Plenty of space, but still choosing SFG!!

thephotohoundMarch 16, 2009

Hello everyone... I live in central MA, and have an acre of land. I bought the house from my parents, who had two classic "double dig, black plastic mulch" gardens. These gardens did extremely well over the 25 years that they were here. My dad could (and would) grow just about anything you could imagine. The soil is absolutely ideal...

I tell you that so I can tell you this: My first year there, I planted a single 4x8 box in the middle of one of the 30x40 gardens. Needless to say, my gardening friends and family thought I was nuts, but hey... I am crazy about SFG. My first year (last year) I had disappointing results. Four crops (of the 10 I planted) that did well were peas, beans, broccoli, and swiss chard. Tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, and spinach all did poorly. I followed Mel's mix recipe to the T. I was, however, at a pitch. One end of my box was about 6-10 inches lower than the other. We had quite a wet summer in the northeast, but nevertheless, I was not happy.

This year, unrelenting, I'm adding a 4x8 box (as well as two 2x2's for potatoes). I'm going to use the organic fertilizer that I only used for side dressing last year when I plant, as well as every 2-3 months. I will still use Mel's Mix in the boxes. I have reloated the garden area so it gets a little more sun (now approx. 8-9 hrs a day of direct sunlight), and I am going with 12 inch boxes, opposed to the 8 inch boxes I had last year.

First of all, does anyone have any suggestions for any other improvements I could make? Secondly, am I nuts for paying an arm and a leg to fill these boxes with Mel's Mix, when I have 25 year in the making black gold at my feet?

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jbest123(Zone 5 PA)

First of all, does anyone have any suggestions for any other improvements I could make? Secondly, am I nuts for paying an arm and a leg to fill these boxes with Mel's Mix, when I have 25 year in the making black gold at my feet?
I would love to respond here, but why do get the feeling that IÂm being setup?
John

Here is a link that might be useful: Johns Journal

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 3:29PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

If it were me, I would get the soil tested, then amend as needed. If you don't have any real weed issues to deal with, i'd just make some grids out of twine, so that the spacings can be properly organized. In my mind, you don't need mel's mix, or even raised beds.

EG

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 3:43PM
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rjinga

What is it about SFG that is so appealing to you? The structure and confinement of the beds? the orderly area to plant in? The mix? The strings?

Maybe if you can answer those question and figure out what it is that appeals to you, then maybe somehow you can incorporate your "black gold" soil into the picture.

What first comes to my mind is maybe you could "enclose" an area within the great garden spot. Maybe using landscape timbers stacked 2 high? You could dig out the area NOT inside the timbers and put it back into the new enclosed beds. If you still need material to fill them up, then do the rest with Mels mix. Then your plants will have the great soil beneath them to grow into.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:42PM
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rjinga

One other thing that I did in my garden this year, to try to break free from the typical row style planting, I tried to do more of the SFG spacing and did it in small sections within my garden. I used bricks to form stepping stones to navigate around within the space.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 10:45PM
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thephotohound

"What is it about SFG that is so appealing to you? The structure and confinement of the beds? the orderly area to plant in? The mix? The strings?"

It all appeals to me. I watched my dad break his back for 25 years digging, double digging, constantly bending. I remember hours upon hours spent in the garden doing nothing but weeding. And all the wasted space!! My dad loved his gardens... and he incorporated us kids into them. We had a great childhood! But I can't help but think that we could have spent more time doing other things as well if he didn't have to be in the garden so much.

In addition, I just love the tidy look of the SFG method. The mix is actually the only thing that has got me trying to improve it for my particular situation (namely make it cheaper!) I also know that the mix/weed relationship is a Catch 22, as the reason for one is so that you don't have the other!

I guess my bigger question is: For those of you with a SFG that DID NOT use Mel's mix, how bad are your weeds? Does the nature of the planting method eliminate most of the weeds, or is it Mel's Mix that didn't have the weed seeds to begin with?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 7:02AM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

First off, with space I would plant corn and potatoes, then use SFG for the rest. Corn is a space hog in SFG and I am only using my build as you grow potato bins because I don't have acreage. Hehe

As for weeds without Mel's mix. Your first year you will likely have more because there is seed in the soil you use.

The second year and beyond, the living mulch of a SFG tends to keep weeds to a minimum.

So do what works for you and your situation.

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

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 10:08AM
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anniesgranny(6b)

I just answered this in your other post, but...

I agree with Sinfonian. Start with beds that are cleared of visible weeds, plant your seeds/plants intensively, and you'll see very few weeds. Remember, weed seeds can blow in on the wind or be dropped by birds, so even beds with Mel's Mix can have weeds. You may never have a completely weed free year, but the few that do show are easy to pull because of the loose soil.

Granny

Here is a link that might be useful: Annie's Kitchen Garden

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 11:00AM
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ajpa(z6 se PA)

Mulch the weeds away. :)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 11:01AM
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stacey3822

I was in pretty much the same position as you are. I've got 3 acres and had a 5,000 sq ft regular row and raised bed garden. My problem was the weeds over took me every year and I've got some perennial weeds that just won't go away no matter how much I weed.

So I choose Mel's way with the enclosed beds. I've laid down 4 layers of cardboard and two layers of weed block material on top of that. Then I have set my beds on that.

My beds are 12 inches deep with the first 6 inches being 100% compost and the top 6 inches being Mel's mix. It hasn't been cheap but I'm hoping that this will be a one time expense. I can say this...Mel's mix is very light and easy to plant in.

Stacey

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 1:56PM
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greenbean08_gw(PNW)

I didn't use Mel's Mix. I filled my raised beds with aged horse manure, coffee grounds, leaves, pine needles, whatever I could find last spring. I had very few weeds. I also mulched the garden which I think helps as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   March 17, 2009 at 11:38PM
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jeni3004

Last year I had the biggest concoction in my beds. I had all different sorts of soils and compost. From Walmart compost to Menards. The soil was all different sorts, depending what was on sale when I was filling the beds. I have 110sq ft, 4 beds total.

I had maybe 5 weeds all summer. And the ones that DID come up were easy to find and pull right away because of the way everything was so organized. Oh and I just had weed blanket under the soil.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 9:54PM
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