My first year of SFG

dianezone7okSeptember 19, 2010

I started a year ago with two 4x4 beds and got to plant lettuce, spinach, and radishes for the fall. These all did great right into December with occasional covering. By spring I had expanded to 6 4x4's and a 2x24 along a fence. I still planted about 1/3 of my regular garden for comparison and set about experimenting with the SFG. Some observations and questions:

Pole beans grew extremely slowly and never set a single pod, while I am usually overrun with them. Cukes right next to them grew well until they started flowering then wilted in place. If it was bacterial wilt, why wasn't the squash on the other side affected? Squash grew WAY better and WAY longer than any I've ever grown, and seemed to have way fewer squash bugs. Maybe they'll find the new garden next year?

Corn has been a giant disappointment. Early variety tassels out at only 18-24" high. Later variety got nice and tall but neither variety has produced very big ears. I've grown the corn 4 per square, 8 squares at a time for pollination, but it didn't seem to help. Perhaps I should plant a whole 4x4 at a time? Anyone have a variety that produces nice big ears?

Training the tomatoes on the trellis didn't work out very well either, they kinda went everywhere. Do most folks grow determinate or indeterminate on trellises? Also noticed the fruits on my bell peppers are way smaller than the ones in the main garden, but the *$%^& gophers couldn't get the ones in the raised beds!

Cauliflower was a disappointment as well -- got big beautiful plants but scrawny little heads that took forever to set -- does that mean the soil mix is too rich?

Some of my problems this year may be connected to unusually hot temperatures, but wow have I watered a lot. Twice a day when I have seeds in, like right now. I also got one bag of fine vermiculite by mistake and the part of the bed that has that is where the cukes, pole beans, and peppers were, so reworking the soil over the winter may help that.

I also noticed that potato yields were way less in the SFG than the regular garden on a per plant basis, despite building a height extension and piling on additional soil. I did have beautiful plants without beetles, though.

The best part about SFG is that it's easier to plant in succession. Looking at my planting charts, almost every square has had 3 crops this year and some of those that didn't simply weren't ready early enough in the year to plant.

I take it we can't post photos to this forum. All comments welcome.

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Hi Diane, welcome to the forum. It seems like your garden is like most of ours, some things do great and some don't. One question I have is how deep are your boxes? The standard 5-6" deep boxes are great for the lettuce, spinach and radishes type plants but alot of people use 10-12" boxes for the corn, brocoli and cauliflower plants. I use miniature plants in the 6" also. Did you use the 5 types of compost? I know it's dissappointing to have failures, and maybe someone else has more ideas to increase your success next year.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 5:24PM
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Hi Kath, thanks for your reply. I did find 5 types of compost I was happy with, and I'm making more of my own to refresh the squares as I replant. Most of my boxes are 8" boards on the sides but not filled completely to the top. I used extensions for the squares I had the carrots and potatoes in. My 2 x 24 bed was 12" boards so probably 10" deep. Since I will rotate next year, different things will get the deeper boxes.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 12:57AM
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This year I planed my first SFG, and did everything exactly according to the book. Drove all around town to get 5 types of compost. I was really disappointed with the results. My peppers and eggplants didn't grow well at all. I have concluded that the bed is just not deep enough - it is only 6 inches deep. I also wondered if it was just too acidic because of the peat moss. And I didn't fertilize at all but next year I might try that. Would love to hear from others who had a disappointing year then made adjustments and had success.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 10:25PM
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This year was a success. 1st of all, let me say we got 20 inches of rain in July, 12" in August. We normally get 35 inches a YEAR. Gardens in the ground were drowning. AND we got two storms that had winds in excess of 70 mph. And hail up to dime size. The raised beds and trellises/cages took all this directly from the side and held up.

I planted two 4 X 16 plots this summer. They were 2 - 2 1/2 feet tall. I filled them with farm compost only. (Dirt from a feedlot (lots of cow poo) mixed with horse manure and straw/woodchips. This had composted over the fall/winter/spring. I got great results, but also had a bit of shrinkage. I will top it off with "peat soil" this fall. "Peat soil" is black dirt dug from low spots in this area - former bogs.

Italian Bush beans grew well, and produced until frost.

Snow peas grew on trellis string 24" high -- never blew down even in the strongest winds.

Carrots were huge and beets were fine.

Cabbage got eaten by cabbage worms (I refuse to use pesticides).

Lettuce couldn't survive the rains and hail -- too much leaf damage.

Brussell Sprouts are 3' tall -- and the cabbage worms didn't seem to bother the sprouts part.

Potatoes went ape -- got some that were 2 lbs each! (It was great to be able to just run my fingers through the top 10" of lightweight soil to harvest them! Got 30+ lbs out of 12 sq ft.

Zucchini - went wild, good thing I planted it in a corner so that 1/2 of each plant grew over the edge. (Note to self -- only ONE plant next year.)

Parsnips didn't come up -- that's OK, the potatoes took over later.

Cucumbers died before they were 6" high. Don't know why.

Onions only got about as big as a 50 cent piece then died back. Must try something different next year.

Tomaotes were put in 2 types of cages. The determinate paste type ones were in 54" heavy duty cages from the big box stores, and the indeterminate beefsteak ones were in Texas Tomato cages. The 54" cages leaned precariously after only 1 month until I tied them to the Texas cages. The indeterminate tomatoes grew to 9 feet! 5 feet up, then 4 feet down. The Texas Tomato cages held up to 70 mph wind gusts directly from the side. Gotta get me some more of those cages!

Over all, I got enough produce from the 2 gardens to feed 2 people tons of fresh produce and still fill a small freezer for winter. I hope to be able to really reduce food bill next year.

Next year I will be adding a 16' X 16' raised bed garden on a slope. The height will vary from flush with the ground to 2' tall. I hope to grow more varieties next year.

I'll also supplement my growing space with a 30' X 30' landscape fabric mulched garden for all the melons/squash I desire. Lucky I now have 2 acres to grow things in.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 2:35PM
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Did you say that you put four corn plants per square foot?

I think that is the problem. Even growing one corn stalk per square is pushing it in my opinion.

I grew corn that was spaced a foot apart in rows 18 inches apart. Corn is an extremely heavy feeder and has deep roots - so you need to have deep beds (at least a foot like another individual mentioned).

Even with corn that was a foot apart in rows and 18 inches apart between rows, I was lucky to get 40 ears of corn from about 72 plants. However, 36 of them (Sugar Dots) was pretty bad and netted only a few out of all those. The other 36 - Silver Queen - netted the most with a few stalks that had two ears.

It really is all about the nitrogen and good, deep watering with the corn from what people tell me on the veggie forum.

Next year I'm still deciding if I want to plant another 72 ears of corn (36 planted in each 12 x 4 area) or only plant one area and use the other area for potatoes, green beans, or something else.

Here is a link that might be useful: BsnTech Gardening Blog

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 5:58PM
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diane; I think you will find the second year of SFG to be a big improvement over the first. I really think we expect too much the first year there is a lot for a new gardener to learn and a lot for an experienced gardener to forget. talking about forgetting, I would forget about corn if I were you. Leave that to the row croppers with a lot of land. Good corn is one of the easiest grains to buy. Where I live every town has a corn seller and the local market sells local grown corn. Last year was my first SFG an I struggled with some crops. I also needed to learn to water as my in ground garden very seldom needed watering. This year armed with a year of experience and with help from this forum I had a cornucopia from the garden I still find it hard to believe how much I can grow in so little room.
One more thing I made a separate pepper bed. 10 plants in a 2x5 foot rock garden and had the best peppers I have ever grown the soil was amended with compost only (no pete no vermiculite) with a application of 10-10-10. I started harvesting green peppers in June and am still harvesting. We are talking Minnesota here with a very late frost and only a light one at that.


    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 12:43PM
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