A cage is now in place.

Posted on May 31st, 2007 in Building,SFG,SFG photos by Andy

As the buds surprised me by coming up this early I needed to get a cage in place before the birds, squirrels and chipmunks got to the food. It was one of the projects I had to do and I was hoping to do it this weekend but the seeds had other ideas. So this afternoon after work I went out and cut my legs and arms to pieces with chicken wire whilst making the cage. For anyone else doing this, don’t wear shorts and a t-shirt and do it outside so you don’t get blood on the carpet!

It was actually quite pleasant outside whilst I built the cage, very hot – I was sweating just standing still but nice and peaceful and my hay fever didn’t kick in until after I had finished which made the whole experience a lot more pleasant.  I cut a piece from the roll about 8.5′ long to give a 4′ top and 2′ high with the overlap to let me staple the sides to the underneath and outside edges of the frame. I then cut two more 2′ long pieces and stapled those to the side of the frame.  The mesh came tied up with a long piece of wire to hold it together so I was able to use this wire to twist it through the mesh on each side like a bread bag tie, snip the edge off and then repeat for every 2nd hole on the sides.  The top edges didn’t need extra wire as I could loop the  cut edges around the solid edge from the longer piece.  (This sounds complicated but should be obvious when the cage is built).  The end result is a fairly sturdy (yet flexible) cage. The cage.

There are a couple of drawbacks with this method – the first is that the pieces don’t fit exactly over the box due to the initial box not being cut at exactly 4′ square but the gap is pretty small. Also, because the laths are screwed on top of the base box, there are gaps between the cage and the base unit – hopefully not big enough for a chipmunk to get in – I know that Bruce and Sheila the rabbits won’t be able to get in, nor the squirrels – or at least I hope not.

The other drawback is that the cage needs to be removed for the evening water which is a bit of a pain but not too much of a hassle. I’m also not sure how this is going to work when I put the main vine frame up too as that will be bigger than the cage. I’ll have to see if anyone else has some ideas.


Posted on May 31st, 2007 in radishes,SFG,SFG photos by Andy

The radishes have surfaced tonight – yesterday there was no sign of them, and now there are 16 (I guess but I didn’t count). The other squares are coming on nicely but I didn’t take a photo of those – the radishes were more impressive


A shopping list

Posted on May 30th, 2007 in Building,SFG by Andy

Mike  asked me for a shopping list for my square foot garden so here is the details so far. I’ll try to put prices in where I can remember them or have details. The hardware was purchased at Lowes, the Mel’s mix and plants at Oakland Nursery (ON) and the mulch at OhioMulch. Prices are approx when I can’t remember the exact price and it is too late to go looking for the receipts.

For the Garden bed

  • 8′ * 4′ 15/16 plywood for the base. Lowes will cut this (roughly) in half so you will have half left for another project (or another bed) – this is optional but it will do a better job at preventing weeds growing through the bottom and also makes the whole thing portable (if you can lift that much dirt!) I have seen some people attached wheels to their base to move it around. $11
  • 2 times 8′ * 6″ for the sides. Again Lowes cut this in half for me. The one thing you have to watch is that the pieces of wood are either longer than 4′ OR my 8′ board wasn’t quite 8′ as the sides are slightly longer than the base and therefore the base doesn’t quite cover the bottom – there’s a tiny gap left but I didn’t realise this until after I had screwed the sides together. $7 (approx)
  • Laths for the grid – these were more expensive than in the book but I think this is mainly because I couldn’t find anything really suitable in Lowes and ended up having to get a pack of 10 6′ laths,- $5.88
  • 12 screws to hold the sides together, about 20 screws to attach the base to the sides. Use as many as you think are necessary. I already had a bulk pack from previous woodworking projects  so these were “free”, 21 screws for the laths – make sure you drill the pilot holes first for these!

For Mel’s mix

  • 1 large bag of Vermiculite from Oakland Nursery. They didn’t have coarse, so the medium was used instead – $19
  • 1 3.8 cubic feet bag of peat moss from Oakland Nursery. The “recipe” actually only calls for 2.6 cubic so again there is plenty left over – $10
  • To make the compost I used 1 40lb bag of cow manure, 1 40lb bag of organic compost. However as the recipe for Mel’s wasn’t sufficient in quantity I also added 1 40lb bag of Potting soil – $7.70
  • The recipe calls for a third vermiculite, third peat moss, third compost – I ended up with the following for a 8 cubic foot bed – 3.9cf vermiculite, 3.9cf peat moss, 1.3cf manure, 1.3cf compost. The quantities were multiples of 1.3 as that was the size of the cardboard box I was using to get a rough measure.  I still have plenty left in the bags to make top up mix and also for any seedlings that I grow indoors.


  • 9 packs of seeds from Oakland. They were having a discount sale for a third off (I think) so $9.50


  • 2 rebars for vertical supports from Lowes
  • 1 10′ electrical conduit piping cut in half and threaded at Lowes, 1 4′ piece and 2 elbow joints to make the supports for the vine plants.


  • I also purchased a 50′ * 4′ roll of chicken wire (politically correct – poultry fence)  to make cages to put over the base unit to stop the birds, squirrels and chipmunks eating the veggies. The 4′ roll was slightly more expensive but it will make life easier when making the cage sections. $25 but will also be used to make a compost pile – but thats another blog post.
  • 4 times 8′ * 1″ * 2″ posts, cut in half at lowes to make the base for the 2 cages that I’ll put on (varying heights) $9
  • Support netting for the vine plants – I’ve yet to purchase that.


All in all, I’m not sure how much it came to -about $120-$130 from a rough estimate its a lot to spend all in one go but I think of it more as a fun project and a hobby to enjoy as well as a learning experience rather than just comparing it to the cost of shopping at Giant Eagle comparison, and lets be honest – anything that keeps me out of Giant Eagle of Kroger is worth every penny.

Don’t be put off by these prices – you could do it for less, with no base board and no poultry fence, especially if you can scrounge some old lumber from somewhere and some wooden pallets.

Update  Prices updated as I found my receipts. I also got $15 off the prices at Oaklands as there was a $10 gift card for filling out a Scott’s lawn questionaire and a $5 coupon for a spend over $40 (and my total was originally $41)

Pictures of the new seeds are uploaded to flickr.

Posted on May 30th, 2007 in SFG,SFG photos by Andy

First sign of life

As promised, the pictures of the new seeds are now available on flickr – here is a small picture of the first seed that appeared. I really can’t believe how quickly this one has grown. It’s in the pepper square and so is one of the other seeds.

Bud’s or weeds?

Posted on May 29th, 2007 in SFG by Andy

I went out to water the plants this afternoon when I got home from work and I’m not sure whether to be excited, nervous or worried. Two of the boxes looked like they had seedlings poking through the soil already  – and I only planted them yesterday! That means I either planted them to shallow, weeds are growing VERY quickly or I’ve got superduper plants. I didn’t take a photo, but maybe I’ll do that tomorrow when I water them again.

The seeds are planted

Posted on May 28th, 2007 in SFG by Andy

Planted the seeds this afternoon – peas, pepper, pepper, corn (subsequently I realised I should have left one of the pepper spaces for the tomatoes – oops! Lettuce, radish, carrots, blank, onions, lemon basil, blank blank, and the last row just lettuce in the bottom right corner.

Flickr photo’s.

Posted on May 27th, 2007 in Wordpress by Andy

I’ve used the flickrrss widget to add my flickr account photos to the side of the blog for a visual update of the garden. I did find that with wordpress 2.2 you don’t need to install the automatic widget plugin as it is already built in, but you do need to create the widgets directory underneath the plugins directory and load the flickr-widget.php file into this directory.

Measuring Mel’s mix.

Posted on May 27th, 2007 in Building by Andy

I was just building a standard 4*4 garden so I was going to need 4*4*0.5 =8 cubic feet which is not very helpful when dividing by three for the three main ingredients. However in order to dump the ingredients onto the tarp I needed a box to measure the appropriate quantities and the cardboard box that I had lying around in the garden just happened to measure 1.3 cubic feet which meant 2 boxes per ingredient. As I have previously mentioned I found the compost really hard to get hold of, but the one bag that I did find and the cow manure bags were both 40lb bags and both filled the cardboard box nicely, so my final ingredients list was 2 vermiculite, 2 peat moss, 1 cow manure and 1 compost. However after mixing all this and pouring it into the bed I still had a fair amount of empty space as the watering of the bed compacts the mix down so I had to mix another box of vermiculite, peat moss and potting soil. So, when shopping make sure that you always buy more than the standard calculations (in my case a third more). In the case of vermiculite and peat moss I have loads left as I purchased the large bags although I think I used more than a half of the vermiculite.

It survived the night – building day 2.

Posted on May 27th, 2007 in Building,SFG by Andy

The SFG made the night with no creatures digging up the soil mix or cats pooping in it. I nipped out this afternoon to put the cross slats on to make the square foot sections. As the book mentioned, you do need to drill pilot holes for the screws in the slats or otherwise they will crack as you screw through them – woops!

The soil stinks of manure at the moment, so in the hot weather it wasn’t the greatest of environments to be working in.  Hopefully I’ll be planting the seeds tomorrow and making a chickenwire cover to keep the birds, chipmunks and rabbits away.

7 months coming – but I’m REALLY starting today.

Posted on May 26th, 2007 in Introduction,SFG,trials and tribulations by Andy

Whilst my parents were here in November we purchased a lot of the materials to make the project but didn’t purchase the base or the ingredients to make “Mel’s Mix”. I wasn’t in a hurry as I knew the frost date was the 15th May (and sure enough we had a cold spell the day before) so I didn’t have to rush to get my garden outside. So – it has taken 7 months to start the project!
Getting the 4″ square piece of plywood for the base back from Lowes was not fun. It was chucking it down with rain and the wood would not fit in the car – I had to wait for my father in law to come with his suv to get the wood home. The last piece of the holdup was getting Mel’s ingredients. Obtaining Peat Moss was easy, Vermiculite was only available in medium and not coarse grade and it is practically impossible to purchase compost around here. Most of the garden centres only carry one type of compost (if at all) and Mel’s calls for a variety of mixes. The local nursery that I asked just told me that he uses soil from the garden – not very helpful when I *need* compost. Today I finally managed to track down some compost, potting soil and cow manure that I am going to use as the compost portion of Mels Mix.
So…..today I went to start making the box only to find the battery on my cordless set is flat – so it is currently charging and I am creating this blog.

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