Square Foot Gardening - starting cheaply? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 11 Old 03-29-2011, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is it even possible? What are the best cheapest materials? Best brands of soil, compost, and such that won't cost an arm and a leg?

 

 

We're looking at starting for the fall {we're zone 10 - too hot here to summer garden mostly}, and trying to come up with raised beds with some type of bottoms cheaply and fill them with Mel's Mix cheaply. Beds have to have bottoms as I'm not comfy with our soil here {it has a lot of fill and junk in it here - used to be a landfill}.

 

I want to do 6 or 8ft by 2 ft, so they are easier to reach into to for picking and weeding, and some of the beds need to be deeper as we want to do a LOT of carrots and beets since we love them.


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#2 of 11 Old 03-30-2011, 06:20 AM
 
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If I was starting a bare-bones-budget raised bed project I would go to craigslist and look for cast-off lumber and free aged horse manure. If you have the means to go get it, farms often give aged manure away for free (around here at least). Same goes for fill dirt (although you might want to buy this, since it could have the same problems you're trying to avoid). If you are okay with re-building in a few years, you can get untreated lumber. Alternatively you could get give-away cinder blocks to make the beds (I recall seeing this, a google search will probably bring it up). 

 

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#3 of 11 Old 03-30-2011, 07:42 AM
 
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The square foot stuff is just a fancy version of raised wide beds. You can do the same thing with your own soil or get a load of soil delivered. Don't edge the beds just hoe them up so they are a couple inches high.

Check out this book for further advice on how to do it.

Vegetable Gardener's Bible
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#4 of 11 Old 03-30-2011, 09:13 AM
 
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That is a FANTASTIC book. It truly was my gardening bible!


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#5 of 11 Old 03-30-2011, 01:30 PM
 
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We made raised beds, loosely following the SFG guidelines. We used old wooden fencing from our yard. We went to a nearby landscaping place where you can buy soil or compost by the yard. 1 yard filled the 2 "4/6" foot beds we built with some leftover.

 

We are going to build more beds and this time we are going to fill the lower half of the beds with the regular garden soil ($20 a yard) and the upper half with the premium soil ($28 a yard). A tip from a frugal neighbor.

 

We make our own compost but not sure we make enough for the garden size we have now.

 

I just use string or yarn to make the squares accorss the beds. I also use plastic lids or whatnot to make garden labels.

 

Definitely use Craigslist or Freecycle to look for free or cheap materials!

 

Rhianna

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#6 of 11 Old 04-04-2011, 02:37 PM
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I am doing this too.  I happen to mostly like my garden soil (it is still a bit rocky) and plan to use it with amendments.  

 

But, for the beds, I was looking at an ad this weekend.  Cedar fencing boards (#2 quality) are $1.50 for each 6ft long board.  The boards are 1 inch thick (so in reality 3/4" thick) and 6 inches wide.  Compare that to the same size board of nicer cedar (not fencing) and you pay like $7/board.  Clearly this won't be tall enough for you, but I would try to model it off some of the fancy raised bed kits. Go, two or three fence boards high.  Use a scrap piece of lumbar to hold the shape.  Costco has weed barrier for the best price around here.  Would that work as the bottom--it would allow drainage, but still be a barrier?

 

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#7 of 11 Old 04-05-2011, 08:07 PM
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Just got back from buying wood for the raised beds.  Turns out, several stores had "farmers bundles".  Meaning, "less than perfect" wood at a discount.  It saved me 50%.  You might call around--Lowes had a big selection of the rejects.  I had lots to choose from. 

 

Amy

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#8 of 11 Old 04-09-2011, 07:15 PM
 
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Forget Mel's Mix. i've never had good results with the stuff. See if you can get cubic yards of garden soil from a garden supply or landscape business. Since you like in a hot dry climate (I assume) you will certainly want to throw the "6 inch raised bed" idea out the window. It doesn't work well in more mild climates in my experience, especially if you want to put a bottom on your garden box. You will want at least 8 inches of soil, and will have better results and better moisture conservation with 12+ inch beds.
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#9 of 11 Old 04-09-2011, 07:46 PM
 
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SFG doesn't call for a bottom to the bed. The idea is that  you put a good soil blend ontop of your existing soil and then, over time, the soil below improves too.

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#10 of 11 Old 04-13-2011, 05:37 AM
 
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I do lasagna gardening (in permaculture its called sheet mulching) to fill the beds on the cheap.  Use cardboard on the bottom to kill grass and weeds.  Then layer on organic materials - I use ashes from the fire pit, free llama & horse manure from neighbors (also easy to find free from the classifieds), straw ($5/bale), used coffee grounds from starbucks, compost, leaf & grass clippings, etc.  Layer it up, let is decompose a few months and voila! you've got rockin soil :)


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#11 of 11 Old 05-07-2011, 03:59 AM
 
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We build a 4 x 4 SFG with one 10" x 16' foot long pine board from Lowe's, I think it costs $16. We have done many SFGs this way. I put weed fabric down on the bottom--I buy top quality fabric, because otherwise I have grassy weeds poking up through the bottom and I have to start over. Wood lath is like $10 a bundle of 50, and that makes the grids. The soil mix is organic topsoil, peat moss, and bagged manure. The boxes last for years so it is a great investment. You just add compost whenever you plant. Good luck!

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