Only 6 inches deep?

shihniJanuary 7, 2012

I admit - I haven't read the entire book yet. Mostly I used internet resources to size the beds - and just now reading the book that arrived earlier today. I have, however, already designed the beds and calculated/priced the materials required. I'm rather excited about doubling my growing space vs jumbo pots.

But now I'm reading that Mel recommends only 6 inches of soil. Is this even advisable? My planters will be located on a tiny balcony and have bottoms - I'm in an apartment.

I had originally planned to use two 2'x3' beds for most of my crops plus a dedicated 2'x2' strawberry bed that'll hopefully last for a couple years. Much more than that and I'd run out of space.

One of the planters will be filled with 2 tomatoes (Il San Marzano vines), 2 bell peppers (a compact variety, can't recall what seed packet I ordered), an eggplant (Ping Tung Long) and a basil plant or two. Is a six inch depth really adequate? I had planned on building the two 2x3s 14" tall (using four 2by4s) - I had thought the roots would need that space - especially the tomatoes. The strawberry box would be 10.5" (three 2by4s) tall as I hear they have a shallow root system.

Should I be adjusting my plans for shorter boxes, even though there isn't any dirt 'underneath'? Your opinion would be much appreciated!

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There's no problem with deeper boxes, but you'll be putting a lot more weight on the balcony, and you'll be spending more on soil. I had a school garden about 6 inches deep that was on asphalt, so the roots could only grow in the box. We didn't have long carrots, but we grew broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes, plus marigolds and mini sunflowers for color. You can compromise and go with 10 inch deep boxes.

Here is a link that might be useful: What's Growing On?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 2:04PM
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weldontx(z 8a TX)

I like more soil that the 6 inches, but as the teacher stated, you will be adding a LOT more weight. As for Carrots, try the shorter varieties i.e. Chantenay Red Core or Parisienne. Source; Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. Lots of good stuff there.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2012 at 9:03AM
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In My SFG book on page 65, copyright 1981, Mel said 12 inches for poor soil & 6 inches for average soil.
I away double dig(16-24 inches) my beds (I know OGM now say you do not have to do it), but I am old school & know deep digging one time when you are making the bed is better then wasting seed, time, water.
Would you leave your pet in a hail storm with out shelter
I say do it right the first time & you will know it is not the hard soil when your garden is slow to grow or produce.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 7:41PM
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janezee(Sunset 5, 8b, Whidbey WA)

6" works fine. The roots spread sideways. I wouldn't have believed it either, but I was amazed at how my tomatoes went out, not down.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2012 at 4:26AM
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yep, the roots are all over the garden. kind of amazing.

i personally went 12in high and set mine down in the earth about 4in(more for temperature, at least in my mind)

that said the only time ive really used the full depth is for potatoes and maybe the carrots. also, it helps for trellis/tomato stake. i bury a bunch of stuff in the fall (last of the summers compost, and leaves/old plants from the garden).maybe it helps out every spring when i turn the soil over, seems the stuff on the bottom is in better shape, that may be in my head though

something else i notice about it being a little higher, the dog stays out of it, and it forces people to be mindful of it as well. and again probably in my mind, but ive never had rabbits wreaking havoc in the garden either. i doubt if one has anything to do with the other.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 12:29PM
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