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How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

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How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  milaneyjane on 9/2/2011, 9:58 pm

Can you help me? I have 1/2 my large garden SFG but for the other half it really isn't feasable with the amount of produce we are growing.



I started growing most of the garden that is not SFG (too large and too much $$ to convert it all) in rows growing along 16 foot cattle panel fencing this summer. It has been an absolute dream!!! The plants I am growing outside the SFG with the cattle panel include my cucumber, beans, peas, and tomato. The plants loved the support of the cattle panel and was ideal because I could also plant on both sides of the panel for peas and tomato. (everything else is in SFG's) I couldn't believe what a space saver it was even for the tomato. I could plant them close and just weave them in the panel as they grew.



This summer I ran a width of weed fabric between each row/panel eliminating weeding, although it could handle a weeding around the plants right now.





















I want to take it one step further and make raised beds in order to eliminate the spring tilling from here on out. I would like to build 16 foot long beds for the cattle panel fencing. The fencing would rest on top of the boxes and I could still keep the long rows which in the case of growing everything up was a huge space saver. I would also do a raised bed for each side of my tunnel. My question is, how narrow can I build the beds? I do NOT have the money to make them overly wide and fill them all. And I also don't want them too wide since I can only run one panel down the length of each bed and still be able to access the plants. Narrow beds in this case mean more potential rows of beds. Do you think a 12 inch wide bed would be too narrow? I am worrying about the plants drying out quickly. Ideally I would like 10-12 inch tall beds.



What do you think??????

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  boffer on 9/2/2011, 10:37 pm

Interesting! I've left my warm season vining crops until last, while trying to maximize my SFG boxes for everything else. Last year and this year, I've been experimenting with 1 foot wide boxes, the lengths vary to the application. My trellises, to date, have been on one side of the box, and not down the middle. For beans and peas, I only plant half the width of the box (6 inches) and plant something like onions, rads, beets, or carrots in the other half. That's working well for me. (According to the companion planting crowd, beans and onions don't get along, but I find that that means the beans hug the onions to death!)

For squashes and cukes so far, they get the whole square foot to themselves. I could see a 1x box being split by a trellis, with early season peas on one side and cukes on the other.

Tomatoes, I'm just not sure about. I'm a strong advocate of growing them in 6 inches of MM, in a 4x4 box because the roots can spread so much if needed. I don't know how well they would do in a one foot wide box; I haven't tried it yet.

Even in my climate, the 1x boxes absolutely need watering every day. Especially, the beans will start to look real sad if I miss a day.

Hope this helps since, I don't know much about non-SFGardening. Would it be more appropriate if this thread was moved to the non-SFG gardening forum?

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  milaneyjane on 9/2/2011, 10:48 pm

Boffer---watering that often was my concern. Right now I seldom have to water thanks to rain etc.. I would hate to have to water everyday. I was also worried about tomato roots....I started growing opalka tomato and would continue to grow them up the panels. I also have everything else in my SFG although I do still have 16 tomato plants that are in my SFG's. I would like to move those out since they end up crowding the other plants and put all my tomato along the panels in the narrow raised beds.



Hmmm...I may have to go a bit wider than a foot. Even if I went 2 feet wide and made the paths between the boxes narrower, the rows of veges wouldn't be any closer together, just not as much leg room.

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  middlemamma on 9/3/2011, 6:03 am

Great discussion...I don't have much to add but I a hope more folks post.

Are you planning on putting MM in these narrower boxes milaneyjane?

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  madnicmom on 9/3/2011, 9:28 am

Well,this is interesting! Love the Arbor of beans. Since we all know 1ft is not wide enough for tomatoes and 2ft would be a little crowded for you, can you play with the idea of 18 inch wide boxes?

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  quiltbea on 9/3/2011, 9:46 am

Here's one suggestion: If you really want to continue with your rows but don't want the tilling, you need to read the book, Weedless Gardening by Lee Reich. If you don't get the wild weed growth, you won't have to till. Eliminate tilling by just keeping your rows marked and hilled as opposed to the space on which you walk between rows. Just don't walk on the growing sections at all and add 3" of compost on top of your growing rows each spring and rake it in lightly by hand. Don't rake deep because that just brings up hibernating weed seeds. Aged compost can even be left on top of your soil and you can sow seeds or transplants beneath it. If you don't tread on it, it'll keep friable.

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 9/3/2011, 9:51 am

Let's have a discussion. I'm not attacking you, but I don't understand the line of thinking. Maybe I'm being obtuse, so let's help me get on the same page, please...

How much of your space is non-MM? Since we know, that MM is such a space saver, I would start thinking in terms of a slow conversion.....over several years, as my budget allowed. All the money tied up in trellises and weed barrier would have gone a long way in 80% less space. Usually, the conversion is simply a change in the way we think. If we focus on the huge garden we have, we often forget about only converting a fifth of it to get the same production. And, being a one-time investment, if it takes 20 years to convert, who cares? Once it's done, it's done......forever.

I would do 18 inch wide boxes. I would put a bunch of radishes, carrots, onions, etc, space by planting them in front of all my long boxes.

My second thought is concerning the conversion to raised beds. A raised bed, alone, does NOT stop the tilling....even if you don't walk on it. It helps, but it's the MM that stops the tilling....because of the peat moss and vermiculite. Don't forget the vermiculite expands and contracts with water; therefore, it "works the soil" as it absorbs/releases water for you. Again, all the wood cost you would save should be factored into the price to build MM, imo.

Why do we want 10-12 inch high beds? Of course, that doubles the cost of conversion, and we don't need it. On the other hand, if not converting, you may get tomatoes in a 10 inch deep box just fine as a 1x1 square. Topsoil/dirt/clay doesn't drain nearly as well, so it would hold water for the roots.

If I were converting, I would take a path of planting my beans and tomatoes in the new SFGs last. Beans are notorious poor soil performers. You could use that converted space for things that need more nutrients.

It's a good discussion, and I would like to do a little math on the cost effectiveness, if possible. That's why I asked how much non-SFG space you have.

QB, I just saw your comment, too. I think keeping friable has as much to do with clay content as it does walking on things. If you have heavy clay soils, like we do in areas of the Midwest, those soils just pack themselves down over time with heavy rains.

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  Denese on 9/3/2011, 10:09 am

My beds are all 2 ft. wide x 9 ft. long, with 1.5 ft. between boxes. Yes, it's a little tight, at full season, but I sacrifice a little discomfort for the ability to have more boxes. I plant determinate romas, 1 per sq. in one of my boxes, with square cages around them, and don't have any problems. I don't see why you shouldn't be able to put your fence down the middle of 2 ft. wide boxes. According to Mel, (pg. 173) vining tomatoes can be planted 1 per sq. ft., so this should work just fine. Of course, I don't recommend such intensive planting if you're not using Mel's Mix. Your nutrients wouldn't be same per sq. ft. Just my humble opinion. Very Happy

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  boffer on 9/3/2011, 11:42 am

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:Maybe I'm being obtuse...
Seriously?! yahoo



SFG is not always the best method for all people all of the time. High volume would be one of those times for certain crops. Sometimes, just using a certain SFG technique is a fantastic bonus. In this case, using trellises to grow up has turned out to be a tremendous space saver.

If I'm on the same page as Milaneyjane, I think we're talking about SFG row gardening! For instance, instead of a 4x16 box, she's building 1x16 boxes and putting them in rows.

In the 4x16 box, generally only the north row is used for trellised crops, that's the equivalent of a 1x16 box. She's already put the rest of the box, the 3x16, someplace else.

One reason for having a split garden, is working with available sunshine. Put the the warm season crops in the sunniest spot, and if there's not enough room, put the cool crops in a less sunny location. Another reason to split a garden is because trellised crops get awkward to deal with when they're grown in TableTops! I'm experimenting with it, but I don't recommend it. If one is converting their existing gardening space to SFG, I would suggest leaving beans, peas, cukes, and squash until last because they are so easy to grow in the ground, and you gain the fewest benefits.

If I correctly recall the pictures that Milaneyjane posted last year, her existing garden space was large enough to till with a tractor. She has the space available. Sometimes we can be more efficient by using more space.



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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 9/3/2011, 11:58 am

@boffer wrote: Sometimes we can be more efficient by using more space.

Exactly why I asked. I want to understand, not challenge nor chastise. I believe SFG is better for everyone with RARE exception. And, if money is the concern, I would like to see if I can prove it cheaper to convert. (Kind of a challenge for me and a chance to play devil's advocate....which I never do....lol)

Really, the idea is to get a good discussion going on both sides of the fence. That's the only way a sound decision is reached.

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  milaneyjane on 9/3/2011, 5:31 pm

Great points everyone!



Boffer---you nailed it exactly on the head!!! I am talking large volume square foot row gardening. I have condensed tilling from renting a full tractor down to borrowing the neighbors tiller and I am planting in 1/2 the amount of space already. I didn't even plant in the other two gardens this summer.



I don't need more grow space, just a better set up for the items already growing up. By making long narrow boxes I am composting only the soil that needs it as well as having the growing benefits of SFG. I currently have 7 3.5x7 foot SFG's not including all my herbs in MM containers and 3 huge planters I switched over to MM and have peppers and tomato in. Everything that I am growing fits into my existing SFG's...except for those that I am growing up (rather than out) the panels---cucumber, pole beans, peas, squash and some tomato. Those items I grow in such large quantities (I am canning for a family of 5)they just aren't conducive to regular SFG's. The panels can't be placed closer than 3 feet because of the sun.



I did try planting a solid block 3 feet wide by 16 feet long with SFG spacing directly in the garden this year. It was a disaster thanks to our lab tearing through it on a daily basis so I want everything to be in raised beds.



Eventually MM's will be filling all the long boxes but for now most of the boxes would be garden soil ammended with compost and made out of recylced wood. The panels cost a total of $45 and the weed barrier another $20. For $65 I couldn't even have filled one bed with MM.



It is hard to tell, but the garden slopes and I am also hoping that the raised boxes would help with soil erosion.



And lastly, I want to be able to keep my beans on the arch tunnel. It is my favorite visual of the entire yard and it is just so darn handy for picking. By having all the rows the same, I could easily move the tunnel over "two" rows and still have it on top of long raised boxes. Does that make sense?

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  FamilyGardening on 12/27/2011, 11:48 pm

please keep us posted.....

we have two garden area's Very Happy

our first garden is SFG....this will be our third year gardening Very Happy .....we have two 4x4 beds and one 2x8 bed... along with some self watering containers and a few wine barrels....filled with MM and creative grids too....Laughing

our second garden we put in last spring which is a in ground garden that we grew the three sisters garden in......we are expanding this area for a larger gardening area and i need idea's on trellising and raised bed row gardening....and such

hugs

rose

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

Post  HillbillyBob on 12/28/2011, 10:57 am

I once did some 18 inch wide beds 16 feet long with 40 inches between them I also used cattle panels but used 4x4 post to hold up the panels(we get lots of wind Sad )

these worked great good luck

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Re: How narrow to build a new box--pics included?

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