Hieron
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Suggestions for Converting a SFG to a Regular Raised Bed?

Hello All - I'm a noob here; if you'd like to check it out I posted my gardening history in the Introductions section of the forum.

Anyway long story short, I currently have a true square-foot garden - basically a giant 6-inch deep box filled with 1/3 each peat moss, vermiculite, and a diverse mix of compost - that I want to convert back to a normal raised bed.

My thought was that I'd just dig out all the Mel's Mix (aka MM) and mix it all up (so that any localized nutrient differences based on what had been planted in that part of the box would be washed out), then double-dig it into the ground and put my SFG frame minus the bottom around it.

My main worry is that I might also be evenly distributing every potential pest/disease to my entire plot such that no matter what I plant where, there will be something waiting to munch on it, lol. I don't think I had any obvious diseases in the bed, though I did have some tomatoes in buckets right next to it that all fell prey to some kind of wilt or something.

Anyway does anyone have any thoughts on that? Any other concerns I'm not thinking of? Seems pretty straightforward but after 2 years of wasted time and money I'm really trying to plan way ahead and make sure I do everything right! Thanks for any help.

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Jardin du Fort
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Re: Suggestions for Converting a SFG to a Regular Raised Bed

Hieron wrote:My main worry is that I might also be evenly distributing every potential pest/disease to my entire plot such that no matter what I plant where, there will be something waiting to munch on it, lol. I don't think I had any obvious diseases in the bed, though I did have some tomatoes in buckets right next to it that all fell prey to some kind of wilt or something.
There will be those nay-sayers that say that you shouldn't ever plant the same crop in the same soil twice, I however believe that you would not have any significant problems. After all, in nature, most plants live in the same soil for very long times. The most important thing is to make sure you use enough compost and other nutrients so that the plants can grow healthy. Healthy plants are much less susceptible to disease.

Bobberman
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The only thing that scares me is the vermiculite which tends o become mushy! I would add some sand and maybe a little nitrogen fertilizer! or even composted manure!
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Hieron
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Hmm thanks for the info guys.

@Jardin - Yeah I tend to have that sort of attitude as well, I'm just a little paranoid after having the garden be a near complete failure 2 years in a row lol...the wife's tolerance of garden-related expenses is waning, haha. I think you're right though, I'm hoping it will be ok.

@Bobberman - Hmm you might be right about the sand. My native soil is pretty darn clayish as well, so I'll probly take that advice. The MM is compost-heavy, of course, but since I did grow a lot of foliage in it last year (if not any actual fruit O_o) so I will definitely add more compost and will probably do a soil test and add organic fertilizer accordingly.

Thanks for the input guys! More is always appreciated if anyone else wants to weigh in!

Bobberman
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One thing about sand is it goes a long way for a cheap price and remains netral for a long time! and snails do not like sand or perlight!
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applestar
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Good compost with live, active microbes will help out-compete or even defend against disease organisms. Do you have your own compost pile or vermicompost bin started?

Healthier your plants are, the higher their resistance, So learning and providing what they need will really help.

I think most of us here have agreed that 6" soil depth with a bottom is too shallow for most garden vegs.

What do you plan to grow? 8)

Bobberman
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Why have a bottom on any raised bed or cold frame outside. I think the bottom if it is dug out should be leaves or shredded paper even a good dranined bottom like a sand and garder soil bottom is best! when you incurage worms at the bottom of a raised bed you have a live thing working for you day and night. Even a layer of news paper with some leaes on top works.Having a bottom on a raised bed kills alot of live things when the weather is freezing!
+++
The warmth of the deeper ground protects the worms and good things in the soils! Soil in the garden seldom freezs more than 4 to 6 inches all winter but a raised bed 6 inches deep will freeze solid especially when its clay or vermiculite that is soggy to start with! A bottom also holds too much water when it rains hard and leeches out the nitrogen! One last point is that lets say there are 200 worms in a 6 by 6 raised bed area but they are usually one oot to 3 feet down in the ground. The bottom stops them from coming to the surface so you loose you main workers! I remember digging out a foundation and found night crawlers 5 feet down!
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Hieron
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Hi Applestar; thanks for chiming in. xD I do have a compost setup, though so far I haven't been able to collect enough material in any one year to supply all my compost needs. Being more proactive about that is one of my goals for this year.

I'm REALLY glad I'm in like-minded company about the closed SFG boxes...whenever I questioned anything in the SFG forum people got weird, lol.

I'm planning to grow quite a bit. xD After all my reading I'm eager to try succession planting to make the most of the growing season, so I'll be trying several things I haven't previously (e.g., radishes and beets where my tomatoes/peppers will eventually go). If you're really bored, lol, here's my garden planner for the year so far...I'm not done yet but the goal is to have everything I'm planning to grow (a few things on the lists right now may still get booted), how much, when it will be planted and where in the bed it will go. I'm pretty ADD so I'm going way overboard on planning/organizing as part of my determination to be successful this year, haha.

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/674483/Garden% ... 02013.xlsx

Hieron
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Bobberman wrote:Why have a bottom on any raised bed or cold frame outside.
Ha that is a good question bobberman...basically I did it because the SFG book said so, haha. My soil is pretty thick with clay and the book assures you it'll work, so I figured it would be a win-win. Now that I've tried it and seen that even my terrible soil did a better job, I'm excited to take what I've learned to improve my soil and see how well things go!

Bobberman
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Even bad ground on the bottom of a raised bed is better than a bottom. Now if you have a floating raised bed in the water that is different or are making one on a roof or cement it can't be avoided!! Make two beds with the same soil one with and one without you will see the difference! If the bed is lets say a foot deep with a bottom it will work better than one only 6 inches deep depending on what you are growing!
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If your soil is heavy clay, you will do better if you make your beds a foot instead of 6" (but as everyone has said, still no bottom!). Before you put soil in the bed be sure to make drainage channels in to the clay with a pitchfork.
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cynthia_h
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When I re-entered the gardening world in 2008 after a hiatus of a decade or so (car accident), I discovered Mr. Bartholomew's Square Food Gardening method. I gave it a try; certainly raised beds would be easier on me, with the trashed knees and hips, than bending over all the way to the ground. (Kneeling and squatting were impossible then and are still pretty much out of the question.)

I took him at his (2005) word: 6" was deep enough, and use one-third each of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost of various sources. I had my own compost, but not enough quantity, so I purchased some grape pomace compost and something else, plus the peat and vermiculite.

Let me tell you that 6" is NOT enough, not by a long shot, and my plants had access to the native soil. But said native soil hadn't ever--well, at least not since 1997--been worked, and probably not before then, given what the sellers told us about their lifestyle. They had permanent plantings, and that was IT. Just ornamental concrete blocks (which I had removed) where Bed #1 was built. Thus: California adobe clay with a good admixture of yellow clay subsoil. Bleah. :x

So, in Fall 2008, I scavenged more cinder blocks to make a second layer of them around Bed #1, doubling its depth. I simply added more of my own compost as more became available, and finally broke down and bought a little more compost. Because, as I had discovered between approx. March/April and September/October 2008, in parts of the world where there simply isn't access to peat and vermiculite, Mel recommends 100% compost plus a few hand/shovelfuls of native soil in the beds.

I would therefore suggest that you 1) make the bed(s) deeper and 2) amplify the planting medium with compost. If you already have your own compost pile or bin working, this should be almost expense-free. I acquired almost all of the materials for my raised beds--eventually five in all--via Freecycle.org; the hardware for the wood bins came either from DH's vast "shop" collection or was purchased new. I therefore *also* suggest checking out Freecycle.org for a list or maybe lists in your vicinity; no money is permitted to change hands in any Freecycle exchange. :)

Hope it works out for you!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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