SFG and Raised Beds?

mac1970February 28, 2009

Hi Everyone - We have had gardens of veried success over the years, and are considering trying the SFG method primarily because of the time it takes to weed and maintain our huge garden.

We have all the space that we could ever want (20 acres) but have found we get burnt out trying to maintain our garden (90ftx50ft approx).

Here is the question although I think the answer may be obvious. I want to use our existing garden area and do not want to build raised beds. It is a good spot with good soil.

If I do this will I be missing something that is necessary for a succesfull SFG?

Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance!!

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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

You could answer your own questions by building one 4Â X 4Â box and trying it for a year. If it did not work out you would end up with some kindling wood and good compost. I converted my conventional row garden last year and the only mistake I made was not doing it 35 years ago. I picked less than a coffee can of weeds and no tilling. You can checkout my adventure in my journal.

John

Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 3:31PM
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beeziboy(z5 IN)

Do as John suggests. I converted years ago and have 18 4 X 4 raised beds and wouldn't do it any other way.

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/47/188981452_636ece7649.jpg?v=0

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Web

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 4:05PM
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Dan Staley

My raised bed in this house is ~ 325 sf, about 200-225 for veggies. Raised beds and SFG methods IMHO are the only way to go, supplement with some fun containers and you're all set.

Dan

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 4:29PM
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jleiwig

You don't necessarily have to have the raised beds, but the intensive planting is really what helps in the weeding department. If your soil is already really good from years of ammendments, just try the intensive planting of square foot gardening.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 4:34PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Raised beds (using wood) are the same as SFG beds without the grids. RB without the wood is completely different, though can be just as good if you follow some of the same rules, like not walking on the growing surface, you'll be fine.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 8:01PM
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tcstoehr

Mac, if you have good soil there's no overall advantage to going to SFG. Use the natural soil, you don't need to buy a truckload of Mel's mix. Nor do you need, or likely want, to build a bunch of wooden boxes that rot all too soon. Just manage your soil with composts and any other organic supplements you might need. Get yourself a *sharp* weeding hoe and weeding is a breeze. Don't till your garden, just work composts into the top couple of inches and don't walk on it. You'll find the weed problems to be a non-issue within a year or two.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 4:37PM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

tcstoehr, it is obvious that you have never tried RB/SFG gardening. If you had, you would not be saying what you are. Do you want to buy a *sharp* weeding hoe, I will sell you one.

John

Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 5:12PM
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tcstoehr

Actually, John, you don't know anything about me. But it seems you disagree strongly with something I said. What was it and why?

Was it "if you have good soil there's no overall advantage to going to SFG"? Perhaps poorly worded. By "overall" I meant that the tradeoffs did not significantly favor SFG. I'm willing to hear any disagreement. Keep in mind my comments were addressing a particular situation where the OP had good soil and ample space.

Or was it the part about weeding? I can assure you there are virtually no weeds now in my vegetable garden. Those that are there can be removed in minutes. Even though our climate favors weed growth during the Fall and Winter. Weed management requires neither hard work nor Mel's Mix.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 8:45PM
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gardener_mary(6 MA)

I started SFG using the method from Mel's original book, straight on the ground, improving the soil with organic matter, not walking, kneeling or leaning on the growing soil and growing crops close together in blocks instead of rows. This seems like what you are planning on doing to me. I think its a great idea. If you have not read the original version of the SFG book I would recommend it. I like it much better than the newer version, which in my opinion is to restrictive. I think that you should use as much or as little of a garden method to make it work for you.

Good gardening, Mary

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 10:55PM
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Dan Staley

I also started like Mary. I moved to containers and raised beds for flexibility and season extension and something else to putter around with. I personally prefer raised beds and at this house the big bed is made of Allan Block and is an architectural statement as well as a garden. IME yields are higher/sf in SFGs and there is less work during the season.

Dan

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 9:54AM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

tcstoehr I built my RB/SFG last year on top of my existing garden of 35 years. The soil beneath the beds was fantastic. I used wide row/intensive gardening style and yes, there were weeds and lots of them. I have a sharp hoe and used it frequently. With RBs with sides, you can also mulch the pathways and last year I never got the hoe out of the shed and picked less than a one-pound coffee can full of weeds. I also like the smaller beds for the ability to amend them as to what veggie is to be grown there and the block planting for cross-pollination where needed.

John

Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 2:54PM
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joe.jr317

Raised beds saved much of my garden last year when we were hit with two 100 year floods (still trying to work that one out). The only part of my garden that suffered noticeably was the part not in raised beds. I still have my awesome soil/compost and I was the only one in this area that had just as good of yield as any other year. In fact, my peppers did better than the previous season, though I am quite sure it had to do with my new use of worm castings from my worm bins. Many people lost their plantings completely (second and worst flood was in June) and had to start over late. I don't do "SFG" exactly. Just raised beds. I still get weeds as a result of composting indiscriminately my weeds even if they seed (though I do hot compost and kill a majority of those, I'm sure). The weeds pull out easily and aren't as low to the ground I am walking on. I don't care if you have a sharp hoe or not, you still have to bend to use it well because of the angle necessary to pull with your lats and arms. Plus, my kids can help and they can't handle a hoe properly (6 and 7 years old). The best designed hoe is the hoe you don't have to use. My grandmother stopped gardening because her back and knees. I built her raised beds and guess what, she can garden again.

So, even though a ground level conventional garden MIGHT do as well if you have ideal and consistent weather conditions, you are better protected and experience greater maintenance ease with raised beds in my experience.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 3:21PM
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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

My grandmother stopped gardening because her back and knees. I built her raised beds and guess what, she can garden again.

That is exactly why I converted. I only wish I had done it earlier.

John

Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   March 3, 2009 at 4:20PM
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