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New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

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New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  jercarol on 3/15/2011, 7:37 pm

Hello,

This my first year SFG. I have done row gardening the last 2 yrs and am sick of weeds/work. I have a couple boxes built and plan on several more (family of 5 and lots of lazy friends).

My local garden center (actual center not Home Depot) told me that growing conditions in my area (NE corner of MD) are not always good for SFG. She said that the tomatoes need a 3x3 box per plant and squash should be in the ground. She said the tomatoe/squash do not get enough air and crowding spreads disease.

My question is - Do any of my fellow Marylanders (or Delaware/SE PA) have any opinions? I was surprised at the number of cukes, tomatoes and squash that Mel says can be grown in a 4x4. Any help based on experience would be appreciated. :idea:

Jerry

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  windrider1967 on 3/15/2011, 8:17 pm

I am fairly new to the whole SFG thing as I have yet to plant my first bed. I have found that alot of folks at the garden centers/home improvement stores just DON'T GET IT. I had all the folks at the lumber yards tell me I COULD NOT use untreated lumber for my beds, like I really want all the chemicals etc in my vegetables.

I have had garden folks tell me that you CAN'T plant closer than the packet directions. You NEED to plant carrots in rows 1 ft apart and leave 2 ft between your rows of peas. I think it is the "Because we always have" mentality at work.

Don't let anyone tell YOU what you CAN'T do. If all else fails - as has been said on here - they are just seeds
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  Megan on 3/15/2011, 8:51 pm

Hi Jerry,

Welcome to the forum and to SFG! glad you\'re here I am a little south and west of you in Manassas, VA, but our zones are probably same or similiar. Last year was my first year of SFG, though I grew up on a traditional farm.

It sounds to me like your garden center associate may possibly not be truly familiar with SFG. Did she ask you whether the tomatoes you wanted to grow were determinant, indeterminant, and whether you planned to trellis them? Did she ask you whether the squash you wanted to plant were bush or vining type, and whether you planned to trellis those? All these questions are important to planning incorporation of these plants into a SFG.

Tomatoes DO need air, yes. That is why we prune them. Last year I grew two indeterminant tomatoes 1 per square on trellis with a short plant in-between (so the vines were more like 1.5 squares wide, as I'm not a great pruner yet!) and an indeterminant cherry tomato in effectively one square (a 12" pot with a tall cage). We have some professional tomato growers here on the forum who can tell you much more about this, but I say it can be done.

As for squash...I'm grinning here as I had mad success with squash last year in my SFG. Yes, they can be grown in the SFG. They can be trellised, or sprawl inside the box (a la Three Sisters), or sprawl out of the corner of a box.

My cukes did well last year, too, before the cuke beetles killed them. Mine were a vining type--there are both bush and vining types of cukes, too. I didn't know what kind mine was before I planted them; had I known it was a vining sort I would have planted more per square.

With any big vining type of plant, you need to anticipate some chaos and intergrowth. (That, or you are a SUPER-DUPER-ACE-PRUNER like our Acara!) But you can certainly grow them in a SFG. Just anticipate the growth patterns and allow sufficient room. In general, the bush/non-determinant types of plants take up more squares. The vining ones take less squares but will need trellis room or sprawl space. Eventually you get used to looking for cucumbers in your pole beans. Wink

And yes, they are just seeds. Try it! Very Happy

Hope this helps. Happy Gardening! flower
Megan
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  Mikesgardn on 3/16/2011, 10:27 am

Jerry,
I'm in central Maryland. As long as you get indeterminate tomatoes (vining), and you grow them up a trellis, you can plant them one-foot apart. But don't make more than one row, or the southernmost row will shade the northern row. If you chose determinate tomatoes (bush tomatoes), they will need a 3'x3' space.
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Thanks

Post  jercarol on 3/16/2011, 3:33 pm

Thanks for the replies! I feel more confident already. I will be planting my first box this week with lettuce, raddish and carrots.....maybe something else.

I will be checking back a lot as the season progresses. I want to see what types of tomatoes, squash and cukes people like. I am partial to the long fancy cukes.

Anymore opinions???? Keep them coming. I really want to make it work.

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  Megan on 3/16/2011, 3:52 pm

I grew Poona Kheera cukes last year and loved them. They are not your typical garden-style cuke, but they are not especially long, either. They are tan-colored when ripe, and very crisp. I want to grow those again this year, and I also got another variety called White Wonder that I want to try. I never heard of either variety before I got the seeds, just experimenting and having fun. Smile I got both from Baker Creek.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  sfg4uKim on 3/16/2011, 6:57 pm

Hi Jerry:

I'm just south of Baltimore and haven't had any trouble with tomatoes either - as long as they are REALLY pruned.

Kim

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Cukes and pruning

Post  jercarol on 3/16/2011, 9:17 pm

Thanks guys.

How did you trellis your cukes????

Is there a good link on tomatoe pruning???? I have always staked them in rows and let'm go! lOL

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  kimbertangleknot on 3/16/2011, 9:23 pm

Hi there! I'm in NC, but I grew 8 tomato plants in a 3x3 raised bed last year. I had tomatoes coming out of my ears. Don't let people put nonsense in your ears that it can't be done. Obviously it CAN be done, Mel's books and this forum are proof of that.

I totally agree with everything people have said, most people just don't get it and just assume they know what SFG is. It really is it's own thing. It's like trying to compare coconuts to corn, there's really not a comparison. Just like people will say don't use this, use THIS instead. Who says? Who makes the rules? It reminds me of a song by Jem called "They" a particular line(s) goes "Who made up all the rules, we follow them like fools, Believe them to be true, Don't care to think them through" I've become quite sick of people telling me what shouldn't be used.

For SFG Inter. Tomatoes can be planted 1 per square where they won't shade other crops. I'd post more, but I completely forgot what else you said and it's not showing up in the history, lol. Either or! Just remember that everything that Mel says in his book worked for him and his growing environment. Here where I live, there's no way I could get away with the watering he does, and with the intense heat, high humidity, and lack of rain there's just some some that can explode in the conditions and others that just wont do diddily. Just try, and if it doesn't work, try it a different way. There are no set rules, just have fun!!

http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/pruning-tomatoes.aspx Look at this for pruning. There is also a video somewhere on that site that was dead useful for me.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  Megan on 3/16/2011, 9:23 pm

Poonas (cukes) really do vine; I started them on cages and they kinda took off from there and clambered onto whatever else vertical they could glom onto, which in my case was a 6.5-ft trellis a few feet away! It didn't get all the way up but it seemed to be happy to climb toward the light wherever it could.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  camprn on 3/16/2011, 9:24 pm

jercarol wrote:Thanks guys.

How did you trellis your cukes????

Is there a good link on tomatoe pruning???? I have always staked them in rows and let'm go! lOL
There is some good info here in this thread. there are a few more threads on the subject that you can find using the search feature. Very Happy Tomato Pruning

click here~~~>
How to video on pruning tomatoes

Another video
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/16/2011, 9:47 pm

It sounds to me like your garden center associate may possibly not be truly familiar with SFG.

QFT!! +1

This statement, and then the following educated, experienced responses are all you need to know about SFG's success in your area.

Personally, I am so glad you decided to double check your source. I wonder how many people just take the garden center's advice as gospel and are just giving up on SFG?

Not that there was malicious intent....just ignorance likely. Oh, and welcome aboard!
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  jercarol on 3/16/2011, 11:38 pm

Thanks so much folks. You all are great. I will go for it this year and do it Mel's way. I will check out all the links. Duh, on the search engine. I am excited to get my first box planted tomorrow! Very Happy

I take it everyone has had success on the summer squash and zucs? I love crook necks and zuc!

I always double check sources....I am a cop. lol

Jerry

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Welcome

Post  ander217 on 3/17/2011, 11:21 am

Welcome to the forum, Jerry.

It sounds as though you are going to do fine with your new SFG.

I grew one indeterminant tomato per square last year and as long as I kept them pruned they did fine. I had one Rutgers variety (determinant) that got bushy, but I planted it in the corner where it had room to overflow the box. I also tied it to the fence to keep it under control.

I've had good luck growing Yamato cukes in our hot, humid summers. I also like growing Green Metzki Melons, a cucumber substitute that handles the heat and humidity well and isn't as susceptible to insects.

Keep us posted on how your garden grows.

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/17/2011, 2:27 pm

I take it everyone has had success on the summer squash and zucs? I love crook necks and zuc!

I wouldn't say everyone has been without problem. But, I would say that if you are having a problem, someone here has likely had it, too. Some things are just unavoidable. But, as you know, your best ammunition is preparation and anticipation.

God Bless the job you do. I couldn't do it.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/17/2011, 4:40 pm

Keep in mind that Michael Jorden was told by his Jr High coach he should find something else to do, and Albert Einstein flunked math. It's also a good thing the Wright Brothers did not listen to those who said they could not fly. I had 16 tomato plants in a 4x4 last year, I DO NOT recommend this, but I did it and it worked, so if you want to know something, try it.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  kimbertangleknot on 3/17/2011, 4:43 pm

FarmerValerie wrote:Keep in mind that Michael Jorden was told by his Jr High coach he should find something else to do, and Albert Einstein flunked math. It's also a good thing the Wright Brothers did not listen to those who said they could not fly. I had 16 tomato plants in a 4x4 last year, I DO NOT recommend this, but I did it and it worked, so if you want to know something, try it.

I should also point out, that the 8 tomato plants I had in my 3x3, I also DO NOT recommend, but it too worked. lol.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  camprn on 3/17/2011, 10:14 pm

I staggered my tomato plants every other square and with the pruning I was quite happy with the arrangement.
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  jercarol on 3/18/2011, 5:55 pm

Thanks so much for all the help. I love the pics of the tomatoes. I don't think I will try a a dozen in box this year but I will try 4 and plant other things in between. I posted on the Compost thread about composting. I just put 3 layers of leaves and 2 layers of manure in my box. I dont think it will be ready before I do my summer planting so I will have to resort to buy some more mix. I may have to cut down on the boxes do to the cost of the compost......

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  boffer on 3/18/2011, 6:16 pm

jercarol wrote: I may have to cut down on the boxes do to the cost of the compost......

Welcome to the forum. That is one of the reasons why Mel suggests starting off on the small side the first year. It will give you a chance to make your own compost. I figure Mel's Mix costs me $2 per square foot if I use my own compost but $5 per square foot if I have to buy my compost. My costs for vermiculite seem to be higher than most of the country, so your costs may be less.

I was reading your compost thread. Get your garbage disposal out there every other day to turn the pile. And while he's there, make sure he pees on it. Human urine is a catalyst that will accelerate the decomposition process.

But, given your profession, I'm sure discretion will be in order! who?me?
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  Megan on 3/18/2011, 6:18 pm

kimbertangleknot wrote:I DO NOT recommend, but it too worked. lol.

....and I had 4 squares of corn, 2 squares of pole beans, a rampicante and a crookneck squash in a 4x4. I don't think Three Sisters was ever intended for rampicante....live and learn! Laughing

Nice box there, Camprn! Did you have any trouble with the tomatoes shading out your peppers?
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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  itsablondething on 3/23/2011, 9:44 pm

I am right over the boarder of MD in PA. (literally in one of those "border towns"

I had tremendous success with tomatoes and squash in my SFG last year, and didn't prune nearly as heavily as recommended... just kept weaving the grown of the plants through my mesh to support it. Plants grew 2 foot over my 7 ft supports. My tomatoes weren't as big as some years... but then in talking to my coworkers, NONE of them had big tomatoes last year, even with traditional gardening methods.

The ONLY crop I had issues with is planting corn... it looked beautiful at first, pollinated very well... and amounted to nothing. If I do corn again, I won't plant 4 to a square!

My planting area is so small I have no option but SFG

Good luck!

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Tomato plants

Post  tommy on 3/30/2011, 6:22 pm

I'm (guessing here) just south of you in Galena and grew plenty of tomatoes last year and found it to be real easy. I also grew watermelons and plenty of peppers and salad items. My suggestion would be to plant the tomatoes on the northern edge of your garden so they don't shade the rest of the plants. I had mine growing on the net as suggested by Mel and it worked great. The only thing I really noticed was how much dirt I lost when I pulled up a few of those heirloom roots. Just try something and have fun and remember if it doesn't work out, try something different next year. I built a 4x4 dedicated to asparagus this spring and another for alpine strawberries.

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  jercarol on 4/1/2011, 3:59 pm

I can't wait to plant the warm weather crops!!!! Lettuce, raddish, spinach, and carrots are all popping up. I have had to cover them at night but so far so good!

I will be using box wire fencing for my toms and vines.

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Re: New to SFG in Maryland - Questions and contradictions

Post  bakermtb on 7/3/2011, 9:56 pm

This is my second year for SFG. Last year was great. I used Mel's mix and had 7' high tomato plants 1 / sq. with plenty of tomatos.
Squash was great but plant them according to the new SFG book. They got big on me.
Cukes were good but had bug issues last year. They are doing great and have picked two and will pick more tomorrow.
If you follow the book you will be rewarded for the efforts. I did not follow the book in some areas last year and paid a price. This year is a different story. Lettuce, spinach, radish have been fantastic!
I will take SFG anyday compared to the old way of gardening. When there are weeds(not many at all) they are so easy to pull. Mike Very Happy
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