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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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New, and wondering if I can do this... Toplef10New, and wondering if I can do this... 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

New, and wondering if I can do this... I22gcj10New, and wondering if I can do this... 14dhcg10

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Post  aggyanna Fri 21 Mar 2014 - 13:53

Well, I'm clearly a newbie, because I posted my intro in the wrong place at first... (I'll delete the other one)

My kids (6 & 10) and I want to plant a garden.  I had a (relatively) successful garden one year (before I had kids).  We've made some more recent half-hearted attempts, but we travel a lot in the summer, and always just ended up ignoring the garden.  I would really like to succeed this year.  SFG sounds good to me.  It'll give me room for the vines, and I can assign each kid a few squares.  I've got the new book, and I've read it thoroughly.  We made a list of things we want to grow: Carrots, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Snap Peas, Peppers, Cantaloupe, Honey Dew, Watermelon, and maybe Cauliflower. 

The following are my plans, I have no idea if they make sense.  I would *really* appreciate any feedback.

1) Most of those are vine crops so I'm thinking of making two 1'x4'x6" beds with trellises and putting them side by side.  I want to keep them to 4' so they'll be more easily moved if needed. 

2) I plan to build a 24"x18" box for the lettuce and carrots.  It will have three 24"x6" sections.  The outer two sections will be for carrots, 12" deep, and the middle section for lettuce, 6" deep.  (The tops will all be even, the bottoms will be at different heights.) The plan is that this box would fit over my porch railing and would fit 32 carrots and 4 heads of lettuce.  The porch railing makes the box easy access from the kitchen, and is shadier.  I'm by DC and much of summer is too hot for lettuce without shade. 

3) There were no watermelon notes in the book.  Will treating them like musk melons work?

4) We have a major deer problem in our area, and plenty of other animals.  I'm thinking that with vertical crops, a chicken wire guard isn't practical.  Perhaps I can find a way to put deer netting around the boxes. 

5) The biggest problem: we will be gone for much of the summer, we are traveling in two stretches, one 4 weeks, the other 2 weeks.  We have a housemate with a greener thumb than I who can check on stuff, but I think I'll need a timer of some sort for watering when we are gone.  Mel says to hand water daily, but we just can't do that and want to garden anyway.

6) How reasonable are the timing estimates?  I want to make sure that I'm around for the harvest.  I don't mind letting my housemate eat a couple of our heads of lettuce, but if we miss all of the watermelon we will be very frustrated.

7) I already own a huge bag of Perlite.  How big a deal is it if I use that instead of vermiculite?

Thanks!


Last edited by aggyanna on Fri 21 Mar 2014 - 13:55; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : forgot a question)
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts Fri 21 Mar 2014 - 15:12

WELCOME Aggyanna;
I'm not an expert on your questions - someone who knows more than I will come along, I just wanted to welcome you to the forum and say HURRAY for teaching your kids how to grow their own food.  They'll be so much further ahead than most kids who don't even know where food comes from!  

Audrey
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Post  Nonna.PapaVino Fri 21 Mar 2014 - 18:56

Welcome, aggyanna!  There are lots of automatic watering systems out there, and the old variety we have is well out of date.  I'd advise you going to a gardening store or two and ask lots of questions.  I can speak with some authority on protecting your garden from deer, elk, raccoons, and voles.  For safety from the first three, a good fence is the only true protection.  I did manage to save the apples from one of our trees by putting a circle of shipping pallets around the base of the tree--deer are afraid to step on them because they're wary of catching their feet in the spaces between the boards.  Pallets would probably bring complaints from neighbors, though.  In the new issue 263 of Mother Earth News is a good article "Top Gardening Challenges and How to Overcome Them" which mentions "installing an economical double electric fence around the garden and orchard."  And, on page 12 of the same issue is an ad for Instant Fences, some of which look to be electrified.  www.premier1supplies.com out of Washington, IA.  Good luck on both your new garden and the challenges it provides.  Keep us notified.  Nonna.PapaVino
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Post  Goosegirl Sat 22 Mar 2014 - 15:29

welcome Aggyanna!

To add to the above posts, perlite is a perfectly acceptable substitute for vermiculite.  Some gardeners dislike it because some tends to 'float' to the surface throughout the season, but it works just fine and when you mix in your compost between crops it gets mixed in again.  

GG
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Post  donnainzone5 Sat 22 Mar 2014 - 15:34

From what I understand, perlite doesn't have quite the same qualities as vermiculite. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

My impression is that perlite drains more easily and that vermiculite absorbs and holds water, then drains when saturated.
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Post  camprn Sat 22 Mar 2014 - 17:31

Mel writes in the All New Square Foot Gardening book that perlite is a good substitute for vermiculite. He doesn't use it because he doesn't like perlite dust  when he makes Mel's mix. I use perlite with good results.

There are several back threads about this subject that clarify the properties of each mineral in soiI less growing mediums.

A deer fence is a good idea. If you also want to keep out small critters this is also a good idea.

http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/species/graphics/rabbit7a.jpg

Mulch is very valuable to the intermittent gardener.

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Post  plantoid Sat 22 Mar 2014 - 18:55

Automatic watering.. my take on this from this side of the pond in the UK

Make sure it is up and running a couple of months before your planned holiday time.. nothing worse than coming back to a garden where it was not set right and the veg have died /drowned. ( guess how I know   Embarassed  , after five weeks away in one go  Wink )

 Small individually adjustable spray heads that cover a 90 degree arc  are good  so are individually adjustable drippers that can be set to drip a gallon or so an hour .

 Seeing as it's likely to be hot where you are , perhaps  water after sun down and till just before sunrise when the water will have time to get down in to the growth medium 7 out of the area of the immediate evaporation by the suns heat .

Don't have the auto watering on too long  either , as it will tend to wash out the valuable nutrients in the MM .
You can't easily waterlog MM as it is free draining , but you can over water and do the above washing out of the nutrients to the detriment of the plants.
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Post  Marc Iverson Sat 22 Mar 2014 - 19:27

Nonna.PapaVino wrote:Welcome, aggyanna!  There are lots of automatic watering systems out there, and the old variety we have is well out of date.  I'd advise you going to a gardening store or two and ask lots of questions.  I can speak with some authority on protecting your garden from deer, elk, raccoons, and voles.  For safety from the first three, a good fence is the only true protection.  I did manage to save the apples from one of our trees by putting a circle of shipping pallets around the base of the tree--deer are afraid to step on them because they're wary of catching their feet in the spaces between the boards.  Pallets would probably bring complaints from neighbors, though.  In the new issue 263 of Mother Earth News is a good article "Top Gardening Challenges and How to Overcome Them" which mentions "installing an economical double electric fence around the garden and orchard."  And, on page 12 of the same issue is an ad for Instant Fences, some of which look to be electrified.  www.premier1supplies.com out of Washington, IA.  Good luck on both your new garden and the challenges it provides.  Keep us notified.  Nonna.PapaVino

Interesting stuff, NPV. I'm completely unhandy, but am wondering if I should take a crack at installing a fence like this about an area in side yard I can use. There are so many components listed at that site that it seems overwhelming.
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Post  Chopper Sat 22 Mar 2014 - 21:14

Re: Automatic watering. If you have a housemate that can keep an eye out it might work. My son returned to some boxes where the watering had failed at some point and not everything could be saved. And the other suggestion to give it a try out for a bit is a good one too.
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Post  Yardslave Sun 23 Mar 2014 - 13:03

From the revised  ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING, page 99, Mel attributes his dislike for perlite due it's texture in the soil, it migrates up in beds, and it doesn't hold water as good as vermiculite. Perlite's cheaper, for sure, but raised beds need to be able to hold moisture as well as drain. I suppose that it could be used as a substitute for vermiculite in beds that only get partial sun and aren't prone to drying. The new edition also advocates a box be only 6" deep now, so save money on lumber, and just put your money in the 5-compost, vermiculite, peat moss mix- you don't even need fertilizer or amendments if the blend is according to Mel's formula.
      Those of use that read and used the first edition of SFG will balk at the idea of not adding green sand, bone meal, rock phosphates, or supplemental fertilizers and be inclined to resist on a faith-based belief that our way is the only way- heck, look at my veggies, isn't that enough proof!. Remember that we were the second generation of gardeners, that evolved from the Row-croppers of old. Well, move over - looks like there's a newer generation evolving that uses a simpler method that yields the same results. We won't even have to worry about pH anymore because the mix takes that out of the equation. Things are getting easier.
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Post  Marc Iverson Sun 23 Mar 2014 - 22:37

I'm not a big fan of perlite either, but I love vermiculite.
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Post  AtlantaMarie Mon 24 Mar 2014 - 17:24

Aggyanna - have you tried dehydrating watermelon?  It's like watermelon Jolly Ranchers, but more intense!  (It's also rather sticky... but, oh, so good!)

On the auto-watering - we set it up on our deck for my herbs & tomatoes last year.  It worked out very nicely.  We used drip watering.
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