen those ...pretty cool.

Spend money to fix a problem ...I will.

Spend money when there isn't a problem ...I'd rather not Very Happy

I'm not sure I have a problem ...that's the problem Very Happy Embarassed Very Happy

I suspect that "hot roots" is a completely valid concern ... some places, with some varieties, in some situations.

However, I'm trying to figure out what "hot" is, what "hot roots" actually does to negatively impact a plant & what mitigates the condition.

Heck .... the rainfall down here has a temp of 88 degrees .... so "hot" is a relative term.

I suspect my daily or 2x-daily automatic irrigation is probably compensating for any "hot root" issues I may unknowingly have (same thing that protects the hydro folks). Again though, not knowing what the flu is won't prevnt you from getting it, so I'm trying to collect any available information on this (so feel free to chime in if ya know something).

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  LaFee on 11/17/2010, 11:47 am

the rainfall down here has a temp of 88 degrees .... so "hot" is a relative term.

Exactly!

Before you came onboard, there was a discussion about Mel's suggestion that you leave a black bucket sitting in the sun and let the water warm up before watering.

I commented that if the folks who live in the Sunbelt did that, they'd cook their garden right in the box - I've absentmindedly run water from a hose that had been laying in the sun in Florida in August and actually gotten a mild burn from the sunwarmed water! Hillsborough County runs their municipal water lines an average of 18-24" below the surface...not hot enough to burn you, but very warm in the heat of summer.

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/17/2010, 12:09 pm

Yep .... you can make soup with the first 30-second output from a garden hose down here. I've scalded plants before by not letting the water run first.

I imagine the TX/AZ folks get steam burns out of their water hoses Very Happy


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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  Odd Duck on 11/17/2010, 12:56 pm

@acara wrote:Yep .... you can make soup with the first 30-second output from a garden hose down here. I've scalded plants before by not letting the water run first.

I imagine the TX/AZ folks get steam burns out of their water hoses Very Happy


It sounds funny put that way, but you actually CAN get burns from water directly out of a sun-warmed hose down here. When I have patients that are prone to heat stress/stroke (bull dogs, overweight dogs, etc) I always remind owners that they can run water over their dog if they think they're getting heat stressed, but to MAKE SURE and run the water cool, first. I've had patients come in scalded when the owner tried to cool them off from the hose but forgot that part in their panic.

Since I'm talking about it already, I also want to say to folks to not be shy when they're out on a walk and their dog gets heat stressed. DON'T wait until you get back home, borrow someone's hose even if they're not home for you to get permission. A few minutes of intervention at the right time could avert disaster and save your dog's life.

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Midwest tomatoes

Post  ander217 on 11/18/2010, 6:59 am

@acara wrote: I'd like to try some mid-West varieties if I can get my hands on some transplants.

I have several varieties of seed I'd be happy to share if you'd like to grow your own transplants.

I was always afraid to try the Russian varieties. I assumed they had been bred for cooler regions. Do you have good luck with them in the heat?

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/18/2010, 3:27 pm

[quote="ander217"]
@acara wrote:
I was always afraid to try the Russian varieties. I assumed they had been bred for cooler regions. Do you have good luck with them in the heat?

Dunno .... this will be my first time with them

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/19/2010, 3:37 pm

More construction photo's;

HERE

Stills;

http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v102/acara/Hosted%20stuff/SFG%20Gardening/SFG%201%20x%208/





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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  acara on 11/28/2010, 6:30 pm

Finished the 1 x 8 this weekend.

Box renamed to "WFET Wall"

Construction Slideshow


I went with "portable" irrigation connection on this one; in case I want to move it later. I also added a master on/off/throttle:




I drilled the collars and ran the micro-irrigation lines through them:




I also installed individual on/off/throttle valves, so I can adjust watering for each plant & so don't waste water if one of the plants in the box doesn't make it:




Finished Box:




I went with the T-poles on this one (removable), since I have a few frost dates coming up. It makes it a lot easier to tarp/cover the plants & I dont have to worry about the plastic coming in contact with the plants.




I think that's about it until I do my heirloom box in Spring. I finally managed to get everything thats been hanging around in temporary pots, into a box/pot ...... and SWMBO (she-who-must-be-obeyed) was very pleased to see it all cleaned up.

She's been very patient with my tinkering mess, so I think I'm going to stop pushing my luck & just load her up with cherry tomatoes for a few weeks, before I start building anything else Very Happy

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

Post  happyfrog on 11/28/2010, 7:01 pm

oh, they're BEAUTIFUL!

*swoon*

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I am impressed

Post  ander217 on 11/28/2010, 7:38 pm

Wow. You rock. rock on

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Re: Started my 2nd SFG box this weekend

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