Monday, February 27, 2012

Breakdown of Cost for Square Foot Gardens

Gardens 1 and 2 - cabbage, oregano, cilantro,
lettuce, celery, parsley, broccoli, kale, rosemary and
three decorative flowering plants
We had such a mild winter this year in the Houston area. After the heat and the unprecedented drought of this summer, any temperature dip was a welcome relief. While I am not looking forward to another sweltering Houston summer, I am looking forward to spring and all that it brings in the garden.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I stepped into Square Foot Gardening the fall 2011. I started out with only three 4 x 4 gardens. I had wonderful results and I am ready to see what kind of yields I can get from a spring garden. As you can see from the pictures below, we have been very busy! We have added an additional 5 boxes! This will give me 8 boxes which gives me the recommended 2 boxes per family member. I cannot tell you how amazing it has been to go outside and "grocery shop" in my own backyard. All the winter vegetables are coming to the end of their growing season and now it is time to plant all our spring plants. This winter, we have enjoyed fresh organic cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet peas, tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, celery, lettuce, green beans, oregano, kale, green onions, rosemary...
Garden 3 - end of the winter garden, broccoli, green onions
2 kinds of lettuce, kale and sweet peas going strong!

One of the benefits of Square Foot Gardening is that you don't have to dig into the soil or amend your soil. However, you do have to have a flat surface to put your 4 x 4 garden on. My small city lot is relatively flat, but the spot I needed to put my new gardens on was uneven. We flattened out the ground where the new gardens would go, removed a bush and a tree that were taking up valuable garden growing area. My friend had a large amount of newspaper that she generously let me have. We laid it down about 6-8 sheets thick* and rolled out weed barrier and placed the boxes where they will go. Next, we will add the pine bark nuggets around the boxes and Mel's Mix in the boxes. You do not have to put weed barrier and pine bark nuggets around your boxes, I just like it and think it looks pretty.

We had to level this patch of the yard a bit
Newspaper, weed barrier and then the boxes
Next comes the pine bark nuggets and Mel's Mix
Here is the other garden just off the patio. The other frame is just off camera.
I would also like to address the cost of the boxes. When you start out, you have to purchase the lumber, materials for the climbing nets and the "Mel's Mix" which is vermiculite, peat moss and compost. Each year, you only need to replace the compost and the plants. You can reduce this cost by growing your own plants from seeds and making your own compost from kitchen and yard scraps. The vermiculite was the most costly and hard to find. I finally located it at Cornelius Nursery in Houston for $30/bag. [update: I found a new source for vermiculite here in Houston for $16 a bag! It is called Vermiculite Products at 713-869-6663 (3025 Maxroy St. Houston, TX 77008) ]

Here is the cost breakdown to build 3 boxes and 2 climbing vines:

The boxes themselves:
Top Choice pine lumber 2 x 6 x 8 for the boxes themselves - Lowe's 6 boards @ 3.14 each = $18.84
(word to the wise here - have Lowe's cut it in half for you in the store before you leave - FREE)
(more words to the wise - DO NOT use treated lumber. You don't want those chemicals to seep into your nice organic soil)
Premium furring 1 x 2 x 8 for the dividers that go on the top of the box  (have Lowes cut these in half too)- Lowe's 9 boards @ .75 each = $6.75
Box of outdoor wood screws 3" long - we already had this - but it is approximately $3.00 for a box 
TOTAL for 3 boxes is $28.59 or $9.53 per box

Mel's mixture inside the box:
Vermiculite - 4 cu. foot bags - you will need two Cornelius Nursery $29.99 each = $59.98 (do not have a heart attack here - you will never have to purchase more for these boxes. That's it!)
Peat Moss - A 3.8 cubic foot compressed expands to 8 cubic feet. I couldn't find it in this size. So I purchased two 3 cu. foot bags (they are compressed and poof out) - 2 bags at Lowe's $9.75 each = $19.50 - you won't need all of it (again, you will never again have to purchase more for these boxes.) 
Compost (get as many different kinds as you possibly can find... cow, chicken, mushroom...) for three boxes you will need 8 cubic feet total  - it costs me approximately $15.00 total for all my organic compost. If you make your own, it will be FREE the next year. You will have to replace a trowel full of compost for each square each time you plant a new plant in that spot. 
TOTAL for 3 boxes is $94.48 or $31.49 per box. 
Don't panic! REMEMBER - that is the starter cost only. After the boxes are started, your only cost for soil will be in compost and that can be FREE if you make your own compost from kitchen and yard scraps. 

Weed barrier landscaping cloth - WeedX roll 3' x 100' (you will use this for many, many boxes)- at Wal-Mart $18.72 You may be able to find a smaller roll for less. We purchased a large roll because we use it in other areas of our yard. 
Weed Barrier landscaping cloth staples - $4.00 for 25 staples

2 Climbing Vines (I only put climbing vines on two boxes) (simple instructions are in the NEW Square Foot Garden book:
1/2" electrical conduit 10 feet long. 4 @ $1.69 = $6.76
1/2" Insider Corner pieces 4 @ 4.34 = $17.36
Netting (I found one big enough to cut in half and use on both) $4.97
Rebar 3/8 x 24"- 4 @ 1.52 = $6.08
TOTAL for 2 nets $35.17 or $17.59 each

Now that those three boxes are built, and I have made my own compost and grown my own starter plants from seeds I previously purchased, my out of pocket this year for those three gardens is practically nothing. It will make the harvest that much sweeter! Happy planting ya'll!

*A word about newspaper: It really does the trick at keeping out the grass and weeds. You absolutely do not have to clear out the grass or weeds before laying down the newspaper. We had to even out the ground before putting out the newspaper, that's why you see dirt in our pictures. The newspaper is very effective at wiping out everything but you must lay it down thick. 3 sheets thick will not do it. Go for at least 6-8 sheets thick or more if you have enough to spare. If your grass/weeds are tall, go ahead and mow them very short just to make it easier to lay down the newspaper. Weed barrier cloth must be laid on top of this as the newspaper will eventually decompose. If you are putting out the weed barrier around your boxes, you will also need to put something on top of the weed barrier cloth as a further barrier.  (I still put weed barrier inside my boxes for an extra measure of protection, but it is unnecessary around the boxes. The newspaper will do the trick as long as you keep a thick layer of mulch or chipped up trees from a tree trimmer - which is free. See "Forest Floor" page with links to the right.) I suggest large/medium decorative pine bark nuggets in a thick layer (2"). I do not recommend pine bark mulch. The nuggets decompose slower and you get longer life out of them. Mulch will do in a pinch, but try to find the nuggets. You'll thank me later.(I now recommend "Forest Floor" instead of pine bark nuggets)


Frazzled Mom said...

These are adorable Square Foot Garden planning sheets

Frazzled Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frazzled Mom said...

I found a new source for vermiculite here in Houston for $16 a bag! It is called Vermiculite Products at 713-869-6663 (3025 Maxroy St. Houston, TX 77008) here is a database for vermiculite

Frazzled Mom said...

Harris County Planting Schedule


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