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SFG...how do I Fit?

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SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  pharmerphil on 10/11/2011, 7:52 am

Folks, if you have read some of my posts, it becomes clear that I/We, (the wife and I)...
ARE NOT...Square foot gardeners...well we are, but the "square foot"
is approximately 7000 square feet, plus a few hundred extra sq. ft. for herb beds, perennials and flowers,,,
So, Why am I here??
To learn...

as I age, I can see the value/practicality of a smaller garden...But I have concerns over a few things, the main one being Production.
We don't purchase any vegetables from the supermarkets, everything we have we can, freeze or dehydrate...
So is it feasible using the SFG method can I produce vegetables in quantities to satisfy our needs, It's just the two of us...but keep in mind...we eat vegetables everyday, and we never buy any from the stores (except when the last of everything we have stored is depleted..(hopefully near harvest time for given item)
For instance:
we consume at least 3 quarts of whole canned tomatoes every week...
we use no less than 3-4 large onions every week
we use no less than 2 heads of garlic every week.

So My new friends, how can we get the produce from a smaller area...and still maintain our healthy diet, what amounts of produce can be expected..per square foot.

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  RoOsTeR on 10/11/2011, 11:59 am

Just out of curiosity, have you read the New SQF?

Also, I think another outstanding book you may want to check out from your local library possibly is

Mini Farming Self Sufficiency on a 1/4 acre. Really great book!

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  Squat_Johnson on 10/11/2011, 12:01 pm

I don't think I can predict how much produce you can get. I can tell you that over the past 5 years, I have transitioned from a row garden of 3000 sq ft to SFG with 396 sq ft. I grow roughly three times as much food as I used to, and I enjoy it more.

Here's the main difference. I spend almost all of my time planting, spraying, watering, and harvesting. None of my time is spent plowing, discing, and tilling. Very little time weeding, most of that is between beds in the walkway.

I suggest starting small. Build a 4x4 and double cover it for early spring crops. Keep adding beds. I like bigger beds, 4' x 24'. You can zig zag a 75' soaker hose up, down, and up. With a couple of splitters, I can water the whole garden at once.

If you haven't yet, read Mel's book.

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  boffer on 10/11/2011, 12:27 pm

@pharmerphil wrote:...So My new friends, how can we get the produce from a smaller area...and still maintain our healthy diet, what amounts of produce can be expected..per square foot.

I appreciate the question, Phil. I hope we can brainstorm and come up with some valid ideas for you. Believe it or not, you are the first person to ask the question in an honest, friendly manner that invites an in-depth discussion. I don't know the answers that will work for you, but I hope we get lots of contributions to the discussion.

A reminder, you really need the ALL NEW SFG book to fully understand the method. On page 42 Mel writes that a SFGer needs 20% of the space that a row gardener uses. In fact, he used a 700 sf garden for his example. So, for a 7000 sf garden, you would need 1400 sf of SFG space. I would consider that a starting place, and that you'll be working downwards from that.

On the other hand, on the same page, Mel states that 48 sf is adequate for one adult to "...supply salad every day for the growing season...supply daily supper vegetables for the growing season...and extra of everything for preserving, showing off, special crops, or giving away." The man must eat like a bird! None of us has ever come close to that kind of production.

Mel suggests that he can get 3 harvests a year from a square. Given your location, I'm gonna guess that that is not going to work for you very often. It didn't work for me very often because of my coolish summers, so, I've ended up with a cool crop garden and a warm crop garden. The cool crop garden I plant for spring and fall (2 harvests), and the warm crop garden gets planted just once. I do have some cool crop squares that I can get 3 or 4 harvests from each season. (spinach, radishes, etc)

There are some crops that I feel shouldn't be grown in an SFG. Corn is one. Too little return for the investment. My corn patch is 8x25, and I just dump the same 5 way compost on the ground that I use in my MM. It keeps the two of us in corn for a year.

On the other hand, a tabletop SFG is the only way to go for carrots. It's fun growing carrots! 15 squares keeps us in carrots for the year.

I'll be back later with more numbers. I'm glad SJ checked in. He's one of the largest SFGers on the forum and should have good conversion experience to offer.

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converting to SFG

Post  littlejo on 10/11/2011, 1:07 pm

I did my first SFG this year. It was great!

First ya gotta get/read the book.

It's hard to imagine the amount of food you can get from such a small space, but, if you plant the same items in a SFG that you plant in a normal row garden, you can easily get 2 or 3 times as much produce. Depends on the plants. Onions, well, if you normaly plant 208 plants (4 per week) you will have to plant the same amount, but the plants will fit in 13 sq ft. (16 per square ft)

My tomatoes produced probably 3 times as many tomatoes as they did in a row garden, and planted 1 plant per square ft.

I planted Zucchini, normal green, 1 per 2 square ft. They produced probably 4 times as much as in my row garden.

The biggest benefit was no tilling and no weeding!! I spent more time figuring out how to preseve all the veggies!

Good Luck!

Jo

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  Chopper on 10/11/2011, 2:07 pm

As per others, do read the book. Were I you, I would dedicate a part of the garden you are using now to next year's SFG experiment. If I were doing this on a large scale, I would have longer and less wide beds - say 3X16 or 3X24. And 4' wide rows. When you compare the work needed for SFG compared to row gardening you won't have to ask next year, you will be sold.

Even if you had to use the same amount of space it would be worth it. But more than likely instead of 7000sf you could do this with the same production for about 2500 sf or less. This is like French intensive only much easier and with better soil.

Good luck and keep us informed.

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  Jay Bird on 10/11/2011, 5:07 pm

Welcome to the forum , I could go on and on but wont,, I am still getting sqaush , peppers, cucumbers , tom's are blooming, all this in early Oct after the hottest summer on record for Texas, my neihbors plowed their gardens under in late June! I dont weed anymore! I went from 4 garden plots of 50 x 100 to 500 sqaure feet of SFG and get 3 times as much with less than half the labor, I dont have to wait until the soil moisture is correct to till the garden cause I donr use a tiller anymore

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  sfg4uKim on 10/11/2011, 7:45 pm

I agree that starting a small SFG alongside your "traditional" garden might give you an idea of the productivity of this method.

Another thought, if SFG is not for you, perhaps SPIN gardening is. It stands for Small Plot INtensive: http://www.spingardening.com/




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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  boffer on 10/12/2011, 7:54 pm

3-4 onions per week=200 year
9 per square=22 squares per year

2 heads garlic=104 per year
9 per square=12 squares per year

If I round everything off (closies are fine in SFG), you would need a box the size of a sheet of plywood (4x8) to grow your onions and garlic.

Somebody with more experience will have to help with tomatoes.

Since you know your requirements, when you tell us the number of plants you want, it's pretty easy to convert to number of squares required.

I'm a big proponent of tabletop SFGs. I suggest trying 3-4 TT boxes your first year. They are great for small seeds, plants that get attention, and multiple plants per square. For instance: cut-and-come-again lettuces, and carrots that are hard to plant and then have to be thinned, and spinach and radishes that can get 2-3 harvests even in a cool climate. Compare those to squash or cukes, where you plant one seed per square, water, and come back in a couple months to harvest.

It's interesting how folks are recommending their favorite size boxes and their reasons for them. Few of my boxes are the same size because my box sizes were dictated by the size of the used materials I was making them from. It wasn't until boxes 13 and 14 that I made a 4x4 box, which is the fundamental size of a SFG. If I were starting from scratch, I would make all my boxes 4x4 because that size is so versatile.

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  Patty from Yorktown on 10/12/2011, 8:25 pm

Since lots of folks are chiming in, I will add my two cents worth. I agree with the start slow with a few boxes. I would leave your herbs in ground, as they tend to be happier with tough love, except basil. If you do not have perennial plants in your boxes it makes it much easier to rotate crops. You might also want to look at some companion planting ideas. I like the 4x4 box with 4 tomatoes on the corners, a few marigolds on the edges and basil in the middle (1 or 4 plants per square.) Makes everybody happy. Please keep in touch with us, so we can all learn from your experiences. I cannot believe being so organized as to know how much produce I use in a given week. I am still learning not to can a lifetimes supply of jam in a week.

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  pharmerphil on 10/14/2011, 10:00 am

Hi Folks, I am honored with all the replies, I will be back to respond when I have time to give your replies the time they deserve. Everythings going on at once here, have compost and aged manure to spread, and an area to get ready for the garlic...a bushel of tomatoes to pick, and 126 pounds ready to process...makes me tired just to think of it...
I'll be back (speaking of back...hope mine holds up Laughing )

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  camprn on 10/16/2011, 8:59 am

@pharmerphil wrote:Hi Folks, I am honored with all the replies, I will be back to respond when I have time to give your replies the time they deserve. Everythings going on at once here, have compost and aged manure to spread, and an area to get ready for the garlic...a bushel of tomatoes to pick, and 126 pounds ready to process...makes me tired just to think of it...
I'll be back (speaking of back...hope mine holds up Laughing )
Hang in there, keep plugging away, snow will be here before you know it.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  Cincinnati on 10/16/2011, 11:09 am

@pharmerphil wrote:... approximately 7000 square feet, plus a few hundred extra sq. ft. for herb beds, perennials and flowers,,,

So, Why am I here??
To learn...


For instance:
we consume at least 3 quarts of whole canned tomatoes every week...
we use no less than 3-4 large onions every week
we use no less than 2 heads of garlic every week.

So My new friends, how can we get the produce from a smaller area...and still maintain our healthy diet, what amounts of produce can be expected..per square foot.

Wow, 7000 + sq ft. Do you use a plow and disc and not a rototiller to prep that plot?

I'm slowly converting 1000 sq ft of row garden to a SQFT. So assuming you can accomplish your needs in 20% of the space, you need about 1400 SQFT of boxes and at least 750 CuFt of Mel's Mix - nearly 30 yds of "perfect soil"

250 cu ft of peat moss
250 cu ft of vermiculite
250 cu ft of compost blend

Assuming you do 3x16 beds, you'd need 30 boxes for 1400 sq ft of SQFT garden. Increasing box size to 4x16 reduces the number of boxes to 22.

It excites me that a traditional high production garden could be accomplished in such less space. Counting the cost before you get started: Do you have the time to build these beds, and the facility to mix MM in such a large qty?

Obviously there is a cost associated with the first year conversion but a savings in fertilizer, and prep time thereafter. I'd recommend building maybe a half dozen boxes over the winter and being ready to plant part of your crops in it in the spring.

I'm assuming you grow corn as well. I think I will put it in the ground again as someone else suggested. I'd like to try it in a raised bed, but I have always had to stand large portions of my young crop back up after storms we have in our area - Using the heavier dirt to support the 2-3 ft stalks. I question if the MM is too light to keep full stalks upright.

Maybe try some onions, lettuce, tomatoes, etc - as much as you are comfortable with - in SQFT beds. Once you see how easy this method is, you will have a better idea how much of your farm you want to convert.


Last edited by Cincinnati on 10/16/2011, 11:32 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Typo)

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  pharmerphil on 10/28/2011, 7:37 am

It's done, just finished putting the final 1500 sq.ft. of garden to rest for the winter...
application of compost and aged manure is complete...a combined 25 cu. yards

so, it's been 2 weeks since I was here, almost every daylight hour was spent taking out garden plants, tilling, spreading the above mentioned amendments ...a wheelbarrow and shovel full at a time plus shredded leaves, taking down tomato cages (44), fences, etc...time to tune the snowblower.

Thanks for your patience for my return, it's been quite some time.

Time I spent thinking of the Square foot concept...and trying to convert the little knowledge I have into a plan. Which I have done, and the wife and I have decided to try a small square foot, to test the results out...can't hurt to try new tricks.
I believe we will start with a box 4'x 4', modest in size possibly but enough to show Us what can be expected I reckon.
I will address some of the questions and comments:
Cincinnati:
No fancy equipment here, I have an old, very old Tillsmith tiller,


This picture is old, it has since been fitted with a 8 hp. Honda engine (kind of like strapping a jet engine to a crop duster huh?) Laughing
Other than that, and I only use it in the spring and fall, I have three hoes and assorted hand tools...May not be efficient, but I'm in GREAT SHAPE...for my age.

I do have the time, the facilities and the cash to convert, but will "wade" into this...
Oh and the corn, heck Our corn blows down in the garden soil...but then, we live out where there's always wind...sometimes very, very strong...standing up 5 rows of corn, equaling 375 ft. of row (but in a block) is a tough job...we did it 3 times
Thanks for the break down on amounts needed for a SF set up

Boffer: You wrote:
3-4 onions per week=200 year
9 per square=22 squares per year

2 heads garlic=104 per year
9 per square=12 squares per year
Garlic, we just planted on the 17th. 240 cloves; thats 4 -20 foot beds. Plant spacing 8 inches, distance between rows in each bed 14 inches.
Last year we did 176 (from memory..give or take 10)
and that's what we harvested...

so my garlic question/comment is this:
Our garlic is an old heirloom variety, each head produced is approximately 3 inches in diameter...so, would I then need to change the variety to achieve your estimate of 9 per square?
I'd sure hate to lose the joy brought on by being able to cook with nice BIG cloves.
pretty much the same situation with the onions...mine have won many blue ribbons for size and quality, plus it's nice to have to store half of an onion due to it being too large for one meal...

Thanks folks for your replies, lets keep this thread going...I can use all the info I can gather...
Oh, and you'll be seeing more of me know...my days have gotten about 7 hours shorter..YIPPEE cheers


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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 10/28/2011, 9:35 am

My concern for you is doing a conversion/rebuild by the book when it comes to mixing your MM. SFG is so intensive to the plants, you really have to watch your Ps and Qs if you plan to replace your old method on such a scale. The expense is also noteworthy. Making MM from scratch is not cheap....and not on your scale. 1500 sqft is going to be rather pricey, which is what worries me about skimping.

Do things gradually before committing to the method. Build a couple of SFG beds, plant the same things in as you are already growing, learn what will change from comparison gardening, and decide in a couple of seasons if you want to convert fully. I would hate to see someone jump in cold turkey, not get a portion of the MM correct, and wonder why 1500 sqft has them running to the grocery store they haven't been to in years.

My recommendation would to be anally retentive about perfecting your mix....and going about it slowly.

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  littlejo on 10/28/2011, 12:03 pm

Well, you are off to a good start, planning ahead and start small.
If I were you, just as an experiment, I'd go out and replant a couple feet of the garlic and onions. Put them 9 per sq. ft. in your soil, just a couple squares, and see how they produce for you.

Could you let us know what varieties of garlic and onions you plant?
I'm always looking for heirloom varieties to try.

I've not got a lot of experience with SFG(just 1 yr) but, I've never been able in the past, to grow so much vegetables as this yr. (of course, my soil was lousy)

About the tools. I don't have or use a hoe any longer!
Jo

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  boffer on 10/28/2011, 2:22 pm

Hey Phil, glad you found your way back. No doubt there's something to be said for hard work in the garden. On the other hand, I put this in my sig every once in a while.
I suppose you shouldn't give up all your rows, then you'd have to start going to the gym!

To be honest, I've never seen a three inch garlic bulb. I guess they would be happier at 4 or 5 per square.

Do you stagger the planting of any of your crops so you can eat them fresh all growing season long?



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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

Post  pharmerphil on 10/29/2011, 10:21 am

Boffer, I'll have to snap a picture, the garlic variety is unknown, it came from a local farm (CSA) that inherited it with the farm purchase.
it is not elephant garlic, but an old variety that the previous owner said he had grown for 30 years and another garlic type is German White (Hardneck garlic)

Yes, we do stagger plantings...We follow up every crop with something that we can grow to maturity in zone 4...even if it requires some "extra" help
Guess I should keep some rows?? I suppose so, I do need exercise...and the wife can already out run me Laughing

Little Jo, see my reply to Boffer for the garlic description (for what it's worth)
Onions, nothing fancy, yellow sweet spanish, a red variety that the name slips my mind at the moment.

BackyardBirdGardner, That is my plan...wade into it, the cost, probably the least of my worries, but is a major investment, my concern is cost versus production...
and it would really suck to start visiting the produce aisles once again...(they still have those)? Laughing

and..Your remark:
My recommendation would to be anally retentive about perfecting your mix....and going about it slowly.
you been talking to my wife?

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Re: SFG...how do I Fit?

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