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Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

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Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  kputikka on 5/29/2011, 1:31 pm

Hello everyone,

I am trying this method for my garden this year. I found Mel's book at the library last year after i had planted my very small row garden. Yesterday I went out and bought all the stuff to build the boxes and the trellises. I found a kit at Sams Club for the boxes.


I am having trouble finding the ingredients for Mels mix. I have plenty of peat moss..(actually i think i bought too much of it) but vermiculite must be a naughty word. I found one place that has it in the 4 cubic foot bags but the price that is on the spreadsheet here is for last year's price...it used to be 17.99 a bag and now they want 30 dollars a bag. At these rates, I cannot afford a square foot garden. I am frusterated. I am operating on a limited income and am trying to have a garden to suppliment our diets with healthy things for the summer. With our short growing season, most things arent ready until the end of summer, so i end up still buying veggies at the store while waiting for mine to grow.

Anyone have any suggestions? It would cost me nothing to plant these transplants i have in my established garden bed in the yard. Im out of money and considering bringing all the parts/pieces back to the store. I havent even gotten the compost yet!

Oh also i have looked online to order it, but it costs more for shipping than the vermiculite.

The kits I bought are for a box that is 3.5 feet wide and 7' long. I bought two of them. I could bring one back..
Anyway, if my calculations are correct, i would need roughly 2 bags of vermiculite at the 4 cubic foot size, 2 bales of compressed peat moss 2.2 foot size and 24 cubic feet of compost from different sources.

Thanks for reading,
Kristen

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Old Hippie on 5/29/2011, 1:56 pm

Oh Kristen, I feel your pain. In my life, I have been in your position more times than I care to admit. If you can see your way clear to build at least ONE box using the proper mix you will see the difference and find out why we encourage you to do it the way Mel describes. You don't necessarily have to do a 4'x4' box. You can do a smaller one or a different size one that will suit your budget and space. Remember that you will have this expense only once when you start up.

There are other places to look for vermiculite. I found one feed store that carried vermiculite in large bags. It cost me 30.00 for a huge bag.....I forget how many liters. The stuff at garden centres was smaller bags and much more expensive. Since then I have found that places that sell hydroponics supplies carry it too. The one place I went looked at me funny when I said I wanted it for veggies but they carried quite an assortment of scales and paraphernalia I have no need for! Wink I wondered if I was going to get busted for even going to the place. LOL!

Anyway, other ways to cut down costs are to use salvaged materials wherever you can. If you can handle a drill and a saw, you can make your own boxes for less money, leaving you more for your ingredients. Check out Freecyle in your area and post a request for some building materials....you would be amazed at what you can find for free. ( I am not called 'Old Hippie' for nothing!) Large containers are also an option. You may be able to get some free pots and use those this year instead of making boxes. There are lots of options.

If you don't already have one, start your own compost pile now. Use your kitchen and yard waste. Ask around for manure sources to add to it. You won't get to use much of it this year but it will be ready for next year.

Take heart. Where there is a will, there is a way. We would love to encourage you and help you do this because we know from experience that you will not go wrong if you follow the instructions.

Gwynn


Last edited by Old Hippie on 5/29/2011, 1:57 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : sentence structure)

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Thanks for the encouragement

Post  kputikka on 5/29/2011, 2:24 pm

Old hippie,

Thanks for the encouragement. I went to the local free site and saw that there was a guy giving away lumber. I emailed him to see if he had anything that would fit the bill for me. If i can make one for less than the 40 dollars i spent on the kit each, then that is good news. In any case i think i will return the second box if i am not able to find free lumber.. That way i will have what is the equalivalent to 2 4x4's (almost)

Has anyone used the vermiculite for insulation in the garden? Supposedly Menards sells that, but i havent gone to check.

Thanks
Kristen

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Old Hippie on 5/29/2011, 3:03 pm

I am not sure about the stuff Menards carries, since we don't have a store like that here. Nobody uses vermiculite here for insulation either so couldn't tell you about that. I do know that several people on the site have mentioned getting stuff at Menard's so someone else may chime in about that yet. It is your holiday weekend in the US so possible the site may be slow today. Hang in there.

Two 4x4's or close to it, is a great start. It is small enough to still be manageable, but big enough to give you a good idea of how well the system works. You will be amazed at how much produce you can get from that amount of space.

Best of luck to you.

Gwynn

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  milaneyjane on 5/29/2011, 3:13 pm

I am in MN about 10 miles from Buffalo. I have the exact same raised beds that you do. I know the Menard's in Buffalo in the GARDEN section carries the vermiculite you need. It is up to $20 this year. They said they raised the prices after they found out what other stores were charging Mad . Compost: Home Depot--Moonure $2.88 a bag, another general brand $1.66, and finally they also have mushroom compost for $3.97. Kmart has another compost, and depending on you location in MN, I found several garden centers with great composts. Tatanka Gardens across from Menards in Buffalo has one with horse manure, another with sheep manure.

It is expensive to get a garden going. I was going to add to my beds this year and just couldn't afford to do it.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Lindacol on 5/29/2011, 5:48 pm

@kputikka wrote:The kits I bought are for a box that is 3.5 feet wide and 7' long. I bought two of them. I could bring one back..
Anyway, if my calculations are correct, i would need roughly 2 bags of vermiculite at the 4 cubic foot size, 2 bales of compressed peat moss 2.2 foot size and 24 cubic feet of compost from different sources.

Thanks for reading,
Kristen

Kristen, how deep are your boxes? I think you have figured way too much compost.

You would probably be better off doing one box this year, then seeing how it works for you.

The vermiculite for insulation is what many of us use. But I don't have a Menards in this area to tell you if it is the same. I ordered mine from Uline and picked it up at their local distribution center (no shipping charge).

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I was planning to make the beds 6" deep

Post  kputikka on 5/30/2011, 12:15 am

Linda,

The boxes are 8 inches deep but i was only planning on filling them 6 inches deep. i used the example in the book as a guide, but as i said before i have yet to buy any compost..which means that my garden will be delayed another 2 weeks.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  CindiLou on 5/30/2011, 1:30 am

I used the vermiculite for insulation in my beds. Menard's here actually had lowered their price from the vermiculite I bought earlier this year for another bed. go figure lol...

Mel's mix is so awesome! It is much easier to work with and doesn't crust up!

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  walshevak on 5/30/2011, 1:44 am

Something is off. I filled six 4x4 bed more than 7" deep and only used 20 cuft of compost, 20 cuft of vermiculite(5 bags) and 19.2 cu ft of peat moss. (three 3.2 cu ft compressed bales). I didn't want to buy another bale for less than 1 cuft.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  shannon1 on 5/30/2011, 1:51 am

I am glad you found us. Money has been an "issue" my whole lfe which has helped me to become resourceful. Have you checked with the county extension office to see if they have free compost, some do? Even if they don't one of the master gardeners may be able to hook you up. Wink Did you check freecycle when you were there?
Vermiculite was the most expensive and hardest to find part for me too. I got a 4cubic foot bag from Ace Hardwear for 20 bucks. Make sure it is corse grade before you buy it. A freind of mine said where he lived there was a co-op where he got it cheap. No such luck in old St.Aug.
I derfered most of my cost by letting my family know that more than anything I wanted to SFG again. Do to health problems I had not been able to garden for a couple of years and needed to start over. They helped out a lot. Do you have a b-day coming up?
Another way to save money is to build gardens that are longer than 4' one uses less wood if for example you built one 4'x8' box you save 8 board feet and screws compaired to building 2-4'x4' boxes. Some people use cinder blocks to build their boxes so you might look on free cycle for that too.
Remember too you are not going to have to buy fertlizer and such if you can find 5 differant types of compost.
If you do find that you build a box deeper that 6" you have the right idea just filling the top 6" with MM.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Furbalsmom on 5/30/2011, 1:03 pm

@Kputikka wrote:The kits I bought are for a box that is 3.5 feet wide and 7' long. I bought two of them. I could bring one back..
Anyway, if my calculations are correct, i would need roughly 2 bags of vermiculite at the 4 cubic foot size, 2 bales of compressed peat moss 2.2 foot size and 24 cubic feet of compost from different sources.

Kputikka, we are so glad you joined us. I understand the concern about the cost of starting your first SFG. If you are able to find a way to build your box or boxes for less, that certainly will help with start up costs.

Because I am on a limited monthly budget, I started buying the ingredients for my Mel's Mix over a several month period so that I could have everything needed when I was building my new table tops SFGs this past spring.

Kputikka, somewhere your calculation went off on the compost. Is it possible you were looking at the total volumne of the mix, not the compost portion? If you were filling both boxes 6 inches deep, you would need the vermiculite and peat moss as listed above but 8 cu ft of blended compost from at least five types. This would be a total volumne of about 24 cu ft.

If you were filling just one box, you would need 4 cu ft vermiculite, one 2.2 cu ft bale of compressed peat moss and 4 cu ft of blended compost.

Hope knowing that you need less compost helps.

Please keep us posted on your progress, we enjoy seeing the process and results. Share pictures if you can, and again, Welcome.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  busygirl on 5/30/2011, 2:45 pm

Just wanted to echo what the others were saying. I purchased as much in materials as I could afford to begin with (lumber for 2 boxes and 4 cu. ft. each moss and vermiculite) and got compost from a friend with a farm (horse, sheep, chicken manure and straw for the most part) for simply the labor of helping clean out the pens after the long winter. I have a pickup and completely filled the bed up with the mix. Even though it probably wasn't "old" enough or "cooked" enough to be true compost, I used what I needed in my first boxes and started a compost heap with the remainder, adding my kitchen scraps to the mix and turning it regularly. I have bits of visible eggshells or shredded newspaper that are identifiable in a couple of boxes (and one avocado pit that keeps turning up) , but the plants are loving it anyway.

I put together my 2 boxes and mels mix, putting the extra mix in the vermiculite bag to save it like he suggests (btw, vermiculite in SE Ohio is almost $30 per 4 cu. ft bag) and started my seeds indoors. As time progressed, I put out the cool weather stuff (lettuce, spinach, peas, onion sets) into the first boxes I had already built then as each payday went by I gathered more materials for additional boxes (and mels mix as I used up what I had). That way the warmer weather stuff was already growing inside, and by the time it was ready to transplant I had enough "stuff" to do the boxes for it.

Now I have 7 4x8x6" boxes and one 2x2x12" (for carrots). I am giving away mixed greens and herbs already and have great hopes for everything else now that the sun has shown its face for several days in a row.

I also took some of my leftover mels mix from the batch for the last box and used it in containers. Mostly free 5-gallon buckets that I got from either people in construction (wash very carefully) or food service (many restaurants get pickles, mayo, etc, in 4-5 gallon buckets. I started all of my stuff from seeds to save money over trying to buy plants already started, and the mels mix gave me such great success with my germination that I had more plants than boxes. I have about 12 of the buckets, so that is almost another entire box sitting on my deck with tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and even a zucchini! growing away .

Right now my "buy a little every payday" plan is focused on trellis materials and supports before my plants get big enough to need them.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  shocks20 on 5/30/2011, 2:56 pm

Welcome! I was just at menards today and checked out the vermiculite in the insulation section...the bag was only about $13...not sure how much in the bag, but it was pretty big. The other place that has it in the big bag in the twin cities is Linders main garden center (not the flower marts in the parking lots of stores). I would maybe start with one box, keep the second box, but just gather the stuff for mel's mix as you can afford it. Then, hopefully by the end of summer, your second box will be ready to go for next year!

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 5/31/2011, 10:53 pm

Welcome aboard! Hope to see more of you as you get comfortable here. This is a great community and a great compliment of information after reading the book.

With our short growing season, most things arent ready until the end of summer, so i end up still buying veggies at the store while waiting for mine to grow.

Don't forget you are making an investment in all future years. SFG is not just another garden. It's a revolution in gardening! You may slowly convert (as many others have done), but you won't go back to row gardening once you gain a little experience. Your patience in putting together the SFG the right way will be rewarded.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Kelejan on 6/1/2011, 1:59 am

Perhaps you could section off a portion of one bed and work from there?
Put a board inside along the smaller dimension, and gradually extend it as you can afford more MM ingredients.

I saw a picture of one very long bed, and the person had only filled it partway along and was obviously going to carry on until the whole bed was filled. Like many of us he could dnot afford to do the whole lot at once, but at least had something growing and was harvesting lettuce etc. on a regular basis.

Best of luck.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  HieronRemade on 6/1/2011, 12:52 pm

@Kelejan wrote:I saw a picture of one very long bed, and the person had only filled it partway along and was obviously going to carry on until the whole bed was filled.

Yup I did that as well. xD

Anyway Kristen, I wasn't able to read every post carefully, but I didn't see that anyone specifically mentioned the relative cost of building beds over the ones you bought. Three 2" x 6" x 8' boards and a pack of nails for a 4' x 8' x 6" bed should run about $15. The remaining $25 you saved over the cost of the beds from Sam's would buy a good portion of your MM!

I know everyone has said this but just do what you can, take it slow and build as your budget allows. This is my first year doing SFG, and though I was able to build a pretty large bed, I also had to stop at less than I wanted to because I ran out of cash! Anyway good luck and welcome!

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Thank you !

Post  kputikka on 6/1/2011, 11:34 pm

After doing some pricing, i am going to return the kits and just buy the lumber. Cant do anything til the weekend gets here (work and all ya know) so cross your fingers for me for good weather to continue. It just got nice yesterday. sunny You are right, if i ditch the kits i can build my own and have money to spare. Im just not that handy, but I know i can do it. That is what shop class was for all those years ago in school. LOL Just wish i had some good helpers. This is the first year im doing all the planting of everything, flowers and all, by myself. Will try to get hubby to help but he's clueless when it comes to plants. He weedwacked all the onions last year and called it weeding! Laughing I was mad at first but i have to laugh about it now.

A bit off topic, but anyone know why my periennals i planted last year didnt come back up again?? I bought them so that I wouldnt have to replant flowers every year except for a few annuals...

For some good news, my Rhubarb is doing fantastic for the first time since i planted it. The first year it all died off and i thought it was a goner, second year i got a few small stocks, but not enough to pick and now this year tada! lol Strawberries are starting to flower as well and the blueberry bushes have some flowers...

Thanks for all the support and i will update once more progress is made flower
Kristen

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  westie42 on 6/2/2011, 1:55 am

At Menards the "sun gro" brand insulation variety is 3 cu. ft. per bag and most other bags of horticultural vermiculite are 4 cu.ft. Home Depot had full 7/8 inch thick cedar 8 ft long and 8 inches wide for $13.89 recently so about $28 would make one 4x4 box. Most store bought boxes struggle to be 3/4" thick. I used cardboard and newspaper for the bottom weed barrier and am very happy with that so far, weed block fabric was not necessary then. Metal interior corner brackets were about a buck each and make good sense to me.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/2/2011, 2:33 am

Kristen, don't stress over the boxes, they really are not hard to build, especially if hubby can help a bit.
Even if he won't participate in the planting, perhaps he can help you mix the MM, as that is a bit of a work out.

I'm not sure why your perrenials did not come back, but were they hardy for your particular growing zone?

Good luck on your first SFG and keep us posted on your progress.

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Ok here i go!

Post  kputikka on 6/5/2011, 11:08 am

I went to the store yesterday and found almost everything i need. Not able to find worm casings or anything like that but i did find cow manure compost 2 kinds, mushroom compost and some pine compost. So I will still have to locate more before i can mix my MM. Hubby is at work today so Im on my own for construction. I came here to check my math with the nifty caluclator and get other ideas for compost too. Gonna be a scorcher today.

Got all the lumber for 20 bucks!! I decided to downscale a bit and build 2 4x4s. This after looking at what i already have purchased to plant. Very Happy

More later

Kristen

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  westie42 on 6/5/2011, 12:09 pm

I am just a few miles from MN and have located good resources for compost. Caledonia is about 50 mile from me. If you are south east possibly some of the merchants I use could work for you. I can get bulk compost from an excellent producer of organics. An end loader scoop is $50 and will overload most pickups.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  stripesmom on 6/5/2011, 3:18 pm

Kristen, I used the insulation vermiculite from Menard's. It's the same thing they sell at the garden center, just packaged different and costs 1/2 the amount.

When I mixed my MM, using a 3 gallon bucket, I took a scoop of vermiculite, a scoop of peat moss and after mixing all the compost on a tarp, a scoop of that. I mixed it up in a wheel barrow (using a hoe and my gloved hands) and dumped it in the box. Since my DH wasn't able to help me mix the mix, this was the only way I could do it. It was also the easiest for me since my math skills are wanting.

I was in such a hurry to get my boxes set up. But, I can see now that even though I do have a nice garden going this year, next year is when I'm going to really see the best results.

If you can, do put in hoops. Especially where you are, your going to want to cover with plastic. I have hoops over mine and have used them all the time. I'm using them right now with some cloth to protect my plants from the heat and sun as it's out rageously hot here today. I kept my hoops close to the ground and I like them like that. They are really sturdy and take less material.


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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  Old Hippie on 6/5/2011, 3:55 pm

That is the way I mixed mine too. Then I could just wheel it over to the boxes and dump it in. Worked great and wasn't hard to do it that way at all.

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

Post  stripesmom on 6/5/2011, 4:37 pm

No doubt, I got that info from a post you wrote, Gwynn. I was desperately trying to figure out how to mix that up by myself. I'm an old hippie myself and the empasize is on old any more, lol. Still a hippie at heart though flower .

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Thanks for the tip on mixing...updates. How can i get a vermiculite source added to the list for MN?

Post  kputikka on 6/6/2011, 7:50 pm

I found a great local organic gardening store. The only one in the area it seems. I got hooked up! I found that they sell worm casings, alpine compost and vermiculite and so much more. Also got a bag of sea bird fertilizer to mix in a bit. Its not meant to be a compost, but i needed another source. They also gave me a bag of free compost tea.

They are called Interior Gardens Inc. and the telephone number is 612-870-9077.
1620 Central Ave NE, Suite 115
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Too bad i didnt see your post earlier about the giant scoop full. Too bad for me..

It has been 90+ degrees here so i havent been working on the garden as much as i would like. Still in the building phase. Got all the boards cut and one box is ready to fill. Laid down the ground cloth yesterday and set it in place. Didnt get much done today since our house is now "naked" as hubby said. Work crews finally came to start residing the house and so stuff is everywhere right now. They figure by wednesday they should have 95% of it done. So glad to have our house fully insulated attic and walls done today.

I havent mixed any MM yet, but i did see someone suggested a pail, so i have a 5 gal bucket set aside for this.

Just a thought..does anyone use MM for their hanging pots and planters for flowers too? I was able to plant a few of my flowers since i can do that in the porch out of the sun.

kputikka

Posts : 32
Join date : 2011-05-29
Location : Minnesota

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Re: Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

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