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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Toplef10Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 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.

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure

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Post  OhioGardener 2/19/2023, 7:40 am

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:From reviews, one concern is that with our strong UV the plastic breaks down and becomes brittle.  So, I decided to site it beside the house, instead of near the garden, since this means it'll be permanently shaded.  I also liked the idea of having it on concrete instead of our 'wonderful' clay, which after all the rain we've been having is pretty soft.  The concrete is on a slight slope so I'm hoping to be able to level the bin somewhat before starting to fill it this week.

Looking good!   A couple points you may want to consider:

Since it is setting on concrete you may want to put trays under the tumblers to catch the liquid that drips out of the bins. Or, you may be able to simply rinse the concrete on a regular basis to wash off the liquid stains.

I had to set my tumblers up on blocks so that I could get the wheelbarrow under them to empty them. Otherwise I would have had to dump the compost out onto a tarp under the tumbler and then shovel it into the wheelbarrow.

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Post  Soose 2/19/2023, 12:10 pm

Second that. It can get messy under. And had to raise ours to get a wheelbarrow or cart under.
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Post  sanderson 2/19/2023, 1:05 pm

OhioGardener wrote:A couple points you may want to consider:

I had to set my tumblers up on blocks so that I could get the wheelbarrow under them to empty them. Otherwise I would have had to dump the compost out onto a tarp under the tumbler and then shovel it into the wheelbarrow.
I had to dump my Lifetime on a tarp and drag it away from the tumbler.
Then shovel and screen it into the wheel barrow. Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Compos75

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 2/19/2023, 4:01 pm

Thanks heaps for the advice, folks.  I was thinking of something like a fish bin for emptying it out (the height is towards the top of my calf muscles), which could sit there permanently to catch any drips.  Was assuming they wouldn't be too much so long as I keep the bottom vent closed all the time, but perhaps that was a bit optimistic :-)
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Post  OhioGardener 2/19/2023, 5:40 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote: Was assuming they wouldn't be too much so long as I keep the bottom vent closed all the time, but perhaps that was a bit optimistic :-)

You will want the vents open for air flow - composting is an aerobic process. 

Optimism frequently meets Murphy's Law.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 2/19/2023, 6:30 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote: Was assuming they wouldn't be too much so long as I keep the bottom vent closed all the time, but perhaps that was a bit optimistic :-)

You will want the vents open for air flow - composting is an aerobic process.
Yes, that's why I bought something with vents, having seen how my current unvented one does not work, but I just thought perhaps the loss of a single vent wouldn't make that much difference especially since I'll be turning it multiple times each day.  But since I'm in a hurry, I'll definitely keep them all open if that's what's necessary Smile

Optimism frequently meets Murphy's Law.

Oh, yes indeed Wink
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 3/20/2023, 11:08 pm

Well, goodness, I knew it'd been a while since I last posted here, but I'm surprised to see it's nearly a month ago!  Today I had a salad for my lunch, containing lettuce from my troughs and 5 beautiful beans picked from my garden  Smile Smile Smile    My harvest hasn't been huge by any means, but the plants are still producing flowers and there are around 10 pods in various stages of growth already on them, so there's enough to keep me motivated.  They're simply gorgeous to eat -- sweet and crisp and juicy  Smile    This isn't the harvest I expected, but after what the plants and I have been through I'm just happy for whatever I get.

I had to pull out a couple of plants recently -- they were producing pods, but as they matured they went yellow and then withered away, so it was clear they weren't happy and I didn't want them consuming nutrients from the MM.  Oddly, they were right next to productive plants  thinking   I couldn't find any useful info here or elsewhere online, so am chalking it up to 'weird sh*t happening in my garden'.

The 2 determinate roma tomatoes are continuing to get taller (and produce more flowers); over the weekend I constructed teepees for them out of 4-foot bamboo stakes ziptied together.  I'd sprayed them with Neem oil to hopefully deal with small white spots on the leaves, and noticed how heavy the plants were getting.  They'd been sitting in little metal cages up till then, since the seed packet had said no staking was necessary  Mad   I'm really hoping they don't get too much taller!  I deliberately chose bush tomatoes so I wouldn't have to deal with huge plants in my first year....

The truly exciting thing is they've started to ripen in the past few days  bounce   It's amazing how quickly they're changing colour now that they've started, after being green for so long.  I adore tomatoes and can't wait to be eating my own!!!

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2818Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2819

The cardboard you're seeing there is covering carrot and silverbeet (I think it's called swiss chard in the US) seeds which I'm eagerly waiting to see poking their heads above the surface any day now.  Peas are now also sown in two squares along the back edge.  I'm probably a bit late for autumn sowing but I couldn't get my head around it any earlier.

I didn't have any compost ready to add to the bed (originally I wasn't going to try to grow anything this autumn/winter) and the minimum I could buy was 5 gallons, so I decided to hope for the best that there's still enough nutrients in the bed.  Several of the squares actually haven't grown anything very much this summer, so the hope is that there's still a good amount of nutrients in there and I'll get something from the autumn sowing.  If not, then at least I tried and didn't just sow a cover crop as was the original plan post summer harvest.

The compost tumbler is going well, and provoking learning experiences every few days, but this is enough for one post Smile
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Post  sanderson 3/21/2023, 1:50 pm

You are doing so good considering all of the challenges you have had. Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 3170584802 I like your tee pee and cup design to hold off the netting.

As far as some of the beans dying, could it be dampening-off? Over-wet stems near the soil line? The stems get really skinny and the plant dies. It occasionally happens to some of my beans or cucumbers.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 3/21/2023, 4:38 pm

Thank you sanderson Smile   Being this new I have no way of judging how I'm doing!  I keep thinking, I hope I look back on this season and say Boy that was a difficult one to start with Shocked 

The cups are actually coke cans -- DH drinks a lot of it, so I have an inexhaustible supply of them!  For the teepees I had to cut them down to half height, but the alu is so thin it's really easy to do.

I'm not sure if the bean stems got really skinny, it's a couple of weeks ago since it happened.  I don't think so, though.  And one of them was in a square with 3 others that were perfectly happy, so....???
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Post  sanderson 3/21/2023, 9:00 pm

The first year is the big learning curve. Very Happy

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 3/25/2023, 12:57 am

The compost tumbler seems to be going well although the top temp I've seen is 50° (122°F).  After 2 weeks of trying to get the material from my other useless bin to actually cook in the tumbler, I gave up, emptied it and put in some fresh fruit and vege scraps from my local shop.  I was delighted the next morning to see 40° (104°F)!  Very motivating  Smile   Both compartments are now full and hopefully in a few more weeks I'll have lovely compost to load into my winter storage area, ready for use next spring!

To prepare the scraps I used a cheap food processor, so I got the piece sizes really small.  I added it to the tumbler with an equal amount of browns (sawdust or shredded leaves) which I think was another stoobie mistake, since I've added a lot of extra sawdust since then, in response to anaerobic smells of various intensities.  Reading a bit more about this today makes me worried that I've added too much sawdust, but the smells continue, and the material is cooking, so thinking 

One compartment is now clearly in "maturing" phase and the other (about a week behind it) is still cooking.  I'm taking the temps twice a day on each side since this is all so new; it varies a lot while material is cooking, often down to 40° and even sometimes 35° (95°F), usually in the afternoons (I turn it in the mornings).  The left ("maturing") side spent 12 days at 40+ so I'm hoping that's enough for a good "cook".  I'm guessing what I do now is simply wait and monitor for another 2-3 weeks?

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I'm getting a couple of gallons of coffee grounds each week now, so one load of that also went into each compartment before "closing off" to fresh greens.  I'll continue to collect them while this batch matures, then will have more to add to future batches.

It'd be lovely to see temps of higher than 50°; I keep thinking of taping some bubblewrap to parts of the outside, since it's not insulated.  One other reason for the lower temps, I think, is the barrel size is smaller than the Juras -- max volume only 65 gallons.  But I wonder if I really need to get the temperature all the way up to the high 50s.  I'm not putting diseased plants in there, and whilst it would be nice to know seeds were being killed, perhaps I can live without that?

Thank you again OG, for your very clear tips about monitoring for smell, moisture and temp.  I'm living by them every day Very Happy
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Empty First tomatoes!

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 3/25/2023, 5:37 pm

Finally this morning I decided it was time to harvest some of my determinate romas.  I've been waiting with bated breath all week, wanting to taste one straight off the plant so I can compare with ones that have finished ripening indoors.

And......it was delicious!!! Very Happy   Being a roma the taste didn't blow my socks off, but my goodness there is nothing to compare with that 'grown here' taste is there?!

I was nervous, after a failed attempt years ago to grow tomatoes in a pot -- the fruits looked great, but the texture and taste were massively poor.  Great to have such a positive experience this time around Very Happy  The others are sitting in a paper bag with an apple and I'm looking forward to finishing the taste experiment in a day or few.

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Post  OhioGardener 3/25/2023, 6:14 pm

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 3170584802

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Post  sanderson 3/25/2023, 10:11 pm

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 3170584802

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/8/2023, 9:52 pm

On this blustery early-autumn day I thought it was time for an update.

My compost is now ready to come out of the tumbler -- has been for a week or more, I believe (going by the temps), but I had to finish off the pallet-bin where I'm going to store it until spring, plus make a sifter.

The sifter is a frame of 4"x2"s with 1" mesh stapled onto it, and a frame of 2"x1"s underneath which will hold it steady on my fish bin; the idea being I'll empty the tumbler straight onto the mesh, push the compost about with my hands to sift, then carry the bin to the storage area.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2822

Tomorrow I'll start emptying the tumbler, which will be a bit of a challenge this time since I forgot to consider the tumbler height when making the sifter!!  Another stoobie mistake by this this not-very-handy person Razz   Fortunately I can get the sifter + fish bin under one hatch by angling them just-right, but emptying the other one will require double-handling.  It just would be the compartment with significantly more volume of material in it!

The storage area took more effort and time than I'd have liked, but this is setup season and it should last a while.  Three pallets on bricks, bracketed together with chicken wire stapled on, and a bunch of little hooks to hopefully secure the "door".  I have some old carpet to sit on the compost, and probably will add the lid from my original insulated compost bin to provide some extra resistance to the rain.  After the summer we've had I'm pretty touchy about heavy rainstorms and don't want to be worried about all the lovely nutrients leaching out of my compost!

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2823


The garden continues to give me beans a few days each week, and tomatoes are slowly ripening.  I can't believe how tall these "dwarf" plants are getting -- they must be more than 3' now!  The leaves of one are getting pushed together by the top of the teepee which worries me, since both plants have had powdery mildew for ages (have been spraying with Neem oil).  But I guess we must be coming to the end of their productive time of year, anyway.  It's going to be very sad removing plants with baby toms on them!

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2824

I have 4 squares of carrot seedlings at varying stages, also some dwarf pea seedlings, although the germination rate has been disappointing.  One square has only one seedling from 8 pre-soaked seeds.  A later sowing has 3 from 8, which is better, but still not exactly exciting.  The swiss chard's germination rate has also been underwhelming.

I love discovering what each plant looks like as it comes up!  Each sowing is like Christmas for me as I see them poking their heads above the surface Very Happy

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Post  sanderson 4/9/2023, 3:39 pm

I think you have done an outstanding job.

Thinking about your compost. I think most use 1/4" or 1/2" to screen. Your compost may have cooled down but it could use more time to mature/age in the bin. ?? Protecting from rain is important. Also watching the moisture and adding water when it gets dry.

Other comments on the compost anyone?

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/9/2023, 7:13 pm

sanderson wrote:I think you have done an outstanding job.

Thinking about your compost.  I think most use 1/4" or 1/2" to screen.  Your compost may have cooled down but it could use more time to mature/age in the bin.  ?? 

Thanks, sanderson Smile  I was trying to avoid too much verbiage, so left out some longer-term detail.  The plan is this compost (and the other two batches I'll make this autumn) will sit in the storage area over winter and be used in spring.

At this stage I just want to get out the big pieces e.g. avocado stones (which I break into quarters in my vice before putting in the tumbler), leaf stems etc, which can go back in the tumbler, and anything that goes through the 1" mesh can sit on the ground and be worked on by the worms etc over winter.

In spring before using it, I'll sift it again with a 1/2" screen.  Haven't yet decided whether I'll make a standalone 1/2" sifter, or another 1" one whose frame fits inside the first one with mesh offset, so we get to 1/2".


Protecting from rain is important.  Also watching the moisture and adding water when it gets dry.

Oh dear, this is not good news.  I don't live in Auckland in the winter (the reason I'm hurriedly making compost for spring right now), and there's no-one who can look after it.  The plan was it would simply sit there until I'm ready for it.

Maybe, instead of using the waterproof lid from the old insulated bin as a kind of roof to keep most of the rain from hitting the carpet, I should only use the carpet, and reluctantly accept there will be some leaching of nutrients -- with the upside being more water is actually going into the compost in the first place, thus it'll dry out less???
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/10/2023, 6:42 pm

I emptied the tumbler yesterday, and now I have beautiful rich dark brown compost sitting in my storage area:
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2827

I'm completely delighted with the colour of it -- this is the first time I've seen it in full daylight, since the tumbler sits in permanent shade.  I had thought it was quite a lot lighter brown so seeing the first load on the ground was a wonderful surprise  Very Happy

And, the chicken wire 'door' is working, for the moment at least.  I think I'm going to end up cutting it in halves horizontally, though.

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Post  OhioGardener 4/10/2023, 7:11 pm

Some good looking compost there.  rock on

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/11/2023, 4:23 am

Thanks OG! Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 3170584802
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Post  sanderson 4/13/2023, 3:17 am

OhioGardener wrote:Some good looking compost there.  rock on
I agree. Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 3170584802

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Empty Leaf cages at long last started

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/25/2023, 6:28 pm

Yesterday I finally got the time to start filling my leaf cages.  I have 3 of them; who knows if they'll all be filled this autumn, and I suppose the leaf mould won't be ready to use in spring, but in any case it's an optional extra for the garden, and I'll be glad of whatever I get.

I have a neighbour with a large ?maple? and I have a large coral tree.  Mine hasn't yet started shedding, but hers has, and yesterday I got 5 wheelbarrow loads vacuumed and shredded.  Hers seem to chop down into much smaller pieces than mine, as I was surprised at how little it ended up being!

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2829

This cage is about the length of my arm in diameter, and it comes up to about hip height (I'm 5'8").  The other two are about the same dimensions.
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/25/2023, 6:44 pm

The vege garden this morning:

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 4 Img_2830

In the front we have three sowings of carrots, the latest of which seems to have been slug-predated as they popped their heads above the surface.  Then we have the huge "dwarf" tomatoes, which I had to top a week ago as they were getting taller than the teepees -- still ripening fruit at the rate of about one or perhaps two per week -- I'm thankful this season for everything I get!

On the RHS we have two sowings of peas which produced three plants in total, again a dwarf variety but after my experience with dwarf beans and tomatoes I put cages in pretty quickly.  Then found they needed something to climb up, so I strung nylon twine across which seems to be doing the trick.  I wonder if it's going to be a PITA for harvest, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  We had some bad wind over the weekend so I clipped shadecloth squares to the cages with clothespegs since I was out of time to put the windbreak up.  Pleasantly surprised at how well it worked Smile

Along the back we have two squares of bean plants, which are still producing 3 months after their first pods, which amazes me since I thought determinate beans had a short but intense harvest.  I'm delighted with this variety and will definitely be sowing it again.
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Post  sanderson 4/26/2023, 4:39 am

Thank you for sharing. How close to winter are you? The fact that you are still getting a harvest is really good. Next year you will be able to start at the beginning of the season.

Yes, it's kind of surprising how a pile of leaves can shred down to almost nothing. I put whole ornamental pear leaves in a cage and it's down half way. I need to line it with weed cloth due to the large openings and then I can add the last bag. I don't plan on getting any leaf mold until next spring. The summers are hot and dry and I don't know how much effort I can ration into keeping it moist.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 4/26/2023, 6:59 pm

Winter here starts officially on the 1st of May, but really I don't expect cold temps until late May or even June these days.  ("Cold" here means overnight lows in the 40sF; we might get one or two frosts per year)

Pleased this morning to see one of the peas is reaching towards the side of its cage -- I was hoping they'd climb up the sides of it Smile   I don't think the other two will do that though, but it's early days.

Watering the leaves, well I'm pretty much leaving that to Mother Nature.  Our winters are reliably moist usually, and in any case I leave for my winter home in July so won't be here to look after them.  If I'm disappointed in progress when I get back in spring I'll start throwing water at them on my way to and from the compost tumbler -- it's pretty close.
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