Going to try SFG; have some Q's!

momma_s(9b, SZ14)August 23, 2008

Hi, everyone! I hope you don't mind me posting here, as this seems like a pretty tight-knit forum, but I have a couple things I need help with!

We just moved from a very shady home in VA to a great sunny home in CA, and I've been dreaming of having a veggie garden for years... I have NO experience with growing food, but have done very well at keeping my houseplants happy and alive for 7+ years. ;-)

Anyway, I've been doing lots of research and brainstorming on coming up with a garden, and have decided to try SFG. It seems like I'll be able to get more for less, and I can still slightly cater to the lazy side of my self...

1. I've been reading about companion gardening, and how some plants don't "like" other plants, like beans and garlic/alliums... Do I need to have garlic in a completely different box than beans, or can they be on opposite ends of the box? Would having one box with the soil separated be ok?

2. Since I've never done veggie gardening (any type of gardening, actually), would it be crazy of me to start with a 4x8 box, or should I stick with a 4x4?

3. Anyone have advice on doing SFG they would like to share?

TIA for you responses and help!

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Welcome, momma s! I'm pretty new here myself, but I think you'll find a lot of people willing to help you out...these guys and gals are great!

I recently read that there is really no scientific proof that companion planting is of benefit, with the exception of French marigolds (good with just about everything). That being said, I try to do companion planting whenever possible. Might not be scientific, but it sure doesn't hurt *g*

In my opinion, a 4x8-foot bed would be just great, just as long as you can reach the center from both sides. I have three of them myself, along with five 4x4s.

My planting season is coming to an end for the year, but I'm sure someone will come along shortly with tips on how and what to plant in your zone. Good luck!


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

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 12:15AM
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Melissa Houser

momma s, SFG is very easy to get started. I'm a first-year gardener myself and I actually started at the worst possible time of year for my zone. Basically, my zone is flip flopped from everyone elses zone as far as planting.

Even with starting in April, I still got some decent yields on some things, but my whole first year (which I'm still in) is just a big experiment. If you treat it that way, it will be much more pleasant for you.

I haven't planted garlic, partly because it's not time yet, and partly because it needs a bit of care in my area. I suggest looking around on the gardening forum for your state and asking questions there about what grows well.

Many times a particular plant won't grow in your area, but someone can suggest another species of that plant that will grow well. For me, it's yellow squash. My first one didn't do well, but I'm now planting trombocino squash, which is supposed to thrive in my state.

I suggest planting something that grows well just about anywhere, bush beans, IMO, are good. I also love growing radishes because they are so easy and give a quick result for your efforts.

I personally started with a 4 x 8 box, then added two more 2 x 16 boxes. I'm either brave or crazy!

This group isn't so tightly knit that one can't step in with questions. I've found that SFG'ers are all a really nice group. :)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 12:15AM
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Hey Momma S:

I'm pretty new to gardening. If you've kept houseplants alive, you're one up on me in gardening, lol. I think we are a tight knit group here, and I'm thinking you can feel free to ask whatever you like. Welcome!
I have alot of family in so cal, so I'd say you can start whenever. They have a lovely long season and my in-laws garden year round with no issues whatsoever (in San Diego).
I think companion planting may be overrated, but I'm new. I haven't heard of anything that doesn't like beans. They add nitrogen to the soil, so I'm using them as a cover crop going into fall (and we can always use the beans, lol).
As far as bed size, I would suggest you think of what you consider most attractive. I know that sounds weird, but the more you come out and look at your garden, the better able you are to notice things about your plants. I know that sounds weird, but I'll come out in the morning with a cup of tea and just look at my various beds and I've caught more than one bug infestation in time to stop it early. Outside of this consideration, you should map it out on paper. I have yet to meet someone who didn't feel like they wanted another bed after they started, lol. You always seem to think of one more thing you want to grow.
As far as sfg general info, I really love the method. You can use as much or as little as you want. The point to the method is to be flexible. I have six beds total at my place and I can say that I have yet to get into double digits in weeds in any bed. I have two beds where I have yet to have a weed.
Good luck, and welcome!!!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 12:24PM
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Welcome to the SFG forum!!
I just started doing SFG this year too (first year doing ANY type of gardening actually). I liked the idea of not having too much work to do with the garden, but now find that I kind of wish I DID have more to do out there at times. Waiting for things to grow is hard LOL.

I am doing companion planting and could not come up with a good answer either to that question about how close "noncompanion" plants could be. I ended up deciding to put some things in different boxes just to be sure. I know there isn't a scientific basis to companion planting, but I like the idea of it.
I really think if you did a 4x8 bed you could just stick them on opposite ends.

As far as size goes, I do like the 3x4 and 4x4 sizes simply for ease of reach from all sides of the box. I may even do more 3x4's instead of 4x4's so I don't have to reach as far in. You may want to set up some practice sizes and see how comfortable reaching in to pull a weed or straighten a plant would be.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 12:55PM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Hey momma s - welcome to sfg'ing. You're gonna love gardening this way, I guarantee it. I don't know what to say about size of box, or boxes. I have 1 that is 25ft x 4ft , and another that is 4ft x 9ft. The only thing I can definitely tell you, is more trellis is always better!


    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 3:34PM
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WELCOME Momma!!! i do agree!! your just gonna love it!! whether its mels way or compost only or however you do it, i'd personally go 4 x 8 only cuz i have short arms and a long list!! LOL and big dreams!! LOL and most of us are tight knit and LONG winded (ie) LOL i won't mention..... LOL
i am going to trellis, this is going to be my first year, i have kinda sfg with flowers. but "for me" that dont count, LOL i want it for food. LOL **big grinn** LOL
from what i've been reading a little deeper is better, because don't forget that the dirt will settle and if you plant 6" you will end up with 5 1/2" or less. yep i'm just reading all i can so i can learn it to, eg did a foot i think he said.. an actual foot. not the foot that when YOU measure it it's actually 11 1/2 or so. and have fun!!! most of all and dont sweat the small stuff!! ~Medo

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 5:12PM
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Melissa Houser

Medo, Mel actually plants flowers in all his beds because he likes the purty stuff too.

I'm a die-hard veggie gardener myself, but even I have some flowers in my beds: marigolds and nasturtiums so far. Hubby is the "decorative" gardener, although I've stolen most of the flower beds around the house for gardening.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 8:33PM
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angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)

Hi and Welcome! I'm glad you posted and sure hope we make everyone feel as tight here in our tight-knit group as we can. I'm very new and they made me feel right at home!

I wish I had more advice, but this fall season is my very first SFGing. I am only half-way through the SFG book although I read a little bit every night. It's such a perfect gardening method for me. I hated how hard it was helping my mom as a child. This whole experience has shown me that gardening really can be easy and fun. I don't know if anyone has noticed other than me, but every other forum is all serious with a billion things they have to get right and get right now, and we're just chilling with ease having a little more time on our hands from setting everything up right the first time... just a hint for me that I absolutely chose the right planting method...

Again, welcome to SFG and this forum! I hope you love it as much as we do.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 1:26AM
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Melissa Houser

Angela, I'm so glad you mentioned that about everyone else talking about all the hard work they are doing. I wondered (for about half a second) why I wasn't more stressed when Fay came through, then I realized that my beds are raised, so protected from flood waters, and the soil isn't in danger of being contaminated by overflowing sewage, or raids from rabbits, dogs, etc.

My only worry is that a big hurricane would flip my entire raised bed, but, if that happens, I can refill and replant my garden fairly quickly and still get a decent yield after the hurricane. It helps that my garden is anchored into the ground and that it's protected from wind by buildings on two sides and good wind breaks on the other two sides.

I also don't have to worry about soil tests, drainage issues, adding lime to sweeten the soil, weeds. Gee, I guess I should really find something to obsess about in my garden so I can call myself a real gardener, huh? ;)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 8:54AM
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angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)

ROFL!!! Now we can obsess about which veggie or fruit is going to be the next one we try, huh?

Momma S - I definitely think you can handle a 4x8. This method makes it easy enough that if you wanted to, you could probably even start a little bigger than that even, although Mel suggests start small so that you don't get overwhelmed. I think 4x8 is far from being overwhelmed. It's a perfect start.

My only other advice that I think helped me a great deal is using the baggie method to germinate my seeds. It helped me knowing that it was a viable seed that was rooting before I planted the seed.

Since you're in zone 9, depending on how hot it is there right now, some seeds won't do so well coming up if it's too hot. You might consider planting some indoors and then hardening them off to the outdoors. Mel put a great chart in the back of the book with germination rates depending on temperature. I wish I had read that really good before planting my first few seeds.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 11:40AM
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wonderpets(7 TN)

One real quick thought:

hubby built me a bed that is 4'x8'x(I think) 12" deep. I'm just barely over 5', so I have trouble reaching in to the center of the 4' bed -- and if you run trellis along the long back side, then you pretty much have to do most of the work from the non-trellis side.

The next ones will probably only be 3' wide, especially if I'm going to run trellis on there. Mel mentions reaching through the trellis to harvest -- which worked for the cucumbers growing ON the trellis but not for reaching the bush beans one square inside. What harvesting of the bush beeans that did happen was by touch because I could either reach in or look in, but not both at the same time. :)

We haven't decided on next year's layout yet. The only thing I know for sure is that I'll be putting my Sweet 100 tomatoes on a trellis.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 11:57AM
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angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)

Thanks for that input. I think I'll make my beds that have a trellis only 3 feet instead of 4.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 5:32PM
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Melissa Houser

Wonderpets (LOVE that name, btw!) I used 4x4 fencing for my trellis behind my beans. It made it easier for my (fat) wrists and hands to reach through to harvest. But, boy, were those beans tough to see against the leaves and vines! :)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 8:10PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Momma s, welcome and enjoy your garden! Great bunch of folks here. Always ready to lend a hand!

Granny, funny I heard the only true companion planting pairing is that beans and onions don't like each other. Hmm, MAYBE there is something to it. hehe.

EG, I totally agree that more trellis is better. I think next year I'll do an L shaped trellis in my former corn bed to have an extra 15 SF of trellis space! My garden is bare except for a packed trellis right now, hehe.

And for everyone that's got a shorter reach, definitely go 3 SF, it's a great idea to help reach the middle.

Gotta love this place!

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

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 1:08AM
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