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"Table Top" SFG considerations

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"Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  eflan on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 7:32

Hey there,
I'm an apartment dweller with a balcony and up until now have been doing my gardening in a collection of reject plastic pots. (Note for the frugal - big garden centers recycle any pots they no longer want or that get a little crack in them - with a little bleach they're perfectly fine. All you need to do is dig through the recycle bin to get free pots!)

Anyway - I'm rather excited about trying out the SQF method. It would make my balcony neater (which both myself and my landlord would appreciate) and I could stuff more plants into a similar space. The thing is, I've always shied away from vining tomato varieties because of the space requirement. I didn't think that a pot would be enough space - and my bush type romas always ended up nearly root bound in some pretty large containers. I used a 50/50 mix of compost (sheep & cow sugar primarily) and standard potting soil.

My question is... is a six inch depth really big enough for a tomato plant. I'd love to grow some San Marzanos for sauce, but I've never done it for lack of space. Do you need to make any special considerations (other than rigging up a trellis) to allow them to grow in a SQF with a permanent base?

I'll be heading to the lumber store soon to build three mini gardens - 2'x4' (two) and a 2'x2'. I'd like to stuff one of the big ones with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and basil - two each. Is this too much to expect from the space? Should I add an extra board for a little bit of breathing room? This would increase the depth from 7" to 10.5" as I'll be using 2by4s.

Also... for the little box I'd like to throw a couple strawberry plants into it. I live near(ish) Detroit so we haven't exactly had terrible winters lately, and I'd like to keep the strawberry plants from year to year. I know that they do not need the depth - they have a fairly shallow root system - but would increasing the height of the box in addition to the usual mulching etc give me a better chance of overwintering them?

I suppose this just might be another example of old dog - new tricks. Just can't get it through my skull... but I'd just like to be sure! Especially since I'd like to surprise my Grandmother with a little raised box for her deck. She hasn't been doing any gardening the last couple years (I've taken over looking after her yardwork) and I know she'd appreciate a garden she can tend to herself without stooping.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  Kelejan on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 7:52

eflan to our Forum. I still have a lot to learn myself and I am sure others will be along in a bit to give you some help.

A nice thought on your part to surprise your Grandmother with her own box. Like most gardeners I am sure she misses the pottering around.

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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  Mamachibi on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 7:57

Prior to my SFG, I planted all my tomatoes on my balcony in old Rubbermade totes. You know, the three-foot-deep variety? When I started considering switching to SFG, I grew a bunch of different tomato varieties in my Rubbermades. Only one of the plants' roots extended beyond six to seven inches even though there were three feet available, and it was a monster plant that grew trellised over nine feet tall. I'm pretty sure if I'd topped it at five or six feet, its roots would probably have stopped much shorter.
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  RoOsTeR on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:11

Welcome eflan! Have you read the book yet? It will answer all your questions about depth and spacing in detail. It's a great book and super easy read that's packed full of information you will use again and again. We highly encourage all of our new members to read it.
Again, Welcome! Very Happy

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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  martha on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:28

Welcome, Eflan!

I echo what NR (that's our pet name for nKedrOoStEr!) said - the book is a fun and oh-my-goodness so helpful read.

And the short answer is, yes, 6" is plenty for tomatoes!

I'm curious, what is cow sugar?
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  RoOsTeR on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:33

I'm curious, what is cow sugar?

I have no idea, but if it's a new slang term for cow manure/compost, I am all over it! Razz

cow sugar
llama sugar
boffer sugar
chicken sugar
rabbit sugar...


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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  sfg4uKim on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:40

NR is right to encourage you to read the All New Square Foot Gardening book. It is FABULOUS and will answer most of your questions. In addition to finding it in your library or store, it's also available for some eReaders.

I grew San Marzanos last year and they did great in 6" of MEL'S MIX. Well they did great until Hurricane Irene knocked over my Bradford Pear right on top of my garden. You will be amazed at how much lighter the MM is than a 50/50 of manure & soil and is PERFECT for balcony gardening.

Don't forget when growing members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc.) you cannot plant that same veggie (or any other nightshade) in that soil for 3 years. From eHow: They are the "mother load" for soil infections, pests, and disease.
Grow them in your first bed and give them, at least, 3 years before you
plant any nightshade vegetable in this dirt again.
Read more: How to Guide for Rotating Crops in the Vegetable Garden | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_4480241_guide-rotating-crops-vegetable-garden.html#ixzz1itD2E1kU



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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  boffer on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:41

Welcome and congratulations for being the first newcomer of the year to bring up the subject of tomatoes and depth of MM.

That's a signal that it's time dust off one of my favorite sigs:

Convincing SFG newcomers that six
inches is deep enough for tomatoes.

What people fail to realize is that plants get rootbound because the roots are searching for adequate nutrients and water for the plant and can't find them. When a plant is in MM and is watered properly, the root system is quite small.

cow sugar
llama sugar
boffer sugar
chicken sugar
rabbit sugar...

boffer sugar: available everywhere, fresh daily, free, addictive
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:43

Hi eflan!

+1 Smile to read the ANSFG book

I also want to stress that the Mel's Mix (MM) is a CRITICAL component for this method. In order to SFG successfully, don't skimp on the MM. Read here:
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7452-mel-s-mix-how-strong-is-your-backbone

But as we say around here, the message is worthless without pics, so here is a poster who had a large deck with tabletops (thinking you could do a scaled down version). Search for Boffer's posts on table tops - they are awesome...
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7914-table-top-gardens

+1SFG4uKim Smile - I think Lavender Debs grows San Marzanos too
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t5216-the-toy-box-the-return

+1 tomatoes will root just fine in 6" of MM! Smile

On the forum, you will also find several examples of trellising, stringing, and staking that posters have done for their tomatoes, most all in 6" of MM.

Happy Gardening! Smile


Last edited by UnderTheBlackWalnut on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:44; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : sentence structure)
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  martha on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:44

Addictive??? You're scaring me!
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  boffer on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:46

@martha wrote:Addictive??? You're scaring me!

It wasn't veggies that brought you back to the forum after your hiatus last year, oh no! You were getting the Joneses for a boffer fix... Wink
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  martha on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:49

Yeah, but I never thought you would catch on!
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 9:51

Hey Boffer -

Tomatoes in 6" of MM....this sounds like another staf74 video in the making...

Does anyone have a video of their tomato roots in 6 inches of MM from when they pulled them last...??? I thought about taking pics but my phone battery was too low...now wish I'd charged it up and taken them... Smile
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  boffer on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 10:11

I'm looking for two posts from last year where PattiPan and I layed out our tomato plants and rootballs to show the sizes. But I've lost track of them.

We made the posts because this comes up every year.
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  eflan on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 10:39

Wow! Thanks for the quick replies!

Like I said - old dog and new tricks Razz. Add in a little dose of "too good to be true" conditioning and that's the reason for the question, even after reading a majority of the book! Glad to see I was the first this year at least lol.

Needless to say, I'm looking forward to the process of building the beds and I'll be like a kid in a candy store when my seed catalogs finally arrive. I have pages and pages worth of plans for different setups, layouts and material lists to make the most of my 5'x7' balcony while still giving me room to sit with a book and set up my BBQ. But I *really* like the look of the beds on stilts... time to go back to the notebook. I think I might be OCD... At least I'll be prepared!

Anywho, thanks thanks again for all the insights and reassurances that I'm over-analyzing!
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  martha on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 10:42

Eflan, just this morning I added (the brief version) of a quote from the book - it takes a new gardener 2 hours to learn SFG. It takes an experienced gardener two weeks!

Glad that you read the book, glad that you are here!
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  boog1 on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 12:09

welcome to the forum eflan

boog
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  eflan on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 12:10

I'm happy to be here, and I'm getting a ton of ideas. I think I might have to add an extra 2x2 box and rig up something similar to those tomato towers MarcyG uses here. Then I can put my tomatoes in there along with a pair of squash &/or melon (any suggestions here? I'll more than likely do a Charentais melon at least.)

And yes, 'sugar' refers to compost from manure. It's used a lot by farmers around here... no idea if it's used elsewhere. Sheep sugar just rolls off the tongue so easily!
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  plantoid on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 13:05

@martha wrote:Welcome, Eflan!

I echo what NR (that's our pet name for nKedrOoStEr!) said - the book is a fun and oh-my-goodness so helpful read.

And the short answer is, yes, 6" is plenty for tomatoes!

I'm curious, what is cow sugar?

As in " Oh sugar ! " from the same stable ... Wink but a different jockey . Wink
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  RoOsTeR on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 13:13

I think I might be OCD...

You fit in already Razz

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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  llama momma on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 14:49

Llama Sugar sounds great.
Reminds me of the annual visit from the cesspool guy arriving at my parents. Dad would say Here comes the Honeywagon.
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  Red-Leg on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 15:25

@sfg4uKim wrote:
Don't forget when growing members of the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc.) you cannot plant that same veggie (or any other nightshade) in that soil for 3 years. From eHow: They are the "mother load" for soil infections, pests, and disease.
Grow them in your first bed and give them, at least, 3 years before you
plant any nightshade vegetable in this dirt again.
Read more: How to Guide for Rotating Crops in the Vegetable Garden | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/how_4480241_guide-rotating-crops-vegetable-garden.html#ixzz1itD2E1kU

Well heck...that shoots my plans a bit out the window. In the realm of the SFG, does this mean one square, or will I have to rotate my tomatoes from box to box?

Sorry about the thread hi-jack.
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 15:28

Hi Red-Leg -

I was wondering about that too since I only just started last year. The location for my tomatoes is fairly fixed because it can't be anywhere near my black walnut.

So, does this mean I should switch the boxes out and grow the tomatoes in a different box in the same location? I could do that since they are 2x4 and have plywood bottoms.... :scratch:

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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  mijejo on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 15:32

Wait a minute . . . I thought I read in the book or saw on one of Mel's videos, that we do not have to worry about crop rotation with SFG. I believe - at least regarding nutrient rish growing medium - that adding a trowel of new compost would suffice.

What say all you SFG veterans? Do we need to rotate our nightshade crops?
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Re: "Table Top" SFG considerations

Post  llama momma on Sun 8 Jan 2012 - 15:54

According to the book, page 144, we are rotating crops when we plant 3 times, 3 crops, per one season in a square. There's your rotation!
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