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Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

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Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  Melbourne on 3/8/2011, 11:54 am

Hi,

I'm new to SFG but I've had traditional and container gardens in the past. We've had issues with the local wildlife and certain insects in the past. We just purchased an enclosed SFG system called a "Growcamp". A total of 3 modules to start which will give us a 4x12 raised bed. I getting ready to start some seeds purchased from Johnny Seed's and transplant them outdoors in a month or so.

Link to where I bought the Growcamp from Growcamp

So now on to the questions Smile

We are located in Westchester county, New York - I'm having a hard time locating bulk vermiculite for MM. From the calculator I will need around 27 cu feet, I still plan on planting some containers as well so realistically I'll need around 36 cu feet. I've called a few of the local nursery's I've worked with in the past and the best price I can get in bulk is around $30 (with tax) per 2 cubic foot bag. None of the Home Depot's I called had vermiculite. Any SFG'er in the NY/CT (Bedford/Norwalk) area have any leads? I checked the database and did not see anything in my area.

I've put together a basic planting layout using the Gardener's supply application. I wanted to get some feedback. The growcamp limits the height of a plant due to its enclosed design - I'm planning on growing under the screens at all times this season to try and reduce loss due to insects, birds, animals, etc. The two center squares have the highest height as well as a place to tie in lattice / roughly 3.5' at the highest point.



Some notes: The tomatoes will be a mix of New Girl and Sun Gold. I'm not sure how well I can prune them back with the height restriction (any tips appreciated), the tomatoes are oriented north.

Last question, I still need to prepare the area where the SFG will sit. I have a few options, I can level and place it directly on the grass with wire mesh on the bottom to prevent the larger critters from getting in. I can dig a deeper 4x12 footprint and add gravel for better drainage and/or add pavers. Any recommendations on what's best?


Thanks Smile

Melbourne

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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  boffer on 3/8/2011, 12:17 pm

Local is best, but if all else fails, there is always Uline. Find them at Uline.com and search for vermiculite. I had some delivered a couple weeks ago and it worked out to $10 per cf. The local place I get it is an 80 mile round trip and I pay $7 cf.

Some lucky SFGers around the country are finding it for $3.50-4.00 locally.
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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  quiltbea on 3/8/2011, 12:21 pm

Have you tried Blue Seal Feeds or any other feed stores in your area for the verminculite?

That's quite a system, and expensive. I love the idea of the screening to prevent pests. Remember, you need to keep those screens up so the crops can be pollinated by bees and such and then lower them when the blossoms begin unless you want to pollinate by hand....tapping for toms, soft paintbrush for other blossoms.

You could grow determinate tomato varieties which don't grow into vining creatures like indeterminates. They come to maturity about the same time so early, midseason and late season varieties would give you toms over the long season.
I'd also put the tomatoes down the middle rows where you have the most height and also because having them all in a cluster on one side will be more difficult to harvest.

That melon and squash beside each other don't have enough room. They sprawl for many feet, even on a trellis they'll take up more than a foot of space each.

I'm sure others will give you their ideas. I'm sure you'll enjoy your growcamp.
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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  walshevak on 3/8/2011, 4:40 pm

I scrolled through the database and noticed a company called Agway in both NJ and CT. Is it possible there is also a store in NY?

Kay
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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  Melbourne on 3/9/2011, 11:10 am

@boffer wrote:Local is best, but if all else fails, there is always Uline. Find them at Uline.com and search for vermiculite. I had some delivered a couple weeks ago and it worked out to $10 per cf. The local place I get it is an 80 mile round trip and I pay $7 cf.

Some lucky SFGers around the country are finding it for $3.50-4.00 locally.

Thanks, I checked and the shipping was too much since its coming from WI. I did finally find a local nursery which has 6 cu foot bags for $59 each, so I’m going that route for now. I ordered 5 bags, I’m going to add this source to the database as well.

@quiltbea wrote:Have you tried Blue Seal Feeds or any other feed stores in your area for the verminculite?

That's quite a system, and expensive. I love the idea of the screening to prevent pests. Remember, you need to keep those screens up so the crops can be pollinated by bees and such and then lower them when the blossoms begin unless you want to pollinate by hand....tapping for toms, soft paintbrush for other blossoms.

You could grow determinate tomato varieties which don't grow into vining creatures like indeterminates. They come to maturity about the same time so early, midseason and late season varieties would give you toms over the long season.
I'd also put the tomatoes down the middle rows where you have the most height and also because having them all in a cluster on one side will be more difficult to harvest.

That melon and squash beside each other don't have enough room. They sprawl for many feet, even on a trellis they'll take up more than a foot of space each.

I'm sure others will give you their ideas. I'm sure you'll enjoy your growcamp.

Thanks, yes the Growcamp is expensive - but if it works out I plan on building a few more like it myself. We plan on hand pollinating since we’re hoping to keep the interior relatively insect free. We’ll be using DE on the soil as well. I’ll look into redoing the layout - my concern over putting the tom’s in the middle is that they will spread out and overtake the other veggies at the edges of the garden, possible shading and overall will require more pruning work if they were just at one end. If they are all at one end, there would be less to trim although hard to pick like you said. I'll move the melon - haven't grown these in years due to the critters.

@walshevak wrote:I scrolled through the database and noticed a company called Agway in both NJ and CT. Is it possible there is also a store in NY?

Kay

Thanks, We have a Tractor Supply north of us, but I found a local supplier around $10 a cu foot so I placed an order for 30 cu feet. I’m going to amend my containers with Perlite/Vermiculite mixture to keep the costs down, the SFG MM’s will 100% vermiculite.


Thanks everyone Smile

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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  MikeP on 3/14/2011, 2:36 pm

Hi Melbourne,
I have good news for ya, and I have bad news.
The good news... Check out SprainBrook Nursery in Scarsdale. They have a lot of what we need for Mel's Mix.

The bad news... This past weekend was 20% off everything. Sadly, the sale is over but this is the best price I was able
to find per cu ft in our area.
If only I had seen this post 2 days ago, you could have saved 20%...

Below is a list of what I
picked up.


  • 4 bags of 6 cu ft Vermiculite @~$47.00/bag (before discount).
  • 4 bags of Penobscot blend compost (salmon, blueberry, & mussel w/ 1/3 peat)
  • 4 bags of Quoddy blend lobster compost (crab, lobster, & aspen bark compost)
  • 4 bags of Fafard Garden Manure (hen & cow at least, he wasn't sure what else and I forgot to check the bag) (will probably go get some more)
  • 4 bags of organic Shrimp & Seaweed compost
  • 2 15# bags of worm castings (will probably go get some more)
  • 1 40# bag of chickity-doo-doo granulated chicken manure
We didn't pick up any peat as it's cheaper at Home Depot even with the 20% off, and it seems to me that peat is peat, though the quality of compost can vary widely.
We JUST found this place this past weekend, and it is right around the corner for our place... just in a location we never pass by.

They'll probably have much more stuff coming in as the season rolls on; they said that it was still a bit early for some of their shipments.

Call ahead to make sure that they still have the vermiculite. If not, I'm sure that they'll be getting it in soon or could get it in for you. For example, they should be calling me back about finding larger bags of worm castings. Very Happy

http://www.sprainbrook.com/
To see what they have, click on "Search the Catalog" on the right, then click "Tools and Supplies" and then "Soil Conditioners". The listed prices might be last years though.

Let me know how it goes!

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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  MikeP on 3/14/2011, 2:41 pm

Whoops, just saw that you are getting the vermiculite from another store. I hope it all works out for you!

If it's not too late (and it works out better for you), maybe you could cancel the order and see about getting them cheaper at the place I mentioned.

BTW, where in Westchester are you?

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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  Melbourne on 3/15/2011, 12:36 pm

@MikeP wrote:Whoops, just saw that you are getting the vermiculite from another store. I hope it all works out for you!

If it's not too late (and it works out better for you), maybe you could cancel the order and see about getting them cheaper at the place I mentioned.

BTW, where in Westchester are you?

Hi,

Thanks for the info, that is a good price on the vermiculite. I should check in here more often Smile My vermiculite order came in yesterday, I'll be picking it up sometime this week. I'll check out the nursery you linked since I still need good compost. We are in the Somers/Katonah area.

If I have time I'm going to put together the Growcamp this weekend. I spent a little time this weekend taking the parts out of the boxes and reviewing the installation instructions. A few quick observations, the Growcamp is made in China, although designed in Denmark. Time will tell how durable the plastic/vinyl is on it. It appears to be heavy vinyl fencing type of material - first assessment it appears/feels durable. The netting and clear covers have sewn on velcro strips which are used to secure them to the structure. I think a double sewn velcro strip is needed for durability, the unit only uses a single sewn velcro strip. The unit also uses wires to stiffen the structure, the wires are connected at some points to plastic, I think this is a potential point of failure, metal on plastic. The units themselves are modular, so you in theory could change the configuration over time, add/remove units. In practice I think it will be hard to take apart. Still I think the design is decent, could use improvements and I think its possible to create a DIY version for folks so inclined.

Very Happy

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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  cabinfever on 3/16/2011, 10:37 am

When you go to the hardware stores, be sure they are looking for vermiculite in the insulation aisle, not the gardening section! That's where I found it in Menards.
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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  ToddK1970 on 3/19/2011, 1:36 pm

I feel lucky that I am able to get the Vermiculite locally here for 18.99 for 4 cf. Not sure if the Southern States I buy it from ships but it might be worth a shot to check them out. Heck I could buy it and ship it to you for cheaper than you are buying it for. Let me know if you need any help getting it.

Todd

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Re: Starting up a new SFG - a few questions

Post  ModernDayBetty on 3/19/2011, 1:52 pm

@boffer wrote:Local is best, but if all else fails, there is always Uline. Find them at Uline.com and search for vermiculite. I had some delivered a couple weeks ago and it worked out to $10 per cf. The local place I get it is an 80 mile round trip and I pay $7 cf.

Some lucky SFGers around the country are finding it for $3.50-4.00 locally.

Oh boy, that sounds like a great price! Can I get the name of the place and city? It might be worth the drive! :o) And an excuse to visit some friends on the other side of the mountains.
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