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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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SFG "Measuring Spoon"

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Furbalsmom
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Post  cautery 2/11/2011, 2:15 pm

Once again, I recognize that I am (at least) borderline OCD...

I like to control as many variables as possible when I do projects. Mixing Mel's Mix (MM) would keep me up at night if I wasn't able to control/document how the mix was created... especially I need to repeat the mix exactly... or avoid a mistake.

So, I picked up a 2'x4'x0.25" piece of MDF at Home Depot the other day to make a 1 ft.3 box to use as a "measuring spoon" for mixing MM.

-First, I set the table saw at 12"
-I ripped the panel along the long axis into 2 each 1' x 4' pieces (it was slightly larger than 24"x48").
- Next, I cross-cut the two 1'x4' pieces into 8 each 12"x12" pieces.

Then I glued it up... Here are some images (I don't know why, but they are very grainy.... I apologize, I am usually a better photographer than this):

SFG "Measuring Spoon" 1
These are the 12" x 12" panels

SFG "Measuring Spoon" 2
I only have 2 of this type clamp, so I can only glue up one joint at a time. This is actually the 3rd glue joint. The fourth will correct the slight misalignment in the un-glued joint at 6 o'clock in the picture.

SFG "Measuring Spoon" 3
Gluing on the "bottom". Yes, I knew in advance there would be a 0.125" under-lap on all 4 sides. It would have been a pain in the but to mark/cut the over-sized panel for the bottom, so I chose to accept the under-lap. I added a supplementary bead of glue all the way around the joint as a reinforcement (not shown) to offer some additional strength.

SFG "Measuring Spoon" 4
Completed box sans top... Using this or something similar, you are more likely to get a true 1:1:1 vermiculite:peat:compost mix.... I'm using it to mix my 5 types of compost, too. Keep it dry between uses, and it should last several seasons...
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Post  boffer 2/11/2011, 2:31 pm

I work a lot more casually in the garden than most, so all I can say is: looks good!

One piece of data that would be interesting to learn is the amount of water necessary to hydrate a 4x4x6" box full of MM. Occasionally, the question comes up about how much a box weighs. The great unknown is the water volume. Only one person I know of has tried to measure, and she had the grandkids helping.

So, if you happen to think about it when you fill your first box, it'd be great if you measured your water along with your other ingredients. Thanks!
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Post  Blackrose 2/11/2011, 3:05 pm

My DH must be a little OCD as well. He did the exact same thing last year using some MDF from an old shelving unit that we were going to throw out. He measured every bit of peat moss, vermiculite and compost that went into our MM using his 1 cubic foot measuring cup.
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Post  cautery 2/11/2011, 3:18 pm

Already on the list boffer... Of course, making the list does not guarantee accomplishment, as my lists are numerous and long. Wink

I agree that it would be a useful piece of info... for various reasons.

boffer wrote:I work a lot more casually in the garden than most, so all I can say is: looks good!

One piece of data that would be interesting to learn is the amount of water necessary to hydrate a 4x4x6" box full of MM. Occasionally, the question comes up about how much a box weighs. The great unknown is the water volume. Only one person I know of has tried to measure, and she had the grandkids helping.

So, if you happen to think about it when you fill your first box, it'd be great if you measured your water along with your other ingredients. Thanks!
cautery
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Post  cautery 2/11/2011, 3:19 pm

LOL! So, I guess I'm not the only one then.

Blackrose wrote:My DH must be a little OCD as well. He did the exact same thing last year using some MDF from an old shelving unit that we were going to throw out. He measured every bit of peat moss, vermiculite and compost that went into our MM using his 1 cubic foot measuring cup.
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Post  Furbalsmom 2/11/2011, 3:38 pm

I plan to use 5 gallon buckets to use as my measuring spoon for filling my SFG. Each 5 gal bucket is Approximately .77 Cubic Feet, so I am comfortable rounding my calculations to .75 Cu ft per bucket, as long as I use the same measure of each product in the Mel's Mix.

My 4X4 Table Top frame is actually 10 inches deep, but I placed my hardware cloth on the inside of the box, above the 2X2 supports, so the depth above the hardware cloth is 8 inches. 4 ftX 4 ft X 8 inches = 10.66 Cu Ft minimum. To allow for compacting due to watering I am planning on adding one extra Cu Ft, so, 11.66 cu ft equals about 15 - 5 gallon buckets.

Each Table Top should require 5 - 5 gal buckets of Vermiculite, 5 - 5 gal buckets of Peat Moss and
1 - 5 gal bucket each of the five compost varieties.

Does my math sound about right?
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Post  cautery 2/11/2011, 4:09 pm

As long as you use the same container to measure, and you use the method you described... you will get a 1:1:1 ratio... The rest of it, unfortunately, I don't have time to check, but it looks right... (Sorry, cooking, working, et al. at the same time right now...)

Furbalsmom wrote:I plan to use 5 gallon buckets to use as my measuring spoon for filling my SFG. Each 5 gal bucket is Approximately .77 Cubic Feet, so I am comfortable rounding my calculations to .75 Cu ft per bucket, as long as I use the same measure of each product in the Mel's Mix.

My 4X4 Table Top frame is actually 10 inches deep, but I placed my hardware cloth on the inside of the box, above the 2X2 supports, so the depth above the hardware cloth is 8 inches. 4 ftX 4 ft X 8 inches = 10.66 Cu Ft minimum. To allow for compacting due to watering I am planning on adding one extra Cu Ft, so, 11.66 cu ft equals about 15 - 5 gallon buckets.

Each Table Top should require 5 - 5 gal buckets of Vermiculite, 5 - 5 gal buckets of Peat Moss and
1 - 5 gal bucket each of the five compost varieties.

Does my math sound about right?
cautery
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Post  boffer 2/11/2011, 6:50 pm

Hey Clay,

I've been thinkin'...

What you will be doing with your box is measuring an air entrained product. The most common air entrained product that we are all familiar with is breakfast cereal. Somewhere on every box of cereal it says: 'This product sold by weight, not volume. Some settling may occur.' It's the only way to get a consistent amount of product.

The same thing is going to happen when you measure out your MM. Each batch of peat is going to fluff up a little differently. Each batch of compost is going to have different moisture content, and it is going to pack down differently. Then the mix is going to settle differently when you put it in the box. You won't be able to get consistent numbers over a period of years. You'll get close, though. And closies are good enough in SFG.

That's why a lot of us use 5 gallon buckets. As Becky said, maintain the ratio (closies work) and a box will take about X many buckets. A few more, a few less, it just doesn't matter in the big scheme of things.

I know you have your heart set on using your box. For everybody else, a wood cubic foot box full of material is an awkward container to manhandle. You can have mine if you want it. I used it on my first SFG box and decided real fast that there had to be a better way. Gotta luv them free five gallon buckets!
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Post  Blackrose 2/11/2011, 7:12 pm

boffer wrote:Gotta luv them free five gallon buckets!

I want some free five gallon buckets! Where'd you get them?
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Post  Furbalsmom 2/11/2011, 7:20 pm

5-Gallon buckets may be available at restaurants or the bakery at your grocery store. Alot of the basics they both use, like mayonnaise, or icing, comes in 5 gal buckets. And if all else fails, they are only about 2 bucks (US) at HomeDepot.
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Post  camprn 2/11/2011, 7:29 pm

I just eyeballed my MM when i mixed it in April and this is what it looked like in July.SFG "Measuring Spoon" Jul_0119By September the tomatoes were 10' tall and the peppers were about 4' tall. Both full of fruit.
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Post  cautery 2/11/2011, 8:11 pm

Of course boffer is right.... All of those variables will creep in... but it's better than nuthin'... Smile

The bottom line? I was at HD, and anticipating the weeks of crappy, rainy, cold weather, decided that making a cubic foot box was

a) something to do, and
b) not going to hurt anything, and might help.

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Post  Megan 2/11/2011, 8:39 pm

I just had to smile when I read this thread tonight. It reminds me so much of myself.

Clay, many moons ago I was trained as an engineer, so I completely understand where you are coming from. I can be extremely detail-oriented when I want to be, or need to be. (And sometimes when I don't want to be, lol!)

Scratch your itches as you need to, of course! but I think you will find that gardening, especially SFG style, is "good enough for government work" at best. And thank goodness for that, because if we had to be millimeter-precise, we'd all be going hungry!

There are FAR too many imponderables to track and control. If you had a Clean Room with a hydroponic system and precise control over EVERY aspect down to ppm, foot-candles of light, temperature, moisture, yadda yadda.... Yes, there are people who do that, and it's both big business and a PhD if you want to go there. But you can easily get away with sowing seeds in the soil and letting Momma Nature do her thing, with a little help around the edges.

I find that gardening to be extremely relaxing because I can just flow with it. If something doesn't work, no biggie; it's only seeds, and I reassess and try again. Fortunately most of us are growing to supplement our diets and not completely reliant upon our gardens as sole source of food. (Does give one pause for thought at what our forebears had to face, though.) There are some things you do need to be careful with....dilution of pesticides, if you use them, etc., and of course home canning instructions. And it's good to know that a 4 foot trellis probably will not work very well with indeterminate tomatoes. My 6.5 foot trellis ended up being a little short for my tomatoes, but, on the other hand, I can't reach higher than 8 feet without a ladder.... and now I know I can top the tomatoes off so I don't have to worry about that anymore.

From what you've posted, I am certain that you know all this already. So, this message is intended not really for you so much as for all those other engineering/detail-oriented people that I know are lurking out there with a burning desire to nail down every last detail and find the perfect rules for every gardening situation. IT IS COMPLETELY OKAY, for it to be just okay, and not perfect. Really really. I love you Failure is also a good thing, I've found, because I can then share with the forum what I tried, how it went wrong, and we can laugh about it together and maybe down the line someone will draw a useful lesson from my experience.

Also, your SFG cube totally rocks. Love it! ;-)
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Post  Blackrose 2/11/2011, 9:08 pm

Megan wrote:Also, your SFG cube totally rocks. Love it! ;-)

And if you decide not to use it to measure out your MM ingredients it would work great to plant some long carrots in!

fun veggie
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Post  boffer 2/11/2011, 10:15 pm

Blackrose wrote:I want some free five gallon buckets! Where'd you get them?

I had to go look at my stash...

Restaurants, construction sites, contractors, janitorial cleaning, laundry cleaning, petroleum products...

Costco used to have detergent, bleach, and disinfectants in five gallon buckets, but they seem to come in square buckets now, a little smaller, but they still work good for a measuring cup.

Once you start looking and asking...they're out there.
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Post  boffer 2/11/2011, 10:22 pm

cautery wrote:...I was at HD, and anticipating the weeks of crappy, rainy, cold weather, decided that making a cubic foot box was

a) something to do, and
b) not going to hurt anything, and might help.

Oh, now I understand...you felt like making sawdust okay
Nobody can turn a 2x4 into a toothpick faster'n me!

That's why I've been gravitating towards metal working lately: I can weld all my mistakes back together and start over! yahoo
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Post  Old Hippie 2/12/2011, 12:49 am

boffer wrote:
Blackrose wrote:I want some free five gallon buckets! Where'd you get them?

I had to go look at my stash...

Restaurants, construction sites, contractors, janitorial cleaning, laundry cleaning, petroleum products...

Costco used to have detergent, bleach, and disinfectants in five gallon buckets, but they seem to come in square buckets now, a little smaller, but they still work good for a measuring cup.

Once you start looking and asking...they're out there.

I am kind of with Boffer on the more casual style of gardening. Your cube is amazing and looks like something my DH would do. I do like the pails though and use them all the time for all kinds of things. I love the new buckets Costco has for laundry and dishwashing detergent. They are slightly smaller than a five gallon pail so they are a bit easier to handle for anyone who has arthritis. They are a bit more efficient in the use of space than round pails and I like that.

Another place to get free pails is a paint store. I work in a paint store and we sell new ones with lids, but very often we have used ones for free that just need to be washed out. Here Home Depot charges more like $6.00 for those pails. We charge $4.50. But if you get used ones, the latex paint cleans up with soap and water so it is not that difficult. And free trumps cheap. LOL!

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Post  LaFee 2/12/2011, 5:16 am

I used to work for a coatings company, and for trade shows we would stack empty buckets with lids so our retailers could see how the product looks.

Since they're cheap to the manufacturer, we were spending more than the bucket was worth to ship them to the exhibit hall, so shipping them back would have been a lot more expense for no apparent reason.

We were the favorite booth at the show...when it ended, we'd stack all those empty buckets with a sign "Clean buckets - take what you need before they go in the trash!"

I don't think the trash guys EVER actually took them -- all the hall contractors (and a few other exhibitors) would be on them like jackals.
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Post  Blackrose 2/12/2011, 9:09 am

This is why I love this forum soooo much. I never would have thought to go to any of those places and ask for a free bucket. Who knew there was so much free stuff to be had. Amazing!

thanks clap
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Post  Megan 2/12/2011, 9:27 am

Last year, I picked up several 5 gallon buckets at my local feed supply store for about $2 each. Not free, but cheap anyway!
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Post  cautery 2/12/2011, 9:56 am

Thanks Megan... You get it...

Perhaps SFG can act as sort of a "buffering agent" to my natural tendency toward control (and/or the illusion of control if you want to get philosophical about it). Wink

Megan wrote:I just had to smile when I read this thread tonight. It reminds me so much of myself....

From what you've posted, I am certain that you know all this already. So, this message is intended not really for you so much as for all those other engineering/detail-oriented people that I know are lurking out there with a burning desire to nail down every last detail and find the perfect rules for every gardening situation. IT IS COMPLETELY OKAY, for it to be just okay, and not perfect. Really really. I love you Failure is also a good thing, I've found, because I can then share with the forum what I tried, how it went wrong, and we can laugh about it together and maybe down the line someone will draw a useful lesson from my experience.

Also, your SFG cube totally rocks. Love it! ;-)
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Post  cautery 2/12/2011, 9:58 am

Yeah, that too! Smile

I also have a stack of metal in the garage right next to my pre-cut SFG wood... Perhaps I should, like you, dust off my welder and make something...

boffer wrote:
cautery wrote:...I was at HD, and anticipating the weeks of crappy, rainy, cold weather, decided that making a cubic foot box was

a) something to do, and
b) not going to hurt anything, and might help.

Oh, now I understand...you felt like making sawdust okay
Nobody can turn a 2x4 into a toothpick faster'n me!

That's why I've been gravitating towards metal working lately: I can weld all my mistakes back together and start over! yahoo
cautery
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