Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

May 22, 2008

Fast and Loose SFG

Well I meant to start this post yesterday, but as I was headed into the city that afternoon for a Microsoft conference I started feeling peculiar. Before the first session was over, I had to leave and head home. I ended up spending most of the night with a fever and bouncing back and forth between hot flashes and chills. Thankfully this morning, I felt much better and was able to go into work for a full day again. I guess I just had a bug. So now that that's cleared up, on with the post.
I've mentioned in the past that I used the famous "square foot gardening" (SFG) method. This is certainly where I started. I have, however, found that there are many pieces of it that I just don't use on a regular basis and others that I have modified to suit my own needs and abilities. I've also found through my readings of other blogs out there that there seems to be a number of people getting stuck with some of the things Mr Bartholomew outlines in his method. It's not so much that the stuff he suggests isn't practical, but I guess for a lot of us it's just not economical or necessary, so I decided to share my view of the way I've come to regard SFG's.
In the beginning I was a fairly firm SFGer. I built my 6" deep boxes, and composed a batch of "Mel's Mix" (1/3 each: compost, vermiculite, peat moss) and laid out my grid. There was my first variance. While I did make a grid, I didn't use the thick 3/4 to 1" sticks that Mel suggested because I didn't have the extra income to buy wood for it. Instead I used a roll of white nylon mason line to lay a grid out. I did this by placing nails around the boxes and tapping them over to make "hooks" and them running the string around them until I had a grid. It worked well, took up less space, and I could see the grid very well. As far as the Mels Mix, I still use it. I don't now, nor did I then, sweat the details over how much vermiculite I add compared to my compost and peat, I just split it up evenly and called it good, By and large however I hold that it is a very effective mix over all. One thing I would like to change, and would if I were to do it again, is that I would not make my boxes out of 6" boards. First of all, a standard 2x6 is not truly 6" deep, it's more like 51/2". Plus, I would like to have a little deeper soil, as well as having a little bit of lip at the top so that every time I work the bed I don't lose part of it over the side.
In the SFG book, Mel is a great advocate for making due, and reusing scrap materials to build the boxes. I totally agree with this approach, and would in fact extend it to the entire system as well. Trellising for instance.
In the SFG book, Mel makes mention of using metal electrical conduit for his trellis frames. Now while I agree that these would make very nice frames, and do in fact intend to begin incorporating a few this year, I was able to use some reclaimed 2x4's ripped in two and built a frame out of those for my tomatoes. For the trellising material itself I again went to the white nylon string. For tomatoes I stuck a stake in the ground and ran a string up to the top of the frame, as the tomato grew, I moved the plant around the string. I still do this today, it is the best way I have ever seen to grow perfect tomatoes. For cucumbers I made myself a sort of spider web strung between two tomato frames made out of... you guessed it... white nylon string. (seeing a pattern here, go get some!) This worked awesome and was completely removable and very inexpensive. (I'll be doing this again soon and will post some pictures.) Remember, every time you buy an item for your garden that you could otherwise make yourself, you are adding to your over all cost of production, and allowing yourself to become dependant on the garden center rather that the supermarket.
I have more to say on this, so stay tuned, but for now... time for sleep.
Till tomorrow.


silverstarsanctuary said...

I like using what you have and substituting yes. Will you share a photo or two when you have it set up? I have been discouraged by sfg books before and they don't seem do-able but this sounds pretty good.

P~ said...

Yes, I will certainly post some pictures. I usually try to be pretty good about that, but really didn't know what to post a picture of yet. Stay tuned.

ruralaspirations said...

Thanks so much for starting on this topic. I am reading with great interest! I guess my problem is I have never done this before, so felt I had to stick to Mel's precise instructions otherwise I'd make it harder on myself (or not be successful). I used string for my grids, but definitely felt that the trellises could have been cheaper! I was just so concerned that I wouldn't have enough trellis strength to grow squashes...and as it turns out I don't have room for them after all, lol! Anyways, I will be eagerly soaking up any tips you can dispense on this subject...

P~ said...

RA~ (I hope you don't mind me abbreviating.) I'm so glad that your finding it of interest, and appologize for my delay with finishing it. I seem to always be trying to finish some project or other. On your topic of growing the squashes, You'd be surprised at the stregth of the vines. I supported three large cucumber vines and a canaloup vine on the same "web" made of nylon string. It supported them all very well.
Thanks for your patience, and take heart, you'd be hard pressed to screw up a garden too badly, they want to survive.