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My first Attempt Toplef10My first Attempt 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.

My first Attempt I22gcj10My first Attempt 14dhcg10

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Post  21Actual 1/12/2018, 12:42 am

Hello everyone.

New to the forum, and to the world of gardening in general.   I have recently took on an interest in starting to grow my own vegetables, and it didn't take long to discover the possibilities and simplicity doing so with a SFG. 

I have purchased and read the All New SFG book and believe I have a plan for success on my first attempt. 

I have decided to go with a 8'x4' elevated (above grade on legs) bed.  There are two main reasons for this decision. First being my location.  I rent, and do not own the land (I feel its not reasonable as a tenet to create a new permanent garden bed). Second, the soil conditions are extremely poor.  This entire town is built on a pile of sand. A bed on stilts solves both these problems at the expense of costing more to build, as I no longer care in any way about the sand, and I will not be digging a hole causing permanent damage to the land owners property. Its a non permanent solution and everyone wins.

Below are the plans I have drawn up. I have not yet built it, I have been busy with another project you will see further down.   The bed will be constructed with untreated dimensional spruce lumber. 2x6 framed just like a deck only using 12" centers to support the entire bed, along with 4x4 legs.  This frame will be topped with 1x4 rough cut pine from my local saw mill. The sides will be two 2x8 boxes stacked creating a soil depth of approximately 14". I had originally planned to use a sheet of plywood to cover the frame, but I had some issues with the glue.  I do not want to contaminate the soil.  As It turned out, the 1x4" raw lumber was cheaper than plywood anyways. The entire floor is to be drilled with 1/4" drain holes, two per square foot. Then lined with landscape fabric to prevent soil loss through the drain holes. 

The approximately 14" depth will be somewhat costly to fill with Mel's Mix. I started searching online for vermiculite. The best online price including shipping was $237 for 12 cu/ft  of medium grade. Shipping alone was $96!

My search continued.  I found the exact same stuff locally at a hydroponics supplier. About the same price minus the shipping cost. $38 per 4 cu/ft. 
My first Attempt GardenBox


I may or may not construct a 3/4" PVC irrigation system. I have some ideas on how to do this but still unsure If I want to do it. 


Next up is what do I want to plant?  As it turns out, 4'x8' is a lot of room to grow! Below is my layout and planting schedule.  I stuck with vegetables that I know I will eat.  (hopefully my neighbors will help). I also considered the North side, and tried my best to implement companion planting. I will be building a 5' tall trellis for the peas, and have placed the pole beans directly in front of the corn, and kept the shortest plants up front. Hopefully the corn will be the trellis for the beans.  I may need to offer support for the corn, however with over 12" of soil depth, I am hopeful the corn will be capable of supporting the additional weight. (On the topic of soil depth, I feel that the only disadvantage to greater than 6" depth of Mel's Mix is the cost. The plants will benefit and thats what matters here) 
My first Attempt GardenPlan


In case you did not not see it in the above picture, my last frost date expected thus year is June 1, with first frost expected just about 110 days later. This gives me short outdoor grow season.  Lucky for me, Mel's New SFG book has a detailed appendix. Some of my crop will be seeded directly onto the bed, and some will be started indoors, and be transplanted later on. 


On to the good stuff because work has started. With the need to start certain plants indoors just few short months ahead, Its about time I get myself ready to do so. I have purchased two 2L T12 48" light fixtures with plant/aquarium bulbs to go with them.  The fixture reflectors were lined with shiny aluminum duct tape.  (I compared the white paint to the tape, tape was a clear winner here with light emitted). I also made up a bracket to hold the fixtures equal distance apart, and created a hoisting rig to adjust the height of the lamps. I have approx 12"x48" of space directly under the light and can raise or lower it from tabletop to ceiling. 

I also was required to create a form of indoor pest control (my two cats).  I love them to death, but without the cage, my indoor plants would never survive.  It was very simple to make.  Just a few 2x2's and some 1" chicken wire. Hopeful this keeps them out. 
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I feel like I be overly ambitious here, but If I am going to do something, I do it!

I'm really looking forward to started a garden this year. I don't recall the last time I was this excited about something. I think I've got a good plan here. 

I welcome any and all constructive criticism and suggestions. 

Happy growing everyone!



Updates to be posted when available.
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Post  brianj555 1/12/2018, 8:44 am

Welcome to the forum from South Mississippi!  We have very different growing seasons, but all of your work looks great.  I'm sure others with more experience than me will chime in soon.   I have been told the forum goes a little docile this time of year.  I know from experience during the peak of growing season there is much more activity.  I will look more at your garden plan and see if I have any suggestions to offer.  The only thing that came to mind (I don't have the book memorized or in front of me) was; are two drainage holes per foot enough?  That might be exactly what the book says, That's just the only thing that came to mind when reading your post.  
About corn.  I don't have a great picture of my support system for corn, but I will upload the best one I have for you to see.  Maybe you can incorporate it into your bed.  I will post that soon.  Welcome again.
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I got this idea from yolos!
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Post  21Actual 1/12/2018, 11:56 am

I seem to recall the book suggesting a single 1/4" drain per sq/ft, assuming 6" soil depth. I will be just over double that, so I will do 2 or 3 per sq/ft.
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Post  countrynaturals 1/12/2018, 12:35 pm

Exciting stuff! We built our setup 2 years ago. I'm reliving those memories through your project.  My first Attempt 3170584802
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Post  SQWIB 1/12/2018, 1:38 pm

Looks like you really thought his out well.

I'm not sure if this is Blaspheme for SFG folks but as a fill can you get a hold of twigs, sticks, fire wood and the like.
You could fill partially with them materials and a side benefit is it will help retain moisture and hold onto nutrients so as they don't leach out of your mix.

One downside is you may need to add some nitrogen if using fresh wood as the wood will pull in nitrogen to begin the decaying process, however, if you use decaying wood from the get go, you are in good shape.
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Post  Scorpio Rising 1/13/2018, 11:16 am

Your plan looks good!  My only suggestion would be to put your 4 squares of corn in a postage stamp arrangement to facilitate pollination.  You are going to have a lot of veggies!
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Post  21Actual 1/13/2018, 5:05 pm

Because sanderson was unable to see the pictures hosted on another site, here you go.   

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Post  21Actual 1/21/2018, 4:44 pm

Materials have been purchased for bed and construction has commenced. Probably overbuilt for what it needs to do, but I'd prefer it be too strong than too weak. Ran out of nails, and hardware store is closed so project is on hold until tomorrow evening. Still need to built the third row, add nailing edge to perimeter of 2x6 floor frame, and put in the floor. 

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More updates to come, stay tuned.
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Post  Mikesgardn 1/21/2018, 8:04 pm

I have to preface my comments with letting you know that I am a civil engineer.  So I tend to over-analyze things.  Since you plan to fill it with 14" of soil, I don't think that you have overbuilt it.  After a good rain, that will be very heavy even if it drains well.  I would prefer to see two more legs at the midpoint, or keep the soil depth to 6".

Also, my experience is that untreated lumber subjected to the weather lasts about 4 years before it loses all structural value.   Are you willing to rebuild this that often?  It's alot of work.  4x4 boxes on the ground are much easier (as long as you are able bodied to bend over).  

Either way, good luck to you!
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Post  21Actual 1/22/2018, 9:56 am

Thanks for your input Mikesgardn.  I intend to add at minimum 1 more leg directly in the center of the box for additional support.  I believe that 2x6 floor on 16" centers on an 8 ft span are rated for approximately 40lbs per sq/ft live load and 10lbs per sq/ft static load. Given the 12" centers I would estimate a static load rating of around 12-13lbs / sq/ft.   These numbers are the "safe load" and I feel that it is capable of holding much more. Granted all this is based on good lumber not exposed to weather. 

The only reason for not building a raised box on grade is that I rent the property and do not want to create a permanent garden. I will almost certainly purchase a home before the estimated 4 year lifespan of this construction.
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Post  Kelejan 1/22/2018, 1:06 pm

I have a cat so I fully appreciate the cage you have made.  I think I will get a friend to make me a cat-proof planter like you have made.

I hope your planter lasts long enough for you to get your own place. One thing that encouraged me to get my own place was the fact that I could paint it any colour I like.
When I showed a neighbour a colour swatch she was horrified. It is a fairly bright yellow and everyone seems to admire it. It brings sunshine into my life. It is due for a re-paint and I hope to get to that this coming summer/fall. If all else fails I intend to do the south side that hats too much heat and is showing some peeling paint.
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Post  Kelejan 1/22/2018, 1:12 pm

brianj555 yes, it does go quiet this time of year. It is only to be expected in Canada and the northern US States.  I like the change of seasons and have no wish to garden all the year round, as I come back refreshed ready to get all excited again.



Hence the large number of other topics that we can read and write about without smothering the main topic here of SFG.
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Post  SQWIB 1/22/2018, 3:21 pm

21Actual wrote:Thanks for your input Mikesgardn.  I intend to add at minimum 1 more leg directly in the center of the box for additional support.  I believe that 2x6 floor on 16" centers on an 8 ft span are rated for approximately 40lbs per sq/ft live load and 10lbs per sq/ft static load. Given the 12" centers I would estimate a static load rating of around 12-13lbs / sq/ft.   These numbers are the "safe load" and I feel that it is capable of holding much more. Granted all this is based on good lumber not exposed to weather. 

The only reason for not building a raised box on grade is that I rent the property and do not want to create a permanent garden. I will almost certainly purchase a home before the estimated 4 year lifespan of this construction.
If you add one leg to the center I would at least use a 2x4 across the 4' width using the 4" end top to bottom, this will support your center across the entire width. although a 4" x 4" and three legs would even be better
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Post  21Actual 1/22/2018, 4:25 pm

More goodies came in the mail today. 

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Post  21Actual 1/23/2018, 5:05 pm

@Mikesgardn, I took your advise, but went one step further and added in a 2x6 across the 4" span. Its definitely strong enough now. 

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Post  Mikesgardn 1/23/2018, 7:21 pm

That'll work!
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Post  Scorpio Rising 1/23/2018, 8:43 pm

Lookin’ good!My first Attempt 3170584802
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Post  Yardslave 1/30/2018, 12:13 pm

Great build- should hold up for a long time. A roofer in my area built a set of similar boxes and when people saw them they all commented on how nice it would be to have boxes like those to garden in. He took on a consignment for a set of boxes, and the owner spread the word. He is now showing them off at local farmer's markets and his new business is growing fast- he's even getting into blended mixes to go along with the boxes.
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Post  21Actual 3/31/2018, 8:16 pm

Onions are well on their way following the transplant from the vermiculite cells to soiless mix., red peppers popped up yesterday and are now under the light, and tomatoes have just been sown and are incubating on the heat mat.   

Also had to add to the cat protection.   Its is now 4' tall.  Buggers kept getting in and taking some nibbles from the onion stalks.  

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Post  sanderson 4/1/2018, 3:06 am

21, Have you completed the bed? Update photo?

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Post  Turan 4/2/2018, 10:32 am

I just saw this and so am kind of late chiming in on the 'Well done, Looks great!"

I am curious what kind of tomatoes you plan? Are they going to share trellis space with the peas? Or are they a small bush/ determinant type? I agree that the corn will produce better in a block, you will need to think about hand pollinating it though. I love the seed starter set up.

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