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Newbie - Vermiculite and watering questions

Posted by judysgardens z8 WA (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 1, 07 at 11:59

I'm starting my first SFG this year and I have a question about the vermiculite. I plan to follow Mel's mix exactly for the soil. However, people have told me that vermiculite is difficult to work with and that it can be harmful if it gets in your eyes or if you breathe it in by accident. They told me I should wear a mask when I'm working it into my soil. Can all you experienced SFG folks give me feedback on that?

Also, I have a watering question. I live in the Pacific Northwest and our summers are dry so I will be watering every day. I am only going to have 4 - 4x4 boxes set out in a row with 3' walkways in between. I am planning to put an oscillating sprinkler in between the two boxes and regulate it so it completely hits the boxes. Then set it on a timer to go off early in the morining and in the early evening every day. Do you think this is a good system?

Thanks so much for any suggestions!!!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Newbie - Vermiculite and watering questions

Vermiculite isn't difficult to work with, but it can be dusty when you empty the bag. The dust is considered not the best to breathe in.

This is avoidable by wetting it in the bag. Or, simply work upwind when you dump it out. I just held my breath ;-)

The sprinkler is fine. The disadvantage is you get the foliage wet which can contribute to fungal problems on susceptible plants. A drip irrigation or soaker hose system would be better, but overhead irrigation is just fine too.

Have fun!

Oh, and congratulations on using Mel's mix. Many folks don't use Mel's mix and end up expressing disappointment that their crops don't grow as well as they were thinking they would.

To grow intensively and get good results requires a growing medium that can sustain the closely spaced plants and Mel's mix does a good job of that.

RE: Newbie - Vermiculite and watering questions

Thanks for the support!! If I did consider to do a drip system, how do you get the drip hose from box to box without running it across the pathway and watering the pathways? I, too, think that would be more efficient, and can run the hose from the facet to the first box, but I'm not sure how to connect the boxes!!!

RE: Newbie - Vermiculite and watering questions I've been looking through this forum for watering ideas and drip or soaker hose designs and found that there are A LOT of different methods!!! First, it sounds like "soaker" you turn the hoses down, "drip" you have them facing upwards and get a little spray. It seems like the drip method would reach the entire 4x4 bed, where the turned down method could miss some areas. Also, do you think it's better to buy a prepackaged system from one of the companies, like, or, or to just buy the separate parts and put it together myself? There is a website called that somebody posted that has detailed instructions you can print out. Since this is my first SFG, I don't want to invest a lot of money when I can do it more economically. The whole thing is pretty pricy at the very start, building the boxes, soil ingredients, irrigation system. I'm totally committed, but still want to save some money. What do you think???

RE: Newbie - Vermiculite and watering questions

I purchased from Dripworks. I use the 1/4 lines with emitters built in. I use the 6" spaced emitters. Works well, but they need to be about 9" apart or less in the bed to get even watering.

Yes, if you do SFG 'by the book' it does have an appreciable upfront cost. I think it pays off in the long run, but the startup costs are there.

A soaker is a porous hose. A drip line is a tube with emitters inserted at pre set spacing. A soaker hose isn't supposed to spray, just sweat, but because many use them without a pressure regulator they end up spraying.

Drip line *must* be used with a pressure regulator or the components come apart at higher pressures and the emitters don't work properly. A pressure regulator is a few dollars. A filter should also be used to avoid clogging the lines (another 5-10 dollars)

You also asked how to get the irrigation from one bed to the next. You just run them at ground level from bed to bed. They can be buried to keep them out of sight and to not be a tripping hazard, but I just use earth staples to keep them pinned down. Dripworks is nice in that you can have them design your system for free. It is a service they offer on the website. Takes all the guess work out of it.

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