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substitute materials

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substitute materials

Post  sarahemeline on 3/4/2010, 12:39 pm

It appears I've arrived on the scene post-website-revamp, so I'm not sure what had been said before about finding substitute materials for different aspects of the garden.

What clever materials have you utilized in your SFG?

any ideas on what a newbie can do for grids when all the laths at the local store are all warped?

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Re: substitute materials

Post  boffer on 3/4/2010, 12:56 pm

Hi,

Actually, your timing is perfect. The forum was slow over the winter and was just beginning to pick up when we did the transition. Basically, we're starting from scratch as far as posting goes-any topic will be of interest.

For grids, I've used re-bar, short plastic baseboard that was free(the vinyl covering on it to make it look like wood peeled off throughout the summer, not very attractive), I've ripped my own slats on the tablesaw, and I've used old broomsticks. I made 5 more boxes this winter, and I'm just going to use nylon string. I put screws at one foot intervals on the top edge of the box, and wove the string around them to make the grid.

Boxes don't have to be made of wood. Cinder blocks, bricks, RR ties, rocks, coffee cans full of dirt and rocks, my neighbor found free garage doors to use, somebody recently said they're going to use old closet doors to get started.

Put your money into Mel's soil recipe-it's a lifetime investment. Everything else you can upgrade as time and money permit

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Re: substitute materials

Post  timwardell on 3/4/2010, 1:16 pm

I too had trouble finding straight lath for grids so I bought 1"x2" and cut them in half with a table saw. They come in 8' foot lengths and are very cheap. ... I tried using twine last year but it rotted and broke within months just as Mel said it would in his book. I've heard that mason line is better but haven't tried it.
- Tim

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Re: substitute materials

Post  herbarium on 3/4/2010, 1:23 pm

Whatever you use for a substitute keep in mind it could leach things into your soil. Railroad ties are not recommended for this reason. I posted some substitution suggestions to the Being Resourceful thread under Western Mountains and High Plains.

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Re: substitute materials

Post  jerzyjen on 3/4/2010, 1:51 pm

Nothing supercreative here, but I just got the dried bamboo sticks you find at the garden store for staking and laid them out in the grid and tied the part where they cross with nylon string. It held together throughout the season but if i go to reuse it this year i will probably have to re-do the nylon. The bamboo is not perfectly straight but i like it that way, it gets you close enough. It was easy for me to do by myself because all i needed was pruners to cut the bamboo, no electric tools needed.


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Re: substitute materials

Post  happyfrog on 3/4/2010, 4:03 pm

i used 2x6 timber at hardware stores

for square markings, i just used my staple gun and yarn or clothesline or even nylon 'string' stuff i found in the basement.

the yarn wears thin after a few months, but by then you're replanting anyway, so i just put new yarn up. it's what i have and i see no need to spend money on something i don't need to. *grin* i'd rather spend it on vermiculite and peat moss and lots of different kinds of compost (since i don't have enough 'ready' compost yet to build more boxes - i have enough of 'homemade compost' for adding to established beds, so progress is being made. . Smile

hth!

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Re: Substitute materials

Post  rds1955 on 3/4/2010, 8:22 pm

I'm new to SFG, so if this is known amongst the seers and sages of Square foot gardening, bear with me...Concerning the grids, I found some really cheap aluminum venetian blinds at a discount/clearance chain store called "Ollies" and they will be my grids...

Once the plants have started to grow or are transplanted, I'm going to use some old clear 2 liter soda bottles with the bottoms cut off and the labels removed as a mini-greenhouse/protective covering for each plant until I'm ready to set up a small greenhouse in the back yard for the early small stuff...

For a table top box, I'm going to use Cinder blocks with a rebar down the center as the boxes legs/supports... I've also thought about using 4" PVC Pie as legs too...

I got small plant markers from a local dollar store... Popsicle sticks, 150 to a pack for $1...You can also cut up any of the aluminum blinds an use them as plant markers too...

Hope so more ideas are posted, casue I could surely use anything that is free or cheap!

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Re: substitute materials

Post  jerzyjen on 3/4/2010, 8:41 pm

I've been picking up a few extra bamboo chop sticks each time i get chinese or sushi. Its going to be used for markers in my seedlings, since popsicle sticks are too big for the tiny starter pots. I was going to use cut up drinking straws but even those are too big.

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Re: Substitute materials

Post  Kabaju42 on 3/4/2010, 8:41 pm

I'm always checking craigslist for free stuff. Last year I got some free planks of wood that I plan on using for my gardens. I hear freecycle is also great, but I haven't looked at it yet.

What's wrong with the railroad ties? Ive seen a couple times that they can leach stuff out, but I have no idea what's so bad in them to leach out.

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Re: substitute materials

Post  jerzyjen on 3/4/2010, 8:43 pm

treated lumber has some chemicals that can leach, so its not recommended for use with edibles. I'm sure they work great for flower beds or ornamental plants, but i wouldnt risk it with something im putting in my body.

I too keep an eye out freecycle, but so far havent found anything. I used wood from pallet tops to make my boxes last year.

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Re: substitute materials

Post  boffer on 3/4/2010, 9:07 pm

Just a reminder for new SFG gardeners, grids are a 'must have' to get the best results from your SFG. If you're not using grids, you're not SFGardening.

That being said, the grids are for planting purposes. They don't necessarily have to stay on the beds all year. I have 4 beds the same size that share one grid. These are beds that I know I will only be doing one planting in for the season. Peppers, tomatoes, and basil in one bed, all brussel sprouts in another, etc. I layed out slats for the grid in one box and pop riveted the intersections so it folds up nicely. I plant that bed, move the grid to the next bed, etc, when I'm done planting those beds, I fold up the grid and put it away for the winter.

Like Bob said, mini-blinds make good grids and plant markers. My niece works in the paint/window covering dept. of Lowes. Customers often bring their old blinds in to measured for new ones; they typically leave the old blinds behind for the store to dispose of into their dumpster. It can't hurt to ask the sales associate if they have old blinds that day to dispose of.

If you use the white plastic plant markers, lacquer thinner will erase Sharpie ink. They are good for 2-3 cleanings before the plastic softens and makes the ink blur when you write.

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Re: substitute materials

Post  Kabaju42 on 3/4/2010, 9:22 pm

Are the railroad ties treated? Whenever I see them at the hardware stores they don't look treated to me.

There isn't always a lot of good stuff on the classified sites like craigslist, but if you keep your eye open, then once in a while you can see some great things. I once saw a free birdbath on the ksl.com classifieds (a Utah site) It was one of the nice cement ones on a pedistal. Needless to say it only lasted a couple of hours if that.

I've often seen free firewood, I wonder if you could do something with that.

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Kabaju42

Post  boffer on 3/4/2010, 9:30 pm

There's a potential that chemicals could leech through the dirt, through the plant, into the fruit, and then into your body in sufficient quantities to make you ill or kill you.

The old CCA pressure treated had small quantities of (A) arsenic in it. One study I read determined you would have to eat two pressure treated 8 foot 2x4s every day for ten years to accumulate enough arsenic to cause you harm. It's a long shot, but there is a potential.

Old RR ties used to be treated with creosote and other petroleum products that could potentially cause harm if ingested in sufficient quantities.

I use pressure treated wood for all my beds. To make my wife happy, I line the inside of my boxes with 6 mil plastic to keep the dirt from contacting the wood, without her insisting, I wouldn't bother.

It's one of those areas we each have to decide for ourselves what the risks are.

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Re: Substitute materials

Post  rds1955 on 3/4/2010, 9:49 pm

"I've often seen free firewood, I wonder if you could do something with that."

Sure, if it's already cut down and stacked...Mel mentions in an older book that some people have started with Stones, Bricks, or Cinder blocks in laying the outline of their boxes.. You could use the cut firewood in the same manner that they use in building a wall for a stackwood house..Or in other words, lay it like your building a wall out of block or brick, but use the firewood pieces instead...

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Re: substitute materials

Post  Kabaju42 on 3/4/2010, 9:53 pm

@boffer wrote:...One study I read determined you would have to eat two pressure treated 8 foot 2x4s every day for ten years to accumulate enough arsenic to cause you harm. It's a long shot, but there is a potential.

...
I use pressure treated wood for all my beds. To make my wife happy, I
line the inside of my boxes with 6 mil plastic to keep the dirt from
contacting the wood, without her insisting, I wouldn't bother.

It's one of those areas we each have to decide for ourselves what the risks are.

Wow, I knew I needed to eat more fiber, but in never crossed my mind to get it like that Wink

Now I am curious why you use the pressure treated wood. If I had the cash I'd go with ceder. I think it costs about as much, and should last just as long, and of course it looks better too. What's your experience with it?

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Re: substitute materials

Post  happyfrog on 3/5/2010, 8:14 am

venetian blinds! i love using them! they work really good - better than popsicle sticks (we discovered they fade and split in a few months and are unreadable)

we took some old blinds off the windows and i cut them in thirds - so they're about 12" long cut and they are awesome - i can read the item on it and they aren't buried by the dirt, even with exuberant children who like to push the markers as deep as they can.

which reminds me i need to label my freshly planted peas! *smiles* i forgot to label themyesterday but no biggie, it'll be a fun outdoor project today and will be good for the oldest kid to practice his writing skills. Smile another bonus of the venetian blinds - they're easier for young people to write on = those popsicle sticks are small and little kids write kind of big. ..

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substitute fabrics

Post  sarahemeline on 3/8/2010, 12:52 pm

okay, here's another twist on this topic:

What about, PLANT COVERS... shade covers, plastic covers, frost covers, etc...
what have you found to work best?
As a newbie to this process, I'm still not sure WHEN you use plastic vs. cloth or WHEN it's okay to stop using them (I'm assuming you don't cover your plants EVERY night, right?)
I know that frame shops will regularly get in large mat boards that will often come with a protective plastic bag/cover over them. I plan on going to one I know of to bum the plastic sleeves from them and cut them open to make a large sheet to cover my plants in... so uh, when is it that I'm supposed to use it again?

I've also thought of going to the fabric store and seeing what they have in clearance as far as burlap or gauze-like material goes... is there a reason I SHOULDN'T try this method? Someone stop me if this is a big SFG no-no. Smile

Also, for the "keep the animals out" chicken-wire contraption Mel talks about in the book, has anyone found another way to make that?

Thanks for your constant insight!!

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Re: substitute materials

Post  jerzyjen on 3/8/2010, 3:32 pm

I didnt use the chicken wire method, i bought little rabbit fencing and just installed it all they way around my box, used a few bamboos for support (i think if you scroll back you can see it in my photo - its white). However, a few words of caution. This won't protect my plants from deer or squirrels (or birds) but I didnt feel that was a threat based on the location of my garden. I gambled and won on that. In the summer I draped burlap over my broccoli & lettuce plants, the burlap was laying on top of the rabbit fencing so it didnt touch the plants and it worked out REALLY well. I did use a heat tolerant variety of lettuce but I had fresh salads all the time, no wilty lettuce all season.

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Re: substitute materials

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