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Newbie with existing raised bed Empty Newbie with existing raised bed

Post  cilantro_girl on 2/17/2012, 5:58 pm

Hi All,
I tried to find anything related to this topic in the form, but couldn't find it. My apologies if this is a duplicate question.
I started gardening (just regular, not SFG) last year and I have a great raised bed that is about 4x7. The soil is 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 steer manure. What is the most economical and efficient way to convert this to a SFG? I hate to start all over.

Thanks for your tips!
Gwen in Seattle, WA
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Post  camprn on 2/17/2012, 6:14 pm

Newbie with existing raised bed 396615 to the SFG Forum. Well to answer your question, the starting over part I will address first. If you want to go with the Mel's mix (MM), and I suggest you do, dig out the existing soil and replace it with MM.
Economically, start up costs are something to consider but hunt around your area for farmer's that may want to part with some of their their composted manure. You will need 5 types, like steer, chicken, goat, dairy cow, horse, mushroom, or perhaps since you are near the sea a crab or lobster compost. I am sure others will chime in. If you have not already read it, I highly recommend the All New Square Foot Gardening book, 2006.

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Post  tomperrin on 2/17/2012, 6:15 pm

I'm sure that there are more experienced gardeners here who might have better or more orthodox advice. But for me, I would just add Mel's Mix on top of the existing bed. You will benefit from the superior drainage, water retention and friability. Then partitioning the whole bed into 1 sq ft sections is enormously useful.

I like Mel's Mix so much I'm putting it on top of last year's squares even tho the book says just to add our own compost. My compost isn't ready yet and won't be ready for awhile so I'm just adding MM on top of the old.

Tom
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Post  plantoid on 2/17/2012, 6:54 pm

@cilantro_girl wrote:Hi All,
I tried to find anything related to this topic in the form, but couldn't find it. My apologies if this is a duplicate question.
I started gardening (just regular, not SFG) last year and I have a great raised bed that is about 4x7. The soil is 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 steer manure. What is the most economical and efficient way to convert this to a SFG? I hate to start all over.

Thanks for your tips!
Gwen in Seattle, WA



Hello Gwen,

I'm in the same boat as you but my beds are a wee bit deeper at 36 inches deep . I'm diging out about 18 inches of soil and filling up with MM on top of the soil in the raisedd beds .

The only way I can discover to not waste all the usefull earth & manure is to remove the top six inches ( 18 inches in my case ) in one bed at a time and fill with MM or more if you want deeper beds.

The removed soil can be thinly spread over any lawns you have or added to any existing earth beds you have.

I didn't have the opportunity to make my own compost in the large volume I needed for the 20 bed filing exercise .

So ended up buying some in and mixing it .

Mine consists in the majority of about 60 % of well composted 4 yr old stable muck which has straw , wood shaving , newspaper and wood chip pulp in it and some composted farmyard manure which contains turkey , chicken , goose , cattle and sheep droppings plus their bedding .

I bulk purchased the vermiculite as 15 off 4 cubic foot bags ( 100 litre bags ) for the price will only rise and it came in heavy duty heat sealed plastic sacks /

If you want to move over slowly start getting your composts ready over the next year and also buy your vermiculite . In the "2006 version of Mel's ANSFG book there is a list of acceptable fillers/ bulkers like peat , composted coir . The peat is apparently best but I cant get it reasonably cheap so I have some pure 30 yr old leaf mould instead .



Then when everything is assembled ready to go , change out a bed at a time as it becomes empty.


Last edited by camprn on 2/17/2012, 7:55 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fixed a typo)
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Post  quiltbea on 2/17/2012, 8:19 pm

I would fill the MM on the top of the beds and leave the topsoil and manure underneath where it can do its thing. Just don't till it and double dig into it. You don't want to bring up any weeds. I would put layers of 3-4 sheets of damp newspaper over the soil before adding the MM which will also keep weeds down. The newspaper will eventually deteriorate.
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Post  AvaDGardner on 2/18/2012, 2:51 am

The newspapers are such a great idea as a weed block. What happens when they deteriorate...don't the weeds get through?

Doesn't straw have weed seeds in it? Wouldn't all manure, also?

That's a LOT of dirt to deal with. If it has good drainage, it would be wonderful loam. If it needs improved drainage, you could use pumice, perlite, gypsum, sand, or peat moss. Peat will add acidity, too, and will break down over time. I prefer pumice over perilite, because it doesn't collapse into powder.
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Post  plantoid on 2/18/2012, 5:58 am

AvaDGardener

If you compost properly and get the heat build up in the compost pile it will sterilize & kill 99.9 5 of all weeds except for the odd pernicious perennial .

Straw has few weed seeds in it due to the thresheing out when harvested but hay & some animal dung does have seeds in it ,so this is where the composting become exceedingly important to do it properly.
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Post  Chopper on 2/18/2012, 6:10 am

This may be repetitive but to convert to SFG you want the top six inches to be Mel's Mix. If you have 6 inches you can top off, great. Otherwise dig down until you do. It will pay off, I promise you. Then, make the grids, decide what to plant and you are gold.

The hardest thing for me was looking at each square as its own crop and not using the SFD as a row garden with squares in it. A slightly different mindset.
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Post  quiltbea on 2/18/2012, 10:40 am

Whatever you do, don't mulch with hay. I did that one year in my flower beds and the weeds were rampant. I'm still fighting those weed seeds 3 years later. Straw is practically weed-free, being threshed and then cut in the fields.
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