New SFG Gardener Build

BrianVFebruary 13, 2012

Hello SFG'ers,

I am brand new to Square foot gardening and have used this forum a great deal in my research to find out what to do. I thought I might contribute what I have done to this point to help others who might be in the same position I am.

Living in Orange County, Ca and being totally new to all this my main source for materials were home improvement stores and local nurseries.

To build the box I wanted to use redwood or cedar because its supposed to last longer than regular pine but I was concerned about the cost. I also considered treated lumber and after doing lots of reading on the newer treatment methods I felt it would have been a fine option. Once I finally went shopping I found 6' long rough cut redwood fence boards for $2.35 each at Home Depot. Needless to say, I was very pleased to find this relatively inexpensive way to build my boxes out or redwood. The boards are thinner than your traditional 2x6 but regular 2x6 redwood lumber is expensive. I just used some 4x4 redwood fence posts in the corners and on the sides to make up for the thinner boards. The dimensions on my box are 6' x 4' x 16". I know 16" deep is more than what is needed but I liked the idea of it being a little higher off the ground. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

To fill the boxes I also relied on large home improvement stores and a local nursery to make my Mel's mix.

To fill the bottom half of the box I used Kellogg Garden Soil. Its a blended compost of Forest humus, Chicken manure, Worm castings, Bat guano, Kelp meal, Oyster shell, Lime & dolomite as pH adjusters. It cost $7.87 for a 3 cuft bag at Home Depot.

To fill the top 6-8 inches of the box I used Mel's Mix of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. For the compost component of my Mel's mix I used Gardner & Bloome Soil Building Compost. It came highly recommended from experienced SFG'ers on this forum and from others as well. It's a blended compost and meets Mel's recommendation to have 5 different types of compost. Its very similar to the Kellogg product above but also includes Gypsum and Mycorrhizae. This Gardener and Bloome Compost was $8.99 for a 3 cuft bag at my local nursery. Below is a picture the 2 different composts I used.

I picked up some peat moss at Lowes. It was $14 for a 2.2 cuft compressed bag.

I got my Vermiculite from a local nursery. I got a 3.5 cuft bag for $35. I probably could have gotten this cheaper from a different source. After I bought my stuff I found a vermiculite supplier database spreadsheet that showed better options.

To mix the Mel's mix I spread out a large tarp and combined the peat moss and the vermiculite together then after it was well mixed I added my Gardner and Bloome compost to that. It took a little effort to get it all mixed up well but it wasn't that difficult.

I've got my seeds started in a plastic starter tray. A few of them have popped up already. I'm looking forward to getting them transplanted into the garden and watching the square foot garden grow. I've never grown a vegetable in my life so if I can do it anybody can.

Thanks to all the contributors to this forum. I am looking forward to being a part of this SFG community.

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Your box is beautiful! :) I'm in the process of planning to build mine, but I'm using much cheaper materials. I love the ledge around the top, that will be nice for working.

Good luck, post what it looks like later with your crops growing!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 8:57AM
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Thanks so much for posting how you did it! This is what I was needing to get me started. Can I ask how you determined how many of each bag you needed, or did you just get a bag of each?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 5:27PM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

Great looking

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 5:32PM
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Being limited to store bought soil, I filled the bottom 10 inches with an economical bagged product. That was the Kellogg Garden Soil. I just calculated 4' x6' x 10 inches to figure out how many bags I needed to fill the bottom.

For the top 6 inches I calculated 4' x 6' x 6 inches to get 12 cubic feet. Mels mix is 1/3 compost, peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite. So i bought 4 cubic feet of each, mixed it together. Simple as that.

When I was all done I had a 5 gallon bucket left over of Mel's Mix

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 11:28PM
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Wow, nice job! I like your grid on top -- where did you get the strips that must be 6' long?

I'm not going to tell my husband about your idea to use the redwood fencing, since he just constructed 2 beds with 2x8x12' douglas fir. It was a quite a chore to haul the heavy lumber and then get the long beds flat in the very uneven community plot we just got.

We too are in OC, CA -- would you mind sharing your exact sources for the mix materials? Feel free to email me if you prefer. I have to round up all the mix materials by Saturday. So far I found:

- Home Depot (Harbor Blvd, SA) - Medium grade vermiculite $20/2cf. NO peat moss. No large bags of good compost (?)
- Lowes (Tustin District) - Web site lists peat moss, $9.47/3 cf but I don't remember seeing any there. NO vermiculite.
- Rogers Gardens (NB) - has the Gardener & Bloome soil building compost, 11.99/3cf. I noticed that Rogers Premium Planting Mix has exactly the same ingredients, and looks similar but with slightly smaller particles of the wood chips/shavings, 9.99/2cf.
- Armstrong (NB on PCH) - I got some of the EB Stone compost which sounded similar to the Gardner & Bloome, $21/4.5 cf (3 bags) to try in one of my boxes. no big bags of vermiculite. peat moss very expensive, $20/2cf!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 9:04PM
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Wow, this is awesome. I'm inspired as I'm in the same boat - never planted a vegetable (or anything else for that matter) in my entire life! I'm also in OC (Irvine) and will need to start looking around for material soon. I've been working on clearing out my backyard to make space for at least one or two 4x4 (or maybe larger) SFGs. There were birds of paradise plants and lots of rose bushes that I've mostly cleared out - I did this so I'd have a better idea of the layout and am also considering laying pavers, brick or flagstone. I was at the HD in Irvine last night to scout out supplies and it was a bit overwhelming trying to find everything. I couldn't find any pricing on the lumber I was looking for; in fact, I couldn't find any 1x6" lumber! Unless I was blind. As far as the soil, I didn't see much along the lines of compost (unless "garden soil" is the same thing...?) but I did see the peat moss and vermiculite. And yes, peat moss is very expensive!

In any case, I'll probably be back (or maybe to the Tustin HD) to look for all the materials. I have GCs for HD so I'd like to use them for this :)

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 11:35AM
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Actually, looking around more it seems as though vermiculite is also a big ticket item. At least in SoCal... it's about $20 per 2 cu. ft. bag @ Home Depots in my area. I may just have to call around to different nurseries to see if there's anything cheaper. Looks like there's a source up in Gardena selling at around $15 via the vermiculite supplier list.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 6:49PM
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