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Post  SusanTheWriter on 4/8/2020, 8:55 am

I finalized my garden plan for a 96sf garden, then started looking at lumber costs. It would end up around $200. Eh, not great, but not a bank breaker.

It's the soil that's going to get us. At 18" high, it's approximately 5cy of soil. At the bottom end, starting with 50% topsoil that would need years of amendment, it would still cost around $400 just for the soil. If I started with really good soil and compost, ready to go, I'd end up at $750, not including delivery.

I can't bear to look at the cost of starters and seeds yet.

So I'm looking at (top end) spending about $1K on a garden that stands a 70% chance of being decimated by deer. 

Someone convince me this is still a good idea.
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/8/2020, 9:52 am

That's very similar to what I faced in 2016. (I documented the whole thing in my Butterfly Junction thread.) My garden is walled-in and deer proof or it would NOT have been worth it.

My solution to the pricey potting mix is to fill up the beds with free yard debris and only use the good stuff around actual plants or individual squares. Here's an example:

Crass discussion of cost Artich19
This box is 2x2 without a bottom. It is at-risk for deer, but they really don't like spiky things, and a deer-proof fence is on our to-do list.

Anyway, when I wanted to plant this artichoke last fall, the box was only about 2/3 full of hay, used rabbit bedding, and chicken coop compost. I didn't have the resources to fill it up, but I needed to get this plant in the ground.

My solution was to cut the bottom out of a 1 gal. nursery pot, plant the artichoke in that with really good planting mix (MM?), at the right level, then fill in around it with leaf mulch, knowing it would settle back down, but solving the short term problem. I will continue to fill in with good mulch and compost, until the rest of the mix is at the same level as the plant, then I'll cut out the pot. Not a perfect solution, but I have a garden, now. Razz

Disclaimer: I don't use MM -- way too expensive for me -- but I do what Mel calls "the humanitarian method" and use whatever I have available. Since we have chickens, horses, a rabbit, yard waste from 2 properties, and kitchen waste from 2 families, I do okay. I don't know if my method would work with the true ANSFG method, but I'm sure someone will set us straight if I'm leading you astray. Embarassed

So, what can you use to fill your beds? Didn't you mention a woods out back? Can you collect forest duff and twigs from there in small amounts? Do you have a large lawn where you can collect grass clippings to mix with the forest stuff? Do you have a chipper/shredder and trees/bushes to trim up and feed to it? Do you know any organic chicken farmers that might have some good stuff to share?

I think I've rattled on long enough, now. Embarassed I hope some of this was helpful.
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Post  SusanTheWriter on 4/8/2020, 10:07 am

Thank you, Suz!

We've collected bags of leaves and twigs, but it's not going to be enough to make a significant dent throughout the garden, unfortunately. It would be enough for the 4x6' bed, but not the bigger 10x12 L shape that I'd hoped to build around it. 

Maybe this year, I'll just start with that 4x6' square, see how it goes with the deer, then get to the L in the next year or two. At least that'll spread out the cost a bit, and I can collect more hugelkultur layers of leaves and twigs and bits for the bottom of the beds.
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/8/2020, 10:15 am

@SusanTheWriter wrote:Maybe this year, I'll just start with that 4x6' square, see how it goes with the deer, then get to the L in the next year or two. At least that'll spread out the cost a bit, and I can collect more hugelkultur layers of leaves and twigs and bits for the bottom of the beds.
Check around and see if you can good quality wood chips delivered free. Spread those on the L now, to help get that area tuned up for next year. Wink
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Post  Kelejan on 4/8/2020, 10:36 am

Don't forget, Susan, Mel always said use what you can.  I believe Mother Nature somehow always manages to grow something (especially weeds) so you will too.

I save every scrap of vegetable peelings and fruit rinds and look for fall leaves and cadge off my friends for their scraps so that they get into the habit of depositing little bags of all sorts of things that can be composted,   Then building my compost heap I find worms,  and also pick them up from the road after a heavy rain.  It is an ongoing process and really becomes a habit.

In the summer I get grass cuttings from another friend whose son does her lawn mowing and just piles the cut grass in a heap, I maneged to supply bags so that they would be easy to bring home.(whereas I cut often and allow the clippings look after the lawn) so as he bags them I bring them home and dry the grass in the sun to add the the leaves in the fall.

Above all, it takes time and continually doing small  things.  Very Happy
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Post  OhioGardener on 4/8/2020, 10:58 am

@SusanTheWriter wrote:It's the soil that's going to get us. At 18" high, it's approximately 5cy of soil. At the bottom end, starting with 50% topsoil that would need years of amendment, it would still cost around $400 just for the soil. If I started with really good soil and compost, ready to go, I'd end up at $750, not including delivery.

All of my beds are 18" high, and I currently have about 250 sq ft of beds. Due to the problem of cost, all of them only have 6" of modified MM on the top of them, with the rest being filler.  The first 3 beds were filled with 12" of topsoil, and then topped with 6" of modified MM. Those beds required 6 cu yd of topsoil, which cost me $210 including delivery.  BTW, did you know that Home Depot has bulk topsoil, which they deliver?

The later bins I built using Hugelkultur, using free wood from the local tree trimming company. The wood was covered with straw, and then with 6" of modified MM.

All of the beds have been equally successful, but there has been some differences with each.  For example, the Hugelkultur beds have consistently had more drop in soil level and require addition of more and more compost. Meanwhile, the topsoil in the first beds tends to compact and have difficulty with root crops such as carrots. All of the beds are full of earthworms, which helps tremendously with distributing nutrients throughout the bed. If I were to build more beds, which I don't have immediate plans for, they would be done with Hugelkultur.

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Post  markqz on 4/8/2020, 11:37 am

@SusanTheWriter wrote:I finalized my garden plan for a 96sf garden, then started looking at lumber costs. It would end up around $200. Eh, not great, but not a bank breaker.

It's the soil that's going to get us. At 18" high,

I'm curious, are you following the actual guidelines in Mel's book?

96 SF is huge, at least to my way of thinking. That would be 8 4x4 gardens. My understanding of Mel's approach is that you grow smaller gardens, but they're more productive, allowing multiple crops per season. Mel's approach allows you to save money on seeds, buying smaller packets and then using them over multiple years.

What are you growing that needs 18" ? Mel's book explains that you don't need a lot of depth for most plants. So unless you're planning on root crops (long carrots, potatoes) then 6" should be fine. You could just make a separate bed or even single squares for the things that need to be grown deeper.

It sounds like taking care of the deer might be a first priority. My dad in the midwest was a great believer in that deer fencing cloth. Apparently it triggers a startle reflex to help keep the deer away. One of Mel's principles was that you try to locate your garden conveniently close to wherever you are (if possible), so that the garden is getting constant attention. I'm thinking a dog might be useful here Wink

When thinking of costs, be sure to pro-rate it over the years of usage you expect. If memory serves, Mel suggests 10 years. I'm thinking for my setup 5 years is more likely.

Happy gardening!
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Post  OhioGardener on 4/8/2020, 12:07 pm

@markqz wrote:
@SusanTheWriter wrote:I finalized my garden plan for a 96sf garden, then started looking at lumber costs. It would end up around $200. Eh, not great, but not a bank breaker.

It's the soil that's going to get us. At 18" high,

96 SF is huge, at least to my way of thinking. That would be 8 4x4 gardens. My understanding of Mel's approach is that you grow smaller gardens, but they're more productive, allowing multiple crops per season. Mel's approach allows you to save money on seeds, buying smaller packets and then using them over multiple years.

What are you growing that needs 18" ? Mel's book explains that you don't need a lot of depth for most plants. So unless you're planning on root crops (long carrots, potatoes) then 6" should be fine. You could just make a separate bed or even single squares for the things that need to be grown deeper.

My first 3 beds were a total of 144 sq ft, which was quite a downsize from the original in-ground garden bed. We grow all of our vegetables and fruit to be preserved for the winter months, either by canning or freezing.  So, we grow a lot of each vegetable, and we soon discovered that the 3 beds weren't enough. For example, there is one 4'x8' bed that is nothing but peppers, there is another 4'x8' bed that is nothing but bush beans, and then there is a 4'x12' bed of tomatoes and other small crops of salad greens, etc.

My reason for going with 18" beds was not for a concern for the vegetables, but for my back. By the time I reached my 70's, I realized there must be easier ways to do things. And, not bending or squatting down to work the gardens was one of those ways that changed.

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Post  mollyhespra on 4/8/2020, 3:12 pm

Hi, Susan.

I feel your pain.  There is no way that we'd be able to harvest anything from our garden if we hadn't put up 7' tall deer fencing...for the woodchucks, and the bears, and the deer.

So for us, we spread the cost out over a number of years, one to buy the fencing materials, another for the stack of cedar we used for our beds, and then the fencing installation and actual MM of course.

First the fence went up, then we built the beds and then we filled them. I want to say it took us some 3 years to get to the point where we could plant in it.  But we live in the Frozen North, and our window of opportunity for outside projects is limited, thus the length of time.  

If you already know that you're going to garden, then it's a wise investment, particularly during these interesting times we're all living through.

HTH!
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Post  plantoid on 4/8/2020, 3:29 pm

@SusanTheWriter wrote:Thank you, Suz!

We've collected bags of leaves and twigs, but it's not going to be enough to make a significant dent throughout the garden, unfortunately. It would be enough for the 4x6' bed, but not the bigger 10x12 L shape that I'd hoped to build around it. 

Maybe this year, I'll just start with that 4x6' square, see how it goes with the deer, then get to the L in the next year or two. At least that'll spread out the cost a bit, and I can collect more hugelkultur layers of leaves and twigs and bits for the bottom of the beds.

 Making your own compost does not stop with Mel's idea of making it .
You'll be amazed at what can be composted to fill your beds .  Look up Cornell university 18 day hot composting method .  If any one ever comes on site and says they would like to start " All New Square Foot Gardening " (aka .. ANSFG ) the new way as per Mel's mix  if I see the post I nearly always say start making your compost ASAP as it's the cheapest & most effective way of getting the soilless growth medium in the beds . Mel said in his final book that if you could not get the vermiculite or the peat / coconut fibre use neat compost .

I can testify that doing just that and making your own compost over a couple of seasons is the cheapest way of filling your beds . I used to collect peoples grass mowing's & hedge cuttings it they hadn't been treated with chemicals  & put it through my shredder for the browns .. steer clear of the municipal authorities  compost made from yard waste   ..you don't/ wont  know if there is weed killer or harmful substances in it . For similar reasons be wary of commercially made compost made from waste materials ..you don't know the ratios of components in it nor if it has been made correctly to kill seeds & actually has been turned into compost by biological action instead of chemical additives . 

Making your own from anything compostable is a revelation and still meets Mel's requirements . My 250 square feet of 36 inch deep beds basically only cost me the price of the vermiculite and that was a once only cost sometime around when I joined the site 10 yrs ago . Plus the cost in fuel of dragging a small trailer around  on my daily trips out so I could collect compostable material .  About year five I purchased  three or four bags of mixed farmyard manure ..from a large gardening centre /big box store , it turned out to be full of weed seeds . 

Most likely from the horse muck it contained , as horses stomachs don't kill weed seeds like stuff going through ruminants & fowls does . 

 You could do worse than grow hundreds of cabbage plants close together @ 1 per 14 inches apart , once they get to size chop them up with a spade or shredder , bash the stalks to shred the fibres and compost them as well .  Getting the variation in mix of the compostable materials is essential .

Today  I've just started using one of seven big composting bins of home made compost that I made some seven or more years ago . It's like dry chopped tea leaves , plenty of fibre with tiny crumbly bits of woody material in it . 

 Look at the top of the home page find the subject and in the one about gardening then look for compost …101 it's well worth the couple of hours it will take you to go right through it .

 I see someone used the suggestion Mel gave of the ANSFG bed being good for 10 years .  My beds are getting on for 11 yrs old and improved considerably two years ago with 6 yr old well composted woody Leylandii  hedge cuttings as well as the normal  home made compost . 

Dave
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Post  sanderson on 4/9/2020, 4:58 am

Susan, I went back through your 3 recent topics to see if you mentioned the height of your beds.  If you made your beds from 2"x8" lumber it's only around $8 per board, plus deck screws at $10 a box, plus a few dollars for the grids.  You would need only 12 cubic feet of ingredients to fill the 4'x6' bed.  Four (4) cubic feet of coarse vermiculite at $25-30, a 3 cubic foot bale of compressed peat moss [which will more than needed when fluffed], at $10-13, and four bags of 1-cu ft of compost at $3-10 each.  I forgot the durable weed fabric at $27 for a 4' x 50' roll.  A total of $142 plus the grid material.  That will give you a chance to face off with both the deer and of HOA without breaking the bank.  This is my most recent bed, 2'x8', that I set down on cement board as an experiment.  The grid material I like is PVC composite.  
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Post  plantoid on 4/9/2020, 5:25 pm

Electric Express  Compost … worked well for me to get a lot of different quality composts .

The basic ingredient is straw , not hay ( Hay tends to be full of weed seeds ) & "  Compost Tea "     Don't do this by your back door ..it has a delight full odour that attracts flies .
 
Make  the tea …  one pound of sugar  dissolved in boiling water , add water to cool it.

Obtain several 56 or so pound bales of straw , a big plastic barrel , a couple of woven poly prop or hessian sacks . Fill a sack rammed full with any kind of animal or fowls dung plus their beddings or any fish waste or non toxic green plants , tie the sack off. 

Support the tied off sack on a bar over the open barrel .

Half fill the barrel with water add the tea , fill the barrel to the top keep it topped to a couple of inches from the top ,  every three days for 15  days  lift the sack to drain the liquid back  into the barrel .

The sugar is to feed the basic bacteria , yeasts & fungi found in the materials used , the bacteria , yeasts & fungi  help break the material in the sack  down to release or make essential nutrients & trace elements.
 
On day 15 drain the sack off into the barrel & take it out . 
Put it aside for composting the contents in a compost heap . 

 Put two of the bales touching each other on a big sheet of polyethene so the narrowest edge is uppermost . Pour a couple of buckets of the Compost Tea along these long edge middle of the bale ,  letting it soak , in cover the bales in poly sheet , weight it down and leave it 48 hrs to sweat & start the rotting process,  now add two more buckets of the tea & close up again .  Do this for a fortnight . The bales should be well on the way to being useable as the plant anchor/ filler in place of peat or chopped coir . 
 
 Cut the bale twine ,  fork the bales open ,   make a bed a foot deep wet with the tea , build another 1 foot bed on top , wet … do this till the bales are used up .
Re- cover , weigh it down let it sweat for three days .   By now you should have a lot of useable compost .
 

  What a Face  Get hold of a pair of eye protectors & some overalls incase of splash back for this one Laughing : - 

 I've also found that putting a foot layer of the young compost  in the barrel set at an angle for ease of filling & emptying ,then giving it a  20 seconds burst of high pressure spray with the power washer ( well cleaned out of the soap wash stuff ). Then add the next layer and again giving it a decent burst with the power washer ( keep on till the barrel is almost full )   will break this new made compost into thousands of tiny pieces & you won't wash the nutrients away like you would if you did it on the open ground .  If it's not quite fine enough ,  get it out after 3 days and re build the barrel & spray as before . 

3 days later ……..  By now it will be fluffier than peat or rehydrated desiccated chopped coir , it holds a tremendous amount of water , use it as a bed filler / seed starter  or  add as a bed replacement compost when you take something out the bed .
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Post  Yardslave on 4/11/2020, 4:15 pm

Cement board! Great idea! I used 1/4 galvanized hardware cloth(wire) nailed onto the bottoms of the boxes to keep the gophers out, but I had one bed that I had to piece together from 2 remnants of cloth. After more than 4 years the gophers have taught themselves how to push rocks and soil up between the overlapping pieces and invade the peppers and onions. I'm seriously considering digging out the MM and dropping in a sheet of cement board because once the gophers' tunnels are established, the bed will become a mess hall for those that follow..
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Post  OhioGardener on 4/11/2020, 4:36 pm

@Yardslave wrote:Cement board! Great idea! I used 1/4 galvanized hardware cloth(wire) nailed onto the bottoms of the boxes to keep the gophers out, but I had one bed that I had to piece together from 2 remnants of cloth. After more than 4 years the gophers have taught themselves how to push rocks and soil up between the overlapping pieces and invade the peppers and onions.

Man, am I glad that I decided to wire the two pieces of 1/2" hardware cloth together on the bed that I had to splice them!  I almost didn't do it, because I thought nothing would be able to push it up, but now I am really glad I did!

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Post  mollyhespra on 4/11/2020, 5:15 pm

Sanderson, that cement board idea is a game-changer. I think I'll need to try it when I expand the SFG (which won't be for a few years, but it's good to have info filed away). How thick is what you used and how well is it holding up? My experience with cement board is with actual tiling of several bathrooms. I used two kinds, the kind that looks like a thin sheet of...white cement...and the thicker kind that looks like lots of grainy bits of gray cement loosely bonded together but tends to crumble. Yours looks like the white stuff. How do you like it?
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Post  Mikesgardn on 4/12/2020, 7:33 pm

Being a numbers guy, I kept track of all of my expenses for 8 years, and the total was $1700.  That included all seeds, transplants, soil mix, timber, mulch, and building of a pvc hoop house to keep out animals.  I also kept track of the pounds of vegetables that I grew, and I calculated that it was equivalent to $1600 at the grocery store.
Oh well, it is still a great hobby!
A large part of the expense goes towards keeping animals out.  See picture.Crass discussion of cost 2015-016
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Post  countrynaturals on 4/12/2020, 8:55 pm

@Mikesgardn wrote:I also kept track of the pounds of vegetables that I grew, and I calculated that it was equivalent to $1600 at the grocery store.
Did you factor in the gas and auto maintenance to get to the store vs. walking out and picking the fresh veggies?

What about the waste if you didn't eat the store-bought veggies before they went bad?

How about what you saved by not needing a therapist or gym membership? Dirt therapy is free. Razz
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Post  OhioGardener on 4/12/2020, 9:20 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:
@Mikesgardn wrote:I also kept track of the pounds of vegetables that I grew, and I calculated that it was equivalent to $1600 at the grocery store.
Did you factor in the gas and auto maintenance to get to the store vs. walking out and picking the fresh veggies?

What about the waste if you didn't eat the store-bought veggies before they went bad?

How about what you saved by not needing a therapist or gym membership? Dirt therapy is free. Razz

Not to mention how much better fresh home grown vegetables, especially tomatoes, taste than grocery store vegetables. Since I grow organically, I would have to compare the price of organic vegetables in the grocery store, too.

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Post  sanderson on 4/13/2020, 2:19 am

Molly,  I used a cement board, not the one that looks like sheet rock.  I used the thickest which is 1/2".  I wish I could remember the name, but it was rated for outdoor use, which describes a SFG bed. Razz

YS, Let me know if you do use it.

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Post  yolos on 4/13/2020, 3:29 am

@sanderson wrote:Molly,  I used a cement board, not the one that looks like sheet rock.  I used the thickest which is 1/2".  I wish I could remember the name, but it was rated for outdoor use, which describes a SFG bed. Razz

YS,  Let me know if you do use it.  
I think this might be the one you used.  Looking at your picture it looks like it is made by Custom and is Wonderboard Lite.  This one says 7/16 inch though and not 1/2 inch.  Does this look like the one you used.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Custom-Building-Products-WonderBoard-Lite-5-ft-x-3-ft-x-7-16-in-Backer-Board-GCB60L/203689282
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Post  sanderson on 4/13/2020, 5:12 am

That sure looks like it.  Yes, 7/16 inch. I was just rounding.

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Post  Dan in Ct on 4/13/2020, 8:17 am

Hi Mikesgardn, I have had fishing trips that cost more than $1700, I have spent more than that for green fees in a single year golfing. Only being down $100 after 8 years is not a hobby around here. It is considered a failed business venture. You are this close to being a farmer, the greatest of American heroes in my book without losing the farm. An agricultural success in anybody's book.
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Post  OhioGardener on 4/13/2020, 8:29 am

@Dan in Ct wrote:Only being down $100 after 8 years is not a hobby around here. It is considered a failed business venture. You are this close to being a farmer, the greatest of American heroes in my book without losing the farm. An agricultural success in anybody's book.

lol! 

I guess that since I provide a lot of vegetables to neighbors, that makes me a Community Farmer!   Very Happy

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Post  Mikesgardn on 4/13/2020, 10:31 am

@countrynaturals wrote:
@Mikesgardn wrote:I also kept track of the pounds of vegetables that I grew, and I calculated that it was equivalent to $1600 at the grocery store.
Did you factor in the gas and auto maintenance to get to the store vs. walking out and picking the fresh veggies?

What about the waste if you didn't eat the store-bought veggies before they went bad?

How about what you saved by not needing a therapist or gym membership? Dirt therapy is free. Razz
Touche!
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