Square Foot Gardening Forum
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SFG Newbie-- need tips

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SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  srividhyavishu on Mon 26 Sep 2011 - 10:59

Hello all
I am a newbie to this forum and want to do SFG. I just stumbled on the website a couple of days ago and learnt a lot by browsing thru the website. I have about 100 sf space in my garden and want to do few boxes that are 5'*7'. We live in Oregon where it rains a lot. so, some stores advice us to not use peat moss and some suggest an alternative to vermiculite (i.e perlite). Have you encountered this situation and what have you used? Is there a cheaper alternative for peat moss, vermiculite and compost? For just 100sf, the mix cost alone runs to ~$500 so I want to keep my costs down! Please help!!

Thank you!


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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  boffer on Mon 26 Sep 2011 - 11:46

Hi and welcome to the forum

Read the ALL NEW SFG book so you understand how everything in the method is intertwined and works together for optimal performance. You'll learn:

  • Never make a box wider than four feet.
  • Four feet is optimal box spacing for a walkway. Two feet becomes irksome.
  • Start small to save money.
  • Make your own compost to save money.
  • Check freecycle and craigs list for materials to save money.
  • It only rains a lot in the off-season. I cover all my boxes so nutrients aren't drained away.
  • Mel's Mix is a one time investment; maintenance costs for the rest of your life are nil if you make your own compost.
  • Read the book.
  • Do it by the book.


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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  Kelejan on Mon 26 Sep 2011 - 13:53


(I cut and pasted your name, it is such a looooong one).

Boffer has said it all. Follow that advice and you will do well.

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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  gwennifer on Mon 26 Sep 2011 - 17:45

Hello there!

Here's my two cents:

5'x7' boxes are a bad idea. This is intensive gardening - every square inch is used. You won't be able to reach in and tend to everything if you build that big. 4'x4' boxes are best, allowing a comfortable reach in from every side. I used graph paper to plot out the dimensions of my available gardening space, and then figured out the maximum number of beds I could fit in there while still maintaining the three foot aisle space and having an aesthetically pleasing arrangement (the latter being important to me). Were you saying your space is 100 square feet, or do you ultimately want 100 squares for planting?

Oh, and of course the stores will all recommend different things. You'll get a different answer from each place you go to. This will be based on their own experience, or of course if they don't have vermiculite for instance, they will tell you Perlite is a fine replacement, because then they can make a sale! I chose to do it by the book, and so far I'm enjoying the results (I'm harvesting fall veggies now from my first SFG). It would help to know how you're calculating your costs. $500 sounds steep to me. Let us know if we can help you with sources or anything, to help bring that price down.

Thanks for joining us!

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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  skskpdx on Mon 26 Sep 2011 - 18:06

Thank you boffer, gwennifer, kelejan for your replies!! I will go by your advice/suggestions and do it on a 4*4 or 3*3 first. $500 cost is for all 3 when buying independently for about 81 sf of Mel's mix needed. It includes transportation as well. we have some compost at home, maybe we can try to use that to save some money.

Please let me know where to buy these if you have ideas. Price quotes are from Home Depot/7 Dees.

Thank you so much!!!


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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  gwennifer on Mon 26 Sep 2011 - 23:03

Well, I can see 81 cubic feet of Mel's Mix getting up to $500 I think. But even if you filled your entire 100 square feet of space with Mel's Mix, you'd only need 50 cubic feet to get the 6" depth needed. :scratch: Am I missing something?

I just bought my ingredients in June, so my info is pretty recent.

Compost: I found high quality composts at every local nursery I visited, and had no trouble finding several different types that didn't contain any peat or other fillers. In my experience, they only cost two to three dollars per cubic foot. Don't feel like you have to start off with fancy bat guano or pure worm castings composts. They are much, much more expensive. I have chicken manure, steer manure, mushroom compost, a blended compost made from garden scraps, and another blend from Oregon forest products.

Peat moss: About ten dollars for a 2 c.f. bag. Don't forget!!! The peat moss is compressed, so for instance, only buy a two cubic foot bale if you need four cubic feet. That will save you half your cost on this ingredient if you didn't already know that.

Vermiculite: Ahhhh, here's the tough one. Thanks to the vermiculite database, I found it at Concentrates. It was $26 for 3.8 c.f. The fellow that loaded it for me told me that Concentrates actually sells it to other nurseries in town. That explains why I found the exact same thing at nearly twice the price at the nursery down the road from me.

Anyway, I can see the appeal of doing it all at once, especially if you're having to have this stuff delivered. I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say we'd love to see your plans and hear your ambitions for your 100 square feet of space!

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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  Unmutual on Tue 27 Sep 2011 - 5:02

Most of the main points have already been made(no wider than 4', 3' aisles between boxes, check to see if the peat moss is compressed).

Mel's Mix only needs to be 6" deep(actually less if you're using 2x6's, which are 5.5" deep). Therefor, a 4'x4' bed only needs 8 cu ft of Mel's Mix, with a 4'x7' bed needing 14 sq ft.

If you live close enough to these stores, buy enough for a bed or two and you should be able to transport the stuff yourself, assuming you have a vehicle. Vermiculite and peat moss are relatively light, compost is the heaviest stuff. I don't own a truck and can easily transport everything needed for 2 4'x4' beds in a single trip.

Most lumber stores will cut wood for free or for a small charge(a lot less than delivery fees). If you want to do all the beds at the same time, then yes, delivery is probably the only realistic option. I'd strongly suggest making 1 bed at a time though.


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Re: SFG Newbie-- need tips

Post  skskpdx on Wed 28 Sep 2011 - 9:19

Thank you all for the thoughtful replies. Will let you know how it turns out.


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