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Anyone NOT like square foot gardening?

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
Is there a downside?

The book reads like a sales pitch, and it almost sounds too good to be true. I saw on another thread that some plants need more room than that to grow well (or at all). I'm a total gardening newbie (only herbs and one possible tomato in pots so far) so I have no idea if it's really just that easy and idiot-proof or if there's more to know.
post #2 of 30
I didn't want to build the bed frames or have to buy all my soil when I had decent soil right my my backyard that just needed amending, but I went with closer to biointensive gardening (close plant spacing, wide row beds, double digging 2ft deep and amending the soil somewhat lightly).
post #3 of 30
I just didn't like how unsustainable it is. If you can't get your hands on peat moss and perlite, what would you do? I prefer just adding several yards of compost to the garden over the years to loosen it up and make it happy and more friable. The raised bed thing doesn't bother me so much, I just didn't have the kind of money to be making 30+ of those. Just take the ideas you like and roll with it.
post #4 of 30
It was what lead me to biointensive gardening, so that was a plus, but the soil mix was not realistic for us, so we deviated away from it once we did a bit more research. Look into John Jeavons: http://www.amazon.com/Vegetables-Ber...tt_at_ep_dpi_1 His biointensive methods are awesome.

Our ground soil isn't trustworthy, so raised beds work great for us. I also like how it looks, but hey, if I am going to be vain about something, i'd rather it be my garden than my nails.
post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 
I will definitely look into biointensive gardening, too. Thanks for that recommendation.

Our ground soil is awful, so the mix and raised beds appeal to me. (I'm also having some issues with the compost, although I'm sure I could get some horse manure from a nearby farm and let it rot in the meantime...) What about the mix "doesn't work" for you? Is it the cost? (I haven't gone out to research that part yet, I'm still in the initial research/planning phase, trying to figure out what will even grow here...)

lmonter, when you say it's not sustainable, is that b/c the materials are not renewable resources and it's bad for the environment, or b/c it's not practical for you as an individual b/c you have 30+ beds?
post #6 of 30
We had 7 3x12' beds built at our old house and did square foot gardening for 5 years there.

I'm not doing it again. First off, I had never-ending weeding problems and because of the permanent beds, they had to be weeded by hand. I think amending the soil would have also been easier if I had been doing one huge plot instead of doing each raised bed.

I've been reading about wide row gardening, permaculture, hugelkultur and biointensive gardening and am going to combine what I like about each into the new garden I plant here next year.

It might be okay on a very small scale, but anything big and it's a hassle.
post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmonter View Post
I just didn't like how unsustainable it is. If you can't get your hands on peat moss and perlite, what would you do?
You would add several yards of compost over the years and just take longer to have the nice crumbly soil that's easy for planting.
post #8 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by limette View Post
I've been reading about wide row gardening, permaculture, hugelkultur and biointensive gardening and am going to combine what I like about each into the new garden I plant here next year.
I'm a new gardener but did a lot of reading. I went with the wide beds, biointensive ideas etc. I'm really happy with it. I started out with pretty much a waist high field of weeds so I was expecting to do some weeding the first few years. I'm finding that most of my weeding is happening in the rows between the beds! Once veggies started growing they blocked out most of the weeds. I would love to build some raised beds (just add walls to current beds and keep adding compost to them) and let the rows get grassy and just mow them.

ETA: I have pics on my blog.
post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post
lmonter, when you say it's not sustainable, is that b/c the materials are not renewable resources and it's bad for the environment, or b/c it's not practical for you as an individual b/c you have 30+ beds?
Both. I don't have 30 beds, but I do have 1200sf of garden space, plus fruit trees. And really, getting stupid crab or bermuda grass or whatever out of is impossible once it gets into raised beds. It sucks.

Besides, try getting your hands on coarse or medium perlite (it's basically rock popcorn). It ain't easy. Took me a few weeks on the phone tracking it down and actually getting it to town. (I got it to help lighten up my big pots - I'd rather have perlite than styrofoam peanuts like a friend did.) I imagine you'd easily need a few dozen of those 4-cubic feet bags for a decent sized garden.

Plus if you ever have to move, that's another thing to keep in mind. Sigh.
post #10 of 30
I tried Mel's Mix and it didn't work well at all. The garden with the topsoil was so much more fertile than the garden with Mel's Mix that it was almost hilarious.

Also, I find the concept that plants are supposed to grow well in 6 inches of soil to be ridiculous. Plants root go down deep in the earth to seek out moisture, trace minerals, and stability. Carrot root hairs can go more than three feet into the ground! Plopping six inches of Mel's Mix down on weed-cloth just did not produce healthy plants for me.

I am a huge believer in intensive planting, but the Square Foot gardening guy didn't invent it. he just made it popular. There are many resources out there with better info. The vegetable Gardner's Bible by Edward C Smith is a great book to try.
http://www.amazon.com/Vegetable-Gard...1906869&sr=1-1
post #11 of 30
Thread Starter 
Wow, I'm glad I asked! Keep it coming -- I've read nearly a dozen books so far and apparently still need to read more! (I have two more on my reserve list at the library, thanks to you all.)

I find the 6 inch soil to be questionable, too, which is partly why I thought I'd ask the question. We do have awful soil here, and a raised bed might still be our best option (only more reading will tell...), but I was planning to use at least the 12-inch depth even though Mel Bartholomew says it's mostly unnecessary.

I'm not planning a huge garden. I'm not even planning to try to grow ALL our produce. I just happened to be able to keep a basil plant alive all summer and decided to branch out (no pun intended) b/c I love "shopping" for dinner in my backyard. But I know that if I am at all successful, it could very well become more than just a few tomatoes and I'd LOVE to be able to grow all our produce myself. I'm already doing a co-op so as to avoid the grocery store as much as possible. If I can avoid the food co-op line too, even better!
post #12 of 30
I LOVED the Vegetable Gardener's Bible. I also read Great Garden Companions (wow, I found it online!) I would say I used those two books the most.
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmonter View Post
Besides, try getting your hands on coarse or medium perlite (it's basically rock popcorn). It ain't easy. Took me a few weeks on the phone tracking it down and actually getting it to town.
What about the vermiculite? IME, it's hard to track down, really expensive, and isn't it controversial? Mel didn't seem to favor perlite, but I was actually considering it.
post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Turquesa View Post
What about the vermiculite? IME, it's hard to track down, really expensive, and isn't it controversial? Mel didn't seem to favor perlite, but I was actually considering it.
Last time I did research (it's been a while, so correct me if I'm wrong), vermiculite was puffed asbestos, perlite is puffed lava rock. All either one does is fluff up the soil to make it more friable anyway (as does peat moss until it's totally saturated).
post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by lmonter View Post
Last time I did research (it's been a while, so correct me if I'm wrong), vermiculite was puffed asbestos, perlite is puffed lava rock. All either one does is fluff up the soil to make it more friable anyway (as does peat moss until it's totally saturated).
Vermiculite is not asbestos. It's hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-ironsilicate.

I don't know what the problem is now with gardening as I don't use it but after years of being used as insulation in roofing, they found out that something like 90% of the vermiculite mines were contaminated with asbestos.
post #16 of 30
I used Mel's Mix and have to say, it really is nice. I can't imagine it being poor soil; makes me think the compost added to the mix must have been bad compost (and if you buy it from the store, you have a pretty good chance of it being bad). I used homemade.

However, I will not use it again. For ethical reasons I will not purchase peat moss or vermiculite.

I did a second raised bed this year and mixed half soil and half homemade compost. It's working nicely. Honestly, Mel's Mix was even nicer but half soil and half compost is totally doing the job.

I think raised beds are nice and efficient for small to medium gardners, because it really does take a lot of time and effort to improve soil - a raised bed gets you going right away.

I like the intensive planting rather than the inefficient row gardening scheme, which really is modelled after industrial farming and not backyard gardening. It makes no sense to plant and thin like the packet says. It's inefficient, more work, more seeds, and also frankly not even kind to plants to kill 2 out of 3 seedlings like that.

Watering in a raised bed is more efficient than watering your big row garden.

Weeding is definitely improved. When you plant intensively, the weeds don't have a place to get in. The rows invite weeds because nature abhors a vacuum. So you're just fighting nature to keep that soil bare.

The advice to keep your gardens near where you are is important. I have made the mistake of placing my garden a little too far away and it did indeed get neglected. The one just outside of my back door gets plenty of attention, naturally. When pests started chewing on my brocolli I noticed right away and started handpicking it. (Honestly, it's an ongoing issue but I'm winning since the brocs are still growing). The garden farther away, I wouldn't have noticed until it was too late probably.

So I give a thumbs-up to SFG but just don't ethically support Mel's Mix. Plus don't let him scare you when he says "it's not a SFG unless you have the dividers" or whatever. Fine, Mel, so it's not a square foot garden. You can take whatever you want out of it

Oh, I forgot one thing - in my last garden I bought 12" long and 6" high bricks from the garden department at WalMart. I forgot the price but say $1.50 a brick. I did not mortar them together and just stacked them two high. They are holding up just fine just sitting there like that. Yes, it did add up to be more than the wood frame, but the bricks will last longer. You might think they are prettier too, but to me that's just an aside. For me, a big thing was really avoiding carpenter ants which live in this area. They live in wood. So if that's an issue, think about bricks.
post #17 of 30
I liked the SFG book for the intensive gardening ideas. I didn't bother with Mel's mix. I do no-dig sheet composting. My beds are only raised about 3 to 6 inches above the soil.

We actually dug up the sod before we put the beds in, so I have usually been able to stay on top of the Bermuda grass invasions with serious weeding in the spring / fall (when it's not too hot). Where I really get the weed invasion has been on my "walking" paths around the beds. More exercise for the cooler weather
post #18 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by limette View Post
Vermiculite is not asbestos. It's hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-ironsilicate.

I don't know what the problem is now with gardening as I don't use it but after years of being used as insulation in roofing, they found out that something like 90% of the vermiculite mines were contaminated with asbestos.
I stand corrected. I just remember asbestos was somewhere in the equation.
post #19 of 30
I really hate the idea and have never seen a sfg that did as well as a traditional one. 6 foot tomato plants that bear you 30-50 fist sized tomatoes in zone 3? no way in hell....
my zucchini and crookneck squash plants are 5 feet tall and 3 feet by 3 feet wide and bears 2-3 large zuc.a day, or up to 5 squash a day... would this happen in a sfg? nope. I dont even know what would happen in a sfg to my monster rhubarb that has given me 30 lbs so far and will be ready for a 3rd harverst any day now.
You just cant crowd plants and roots that way and expect them to treat you with big yields.
And the thing is, my garden didnt cost me anything but labor, a few seed pakets and the effort of making compost every year.
SFG is good enough for a hobby garden I guess....? but if you want food production in tough to grow zones, try something else.
post #20 of 30
Another big thing is, in a traditional garden you are building soil quality every year, vs. a sfg where you are depleting the value of your fancy potting mix every year.
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