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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.

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure

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Post  OhioGardener 11/10/2023, 4:39 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I didn't bother labeling them, and I have other veges also germinating at the same time, so I'm not certain they're tomatoes, but I'm pretty sure.

Glad to see you have seedlings starting to sprout for your spring gardening. One of the most important lessons we learn in beginning gardening is the importance of labeling the seedlings, and keeping that label with them when they are transplanted into the garden.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/10/2023, 7:28 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I didn't bother labeling them, and I have other veges also germinating at the same time, so I'm not certain they're tomatoes, but I'm pretty sure.

Glad to see you have seedlings starting to sprout for your spring gardening. One of the most important lessons we learn in beginning gardening is the importance of labeling the seedlings, and keeping that label with them when they are transplanted into the garden.
Thanks OG Smile   I'm curious: in an SFG setup we surely know what is in each square, so why do they need to be labelled once in the garden?
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Post  OhioGardener 11/10/2023, 8:45 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:
I'm curious: in an SFG setup we surely know what is in each square, so why do they need to be labelled once in the garden?

Guess that depends on how many squares you have, how many varieties you grow, and what kind of succession planting you do.  I have a little over 250 squares. I like to try new varieties (to me), and I like to keep track of what worked and what didn't. To do that, I need to know exactly what is planted where - was that a Jumbo Jalapeno, or was it a Jalafuego Jalapeno? Where did I put that Craig's Grande Jalapeno?  Glad I labeled them...   Very Happy

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/10/2023, 9:00 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:
I'm curious: in an SFG setup we surely know what is in each square, so why do they need to be labelled once in the garden?

Guess that depends on how many squares you have, how many varieties you grow, and what kind of succession planting you do.  I have a little over 250 squares. I like to try new varieties (to me), and I like to keep track of what worked and what didn't. To do that, I need to know exactly what is planted where - was that a Jumbo Jalapeno, or was it a Jalafuego Jalapeno? Where did I put that Craig's Grande Jalapeno?  Glad I labeled them...   Very Happy
Ah, OK, I get it.  Glad I asked -- thanks Smile
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Post  sanderson 11/11/2023, 12:24 pm

Congratulations on your homemade compost.  Now that you have a setup that works for you, it will be so much easier to build the next pile.  Your garden looks great for being gone 4 months.  Compost doesn't become worthless over the months as it is still organic matter.  But, the number of microbes can decrease, or even go into a spore stage.  Once it is incorporated into a living bed, it will get "re-contaminated" and the spores will revive.

Keeping the labels with the seedlings is important as OG stated.  I found that as the plants grew larger, the labels became hidden, so I started tracking what, where and when I planted on an Excel sheet.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Plot_p21

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/11/2023, 4:25 pm

sanderson wrote:Congratulations on your homemade compost.  Now that you have a setup that works for you, it will be so much easier to build the next pile.  Your garden looks great for being gone 4 months.  Compost doesn't become worthless over the months as it is still organic matter.  But, the number of microbes can decrease, or even go into a spore stage.  Once it is incorporated into a living bed, it will get "re-contaminated" and the spores will revive.

That's great to know, thank you Smile   I've now decided that instead of leaving it to sit a further 12 months in the bin I'm going to get it out now, dry and sift it, and then remoisten and put it in bags in the basement, kind of following what Mel says to do with our leftover MM ingredients (I still have the bags from my MM production a year ago).  Then I can use the bin for what I make this summer and autumn.
I love your planting map!  Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 3170584802   I'm starting to see that I need to get more organised with my records of this garden.  I never needed to be with my lettuce troughs, but it's a little different with an entire bed of different types of plants....
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Post  sanderson 11/12/2023, 3:28 pm

Just my thought. I wouldn't dry out the compost for sifting unless it is really wet. The microbes need moisture.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/12/2023, 3:43 pm

Thanks -- I read somewhere in autumn that it's a good way to get rid of slugs and sow bugs, they either die or crawl off somewhere more moist.  I've also noticed this past week that it's much easier to sift when it's dry, there's less risk of pushing lumps through the mesh by accident (my sifter is way too heavy to shake material back and forth).

Do you think it's OK to dry it and then rewet before storing?
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Post  sanderson 11/13/2023, 7:22 pm

What about damp? Letting it completely dry reduces the microbes, either through encysting or dying. It's okay if you push a little bit through, breaking it into smaller pieces. I can't shake my screens either. Razz

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/13/2023, 8:38 pm

Ah, OK -- I think actually we're both talking about a similar state of compost.  I wouldn't say it's completely dry when I sift it.  I'll make sure to err on the side of wetter in future, too, that'll help.

Glad to know I'm not the only one who doesn't shake their sifter!  I was feeling like I wasn't being quite correct, but the wood that I made the frame out of is darn heavy!!!
Thanks again, sanderson thanks
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Empty The first inhabitants of the bed this summer

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/14/2023, 11:03 pm

This afternoon I finally found the time to move 4 of my 5 strawberry plants from troughs on the patio, out to the vege bed.  Hopefully they'll like it out there!
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2025

(The upside down soda bottle is a heath robinson rain gauge, which I've been meaning to make since mid February.  It's not intended to be accurate, but just a quick and dirty way of knowing what's been going on overnight.)
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Post  sanderson 11/18/2023, 2:00 am

When I'm feeling puny or just need a little, I use a gold miner's 1/4" sifting pan.  It's designed to fit on a 5-gallon bucket in the U.S.  
For the big sifter, I rub the compost back and forth with a smaller piece of wood.  I lift one side up and drop it to dislodge small pieces.  Total wimp.

Your strawberries look very healthy.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Compos93

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/19/2023, 3:33 pm

sanderson wrote:When I'm feeling puny or just need a little, I use a gold miner's 1/4" sifting pan.  It's designed to fit on a 5-gallon bucket in the U.S.

Your strawberries look very healthy.
Ah!  I saw sifters like that at the local DIY store last year and thought, They're not nearly big enough, I'll have to make my own.  Didn't occur to me that one would be useful e.g. when seed-sowing.

Strawberries are doing very well, it's clear they like their new home Smile   Just 2 days after transplanting they all had new leaves, despite resolutely refusing to grow any in the troughs even with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser added.  At this point in the year they should have more leaves, which is a little disappointing, but at least they're happy now!
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Post  sanderson 11/20/2023, 2:06 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:. . .
Ah!  I saw sifters like that at the local DIY store last year and thought, They're not nearly big enough, I'll have to make my own.  Didn't occur to me that one would be useful e.g. when seed-sowing. . .
It's also good for screening more compost for a little mid-season top dressing. Or one-armed screening, or . . .

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Empty The garden today

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 12/9/2023, 10:25 pm

I transplanted some beans, beetroot and chives the other day.  They've all taken well, and today is a nice cloudy day, so I replaced the shadecloth with the insect netting.  While the garden was 'naked' I took these:
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2030

The strawberries are all very happy in their new home.  They've all flowered -- and I've learned how to manually pollinate Laughing   Another stoobie mistake; they were already in the bed before I considered that they'd be under insect netting all season! Embarassed   So far the fruits are all well-formed, so my clumsy efforts at replicating what insects do are obviously good enough...  Still waiting for the first ones to ripen.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2029

The beans are also doing well.  I've decided to go for 3 plants per square this year, in deference to our humid climate.  Eventually the back row of the bed will have 12 beans in it; the second half dozen are germinating on the patio as I write this, expecting them above the surface any day now.  The cages are what I used last year, just to keep them from flopping all over their neighbours.  Working around them is a little fiddly, but it's OK.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2028

The row in from them will take the tomatoes once they're ready to go in.  Currently they're in their second pots, and will go into their third this coming week.  Here they are on the front porch, where they usually get heaps of sun.  They'll go into the bed in about another three weeks.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2032

And here's my one beetroot plant (from a sowing of goodness knows how many seeds), great excitement for me because this one is already doing better than any of last season's ones ever did.  Maybe my compost actually is better quality than the bought ones I used last year?  Very Happy   Would be great to actually eat one someday!
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2031

More good news: I got sick of the terribly low germination rates for my chive seeds, either in sowing cells or in the bed, and decided to try sprouting them before they go anywhere near soil.  Delighted to see an 80% success rate! Very Happy  Much better.

And this morning I added a litre (= about a quart) of rabbit poos to the compost tumbler.  I have a neighbour with two fluffies, and I picked up my first installment yesterday.  It seems I'll be getting around 1 or 2 litres per week, which if accurate will make the greens portion of each batch around 10-20% rabbit poos.  Lovely to be able to help my neighbour and get better plant food at the same time! Wink
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Post  sanderson 12/12/2023, 7:25 pm

Your garden is looking good. The strawberries seem to be thriving. The tomato starts look good. The little beetroot/Swiss chard looks good. The beans look good in their support cages. You do know that you can plant up to 9 bush beans per square?? Maybe in a 5-arrangement/square for your humidity, so germinate 4 more for the 2 squares and add them?? I keep thinking about growing chives, and 11 years later I still haven't. Did you germinate on wet paper towel?

Is that duct tape at the top of the bean cages? To cover the raw edges? If so, what an easy way to do it. PS: I shared the photo of your creative wind break with the Foundation folks.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 12/13/2023, 4:03 pm

sanderson wrote:Your garden is looking good.  The strawberries seem to be thriving.  The tomato starts look good.  The little beetroot/Swiss chard looks good.  The beans look good in their support cages.  You do know that you can plant up to 9 bush beans per square??  Maybe in a 5-arrangement/square for your humidity, so germinate 4 more for the 2 squares and add them??
Thanks sanderson Smile   I'm leery of putting too much in, just in case my compost isn't up to snuff, but perhaps I did go a little too conservatively.  I guess I could try adding some extras, maybe plant the final two squares to allow for another 2 each on the sunny side to come in later (those 6 plants are just poking their heads through the surface of their pots this morning).

I keep thinking about growing chives, and 11 years later I still haven't.  Did you germinate on wet paper towel?
Yes, I just cut it into little squares and put them on a plastic container lid, sprinkled water, added the seeds and covered with another lid.  Checked each morning and added more liquid once or twice.  As soon as I saw a root, I took that seed and put it in a sowing cell and covered very lightly with soil.  Delighted at how easy it was Smile   (Having said that, not all the germinated seeds have actually yielded a plant.  My strike rate has probably been about 65 or 70%, on only year-old seeds.  However still way better than what I was achieving with putting the seeds in soil!)

Is that duct tape at the top of the bean cages?  To cover the raw edges?  If so, what an easy way to do it.  PS:  I shared the photo of your creative wind break with the Foundation folks.
Yes, I made those cages from a roll of mesh, so before bending into shape I laid the duct tape on one side and folded it over the top.  Made sure it was a little longer on the outside of the cage than inside, so it wouldn't stick itself to everything.  DH is one of those guys who believes everything can be done with duct tape Wink
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Post  sanderson 12/15/2023, 1:54 pm

Duct tape or WD-40. "If it moves and it shouldn't, use duct tape. If it doesn't move and it should, use WD-40."

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 12/15/2023, 2:36 pm

funny post   If I could do several "likes" to that one I would!
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Post  OhioGardener 12/15/2023, 4:03 pm

If it can't be fixed with duct tape, you are not using enough of it!

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Post  sanderson 12/16/2023, 12:23 am

rofl

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 12/16/2023, 3:47 pm

Well, the results of the (modified) great compost experiment are in.  Most of the pea seeds didn't germinate, so when I chose which of my tomato seedlings are eventually going into the bed I took 3 of the others and put one each in 12-month-old Mel's Mix, compost from the middle of my storage bin, and compost from the bottom of it.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Pxl_2033

These were all sown on the same day and have had the same conditions all their lives, with the slight exception that the amount of light each one gets has randomly differed day to day, since they all share the same large saucer which I move back and forth morning and night. (i.e. they've been shading each other)

It's clear that the mid-bin compost is the best, which I find interesting because the material at the bottom of the bin would have had more leachate through the winter.  I'm also interested that the compost ones aren't more ahead of the MM one than they are.  After all, it has only 1/3 compost and 12 months old at that.  But then would the difference become more pronounced as they mature, being plants that are long to harvest?

Would be interested in what more experienced eyes than mine have to say!
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Post  OhioGardener 12/16/2023, 4:33 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:It's clear that the mid-bin compost is the best, which I find interesting because the material at the bottom of the bin would have had more leachate through the winter.  I'm also interested that the compost ones aren't more ahead of the MM one than they are.  After all, it has only 1/3 compost and 12 months old at that.  But then would the difference become more pronounced as they mature, being plants that are long to harvest?

Would be interested in what more experienced eyes than mine have to say!

Your results were in line with what I would expect. There are two points of interest:

1. Why MM isn't better than pure compost, or vice versa?  The short answer is because they are basically the same thing.  This is because MM is just compost with two inert ingredients added to it. Both peat and vermiculite are inert, with no plant nutrients in them. The are added in equal quantities in MM to provide moisture control and friability. Without the peat and vermiculite, the compost would become dry and much less friable. In controlled environments, such as small pots, plants grow very well in pure compost for. But, if you fill a large bed with pure compost the plants will grow very well for some time until the compost begins to dry out and semi-compact. Then the plants will suffer from lack of aeration and inability to penetrate the soil. That is why we periodically refresh MM with additional peat and vermiculite -- so that it does not become pure compost.

2. Why does the mid-bin compost appear better than the bottom-bin compost?  That could be any number of one or more reasons: Compost ingredients; heat at that level during composting; moisture levels; aerobic vs anaerobic conditions; etc., etc., etc..  Remember, composting is an art, and not a science.  I couldn't begin to count the number of batches of compost I have made over the last 40 or 50 years, but I know that no two of them contained the same levels or types of plant nutrients.

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Empty Re: Kiwi's SFG Adventure

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 12/16/2023, 6:39 pm

OhioGardener wrote:Your results were in line with what I would expect. There are two points of interest:

1. Why MM isn't better than pure compost, or vice versa?  The short answer is because they are basically the same thing.  This is because MM is just compost with two inert ingredients added to it. Both peat and vermiculite are inert, with no plant nutrients in them. The are added in equal quantities in MM to provide moisture control and friability. Without the peat and vermiculite, the compost would become dry and much less friable. In controlled environments, such as small pots, plants grow very well in pure compost for. But, if you fill a large bed with pure compost the plants will grow very well for some time until the compost begins to dry out and semi-compact. Then the plants will suffer from lack of aeration and inability to penetrate the soil. That is why we periodically refresh MM with additional peat and vermiculite -- so that it does not become pure compost.

2. Why does the mid-bin compost appear better than the bottom-bin compost?  That could be any number of one or more reasons: Compost ingredients; heat at that level during composting; moisture levels; aerobic vs anaerobic conditions; etc., etc., etc..  Remember, composting is an art, and not a science.  I couldn't begin to count the number of batches of compost I have made over the last 40 or 50 years, but I know that no two of them contained the same levels or types of plant nutrients.

Big thanks OG, as always Very Happy   It's really good to understand what's been going on.  So, I can consider last autumn's compost as pretty much similar all the way through -- comforting news.  And although the idea of having to remake my MM was not remotely joyful, I see here that it's a lot easier than that! Very Happy
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 Empty Re: Kiwi's SFG Adventure

Post  sanderson 12/17/2023, 2:06 am

Interesting experiment.  Two observations or questions.  In the 12-month old MM, did you add more compost to replace the compost used up over the 12 months?  If you didn't add (amend with) compost, that could explain why the MM did worse than either compost.  The 2 composts are very close in size.  If the sampling size was larger, like 3 of each, or 50, the composts may be indistinguishable. Regardless, your compost must be good. Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 6 3170584802

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