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SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

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SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 4:35 pm

Well, I've taken the plunge into SFG. I'm in it too deep money wise to back out now.
The thing I'm most discouraged about is getting the Mel's mix math right. One would think that the manufacturers of compost, peat and vermiculite could be more uniform in labelling their bags. I planned for three 4x4 boxes, or in other words, 24 cubic feet of mel's mix.

I picked up

Mushrooom compost: 1 CF 3 Bags
Composted Manure with organic humus and forest products . 75 CF 4 bags
Organic Compost with manure (animal unlisted): 40 lb / CF unlisted 1 bag
Organic Compost with organic materials, forest products and manures: 40lb 1 bag
Composted Cattle manure 11 dry quarts 1 bag

By the first two types listed above, I know that I have at least 6 cubic ft of the 8 needed for compost. I'm hoping between the last three (80 lbs plus whatever 11 dry quarts amounts to... ) I have enough compost to make up the last 2 CF need. Also hope there is enough variety of compost types factoring unspecified animal manures, organic materials, and forest products alongside the specific mushrooms and cattle manure, and humus.

I picked up two compressed bags of peat moss of the 2. 2 size which according to the book is double the volume once uncompressed. So that should be 8.8 CF of the 8 needed

And I picked up 5 bags of vermiculite in 1.5 sizes totalling 7.5 of the 8 cf needed.

Somehow, this total mix is only filling two boxes and I'm guess about 1/3 of the last one (I haven't shoveled it in yet).

So I have no idea if I have the right balance or not. Do I need to shovel out the first two boxes I already filled, get more ingredients to get enough volume for three boxes, then remix and refill the boxes. If so, where is my math off. I don't know what (compost, vermic, or peat moss) it is that I need more of. If my mix is off, I don't really want to plant anything yet.

Suggestions for a newbie??

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 5:45 pm

If its to be trusted....I found a conversion equation online for lbs to cf. By using the below, I've deduced that I should have a total of at least 7.32 cf plus whatever 11 dry quarts converts to.

So all totaled, I'm short on my vermiculite and my compost by about 1/2 a cf according to the math. But still, as mentioned, I've only got enough mix to fill 2 1/3 of my 3 planned for boxes. Weird.
Answer:
To convert lbs to cubic feet:
# lbs x 16 = # in ounces / 957.51 = # cubic feet





Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_do_you_convert_cubic_feet_to_lbs#ixzz1PC7iC0uk

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 6:12 pm

Here are some pics of the project


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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 6:15 pm

3rd box will use cinder rather than cedar


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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 6:18 pm

Two boxes filled and this is what I have left over. Somehow my ingredients did not make enough for 3 boxes. (Should have put down a yardstick or a bucket to reference how much mix you're looking at.) Trust me... it's not enough to fill my last box


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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/13/2011, 6:35 pm

VelvetElvis, we are really glad you joined us. Measuring the ingredients for Mel's Mix can be a challenge, especially when manufacturers do not use a single standard manner or measurement.

Another member determined that a 40 lb bag of compost is approximately .66 to .75 cu ft. I also checked a conversion calculator and 11 dry qts is approximately .36 cu ft.

Another challenge is that in ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING, the recommended amount of Mel's Mix for a 4 ft by 4 ft by 6 inch SFG bed is 8 cu ft . While the mix is dry, that is correct, but through experience, many of us have found that once you moisten the Mel's Mix, there is some settling of the ingredients and to completely fill the same box after rehydrating everything, it can take up to 9 or 10 cu ft per box. You do want the MM to be below the top edge of the wooden frame to allow for watering without washing away your precious Mel's Mix.

I agree that your existing mix could use an additional 1/2 cu ft to 1 full cu ft of both compost and vermiculite to even out the proportions.

How deep are your boxes and how deep is the Mel's Mix in the first two boxes?

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  dizzygardener on 6/13/2011, 6:46 pm

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

Glad to have ya.

I second everything that Furbalsmom posted.

It's an issue of depth and settling. You only need 6 inches of MM in each box. I can't really tell from the pictures, but it looks like you might have a bit more than that there. That should account for some of the missing mix.

The other issue is settling. You might need an extra couple cubic feet of mix if you account for settling.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 6:50 pm

Thanks for the welcome and the responses. My 4x4 boxes are 6 inches deep (I used 8 foot lengths of 2" x 6" cedar), and I have three boxes. So I bought enough mix for 8 cf of each of the three key ingredients or very close to it. Looks like I need more and now have to pull off some of the lath in order to shovel out the mix back onto the tarp so I can add more ingredients.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/13/2011, 7:07 pm

Good Luck, I know it is a lot of hard work, mixing and filling the boxes.

Because I can't remember the size of cinder blocks, except I think they are 16 inches long, how deep are they? This also would affect how much more Mel's Mix you need, unless you are planning to just put in 6 inches, even if the block is deeper than 6 inches.

Is that weedcloth under your cinder block box? Just make sure it drains.

Let us know if you have more questions.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  busygirl on 6/13/2011, 8:51 pm

@Velvet Elvis wrote:Thanks for the welcome and the responses. My 4x4 boxes are 6 inches deep (I used 8 foot lengths of 2" x 6" cedar), and I have three boxes. So I bought enough mix for 8 cf of each of the three key ingredients or very close to it. Looks like I need more and now have to pull off some of the lath in order to shovel out the mix back onto the tarp so I can add more ingredients.

AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!! Don't empty the boxes you already have filled!! ( Sorry--I mean, you can if you want, but it isn't necessary) If you make another small batch with the same ratios, you can just mix the small batch with what is already on the tarp and fill the last box. As long as the ratios are close, the mix in each box doesn't have to be exactly the same. Because of budgets, weather, and time, I ended up making at LEAST three different batches (maybe four, it has all run together with making new batches, saving "leftover" MM for a time until I built another box, etc.) this spring as I added boxes. All are doing well despite being slightly different in composition (and the fact that my compost was only partially composted and my peat moss wasn't "fluffed" Shocked ).

Call me an optimist, but I think it will be OK.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 11:50 pm

Furbals... I will revisit the book, but I thought a weed fabric was a recommended part of the construction. Do most SFGardeners not use one? As far as the depth of the cinder blocks, I didn't really worry about it as I know they are at least 6 inches high, and figured to fill that box last.

Busy... thanks for the encouragement. I was hoping to hear that the mix balance could be at least a little bit flexible.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/14/2011, 1:27 am

VelvetElvis

Weed fabric is recommended by Mel and I use it myself.

I could not be sure from the photos, if it was weedcloth, which drains, or another type of groundcover that does not drain well, under your cinderblocks. After all of your hard work I did not want you to have a drainage problem.

I am truly sorry if I caused unnecessary concern.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/14/2011, 11:10 am

Great! No worries, I appreciate any feedback from you all. Essentially, I'm a blank slate and so I'm going step by step out of the book as much as possible.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  milaneyjane on 6/14/2011, 11:22 am

I have found that you need at least 1 1/2 times what is suggested. It is like filling a jar with dry rice and salt. You might have 1 cup of each, but the salt fills in the space between the rice grains and you end up with just a cup and a half total instead of two.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Lindacol on 6/14/2011, 11:48 am

@milaneyjane wrote:I have found that you need at least 1 1/2 times what is suggested. It is like filling a jar with dry rice and salt. You might have 1 cup of each, but the salt fills in the space between the rice grains and you end up with just a cup and a half total instead of two.

Very good explanation. Like the science experiment I remember from school. Fill a large jar with ping pong balls, then add marbles, then sand. You might have a quart of balls, a pint of marbles and a cup of sand but the total mixed volume is still only around a quart because the smaller particles fill in the voids. Now the weight will be the sum of all 3 but the volume is not. When talking about cubic feet we are talking volume, not weight.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Lurach on 6/14/2011, 12:04 pm

Hi and

I'm going to agree with BusyGirl about not emptying your boxes that are already filled. My MM is a little off on the proportions (it's a bit heavier on compost than perlite {couldn't get vermiculite here} and peat) because of cost and supply issues; but my plants are doing just great. So I wouldn't worry too much about the mix that's already in your boxes. Just mix up enough more to fill up that 3rd box, and you should be good to go.

Disclaimer: I'm a newbie, so I don't have the amount of SFG experience a lot of folks here have. Just sharing my personal experience from this season. =)

~Lu

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/14/2011, 3:56 pm

Thanks. As a newbie as well, I put some of the cart before the horse by buying seeds before I had read enough of the book. Long story short.... I have some seeds for carrots that will need more than 6" of MM.

So since my last to be filled container is constructed of cinder blocks, I'm leaning towards fashioning it into one deep box, maybe 2' x 2' and 12" deep, or whatever my remaining MM will fill.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  westie42 on 6/14/2011, 4:26 pm

In using 5 gal pails for making MM It was determined that vermiculite always comes up short in measure per bag label and peat moss is all over the place for volume consistency. There are 3 five gal pails in 2 cubic feet if using a true 5 gal bucket. Also it never hurts to have a handy supply of MM laying around. Since filling my boxes there have been four 5 gal wicking planters for carrots,peppers and tomatoes. I also set up a 8' section of rain gutter for hot weather lettuce in shade like Boffer has. I have repotted quite a few house plants into MM and they love it.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/14/2011, 4:33 pm

Just another option,

Make a "Top Hat" for a section of your SFG. It can be a square foot or it can be a rectangle that covers multiple squares. This allows you to have one section that is deep for those longer carrots, and save using as much Mel's Mix as you would use if you made the whole box that deep.

Here is a picture of a "Top Hat" TOP HAT AT SFG STORE

If you were making your own, I would suggest fairly thin wood, maybe 1/2 inch thick or so.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/14/2011, 7:11 pm

Tophat... oh my there are some clever monkeys working in these SFG's. Thanks for the tip, will definitely consider it.

I decided to forge ahead and just finished planting the first box with seeds. I planted 8 different crops in boxes 1-8 and repeated them in 9-16. Tomorrow, I'll hit the second box hopefully.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 6/14/2011, 7:29 pm

The TopHat is the way to go. Either buy it or make it yourself. But, the bottom line is portability. With a TopHat, you can rotate your crops from season to season, too, because it's easy enough to just move the "deep" portion around your SFG as you see fit.

TopHats also become really handy early in the season when you are protecting your babies from frosty nights. Just cover the TopHat with some plastic, cut to size, and staple the sheet down. Bingo! Automatic cloche.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

Post  shannon1 on 6/17/2011, 4:06 am

@Velvet Elvis wrote:Thanks. As a newbie as well, I put some of the cart before the horse by buying seeds before I had read enough of the book. Long story short.... I have some seeds for carrots that will need more than 6" of MM.

One of the nice things about urban farming here is I've met alot of other people in my neighborhood that also garden and we exchange seeds, we go in together to buy seedlings since we have small gardens and may not want to grow 6 red pepper plants we buy a six pack and split it, or trade different seedlings. It's fun kind of reminds me of trading baseball cards. So the point is if you don't want to do the top hat you might be able to trade seeds, also depending on what kind of carrots you have they may be harvested as babies, even better IMO.

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Re: SFG - I'm stuck...not a good start

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