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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Toplef10First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! 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.

First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! I22gcj10First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! 14dhcg10

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First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right!

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First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Empty First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right!

Post  Skibbs 2/22/2019, 6:01 pm

Hi I am new to gardening (although I am successfully growing and harvesting indoor strawberries in a DWC setup as a winter project, now I got the growing fever).  I am in zone 5b at 8000 ft elevation in Colorado.  After much research and reading Mel's book, below is my initial plans to get started, feedback is welcomed for this newbie!

Seeds:
Most of my seeds are sourced from seedstrust.com which is local to me and supposedly only carries varieties known to be successfully grown in high altitude areas (exceptions are the sweet peppers, banana peppers, and strawberries-bareroot which I am sourcing elsewhere). I will starting most seeds indoors and transplanting them outside when possible since the growing season is so short here.  I want to take cuttings from tomatoes and peppers at the end of the season to try to grow indoors during fall/winter but thats a whole different project!


Plant Layout:  
The south 4x4 plot (cool weather plants) will be located to get some late afternoon shade provided by my house while the north 4x4 plot (warm weather plants) should get sun most of the day. The thick line next to the Tomatoes and Cucumbers will be a trellis although if I use this wont animals still be able to get at the plants? I am still trying to visualize where the sun will be rising and setting during the growing season since I have a limited flat area to put them and want to make sure they receive enough light (I live on the north side of a steep mountain).
First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Image013

Plant Protection:
Hail, Deer, Squirrels, Birds, Mice, Voles, Bear!  I am still trying to figure out the best way to protect my crop from wildlife and mother nature.

Bedding Mixture:
Below is a snapshot of my calculations for my Mel's Mix and the remaining soil required (I plan to make my beds 12" tall for aesthetic purposes).  My plan is to have 8" of Mel's mix per bed - I know Mel says 6" is all that is required but im a worrier and I figured why not have a 2" buffer Smile.  The remaining 4" was originally going to be just topsoil then a layer of landscape cloth, but according to my calculations I would need 11 bags of 40lb topsoil (0.75 cu ft each) to get an additional 1" in each bed (leaving 1" extra space), so I opted to pay more for garden soil in 2 cu ft bags so I would only need to haul 4 bags.  Estimated cost will run me $100 per bed which seems steep but Mel sure sounded adamant in his book about not skimping here and cost is not a huge issue for me.
First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Image014

Maintenance:
I plan to start composting, but how much compost would I need to generate to maintain this current garden size (32 sq ft)?  My plan is to put a tumbling composter on my deck since it is only accessible from the house. I think an outside compost pile would just attract wildlife.


Questions:
I'm still missing 1 more source since my 2 manure composts only count as 1 but are my current compost sources diverse enough?
Thoughts on garden layout, things to consider?
Should I segregate the Mel's mix and the garden soil below it with a landscape cloth?
Which regional forum should I post questions to, I had a hard time figuring out where CO fell as it probably is borderline for a couple different areas?
Maybe put the composter in the garage so I can still compost during the winter without it freezing?  
Can I store compost and for how long?

Thanks I am looking forward to trying to get a garden going this upcoming season!
Skibbs
Skibbs

Posts : 2
Join date : 2019-02-20
Location : Conifer, CO - Zone 5b

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Post  AtlantaMarie 2/23/2019, 6:22 am

Hi Skibbs. Welcome from Atlanta, GA!

Looks like you'll actually need 2 trellises on that top plot. Those cherries on the north side will need it. And yes, animals will still be able to get to everything if you're not fencing it in.

Why are you planning on top soil? You won't need it with MM. I'd use mulch instead...

What kind of composter do you have? Boy, leaving it in the garage would be a help! Especially in your location!! :-)
AtlantaMarie
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Post  Turan 2/23/2019, 1:34 pm

Hi Skibbs! You fit in the Western Mountains and High Plains region. I live north of you in Montana at 5000'. We used to have a member at similar elevation to you in CO, johnp, you might search his topics for ideas on successful growing in your area.

Some general thoughts from our region-
The sun in the summer arcs very high which is a good thing for our gardens in particular. The wind is often a problem drying stuff out and blowing them over. We dry out fast, an automatic soaker hose set up or even over head sprinkling on a daily schedule can really make a huge difference. Do what you have to to keep things wet, I was amazed how much better the garden did when I made it automatic.

It does not stay warm enough, especially at night, to usually keep tomatoes and peppers happy.  johnp and I eventually put in greenhouses for this.  The different tomatoes varieties grow differently, but all except the patio varieties would need more space than 1/sf, unless you are diligent at pruning and grow it tall and even then it is iffy. Cherrys are notorious for wild growth, but delicious and fun for kids to pick. One year I by accident grew a cocktail tomato in a citrus tree's pot, it gave us tomatoes all winter and in the spring I took a cutting and it produced all summer in the greenhouse.  I was going to take another cutting and keep it going but it was not that good tasting a tomato.

I would not put a barrier between MM and the reasonably good soil underneath, avoid clay.  If something wants to grow that deep it has the option. No harm.  You can also fill with wood chips, mulch or sand.

I am guessing your tumbling composter would provide your maintenance needs, but some one else with more experience with small gardens and tumblers can answer that better than me.

Welcome to the community! Here is to a good growing season  First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! 3170584802 
Now if it would only stop snowing.

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Turan
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Post  Skibbs 2/25/2019, 3:20 pm

That unfortunate to hear about the tomatoes and peppers.  I would love to put in a greenhouse but that would require a significant investment. 

Would building a frame around the bed with some garden fabric/plastic covering be of any benefit to help grow tomatoes and peppers?
Skibbs
Skibbs

Posts : 2
Join date : 2019-02-20
Location : Conifer, CO - Zone 5b

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Post  Scorpio Rising 2/25/2019, 6:19 pm

Welcome, Skibbs, Ohio here!  Sounds like you have a plan, and maybe adjustments in store!  My advice; take good notes.  You will have a plan, and then there will be the experience.  Most years, very different things!  

I would think some plastic protection might do the trick.  Your local colleagues will be more helpful.  

Glad you found us! glad you\'re here
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Post  Turan 2/26/2019, 12:36 am

Skibbs wrote:That unfortunate to hear about the tomatoes and peppers.  I would love to put in a greenhouse but that would require a significant investment. 

Would building a frame around the bed with some garden fabric/plastic covering be of any benefit to help grow tomatoes and peppers?
Yes, that can be enough. Here is a bunch of different protections I created one year.  The bigger ones are cattle panels covered with plastic.  The smaller arch covered with plastic was some irrigation plastic pipe. One bed is covered with garden fabric over laid down tomato cages. And one cold frame built to be 2' tall. I was protecting peppers and tomatoes and eggplants and tomatillos and zucchini. And do not forget wall o waters, that can be enough for some hardy tomatoes!
First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! 12-may10


  I checked your seed supply, they have a good variety of hardy tomatoes.  Stupice and Prairie Fire are two that I have had some success with with little protection.

Good luck.

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Post  sanderson 3/2/2019, 4:04 am

Skibbs, Welcome to the Forum from Central California.  Turan has been gardening for years so you have an experienced Regional Host.

Regarding your Mel's Mix, you did a good job finding ingredients.  I like Ecoscraps for a veggie based compost.  Another decent bagged compost is Nature's Care Really Good Compost. I think I fiest found it at Walmart, then later at HD.  Go ahead and use what you have found.  In time, the worms will find the Mel's Mix and make more worm castings!

I found composting in a tumbler is harder than in a 3'x3'x3' cage.  However, it can be done.  You may have to supplement with purchased compost until you are able to build up a supply.  Just store extra compost in a protected area.  The microbes may die off, but once the composts are added to an existing bed, they will quickly get inoculated with the microbes that convert the composts into usable nutrient forms for the plants.

I noticed you are using both peat and coir.  ??

If you are using Kellogg's as a base, you don't have to put a weed cloth between it and the Mel's Mix.  Do however, put weed fabric on the ground before the Kellogg's.  Do you have any burrowing critters, like gophers?  Hardware cloth stapled to the bottom of the frame will stop them.  There are ways to keep out critters so start Searching for photos of individual bed protection or whole garden protection.  

There are so many versions of little green houses for the beds.  Just remember to vent when it's sunny or you can fry the plants.  Each one of my beds has a removable and interchangeable PVC frame for bridal tulle against the cabbage butterfly or moth, for plastic against hail or freeze, and sunshade. (Okay, my summers get into the 100's)

This is a 4'x4' mini free standing greenhouse.  All of the frames are gable roof which are sturdy and sheds rain (and probably would light snow).  I use string as tension wires to keep the joints together during windy times.  No glue as I reconfigure them and store unused parts in plastic sleeves.  First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Hot_ho11 First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Hot_ho12

Bed frames with bridal tulle: First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Winter19

1" PVC "cup holders" for the 1/2" frames. First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Table_32

First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Frames11

Each winter bed has pre-cut and labeled 4 mil plastic that can be quickly installed against excess or harsh rain, or completely enclose the bed against freeze. First Time Gardener, Trying to get it Right! Table_33

Please keep us updated on your journey.  In time, I can change the title of this thread to make it yours.  Oh, and we love photos!

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