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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure Empty Kiwi's SFG Adventure

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Tue Nov 29, 2022 10:21 pm

One of our wonderful mods mentioned to me recently that we can have journal-type threads, kind of like a blog.  I'm at the very beginning of my SFG adventure and thought it might be a fun thing to do.  At the very least it'll provide lots of laughs to the experienced hands here!  Laughing   I'm going to make lots of stoobie (= stoopid + noobie) mistakes but it's all part of learning.

I've wanted to have a vege garden for years now but the fact that I only live at home 8 months of the year has stood in my way.  I've said for ages that once I'm at home full-time (I have a much older husband who will need care at some point) I'd start the garden.  My parents had a large vege garden and I like the idea of knowing where more of my food comes from.  The cost of living crisis has pushed me over the line and the time to start is NOW!

So, the plan is to put in a single 4x4 bed this southern summer and, all going well, put in a second one next summer.  That should do me but there's room elsewhere for a third one down the track if need be.  (Hubby doesn't eat a lot of veges)

I'm totally new to SFG but for more than a decade I've grown lettuces from seed to seed, in troughs on my patio.  Here's the current crop, protected by chicken wire:

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2614

I grow leaf lettuce and harvest right before eating.  Last summer I branched out and planted a single Aromas strawberry plant in a round pot.  It did so well that this spring I planted another four!

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2615

The plan originally was to put the plants in the SFG bed, but I took too long figuring out the where and what of the bed, so repurposed a pair of lettuce troughs for this summer.  I hope to have four or five of these plants in the SFG bed from next autumn.

I haven't yet got the bed put together, but one thing I have managed to get going is my compost heap.  Stay tuned for episode 2... Wink
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Post  sanderson Wed Nov 30, 2022 1:23 pm

Kiwi, I hope you don't mind, but I wanted to put a link to your first thread.  I think it will help others in your country find ingredients to get started.

I see you wrapped the plastic planters with aluminum foil.  May I ask where you can up with the idea?  I do it and I haven't seen anyone else do it.  Your critter control is perfect, simple and easy to remove.

Happy Journalling, Kiwi.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Wed Nov 30, 2022 4:50 pm

Hi sanderson, good idea to put that link into this thread, your post with the links was particularly helpful so good to have another pointer to it.

I can claim no credit whatsoever for the planters in foil idea Smile  I thoroughly research any new endeavour (bet this comes as a surprise Wink ) and I found it mentioned somewhere online last spring.  I really wanted my first foray into fruit growing to succeed, and it sure did!  That single plant produced more than 800g (28 oz) over 6 months and only stopped because I winterised it before leaving town!  The other unusual thing I did (which I was told not to do by a local garden centre) was mulch it with pine needles, which I just chopped up to 2"-3" lengths to make it easier to get lying in different directions.

I still need to add some tulle to the tops of the tall strawberry protection; they're not yet producing ripe fruit, so I have time.  I bought the tulle this week - many thanks to you for the mention of it in your journal, I would never have thought of it!
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Post  Soose Thu Dec 01, 2022 12:40 pm

Love the term from another Stoobie...  Smile
Stoobie in North Alabama, my blog should read, instead of Soose in North Alabama...
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure Empty The "garden" this morning

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Sun Dec 04, 2022 3:42 pm

I thought it was about time I posted some photos of things actually growing!  Here's my patio garden, as of this morning, all beautifully unaccosted by slugs Very Happy

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2618

I've been amazed at how effectively the slug bait solved the problem.  From the first evening that I put it out, there has been no visible slug activity on any of my plants!

Here are the strawberries.  I'm harvesting about 40-50g (a couple of ounces) per week currently but that's only from the middle plant, which is a year older than the other four.  They are all Aromas variety, which will fruit all season.  Last year I was still getting fruit in May!

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2619

And here are the seedlings which will go into my garden bed once it's installed.  We have tomatoes, beans, chives and marigolds:

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2620
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Post  Soose Mon Dec 05, 2022 12:56 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I thought it was about time I posted some photos of things actually growing! 
Kiwi...  I "overheard" you and Sanderson (?) talking about the aluminum foil on the outside of your pots.  Can you tell me about it, please?
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Tue Dec 06, 2022 12:18 am

Soose wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I thought it was about time I posted some photos of things actually growing! 
Kiwi...  I "overheard" you and Sanderson (?) talking about the aluminum foil on the outside of your pots.  Can you tell me about it, please?
With pleasure Smile  It's an idea I found online last year when researching how to grow my first strawberry plant.  The idea is the foil reflects a lot of the sun's energy off the outside of the pot, meaning that the soil doesn't dry out so much.  I had one happy strawberry last summer, so it must have worked!!  It's very easy to do, just wrap the foil around the pot and overlap slightly and then tie on with some sort of stretchy garden twine-type thing.  The stuff I use is sold here for tying tomato stems onto supports.
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Sat Dec 10, 2022 4:40 pm

My bean "seedlings" this morning -- exactly two weeks since I sowed them.  My first bean plants and I now understand Jack & the Beanstalk!!!  Watching beans germinate is a very different experience from lettuces...
Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2621Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2622

I followed the packet instructions and sowed them 20mm (~3/4") deep into my usual sowing cells, but didn't think that the consequence was they had almost no soil for their roots!  Definitely a stoobie mistake.  (As was believing germination times -- all of my seeds have come up quicker than claimed -- tomatoes in a week)  Once they poked their heads above the surface it was clear I'd have to transplant pretty quickly.  They were only 10 days old when I did it, fear and trembling, having read that bush beans should not be moved.  The roots were already out the bottoms!  I had to get a bit creative for a container: this used to hold old kitchenware things and isn't terribly deep, but it was either that or buy a whole lot of pots and more soil.  The race is on now to get the garden bed installed and filled, and get these plants into it!  I'm just pleased they didn't suffer any from their first move.
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Post  OhioGardener Sat Dec 10, 2022 4:57 pm

Looking good!  I have never tried transplanting beans, I always direct sow them in the soil with 9 per square for bush beans, and every 6" for pole beans.  Pole beans are a real Jack and the Beanstalk the way they grow. Very Happy

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Mon Dec 12, 2022 12:06 am

As you may have gathered above, my garden bed is not yet installed.  I'm hoping to get it in this week, but there are a few small issues remaining to sort out.....

In the meantime, here's where it's going to go:

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2624

It's a 4x4, 11" tall, and the eventual plan is to have two of them in this lawn space.  I'm only doing one this year -- that's enough!!  Its sides are two planks high, so I have enough planks to show you where they both will go:
Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2625


This past winter solstice I measured where the patio's shade comes out to, so I know the placement will work.  There's a big tree, fortunately on the south (non-sunny) side and I believe the little bushes to the sides will not shade my plants for too many hours of the day.

(Continued in next post since I can only post 3 photos at a time)
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Mon Dec 12, 2022 12:09 am

(The beds, part II)

There are some pretty big (and old) trees in the vicinity, and the small ones in the photos are juveniles of a NZ native which grows pretty big (I won't be letting them do that though).  This patch of lawn is by far the best place to site the beds, so I need to solve its challenges.  I was going to get my arborist to install root barrier all the way around the perimeter, but that turned out to be prohibitively expensive, so instead I have a 3mm (~1/8") sheet of food grade acrylic which will sit under the bed.  I found a big sheet of broken fibre cement board for $5 at my local big box last week Very Happy and made shims from it, so drainage should be fine.

The acrylic arrived today, so I finally have the very first piece of my garden in place!!! Very Happy

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2626

The plan is for cardboard around the edges, just tucked under the acrylic, with wood chips on top, and short paving stones around the perimeter.

On the weekend I started putting the bed together in the basement.  Here it is, all laid out and ready to start adding the screws:

Kiwi's SFG Adventure Img_2627

I deliberately didn't go for hardwood for the bed, even though that means I'm going to need to replace it in ~10 years.  By then my back (which even now is not the happiest of campers) may well require me to have tabletops.  I know I'm taking a risk not putting them in from the start, but it was just too stressful trying to figure out all the issues as a newbie and in any case my back is happy enough working at the lettuce troughs on the patio, which I already do each day.  Hopefully there won't be a huge amount of work for two 4x4 beds with daily visits.


The plan for the grid is to use nylon tent guy rope, threaded through little holes in the top planks which will keep it nicely in place.  On one end I'll simply tie it in a knot; on the other, a guy-rope tensioner will hold it taut but enable me to loosen when necessary.
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Post  Soose Mon Dec 12, 2022 5:31 am

Beautiful yard!  Lovely woodwork on your bed rims.

Kiwi, we really really like our raised beds.  (The downside, for really tall plants like pole beans, reaching to the top to pick can be difficult.)

Just a thought.  You already have a bottom with the acrylic which is the most troublesome and costly part of raising...   Couldn't you just place that on top of some concrete blocks and continue on from there as planned?

Even another 8" high would be a back saver.
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Mon Dec 12, 2022 3:57 pm

Soose wrote:Beautiful yard!  Lovely woodwork on your bed rims.

Kiwi, we really really like our raised beds.  (The downside, for really tall plants like pole beans, reaching to the top to pick can be difficult.)

Just a thought.  You already have a bottom with the acrylic which is the most troublesome and costly part of raising...   Couldn't you just place that on top of some concrete blocks and continue on from there as planned?

Even another 8" high would be a back saver.
Thanks Soose Smile  Actually I did think the acrylic was a good idea for a box bottom but that was before it arrived -- I was really surprised to see how 'bendy' it is!  I think a strut (if that's the word) would definitely be needed across the middle of the box, like is needed with hardware cloth although not as extreme a case, obviously.  Doing that properly is outside my limited woodworking skills at this stage, so the box will be on the ground.  But thanks for the idea Smile
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Mon Dec 12, 2022 10:04 pm

Here's a question for all those bed construction experts out there: how many shims should I use with my bed?

The setup, as mentioned above, will be this:
  • 4x4 bed which is 11" high
  • Placed on a 1/8" inch thick food-grade acrylic panel, to solve tree root problems; this panel will extend out 1" in each direction from the bed


To achieve drainage I've made four shims from some fibre cement board, to put under the corners of the bed.  This was under the assumption that the acrylic panel was rigid..........but it's not, as mentioned above it's actually quite 'bendy'.

I'm wondering whether I should have more shims, to spread the weight of the bed and prevent the corners of the acrylic panel from heading slightly in a skywards direction.  If that happened it would presumably mean water does not drain out as well as if the panel were completely flat.  OTOH, I know the majority of the weight will be from the MM, so perhaps this isn't a problem?



I'd be grateful for some input here!
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Post  sanderson Thu Dec 15, 2022 1:48 am

I don't think you need any shims for the bed to drain.  Set the acrylic sheet down and set the bed on top.  Try to fill it with the hose and you will see water running out between the plastic and the wood.  You will have to line the interior with weed fabric to hold in the Mel's Mix.

One of my new experimental beds has the "cementy" cement board bottom topped with 4 mil plastic.  Water just pours out. I wish I had 3/4" plywood bottoms again. I have one bed that needs replacing that was built in the fall of 2014. Eight (Cool years is pretty good for a table top bed.  Kiwi's SFG Adventure Table_92

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Thu Dec 15, 2022 2:01 am

sanderson wrote:I don't think you need any shims for the bed to drain.  Set the acrylic sheet down and set the bed on top.  Try to fill it with the hose and you will see water running out between the plastic and the wood.  You will have to line the interior with weed fabric to hold in the Mel's Mix.

Oh wow, this is a huge surprise!  And here was me thinking I was done with the purchasing phase......  But I'm so glad you mentioned it -- I'll be constructing the bed in the next couple of days and was then going to start filling it ASAP.

A few big questions about weedmat (which I've never used before):
  • Will it be enough to simply run the weedmat down the bed sides and along the bottom a short way, or does the entire bed need to be lined with it?
  • Do I need to sew / tape any joins, or does simply overlapping by a couple of inches suffice?
  • Is there a minimum mesh size I should aim for?


Thank you as always, sanderson! Smile
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Post  sanderson Thu Dec 15, 2022 4:14 am

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:. . . A few big questions about weedmat (which I've never used before):
Will it be enough to simply run the weedmat down the bed sides and along the bottom a short way, or does the entire bed need to be lined with it?
I prefer to line the whole bottom and up the sides.  Then, trim off excess.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure Table_93

Do I need to sew / tape any joins, or does simply overlapping by a couple of inches suffice?
No sewing.  I just fold the two pieces over twice along the joining seam.

Is there a minimum mesh size I should aim for?
I started off the with cheap thin black weed fabric that didn't hold up well. Photo of cheap stuff.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure Table_94

 I changed to a heavier one like this as beds were rebuilt.  This stuff can actually be stiffly folded, making joining easier
Kiwi's SFG Adventure Weed_c11

Thank you as always, sanderson! Smile
You are welcome.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Fri Dec 16, 2022 3:47 pm

Awesome, thanks for the info Smile
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Fri Dec 16, 2022 4:54 pm

I made my first batch of MM yesterday, just a test mix to see how it all went.  I only made up 60 litres (~16 gallons) and boy am I glad I didn't do any more than that!

I discovered that pushing and 'rolling' the peat lumps against concrete (under the tarp) with my hands works really well to break up the small remaining lumps (of which there were many Sad) but left me with a blister and sore wrists! (I have historical RSI)  Going to try an old wine bottle for today's batch.

I also found that mixing the three ingredients together had to be done on my hands and knees, but worked just fine and gave me an opportunity to check out the mixture one last time.

I need about 430 litres in total, so this is going to take a while if I can only get one batch done per day.  I was pretty exhausted after yesterday's effort.

Really looking forward to this installation process being over!!! Shocked
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Post  OhioGardener Fri Dec 16, 2022 5:48 pm

Mixing Mel's Mix can really wear you down, says this Old Man.  When I was doing a major build, I rented a cement mixer, which they delivered and picked up at no extra cost.  Dumped in equal number of buckets of compost, vermiculite, and peat and let it turn. A short time later I could dump the mixer into the wheel barrow and move it to the beds ready to wet down.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Fri Dec 16, 2022 7:33 pm

Thanks for this OG!  I was wondering if it's just me -- I noticed in the book Mel says the mixing is where it starts to get fun!!! Rolling Eyes   Perhaps he has an alternative definition of the word Wink
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Post  sanderson Sat Dec 17, 2022 3:27 am

I found standing up was the easiest on my back for both crumbling peat moss and mixing the Mel's Mix.  I used a cement mixing pan on top of the picnic table with the hose at ready.  I staged all the ingredients around me.

Blended the composts before starting and set aside.  Clumps of peat moss were hand crumbled and set aside.  Put a measurement of vermiculite carefully into the cement pan and topped with 1 measure of fluffed peat moss.  Hose at hand and soak well.  Hand mix the soggy mess.  Add measurement of blended compost and mix well.  Dump in rolling container like garbage can with wheels or wheelbarrow to dump into the bed.  Repeat and repeat.  I didn't worry if the MM was too wet when putting it into the bed because it drains so well.  Better too wet than too dry, plus I didn't want to breath particles breathing particles.

If the peat moss was a little hard, I would dance on it on a tarp.  If it's impossible to break up, it's probably gotten wet at some point and hardened.

A rented cement mixer is a great idea for larger batches for multiple beds.  Very Happy  

My cement pan.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure Cement10

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie Sat Dec 17, 2022 7:44 pm

I love the thought of dancing on the peat to break it up! Smile  I tried rolling an LPG bottle on it yesterday but found that pressure alone wasn't enough, they also needed friction from back-and-forth motion.

My tool of choice yesterday ended up being a couple of pieces of wood, probably 2"x3"?  One in each hand and rubbing on the tarp (again, on concrete) worked nearly as well as my hands but, again, was very tiring.

Today's batch will be prepped with a cheap food processor along with a dose of acceptance that my peat is going to contain small lumps which I hope will gradually wet over time in the bed.  This middle-aged body is just not going to handle a continuation of the punishment it's taken over the past two days. No

BTW, OG, when you use a concrete mixer do you not end up with little bits of concrete in the MM?  Please excuse me if this is a really stoobie question!!  I've never used a concrete mixer.
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Post  OhioGardener Sat Dec 17, 2022 8:10 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:BTW, OG, when you use a concrete mixer do you not end up with little bits of concrete in the MM?  Please excuse me if this is a really stoobie question!!  I've never used a concrete mixer.

No, after the mixer is used to make concrete, it is completely washed out so that it is ready for the next use. Any small amount of cement that is left in the mixer is permanently affixed to the metal of the mixer and will not come off during use.

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Post  sanderson Sat Dec 17, 2022 11:35 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I love the thought of dancing on the peat to break it up! Smile 

In my pajamas, dancing on the Starbucks Coffee pucks in my ancient New Balance tennis. I was building a new compost pile in the winter.
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