Starting a square foot garden this year

reneesarahFebruary 18, 2008

I am starting a square foot garden this year on the San Francisco peninsula with 3 4x4 beds. Since I have zero woodworking skills I ordered three cedar kits from the Square Foot Gardening website ( In the book Mel talks about six inches of growing room, but when the boards came via UPS they were only 5 and a half inches. I asked folks at the office in Eden about this. They said when the lumber is cut it is six inches and then it shrinks- thus the 5 and a half inches. While this is understandable, it is also a bit disappointing to know I will be gardening in five and a half inches of soil instead of six.

I am really committed to making this work, and I note that set-up can be expensive. Buying the three 4x4 beds was 160 some dollars; and getting the soil components (peat moss, vermiculite and peat moss) for three beds topped $100. The hardest to get was the vermiculite, which was almost impossible to find on the San Francisco peninsula in large bags. Orchard Supply in South San Francisco had some large bags when I asked- but nothing in their gardening department indicated they might have large bags if you just looked around on your own. Orchard Supply in Millbrae did not have large bags, nor did Lowe's in San Bruno or Orchard Supply in Millbrae. The vermiculite cost me $18.98 for a 3.5 cubic foot bag.

After spending all this money I hope I get some mighty fine vegetables!

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You will. A 6" board is 5.5". It's a weird lumber thing. Nominal sizing they call it. Just fill them to the top and plant. You will do just fine.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 2:37PM
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not only will you get great veggies but the minimal amount of effort it will require will save you time and energy which for some of us equates to money. DH thought it was foolish to buy the stuff for Mel's mix but things grew so well ( I still have homemade pickles, relish, frozen veggies from last summer) ,it held water (requiring very little watering which saves money), required little weeding, and this year we simple have to top off so the initial investment for me paid off. I started with 3 4X4 boxes and am adding three more this year. Plus I had fun with the kids and neighbors- cheap entertainment:)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 8:49PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Reneesarah, I understand your situation completely. I'm new to SFG myself, so I started from scratch like you. I know when I first found out that a 6 inch board wasn't 6 inches, it was confusing. I actually built my beds from scratch with 3 2x6s high, or 16.5 inches high if I did the math right. For just over 130 SF of raised beds, the materials cost me almost $1,000 and I JUST put Mel's Mix in all the beds (6.5 c. yards worth), which I got a screaming deal on at $370ish, not including the sweat equity of mixing 6.5 yards of material and getting it to the beds. I had to really call around the Seattle area to find Steuber Distributing that had vermiculite and peat moss cheap. My local nursery wanted $28 a 3.5 c. ft. bag for vermiculite. I got it for $14.50 for 4 c. ft. If you want to see pics and read the whole story the link's below.

Newgardenelf, I too had very skeptical help. My brother said he thought Mel's Mix would be good for seedlings but not for mature plants and was concerned that peat moss and vermiculite added nothing to the soil. Oh and they both do the same job to retain water and help drainage. I also heard the $500 tomato comment. If only I could convince him to read the book. hehe. And I have to agree, I hadn't thought about it, but it would be worth all this and more just for the enjoyment my kids get from it all, not to mention the fresh veggies we're all looking forward to.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's gardening adventure

    Bookmark   February 19, 2008 at 1:28AM
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slaphead(z8 WA)


As long as you keep them watered you'll get fabulous veggies. We used to live in San Mateo and remember the climate. If you like heirloom tomatoes and are outside of the fog belt Brandywine grows like gang busters and the flavor is to die for. Ditto for peppers and basil. Lettuce and spinach are great in the fall, winter and spring but bolt in the heat of summer.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2008 at 12:54AM
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