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SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

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SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  casaverde on 8/20/2011, 10:41 am

Howdy from Dallas, Texas area. This is my first year gardening either edibles or flowers. I started last December by building 3 wooden (red cedar) boxes. They are elevated about 3 feet off of the ground due to my having a bad back.

I built the 1st box before having read a SFG book. It is 2' by 4'. The other 2 boxes are 3' by 5' and all 3 have a 7" depth. I started growing seeds inside in January. I had pretty good success with my garden up until about the middle of June.

I used Mel's mix with 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and the other 1/3 made up of 5 different composts.

Being a new gardener and not really knowing what I wanted to grow, I grew a wide variety of veggies including cabbage, napa cabbage, snap peas, zucchini, yellow squash, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, banana pepper, parsley, cucumber, 5 different varieties of tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, basil, strawberries, a variety of onions, radishes and carrots.

I had a bug problem with the cabbages and removed them early on. I got tomatoes off of each plant including the one I started from seed. The carrots did not do real well because a cat had scratched around in my garden where those seeds had been planted.

I believe I over watered because I had no luck at all with the radishes. I think I got root rot on them. The zucchini and squash never produced because of pollination problems. I tried hand pollinating but had no success.

My pepper plants produced some fruit especially the banana pepper plant. The basil, rosemary and parsley did very well. The cucumber plant produced but the taste was bitter. I believe this is a soil related problem and will try again.

I ate some very nice strawberries. I even bought a strawberry pot and planted 10 plants of strawberries in it.

By mid July however, my garden was through producing. It was just too darn hot. To date, we have now had over 40 days this summer with temperatures over 100 degrees

I want to try some fall gardening so I decided to get my beds ready. They were just like a brick. What I have learned so far is that with the temps. we experience in this part of the country, you are probably better off not using any peat moss. It just does not work here.

I am in the process of adding 5 more inches of depth to my the boxes. I am also replacing the Mel's mix with the following mixture: (See Links)



This morning, I removed the old Mel's Mix from my strawberry jar. I had to chisel the mix out it was so hard.

Hopefully, the new mix will work better for me with the temperatures we experience he in the Dallas area.

I also bought a moisture meter from Amazon. It is really helping me to monitor the beds and decide whether or not to water and how much to water.

I solved my cat problems last spring by buying and installing 2 motion detector pulse water sprinklers. They worked pretty well keeping the nighttime cats away.

I am looking forward to some fall gardening and also to next spring.

The 2 links above are from North Haven Garden's website.



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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  Unmutual on 8/20/2011, 3:05 pm

During hot weather(like most of us are having), sometimes you have to water twice a day. Mel's mix is great at holding water. BUT when it dries, it needs a lot of water to do its job because dry peat moss has one hell of a surface tension to break. Peat moss is used in a lot of growing medium, so the problem will not go just because you change growing medium.

Even if you followed those directions for the new medium, it is a waste of 6" of growing medium. Veggies(outside of carrots, potatoes and some other root crops) don't need that much depth. If the nutrients are available to the roots, along with water, they don't need to even grow 6" deep(I've grown veggies successfully in 4" of MM, but not on purpose...so I wouldn't suggest using less than 6", nor would I suggest using more than 6" since it's a waste of resources). Can you grow veggies in 12" of medium? Yes, you can.

One problem that I've experienced with TT(table top) boxes is that they tend to dry out quicker than regular boxes. When they completely dry out, you need to get them wet again, and this can be a pain. According to Mel, you can NOT over water MM. I've never ran into an over watering issue before either(unless you want to count mushrooms as an issue, but that just means that there is a lot of organic material that wasn't fully decayed..and I don't mind mushrooms in the veggie bed).

To get that MM wet again(and thoroughly wet, not just the top inch or less), you're going to have to spend some time with the hose. Wet each square slowly, and repetitively a few times. The water tends to find fissures in the MM when dry and that water just runs out of the bottom.

After you get the MM wet again, you need to water it every day or even twice a day to keep enough water in the MM. You'll have to experiment a little to get the right level of watering, but if the MM dries out, you didn't water enough. Using pine straw mulch will help with loss of moisture through evaporation. Try to use a natural mulch, but some people have luck with plastic mulches(looks like black garbage bags on top, but it's not) and other mulch material. Just beware that if you use a mulch, make sure that you are getting water to the MM, and not just getting the mulch wet.

Root rot is easy to check for. The root system just doesn't look good(sometimes it's even black, especially with radishes). There are little to few feeder roots coming off the tap root.
This article talks specifically about radishes. I just wish the internet had better pictures of root rot vs healthy roots, but it seems people just want to put up a web page copied from other people and use stock photos so they can get easy advertising revenue /gets-of-soapbox(which reminds me, now that I have some free time, I should add some pics to that seed saving post).

Oh, and just a pet peeve, there is no such thing as plant food. Plants make their own food from the sun via photosynthesis. What we provide to plants is more akin to vitamins.


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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/20/2011, 4:45 pm

1- In the south, in that heat, your season is not July. It's September-ish through May-ish. We have a lot of veterans in the southern regional forums that will help you adjust SFG to your climate.

2- Deep boxes help water retention, but so does mulch. Both help even more. However, nothing helps plants cope with the air temps. I have seen several people from Vegas build 24 inch deep boxes in an effort to make their summers "doable."

2a- Peat moss helps with friability only. It has no nutritional value, doesn't need to. It helps with weed control and a little water retention AFTER moist. Letting it dry out....ever....is a big no-no and a pain in the tail. Substitute it out at your peril, but I would imagine Mel has put more thought, and research, into choosing it than any of us put together.

2b- Overwatering is not possible with Mel's Mix, unless you leave the hose running 24/7. It drains too well. Well draining soils make root rot incredibly rare. Do you have any pictures of your radishes you claim had rot?

3- Gardening takes patience. Switching the fundamental concept of Mel's version of SFG is really impatient after one season, especially since it's your first ever growing edibles and veggies.

4- Which SFG book did you read? This forum supports Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening. His requirements are raised bed, grids, and Mel's Mix. Violate any of those three, and you don't have an SFG according to Mel, or the forum. Because this topic always fires people up, we have built a section of the forum for non-SFG discussions. We still have many, many valued posters that have incorporated portions of Mel's system, or still swear by his old system, that we would not dare wish to leave our community. Seek them out, too. Your garden now belongs in the non-SFG section, though, after such a dramatic change to such an important fundamental.

I wish I could help more, but I can't. Once you have switched your soil, I'm no longer a decent source of intelligence regarding nutrition or any of the many problems you may encounter. I wish you luck though.

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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  littlejo on 8/20/2011, 5:46 pm

It's not an SFG using the new book but I will add my 2 cents anyway.

If you had root rot, you should check if the soil is wet, stick your hand in, if it's wet then it's not draining. If it's a table top, add more holes in bottom. If you have put plastic on the bottom, poke some drainage holes in the plastic.

Mel's mix is very good, once it's wet, but it can get hard if you let it dry out, peat is the culprit but it is still good! Just add a tea. of dishsoap to a spray bottle and spray a bit (to loosen the tension on the peat) then water well. I've had this happen with potted plants in peat mixture, will not get wet again. I know it's not in the book.

If you had trouble with no bees to pollinate the veggies, then the dirt is not the problem. Plant some flowers that are sweet and they will come.

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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  casaverde on 8/20/2011, 7:05 pm

It is now 6PM and the electronic temperature gage in my garden is reading 110.8 degrees. I have seen temps as high as 119.5 this summer. I have been fighting these kind of temperatures since early July.

I was watering every day and most days twice a day. I had (have) plenty of drain holes in my planter boxes. I don't recall ever seeing water coming out the bottom of the boxes except when I initially planted them in late February and in March.

I have read both of Mel's SFG books and faithfully followed everything in the books. I don't think Mel ever tried gardening in the kinds of temperatures we have experienced this year however.

With the exception of the mix, I will keep on following what the SFG books say.

The forecast temps for the Dallas area is between 101 and 105 degrees for the next week.



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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  kb5won on 8/24/2012, 3:00 pm

Interesting to see the debate about 'to use Mel's Mix or not'. In the Citizen Gardener classes (taught in DFW and Austin) we use soil mix purchased locally. (follows Howard Garrett's recommended ratios of materials) and go 9" deep instead of 5-1/2". (2x10s instead of 2x6s)

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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  elliephant on 8/24/2012, 4:00 pm

Now that I have drip irrigation, my MM doesn't dry out. I usually just water once a day, but right now that I am putting in seeds/seedlings for a fall garden sometimes I'll water a bit again in the evening. Some of my boxes are 12 inches and they do provide some measure of protection against drying out if I forget to water for a day, but not much of a difference if I stay on top of the watering.
I water all squares, whether or not anything is growing in them at the time. Peppers, okra, and eggplant are the only things producing right now, but that's to be expected in this heat. Oh, and swiss chard and malabar spinach.


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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  bakermtb on 8/24/2012, 4:56 pm

I had a very similar problem with the soil mix. After some investigation i found that some store bought "compost" is not what it is. I found one product in my area that stated it was compost( had very nice ingredients i thought!). It said it had some peat moss in the mixture. I sent an email to the company and found out that the product had "72%" peat moss in the 2 cubic foot bag. This will not be a correct mix using Mel's Mix.(too much peat moss)
Check the type of compost you used and see how much peat moss was in the mix.
Make sure you have good compost and remove some of your current mix and replace it with good compost. This might help and see if it improves your growing.

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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  No_Such_Reality on 8/24/2012, 5:50 pm

Living in SoCal and the semi-desert Southwest which is basically almost everything south or west of the southwest corner of Iowa, I cringe every time I hear about not being able to over water Mel's Mix. However, it's pretty much true that you won't over water properly made MM.

The peat in MM if it dries can be a real problem. Not letting it dry is the key. Accomplishing this without squandering water or driving yourself batty with a water regimen is the challenge.

As previously mentioned, depth and mulch are the keys along with thorough watering. IMHO, learned through being kicked in the head by repeated failures, an absolute must in the semi-arid/high heat areas is any watering must be thorough watering.

The reason from my observations is that peat insulates itself water from peculating through. It'll act like sponge, form channels and funnel the water through. (visualize a dried out sponge and a moist sponge held together and imagine watering the moist side) You'll have super wet areas with a moist area around it leading to a moist but drier area. The plants with roots in the drier area will continue to draw water from the drier area. Then you'll get a "dry bubble". Dry peat repeals water. The dry bubbles grow...

Thorough and regular water allows the peat to absorb into the moist but drier areas before gravity and drainage pulls the water away.

I've found that the plants in MM in my containers and raised beds are much more tolerant of the heat and infrequent watering when the watering is thorough.


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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  llama momma on 8/24/2012, 6:06 pm

Shading sure helps a lot too. Any days 90 or higher I shade with burlap (love this stuff) the plants and soil seem so much happier. Still lets in some sun yet it shades and allows breezes around the plants. I would advise everyone to get burlap or put it near the top of their garden budget.
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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

Post  jkahn2eb on 8/24/2012, 6:42 pm

I'm no pro, having only done this for one year in AZ, but I guarantee my temps get as hot as yours and my garden is still green this summer.

My three keys:

1) As Elliephant suggested, get drip or some other automated system. Water once in the morning and once when the sun is not hitting the garden.

2) Shade cloth. Shade cloth. Shade cloth.

3) Know what to plant in the summer. Eggplants LOVE heat. They thrive. Basil, peppers, swiss chard and kale will do fine in high temps if you follow rules 1 and 2 above. Zinnias and marigolds are good high heat flowers that won't outgrow your shade cloth (unlike sunflowers). Watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew have all thrived without any shade cover.

Good luck.

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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temps

Post  GloriaG on 8/24/2012, 10:15 pm

I can understand casaverde's problems with last year's temperatures. I'll bet everyone who had table tops in our area last year must have had trouble keeping them hydrated. Thank goodness, we have a more normal temperature pattern this year!


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Re: SFG in 100 degree plus temperatures

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