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was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

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was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  cyndella917 on 4/14/2011, 2:22 pm

I started out very excited about starting a raised garden. Last year I planted a few things but we have such clay like soil nothing did very well. I heard about the raised gardens and thought this would be the perfect solution. I have been trying to round up the mm ingredients and I am getting a tad frustrated and nervous about buying enough or too much and being able to mix it properly. I plan to make 4x8x8 boxes and i havent decided if i will do 6 or 8 of them yet.I also dont know if that will be too many boxes for 7 but i can also donate to our local food pantry. I want to plant many different types of things. I have a big area where a sand box used to be that i am placing them. I called around and found 4 cu foot bags of vermiculite for $17.20 a bag. I dont know how many to buy or if that is a good price. I also saw an ad in our paper for free horse manure and i am not sure if i should get a whole truck load or again how much to get. I have no clue where to find four more types as i read some people who were buying the mushroom compost and other stuff from stores like walmart were questioning if it was good enough. I also read one lady who said the chicken compost stunk bad and others were saying it was not composted enough. I am very confused on what kinds to buy and how to make sure it is good enough to use as i want to do this right the first time.I have never used compost and I am not familiar with using it. I have tried reading through the many forums to figure all of this out but that is where I get overwhelmed as there is so much info it would take me a month to read through all of it. I live in northern IL so any help would be appreciated. cyndi

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  elliephant on 4/14/2011, 3:18 pm



You're overwhelmed because you're trying to start big. There's a reason Mel says to start small. Really. I started with 2 2x8 boxes last year. By late spring I added 2 2x2 boxes for squash. In the fall I added another 2x8 bed. This spring I added 2 2x10 beds, a 2x8, a 4x4, a 3x3 and a bunch of containers. So after just a year I have a much bigger garden than I started with, but if I had started with more than just those 2 beds the first year I would have ended up hating my garden. There's so much to learn and I really do believe it's best to start out a bit slower and work up.

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compost is my stresser

Post  cyndella917 on 4/14/2011, 3:22 pm

I think the thing that is overwhelming me the most is not size because i will have plenty of help. Its finding the compost that i need. I want to make sure it is the right stuff.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  tkdtara84 on 4/14/2011, 3:27 pm

Also-- have you read the book? It sounds like you've been learning all of this from the forum. It's a great place to learn stuff, but the book is logically organized, and it won't take you nearly as long to read as all of these posts do. See if your library has a copy. It should only take a few hours to read all the way through.

I also think you are starting too big. You have a big family, so I understand why you'd want to do more boxes, but maybe if you just started wtih two, it would be a lot less daunting. You can always add more later, but by then you'll know a lot more, so it will be easier, and if you haven't grown much before, then the two boxes will already give you more produce than you had in the past.

This is my first year SFG style, and I have two 4x8 and one 4x4 for strawberries. I thought that might be starting out too big. I can't imagine 6-8 boxes! The building, mixing, and filling are quite a job at first. It would be better to take on less at a time.

Your price on vermiculite isn't bad at all. I bought mine from Menards, and I think it works out to be a similar price, and Menards is a pretty good deal. I would hold off on the truck full of manure-- again, starting too big. If you go with fewer boxes, you won't need that much at first.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  cyndella917 on 4/14/2011, 3:33 pm

well even if i cut back on the boxes i am doing i still have to find four more types of compost. is the stuff that you buy from the stores good enough?

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  myhouseofBOYS on 4/14/2011, 3:44 pm

@cyndella917 wrote:well even if i cut back on the boxes i am doing i still have to find four more types of compost. is the stuff that you buy from the stores good enough?

I think it should be, you just have to label read. Make sure it is actual compost (no top soil or a bunch of additives. You are looking for manures/guanos and words that sound like vegatation that has been decomposing) And composts, finished composts, should smell earthy and not be very "chunky". While less than ideal big box store composts should be "good enough" for now.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/14/2011, 3:57 pm

Call around to Lowe's and Home Depot, my local Lowe's had 6 different types of compost, also try garden centers, and local farmers, which unless things have changed since I left almost 30 years ago, are plentiful in IL.

I started bigger than most, but it was either that or go with rows & beds, and my back would not let me. My help is great when I supervise it, I mean them. Maybe just concentrate on 2-3 boxes at a time, when those are filled move on to the next. We have 2 kids at home, 2 grown, and extended family we share with. We also grow to can or preserve so we can eat all year on what we grow, feeding kids gets expensive, not to mention clothing them, providing water and electicity-jeez ya think a creek and an out house would do it, just kidding. Take a deep breath, get on the phone or online, and just keep doing what you can when you can, don't stress, it will all be okay.

and keep us posted on your progress.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  cyndella917 on 4/14/2011, 4:13 pm

thank you farmervalerie, your post was very helpful. I will be making a trip to lowes tomorrow. I wont bother to call because sometimes you get someone who just tells you no we dont carry that and the dont even check.Not many farms left here, houses have been built all over. I will do two boxes at a time and then work on the others so i can have some complete. Do you plant all the same type of plant in each box or do you plant a little of everything in each box? Yes kids are very expensive and we love to eat salad and veggies so that is why I want to do this. My mom used to can tomatoes every year and I would love to can also. I am a stay at home mom so I do have some time to tend to a garden, and i think these boxes will be a great option. Living on one income makes things tight too so that was my motivation to make extra boxes so i can freeze and can stuff. I also already have neighbors asking for stuff lol. I took a breathe and now i will go back to hunting for "poop" Smile thank you again. thank you myhouseofboys also for your info.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/14/2011, 4:39 pm

I hate to see farm land go, especially when it is/was a family farm, but I tend to save my gut reaction to that for my blog, when I update it.

I'm glad you can breathe now. I'm a stay at home mom too, when I'm not teaching cake decorating, and we home school, so when we garden it's Science, PE, Health, Home Ec, and Life Skills all at the same time. Today's PE was cleaning the back yard.

I don't put everything in one box, and it drives my husband absolutely batty (which has become my new main reason for spreading it all over the place). I am trying to stagger my plantings, and companion plant. Do some reading on companion planting when you have time-get your boxes done first. There are some good threads here and if you want more PM me and I'll send you some "just the facts" links. For example, tomatoes play nice with carrots and basil, but not corn. Again, if you get some corn near some tomatoes, so what, no biggie. Don't worry about planting all your spinach and beets at one time, plant 2-3 squares at a time, then 2 weeks later plant again, that way you don't have everything coming in at one time, and if you need more of those 2 they are also good fall crops, so you can try again then.

If you plan on canning tomatoes, you will need plenty of plants, but don't stress over that this year, just plant what you plant, and make note if you need more or less next year. Who knows a friend or neighbor may have too many tomatoes and you may have too much of something else you can trade for.

Let us know when your first two boxes are done, and we'll all help you get them planned and planted!!!! Oh, and we LOVE pictures.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  Aub on 4/14/2011, 4:53 pm

I have 3 4x8 beds right now and I used 1 cubic yard of compost from my local nursery to fill 2 of them. I mixed right into the beds 1 wheelbarrow vermiculite, 1 peat moss and 2 compost. It's not quite the right mix but it's what I did.
I think you are planning on A LOT of boxes! Getting started can be pricey. I'm struggling to plant enough in my boxes. I have lots in my head but it doesn't seem to be that much in the garden.
Where in Illinois are you?

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Take it slow

Post  MSJ on 4/14/2011, 7:31 pm

I'm in kind of the same place with big plans that were maybe not realistic. I have 4 4x4 boxes and 2 4x8 boxes sitting in my garage. We've had a lot of snow this spring and that is interfering with my big plans. Then I started working on filling those boxes and it was GULP!

I decided to get the ground cloth and chicken wire stuff down and fill one box. By the time I get this box planted it will be pay day and I can start buying stuff for the second box. All this does come with a price tag and a great deal of manual labor. If you try to do too much too fast you could go bankrupt or hurt yourself. I want to enjoy this and if I overload myself it won't be fun. And if you're not having fun, why do it?

If you are close to any rural areas you might try the farmer's supply store. They may have just what you are looking for without a lot of running around searching and pricing.

My advice: take it one box at a time and don't stress.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  quiltbea on 4/14/2011, 7:51 pm

Take a step back and a deep breath.
I've sent you a Personal Message.
Hope it helps.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  cyndella917 on 4/14/2011, 8:17 pm

@farmervalerie, I laughed when i read how you like to drive your husband batty. Sometimes its just needed Smile I give you a lot of credit for being a stay at home mom and home schooling. I thought about doing that years ago with my girls but I didn't think I could teach them what they needed since I was not good in school and do not care to deal with math still LOL. I made my first fondant cake this weekend, I could of used you Smile I will look up the companion planting if i get some time, sounds interesting. I dont know that we will do corn again, we tried it last year and the racoons ripped every last one out so we didn't even get one. That is a good idea about planting the beets and spinach at different times. I am going to start with only a few boxes like everyone is suggesting and build the rest and fill as i can and see where I end up. The tomatoes are going in my parents yard who live next door. Those did decent over there and i plan to grow a bunch.Black krim is my favorite along with pineapple. I will let you know what becomes of me hahah. @ Aub I have a lot in my head also. I am in northern Illinois @MSJ I am for sure going to take everyones suggestions and come up with a plan. I think If i can track down all of the compost I will be less stressed about it. I just dont like the unknown lol. Once I know where I can get the stuff I am ok with taking things slow. I just like to make sure I do things properly to start with because I do not like to have to redo things. @quiltbea Thank you for the message, I will be checking for it. I am loving this site, everyone is so helpful and friendly. Thank you all so much

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  shannon1 on 4/15/2011, 12:32 am

You can do it!!!!! Just make sure if you do buy poo by the truck load it is already composted or you may have a smelly pile of crap that you will not be able to use right away. You go girl!

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  sfg4uKim on 4/15/2011, 7:59 am

Are you able to start a compost pile of your own?

If you start small this year and build up your own stock of compost, it will be ready next year and you won't have to worry about where to get your different forms of compost.

As was suggested before, don't try to LEARN Square Foot Gardening from the Forum - learn it from the book and supplement your knowledge with the Forum.

Also suggested, take a deep breath and relax. Remember, SFG is supposed to be FUN!

You'll do well my friend!

Kim

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I have seen women looking at jewelry ads with a misty eye and one hand resting on the heart, and I only know what they're feeling because that's how I read the seed catalogs in January - Barbara Kingsolver - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle


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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/15/2011, 8:46 am

Don't give up on that fondant, I hated it when I started, but quit for a bit (messing with it) then started teaching so I worked with it again and now I love it. Key is it's not as fragile as you think! Oh, and I make my own, if you are interested PM me and I'll send you my recipe.

Sounds like you are not as intimidated now and can enjoy the whole process, keep us posted.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  Chopped Liver MM on 4/15/2011, 8:58 am

Cindy,

I know this has been said several times, but I hope you'll take it to heart.

"Remember to take baby steps" The heart of Mel's system is to garden in a way that you don't wear yourself out! Having done row gardening as a child, I had to learn to pace myself. Instead of spending a full day, I spend a couple of hours each time I work on the setup. Later in the maintenance phase, no more than 15 minutes a day no matter how big my garden grows.

Start small. I'm helping a friend get started this year. Our goal was Two 3x3x8 boxes. It was still a little overwhelming to find the Mel's Mix ingredients, but we did so well that we ended up expanding the plan to four 3x3x8 and one 2x2x16. It was easier looking for the smaller quantities and we felt accomplished instead of downtrodden.

Finding Mel's Mix ingredients I used this system. I made a spread sheet by ingredient, source, and cost per cubic foot. I made one assumption that 40lb bags were 1 cubic foot and although that's not always the case, it's close enough. I then asked Google Maps "nursery near 27101". I called each and asked for sizes, prices, and type of compost for vermiculite, peat, and every compost they carry. I noted the price per cubic foot, and the type of compost. I also used "Farm Supply", "Feed Store" "Hardware" and a few others as search terms. I searched Craigslist and even found some free compost sources there. When I was done there were some amazing results. The same product was available for 90 cents or $11 per cubic foot... same brand, bag, etc... A couple of things I learned, there are 27 cubic feet in a yard (really?!), my local ACE hardware had great prices on the vermiculite, and driving to find things was not my friend. One more thing, if they can't bother to quote you prices over the phone, there are plenty of other places that want your business. We were done in a week getting together the ingredients.

When you mix Mel's Mix, do it in small batches. We were mixing 15 gallons at a time when one member of our group decided, "This will go faster if we mix 4 times as much!" Bzzzzt! Wrong! 15 gallon batches were taking 10 minutes to mix. 60 gallon batches took 75 minutes and we were tired when we were done. Later I used the garbage can and was able to mix 30 gallons in about 15 minutes by rolling it around.

So, don't get in a hurry. Do one bed for your early crops then expand as time allows. Relax and enjoy the process. You will get better results if you don't let it stress you out.

CL

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  boffer on 4/15/2011, 9:20 am

Wonderful post, CL. Thank you.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  dizzygardener on 4/15/2011, 9:27 am


glad you\'re here glad you\'re here glad you\'re here

Good to have ya!

You've gotten some fantastic advice in this thread. I don't really have much to add other than to echo the comments about calling around to find the composts and taking it slow your first year AND buying the All New SFG book. The book is essential.

It'll be ok. BIG hug

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/15/2011, 10:50 am

You might want to check out some local supermarkets, which occasionally olffer composted produce, yard waste, and forest products, etc., all mixed together. That would be three composts right there! Add composted steer and chicken manure, perhaps some mushroom compost, plus whatever else you can find, and you have a fine array of composts for your Mel's Mix.


Good luck. By the way, I love your avatar.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/15/2011, 11:01 am

@dizzygardener wrote:


Good to have ya!

You've gotten some fantastic advice in this thread. I don't really have much to add other than to echo the comments about calling around to find the composts and taking it slow your first year AND buying the All New SFG book. The book is essential.

It'll be ok.

+1 from me.

I'm sorry I didn't get to you sooner. You are a Midwesterner and in our Regional Forum. I wanted to extend my warmest welcome, too. You are in great hands as you can see. Don't hesitate to either ask the forum a question, or PM me, or others, if you are more comfortable with that. We are all very eager to help in any way we can. Welcome aboard!! Of all the forums you've read, you picked the right one to register with.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  cyndella917 on 4/15/2011, 12:51 pm

I guess I was lucky to pick this forum if I am in the right one because I dont even know how I got to it except I saw the word compost LOL. Thank you chopped Liver That was some really helpful information. I am not good at math at all and my next issue was gonna be with measuring out all of this stuff:) I will probably still have questions concerning that. I think mixing in small batches would be a good idea. I started calling some places today and it is frustrating sometimes because they will tell you right off the bat no we dont carry that and they havent even looked. One place I called had a compost of 40% leaves 40% grass and 20% dirt for $27.75 a yard. Would that be acceptable and if so is that a high price? Would that be considered one type of compost? You guys are so awesome by the way. I am learning so much already.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/15/2011, 12:54 pm

I gotta run pick up kiddos from a half day of school. Someone link cyndella that MM calculator please.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/15/2011, 12:58 pm

I get compost like you mentioned for $30 for 30 cubic yards, that's $1 a yard.

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

Post  Chopped Liver MM on 4/15/2011, 2:05 pm

Glad to be of help. There is a calculator here that will help you know how much Mel's Mix (MM) you'll need. Based on your first post you're building 4x8x8 boxes. If you fill them 6" deep you'll need 16 cubic feet (cf) of mix for each box. If you are growing root crops (carrots, etc) you might want to fill one box 12" deep, so for that box you need 32 cf. Personally we built a 2x2x16" box and that's more than enough for our root crop needs and filled to 12" deep it needs 4 cf.

So, figure out how many boxes you'll build and sizes. Calculate the total number of cubic feet of MM that you need. Now take that number and divide by 3. This will tell you how much of each major component you need. Take the result of the last item and divide by 5, this is how much of each compost you need.

Using a scaled back version of your plan... You'll have Two 4x8x8 boxes and one 2x2x16 box. The 4x4x8s use 16cf each and the 2x2x16 uses 4cf. So that's 36 cf total. Divide by 3 to get 12 cf. So you need to buy 12 cf of Vermiculite. You need 12 cf of peat, UNLESS it is compressed. Compressed peat doubles when you fluff it so you'd only need 6 cf of compressed peat. For compost you also need 12 cf total from 5 sources, so you need 2.4cf of each compost.

I'm not sure if what I'm about to say is right, so hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong. I think the point of 5 sources is to get diversity so if one source is a dud, you still have a fighting chance. So your place that has the compost of 40% leaves 40% grass and 20% dirt is a single source. You still need 4 other sources. We could debate on the 20% dirt all day but let me just say if you can avoid it, that would be great. Remember that 20% means 1/5th of that compost component will be ineffective at it's role.

When you go to mix the composts, make sure you wet a portion of each compost and smell it. If it smells earthy, mix it. If it doesn't, it isn't fully composted and you need to finish it off first. When I mix I use an enclosed plastic feed scoop. You can also cut off the bottom of a milk jug. Size isn't important. To mix I take a scoop of each compost and put it in my garbage can. Then 5 scoops each of vermiculite and peat (fluffed before scooping because I use compressed peat). Close the lid, make sure it's strapped so it doesn't open, and have the kids play roll the garbage can. About 5 minutes later, it's well mixed and goes into my mixed Mel's Mix container (lol).

As for calling places, keep trying. Tell them you want to buy a large quantity and would like to consider them. Sometimes that motivates. I had my best luck with small nurseries as they want my business. I drove by some of the big box stores and ACE because I was in the area. When buying off Craigslist I had to ask how much I was getting for $5. A scoop is not a measurement as scoops come in all sizes. (lol)

To prices. The least expensive compost (leaf) I used, $0.93 per cf and the most expensive (mushroom) was $6 per cf. The compost you mention above is $1.04 per sf. ($27.75/27cf in a yard). That's on par with the cheap stuff and is likely priced that way because it has 20% dirt in it.

By the way, please keep asking questions. I've wanted to write all this down and you're asking great questions. Wink

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Re: was excited now i am feeling overwhelmed

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