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Trying to get started on my first SFG in MN

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Love the hoops!

Post  kputikka on 6/6/2011, 7:54 pm

@stripesmom wrote: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.



I am planning on putting my boxes in areas that get some shade too for the hot afternoon sun to prevent from cooking the veggies, but i think i might have some extra materials to get the hoops for one at least...

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

Post  milaneyjane on 6/6/2011, 9:09 pm

OoooH! Thanks for the heads up on Interior Gardens. I will have to check them out!

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

Post  shocks20 on 6/6/2011, 9:21 pm

Kristen-
I am using MM in all my pots, veggies or flowers...they seem to do well! Definitely worth trying if you have extra MM after filling your boxes.

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

Post  westie42 on 6/6/2011, 10:01 pm

I filled a couple hanging baskets with it then transplanted my spider plants into them. They think it's plant heaven. I try to keep about 50 gal extra MM on hand for whatever opportunity comes along and they sure do come along.

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Getting a late start, but boxes are made and mixing MM. Help! Did i screw up?

Post  kputikka on 6/12/2011, 12:28 pm

Morning all!

My boxes are all made and I have mixed my first ever batch of MM. I decided to do two batches since i have the two boxes, with the thinking that each one would get the best ratios if i did two batches. Now my question is, "Did I do something wrong?" I used the Calculator here that said i should have 2.67 cubic feet of each in it and .57 of each of the composts. Well only one bag of my compost was measured that way, so easily enough i dumped the whole thing in. What it boils down to is if i used a 2x6 board, shouldnt it be full? I had to guesstimate in the rest of the measurements. I found the vermiculite in the extra course but it came in 1.5 cubic foot bags. Since i found the other at the other store i posted above after i bought these, (which i had someone buy for me so i cant bring them back) I dont have the 4 cubic foot bags.

Heres what i put in it: for one box

.57 cubic feet worm casings
approx one half bale of spagum (misspelled i know) peat moss originally the 2.2 bale size
approx half cubic foot mushroom compost
.5 cubic feet of alaskan pine humus (bag was marked that way)
approx .5 cubic feet manure/chicken litter mix
1 1.5 bag vermiculite and a bit from a second bag
3-4 handfulls of seabird guano pellets, since this doesnt come in large bags and is a pellet form
half a cubic foot of organic mix that had sea bird and fish compost in it.


I have watered it 3 times, thinking that it would expand or something, but its still not full. Im supposed to mix up the second batch today and start planting the transplants today. I mixed it around after watering, the water isnt penetrating to the other layers.

Also the compost seems to clump up. I took my ice chipper and tried to break up some of the clumps, but there isnt a way i can get them all. Not sure which one of the bags was at fault since i had hubby helping me. Injured now, so thats another reason that this is running so late..

I need to finish this today, please advise. Quick response appreciated

Thanks

Kristen

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vermiculite...

Post  kputikka on 6/12/2011, 1:23 pm

Well in thinking about it more, perhaps i need to add more vermiculite. Since I need 2.67, I probably didnt add enough since i didnt add a whole half a bag to it to make 2 cubic feet.... Back outside to see what it looks like after the last watering...

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

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 6/12/2011, 1:43 pm

Here is what I would do since you have a separate batch to make.

Use the bucket method.

Grab a bucket (the size isn't important, but it stands to reason that a tea cup won't be as easy to use as a 5-gallon bucket). Take ALL your composts and toss them on a tarp. Mix them well. Take your peat moss and form a second pile somewhere and if it was compressed, fluff it out well....maybe even mist it a bit to moisten ever so slightly. In a third pile, dump your vermiculite. You should have 3 separate piles.

Now, take your bucket. Fill one bucketfull of compost and go drop it in your SFG box #2. Go get a bucketfull of peat and dump it in box 2. Go get a bucket of vermiculite and dump it in box 2. Mix and repeat.

If you are like me and want to be more efficient, maybe you go 3 buckets of compost, etc, before you mix within box #2. Or, maybe 5. Just as long as you are bucketing and dumping in equal parts. You can't mess up your mix this way easily. After each mixing within your SFG, you take the hose and moisten the MM. Keep going until your box is full.

It's time-consuming and a pain in the hee-hoo, but it's the best way to mix ingredients that come in different volumes and weights. Your compost gets evenly mixed and your peat moss gets fluffed.

I hope this answers your question because I won't be around much today for follow up. I hope others jump in here soon and add to, correct, or follow up where necessary. Good Luck!

edit: Don't panic about this process too much. You are trying to get close to third/third/third. You will likely know if you have way too much of one ingredient. If you miss heavy on one thing, make it the compost, but don't overdo it. Remember, we don't have to be exact here.....we aren't trying to cure cancer in beakers and pipettes. A lot of us micromanage these things, myself included, and cause undue stress on ourselves. Remember, plants grow in dirt, too. Whatever we are doing, we are making a much better environment. We are just trying to get as close as we can to Mel's concepts without losing a ton of sleep.

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

Post  westie42 on 6/12/2011, 3:03 pm

If you are dragging it in a tarp that will help unclump somewhat but I hand broke a lot of mine. Plenty of tarp rolling is the best answer for a good mix Im my case. I built two 12' boxes at 10" depth so I got a real good workout. The first box was as close to the book as possible. Two weeks later I filled the second box. The first one looked as if it was lighter color than I am used to for healthy soil colors here. So I added excess composts in the mixing process. About 1/3 more compost that the book calls for. Now that both boxes are feeding me salads clearly the second one with the extra compost is significantly outperforming the one by the book. In the future all my compost will be home brewed as much as possible and I will continue to over stuff with compost just a bit.

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Taking a break from mixing batch 2

Post  kputikka on 6/12/2011, 3:59 pm

Came in to see what you experts had to say. On the last batch, we mixed compost in wheelbarrow. This time I decided to use the tarp. I found that the most expensive brand had pebbles!! in it. I ended up dumping each of the brands on the tarp so i had 5 piles of compost and then i went through each one, unclumping and doing my own version of quality control. No rocks!!

I didnt know about fluffing peat moss. What i did this time so far is take it by handfuls until i had my 5 gallon pail full. I broke up all the pieces in it and let it fall into the bucket, kind of like how you play with sand. Is that good enough? I only have one tarp...

So far i have 5 gallons of compost, 5 gallons of vermiculite and 5 gallons of peat moss. I dumped all the buckets in my wheel barrow and mixed there. That could also have fluffed the peat moss more i guess. I am waiting for hubby to come home to help with the rest. My back and knee are out again, making bending and moving difficult.. Should have built a table top!

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

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/12/2011, 4:08 pm

In your first box, since you were looking for 8 cu ft total, you were still short on the vermiculite.
using 1.5 cu ft bags, in order to get a total of 2.67 cu ft of vermiculite, you need one whole bag and just over 3/4 of the second bag.

8 cu ft dry will fill the box, but after it settles from watering in, you really need about 10 cu ft.

Another hint, when filling the box, put a 2 inch layer of MM in the box, water thoroughly, add another two inches of MM, water again, repeat until full. If you don't water between the layers, often the peat moss will repel the water, rather than absorb it and you will have a moist top, but a dry middle and inside.

I also had trouble with my compost clumping up. I chose to wear gloves and run my hands through the MM in the box to crumble the compost. I also hand crumbled the peat moss to make sure it was fluffed. Sounds like that is what you did on your tarp.

You are gonna make it. This is absolutely the hardest part, but once your boxes are filled, the rest will be easy.

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Thanks for the hint..

Post  kputikka on 6/12/2011, 4:23 pm

@Furbalsmom wrote:In your first box, since you were looking for 8 cu ft total, you were still short on the vermiculite.
using 1.5 cu ft bags, in order to get a total of 2.67 cu ft of vermiculite, you need one whole bag and just over 3/4 of the second bag.

8 cu ft dry will fill the box, but after it settles from watering in, you really need about 10 cu ft.

Another hint, when filling the box, put a 2 inch layer of MM in the box, water thoroughly, add another two inches of MM, water again, repeat until full. If you don't water between the layers, often the peat moss will repel the water, rather than absorb it and you will have a moist top, but a dry middle and inside.

I will have to stir the first box and see what the middle looks like then. Im a bit worried at this time about it because it looks too wet to plant. I did end up adding about half of another bag, but maybe I need a tad more.

I just dumped the first wheelbarrow full, and will water it when i go back out.

Thanks so much

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

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/12/2011, 4:30 pm

I will have to stir the first box and see what the middle looks like then. Im a bit worried at this time about it because it looks too wet to plant. I did end up adding about half of another bag, but maybe I need a tad more.

I just dumped the first wheelbarrow full, and will water it when i go back out.

Once you have stirred up box one and added a bit more vermiculite, I would go ahead and plant, remember how well Mel's Mix drains, even if it is extra wet right now, it will not stay too wet for long.

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

Post  ModernDayBetty on 6/12/2011, 7:02 pm

@kputikka wrote:vermiculite must be a naughty word. I found one place
that has it in the 4 cubic foot bags .... they want 30 dollars a bag.
At these rates, I cannot afford a square foot garden

I understand your frustration. I almost went ahead and just did all
compost as outlined in the book for places that don't have vermiculite.
After I did the math, it actually wasn't much cheaper and the
vermiculite here was much more expensive. On the plus side, if you start
a compost pile you won't have to pay for adding to your dirt again.

Also, I had to mix my MM by myself. It was difficult the first time I
tried to do the tarp thing. I only have one tarp and was not willing to
buy a new one and it's probably too small for the job. I was about to
die from a broken back after the first two boxes. I actually found a
much easier way to mix it after you have your composts mixed together
for my third bed. I used a large garbage can adding the three
ingredients in layers than mixing them little by little. I still had to
mix a little more once I had it in the box but my back didn't hurt the
next day like it did when I did the tarp only method the first time
around.

This is my first year with sfg but after a few previous tries of small
row gardening this is already proving to be so worth it even for those
of us on tight budgets. Perhaps you should keep everything, start a compost pile and when you have enough homemade compost you could get your boxes ready. You can start your garden at anytime and there are things that can be over wintered.

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MM is in, now for dividers.

Post  kputikka on 6/12/2011, 7:37 pm

Well i got the MM part done, but my plans for dividers dont seem to be working. Perhaps i miscalculated on the wood size, but the boxes are 4x4 on the outside, not on the inside. I have tried to lay it out so that i would the right number of squares and am not having much luck. I am looking for other ideas/suggestions. right now i am using 4' long strips of wood. The store was out of lath, so these are what i could find. I have some twine, but really didnt want to use that.

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Update: Found a rot resistant nylon rope at the big box

Post  kputikka on 6/12/2011, 10:59 pm

Divider issue solved. Box 1 is now divided. Now to conquer Box 2 tomorrow. Good night all. Thanks for your help.

I still would have preferred a solid divider, but this solves the space issue. Maybe i will make a trellis with it too.

Kristen flower

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

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/13/2011, 3:55 am

Kristin, if you used the lap method for putting your box together, using 48 inch length boards that are 2 in (nominal 1 1/2 ) the interior will be about 46 1/2, so I marked the center point of the wood for the grid, then 11 5/8 inches on each side of center, that worked close enough for even squares (just under 12 inches each)

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

Post  busygirl on 6/13/2011, 7:27 am

@kputikka wrote:Divider issue solved. Box 1 is now divided. Now to conquer Box 2 tomorrow. Good night all. Thanks for your help.

I still would have preferred a solid divider, but this solves the space issue. Maybe i will make a trellis with it too.

Kristen flower

Now that you have rope, I wouldn't even measure with a tape for the dividers. Take a length of rope from one inside corner to the other, then fold it in half and mark the middle of your board that way, then fold it again and mark the "quarter" points. You can always get different divider material next year if you aren't satisfied with what you are using now.

I purposely used nylon string because I want to remove it at the end of the growing season to fully stir up my boxes and add compost to overwinter. I feel like the dividers hinder stirring the mix.

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

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 5:29 pm

Another SFG newbie gardener here as well. And in your area. I too found finding all the right ingredients a challenge. That appears to be quite common. I went to Lowes for the Vermiculite. Sta Green brand 1.5 cf bags for about $13.00. The coarseness type was not listed though. That's the best I could find. I assumed there was a difference between insulation type vermiculite and and that used for gardening, so didn't even consider it an option.

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@ velvet

Post  kputikka on 6/13/2011, 11:53 pm

Velvet,

That is the kind i ended getting from lowes... it worked pretty well. Seemed to be the course grade, there is a picture that someone posted here that showed the comparisons of the different ones. Did you see my suggestion on Interior Gardens shop in Minneapolis? They have some worm casings and other kinds of compost for your mix. Are you done buying everything or are you still looking?

Kristen

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

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/14/2011, 12:09 am

As I mentioned in another thread, I planned for 3 4 x 4 boxes, which would require (according to the book) 24 cf of MM. It only made enough for about 2 1/3 of the three. So, yeah, I'm going to go pick up a few more bags. There is a gardening shop on Hwy 100 which I will be heading back to for some worm casings. Its the only place I found that had that item. I'll research the place you mentioned.

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Update on my progress from tonight.

Post  kputikka on 6/14/2011, 12:19 am

Well tonight was another busy evening. Got my plants planted. Not all of the transplants made it while waiting for my garden to be ready. Planted what was salvageable. Hopefully the MM does wonders or i will be back looking at the store for new plants

Was able to salvage my fence from my row garden and put up the fence stakes tonight. I found out that it was only long enough to go half way around so tomorrow i will have to finish the rest tomorrow..

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

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