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SFG method in the south? not practical?

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SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  Feistywidget on 11/18/2011, 4:28 pm

I've heard on posts in some other threads on other sites that SFG works great in temperate (mild) growing seasons.

Since this in regards to growing stuff using SFG in hot climates and southern climates ARE hot, I figured this would be the best place to post this thread. This post is for FUTURE reference; can't grow stuff in such a climate now, it's not an issue I have to worry about now, due the zone and area I'm located in.

The place I'd like to do a garden at eventually would be in southern FL or northern FL; the zones would be either 8, 9, or 10; haven't decided which part of state I'd like to do garden at.

However according to what I've heard, because of how shallow the depth of the box is, it dries out extremely quickly in warm, southern climates. This uses more water, and generally cripples the veggies (or whatever plant is being grown) as a result.

I can say that using container gardening, the soil already dries out faster in comparison to stuff being grown in the ground.

Is there anyway to remedy the problem of the soil drying out so fast because of the depth being so shallow?

I know Mel sings the praises of how great his mix is because you can't overwater because it's so absorbent of water. However this works against you in a climate that is hot.

I don't want to change Mel's mix so that I end up overwatering, but I don't want the plants being grown in the boxes to dry out at the drop-of-a-hat either.

Is it true that more shallow soil is, the faster it will dry out, and the deeper the depth the more it will retain water? If I make the boxes deeper with the depth, but still make use Mel's mix, do I have to worry about overwatering?

For making the deeper boxes, I was planning on making the 'high rise boxes' that Mel refers to in his book, the ones that are recommended for root veggies.

Here is a thread I posted about it, that explains this in detail (the high rise boxes):

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t9255-constructing-bigger-boxes

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  camprn on 11/18/2011, 5:05 pm

@Feistywidget wrote:
Is there anyway to remedy the problem of the soil drying out so fast because of the depth being so shallow?
Mulch and drip irrigation. What a Face

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  Feistywidget on 11/18/2011, 6:27 pm

Um yeah drip irrigation sounds complicated, expensive and confusing. Can you suggest any other methods that are simpler and more economical. I mean yeah I could get the drip irrigation kit, but the whole mechanics behind using it are confusing, and I don't get them at all.

I'd like to find a method where I don't to water as frequently that doesn't use drip irrigation; drip irrigation just sounds like way too much of a hassle to me. I don't want to use it unless absolutely necessary.

What I was referring to was if I made the boxes deeper using Mel's high-rise box method (see link for the thread I put) then because of the deeper depth of the boxes, would the soil stay moist longer, and I not have to water as much as a result?


As I asked before, if the soil depth is shallow do you have to water more frequently? If it's deep, do you have to water less frequently?

If I were to make the depth of the boxes deeper, thus making the soil making the soil depth deeper, would I not have to water as frequently as a result?


Last edited by Feistywidget on 11/18/2011, 6:34 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  ksbmom on 11/18/2011, 6:32 pm

We're in zone 9 (central Florida - Tampa area) and this is the first year we've tried SFG. We did make our bed deeper - it's about 10 inches. We did do what's called a wicking bed - a trench below the level of the MM with a pipe that has holes in it and a pipe coming up (basically a big earth box) but I've seen them with just a trench lined with plastic as well - I think boffer did one this way. The idea is for the water to stay in the liner and the plants wick it up as they need it. It is working great for us. We haven't been through the hot part of the year with it yet, but imagine it will do fine. Of course the hot part of the year here is also the rainy season, so we may not have to worry about the wicking part then. We do have a regular raised bed where we do lettuce which has worked well - we used the local "soil" (which is mostly sand) and it doesn't seem to dry out that fast. It is not as deep as the SFG box we have. Hope that helps!
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  southern gardener on 11/18/2011, 6:54 pm

FW...why not make a bed and try out the method? It seems like you're trying to figure out all the angles, and why it won't work. Ours are 6" deep. I've watered them once in two weeks! Yes, it's fall, so much cooler, but my non SFG I'm still having to water 2-3 times a week. We sort of did an experiment, and are finding it really works if you follow the method. I will post a pic of the garden at 40 days along, it's really doing well. I am still doing the "experiment" to see if the pre-bagged Mel's mix is going to work, so far, I'm very pleased.
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  sceleste54 on 11/18/2011, 7:53 pm

happy hi I had a lovely traditional garden in Vero Beach. Even with the afternoon thunderstorms I had to water a good bit because of the sandy soil. I had square foot beds in New Smyrna Beach and now in the Panhandle. I made my SFG beds 18 inches deep. My DH made me a cheapie drip system by buying a roll of soaker hose material and attaching fittings to hook it to a faucet assembly made out of PVC. I buried the hose about 3 inches deep. I've only had to water maybe every 2 to 3 weeks during the dry spell we had last summer, its worked out quite well for me...Smile Using the hose material (available at box stores) came out a lot cheaper than buying the drip systems and I think works just as well..

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  sfg4uKim on 11/18/2011, 8:08 pm

Feisty, I like the suggestion you try just one box to see if this is the method for you.

If you go to the SFG Store you can find a drip irrigation systems that is not at all complicated. You just hook it up to the hose and it unrolls into your 4x4 bed (or other size). It is $38.

OR I use a plain drip hose from a home improvement store which I "wove" through my raised bed (mine is 2'x23').

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  RoOsTeR on 11/18/2011, 8:14 pm

Are you Moving to the south? Your location says Michigan. Just curious. Also, there wouldn't be much hassle involved using a soaker hose.
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  sherryeo on 11/18/2011, 8:34 pm

Heat in the south is just a fact of life. It's going to affect your plants no matter what gardening method you use. Mel's Mix does help hold the moisture longer than regular soil would, but with the kind of extreme heat we have here, daily watering during the hottest days of the summer would have been required with any gardening method. I would never go back to row gardening after experiencing the ease of sfgs. I so very rarely have to pull a weed from the beds when before, with a row garden, I just couldn't keep up with the weeding.

An irrigation system would, naturally, make watering less of a chore and I hope to be equipped with one soon.
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  littlejo on 11/18/2011, 11:29 pm

Are you moving to the south?

I worried about the heat more for me than the veggies when I decided where to put my beds. I chose under a pine tree. The tree is in the center, with the beds around it. Some of the beds got the morning sun, and some the afternoon. Tomatoes on one edge, and okra on the far edge, getting sun for most of the day. Most of the beds were somewhat shaded from overhead sun.

I watered once per day, unless we had rain. I think a automatic system to water would be nice, but, that is when I inspected for food to eat and bugs. MM holds the moisture as well as or better that the regular dirt. Plants need to get dry sometimes so they will grow stronger roots. I won't go back to regular row gardening. If I move, my MM and beds will go with me! The pine tree is shedding it's needles and mulching the garden and the isles and I'm not even helping!
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  RoOsTeR on 11/19/2011, 12:07 am

Yeah, I am a little confused on the whole Michigan\south thing.
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  Feistywidget on 11/19/2011, 5:25 pm

Okay for clarification....

I live in MI now, but I'd like to do a garden in the southern part of the U.S. eventually. By 'southern part' I mean the southern part of the U.S., NOT the southern part of MI.

Not to be rude, but it DOES say with my profile, the state I live in, the gardening zone, and the city I live in.

Regarding the depth of the boxes, I had already wanted to make them deeper for some veggies anyway, specifically root veggies.

The thing that is confusing me about the drip irrigation, is okay fine I get it installed. I STILL have to figure out the timing of how much to water per hour, per day etc. I KNOW this is going vary considerably from veggie to veggie.

Another thing to take into account is the fact that you hold off on watering some veggies when they're getting close to being harvested and developing their fruit; the thing that comes to mind here is melons and squash.

I'm not sure on the squash, but I KNOW that when the fruit of a melon is developing they prefer the soil on the drier side.

Kbsmom this next part is for you...

The method that sounds most appealing to me is the person who made the depth of their SFG boxes deeper, and did something similar to an earthbox set up they called it. Do you have pictures of what this looks like? Also when you set this up, you didn't use drip irrigation did you? I'm trying to get clarification with this.

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Can't find my post

Post  Lindacol on 11/19/2011, 6:36 pm

Yesterday I replied to this discussion about drip irrigation and howthis 60+ year old could do it. I read it again last night but now it is not there. Did I do something wrong or offend someone? Or is it a glitch in the system?



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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  boffer on 11/19/2011, 7:58 pm

We have a read-only list that displays moderation actions, and your post does not show up as being deleted. Nor does your post show up in your list of posts. Obviously you know how to post, so....this is the best I can offer!


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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  Unmutual on 11/19/2011, 8:18 pm

As a person living in the south, I can tell you that both drip irrigation and wicking beds are both good ways to go.

I started my "special watering" experiments with a tabletop wicking bed, with the idea that it could also be used for rainwater harvesting(~40gal storage). It worked well until the summer hit with all its heat and no rain for weeks. I was hoping the system would work, but after 3 months of heat and no rain, it became just another SFG bed.

I recently installed drip irrigation, and although the summer heat has gone, the rains have not come and we're still woefully under the average each month. I will have to give it a solid test during the summer, but so far I prefer drip irrigation over wicking technology for my neck of the woods(Greater New Orleans).

Figuring out drip irrigation can be a daunting task, but in my opinion, it is well worth the time investment. It wasn't terribly expensive(I payed $200 and that covers 2 16'x4' beds and has a dual mechanical timer). When I fully test the system during the summer I will probably get an electronic timer so I can run it at 4am in the morning.

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  shannon1 on 11/20/2011, 4:48 am

@sherryeo wrote:Heat in the south is just a fact of life. It's going to affect your plants no matter what gardening method you use. Mel's Mix does help hold the moisture longer than regular soil would, but with the kind of extreme heat we have here, daily watering during the hottest days of the summer would have been required with any gardening method. I would never go back to row gardening after experiencing the ease of sfgs. I so very rarely have to pull a weed from the beds when before, with a row garden, I just couldn't keep up with the weeding.

An irrigation system would, naturally, make watering less of a chore and I hope to be equipped with one soon.
Sherreo hits the nail on the head. I live in north florida and we have a great clime for gardening but I wilt in the midsummer heat and do not want to be out in the sun so much next year so I will make a drip hose out of an old hose I have with an ice pick, screw in a pressure/ back flow preventer and just turn it on for an hour a day. I will be mulching this year too but more for preventing soil splashing up on the plants during the few thunder storms we do still get.

Southern florida is another story if you move down there you may want to research tropical veg. garden plants, no matter what method you choose to use. Most all the traditional veggies are europiean and not suited for the subtropical growing conditions most of the year. Some of the deep south people surely know more about this than I do but there are some tricks with shade cloth and such one can use as well.
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  sherryeo on 11/20/2011, 12:26 pm

shannon! I've missed you! It's so good to see you back in the forum!
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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  Cincinnati on 11/20/2011, 1:18 pm

@Feistywidget wrote:I've heard on posts in some other threads on other sites that SFG works great in temperate (mild) growing seasons.

Feisty,

I think it's an erroneous perspective. I understand the gist of your post to say the MM dries out quicker in hotter climates. Well quicker than what? It depends on what your reference is. I understand your comparison to be MM dries out faster in hotter climates than in cooler climates. That seems obvious to me.

Heat causes plants to lose moisture by evaporation. Soil also loses moisture by evaporation. The amount of soil evaporation is not dependent on soil depth, but on soil surface area.

In referring to the MM drying out, you must consider where is the water going. IF it is drying out because the plants are uptaking the water, well — that's the purpose of watering.

The SQFT premise is that you can improve your gardening success wherever you are by using these methods. If you're theoretically asking is it better to have a garden in Michigan than in FL, I think the answer lies in what you're theoretically attempting to grow. If you want citrus, you can't have it in temperate climates.

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Re: SFG method in the south? not practical?

Post  ksbmom on 11/20/2011, 1:25 pm

Hi feistywidget,
I tried to find the pictures of the process of making our wicking bed, but couldn't find them. (I am not what you call computer-saavy!). But we did not do drip irrigation. Basically, we dug out an area as big as we wanted our bed (this one is 10 x 5). We made it about 10 inches deeper than a normal bed. In the bottom we put pond liner, then on top of that, pieces of large pipe (from Lowes) that's probably 6 inches in diameter. We put 3 sections of this pipe lengthwise - they attached to another piece that joined them all together at one end. It already had slits cut all over the pipe. Then we attached a pipe that comes up above the level of the bed where we add water. On top of the pipes we put some weed cloth to keep dirt out of the slits, then in went the MM and the grid on top. It's basically the earth box concept on a larger scale. We saw lots of pictures online of wicking beds that didn't use the pipes - just the liner and one pipe coming up to add water to the reservoir underneath. If you search "wicking" on this forum boffer has nice pictures of his version of a wicking bed. Lots of info on the internet about it. It's used a lot in Australia because of the heat and dry climate. I'll keep hunting for our pictures in case you're interested.
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I'm on the same Latitude as Northern Florida

Post  Tinker on 11/21/2011, 8:48 pm

Hi Fiestywidget, I don't think that the soil drying out is going to be your biggest challenge. Coming from Michigan, you're first biggest challenge will be learning what to plant and when. Northern Florida and S.E Texas can be blazing hot in the summer. It takes some getting used to the fact that you need to start your "summer garden" in February/March at about the same time we put in Peas in the north. Tomatoes down here need to be finished producing by June or they will just burn up with the summer sun. They don't set fruit when the temperatures get about 75 F at night. The bonus about gardening in this part of the country is we can grown cool season crops all winter without the challenge of bugs destroying the plants. There are charts you can get from the Cooperative Extension service in each county that shows when's the best time to plant different crops. Good Luck!

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