I was expecting to come home from work on Friday and find boxes of cedar from Natural Yards, only to find they had arrived at the FedEx hub but would not be delivered until Monday. I called the FedEx 800 number to see if they had a customer pick up option but was told by customer service that my boxes were in a container and that they would not dig through the container just to find my four boxes. I had to wait until Monday. The customer service rep was a bit snippy so I was a bit ornery and I asked nicely, "So you don't have a customer pickup service like UPS does?" "NO! We don't!" (Darn!)
So back to planning stage. I have weeded my bed area. I calculated the cubic feet of dirt that I need. My bed is 22" x 4' x 8' so divide 22 by 12 to get the feet in decimals for height (1.833), multiply 1.833 * 4 * 8 = 58.56 cubic feet of growing medium.
I am considering get 20 cup hooks or eye screws to attach to the inside top of the frame on one foot intervals so that I can string twine over the soil through the hooks to create a grid of 1 foot squares (Square Foot Gardening). I will need garden cloth to lay down on the ground first. Then the bed frame is constructed. Then fill with the growing medium. I will most likely cover the growing medium with more garden cloth to keep out weeds, then add a soaker hose and mulch.
Shopping for Soil
Just got back from shopping for soil mix for the garden frame. It seems that the best price I can get for a soil mix is $5 a cubic foot which would be about $290 total. That was a Miracle Grow soil mix for flower and vegetable beds. More that I want to spend. So I am back to the computer searching to see if there are any nurseries that will sell a soil mix by the cubic yard and deliver it to my house. We shopped first at Ace, then we stopped by the neighborhood nursery that is great but pricey. Their soil mix was a couple dollars more per cubic foot than ACE and they didn't know of anyone that would sell a soil mix by the cubic yard.
The ACE experience
My first stop was at ACE where a young man working the lawn and garden department first told me the broken bags of soil would be half off. So I got my hubby out there and we dug through the pile of broken bags to see what they had and count it out by size of bags since they were mixed. I added up a total of about 14.5 cubic feet of soil and took an average price of $2.5 per cubic foot to come up with a total of $36.25 that I would be willing to pay to take the broken bags. This would be about half price.
I hunted down the manager who first of all told me that the broken bags were only 20% off not 50% because the bags hadn't lost any soil, people had simply put their hands through the bags. I told him that I had sorted through the broken bags and had the ones that I wanted. And that there was soil on the ground around the bags, by the way. In the game of "Deal, No Deal" he was all NO DEAL and he had NO patience. So I said, OK, let's figure out how much the odd assortment of bags will cost at 20% off. They didn't have all the prices for every size at the register which didn't help the manager's mood one bit but a clerk was able to work with me and we figured out the total for the one 2-cubic foot bag, five 1-cubic foot bags and five 16 quart bags. They wanted $65.35 at the discounted price. Wow! Too much! The manager had made himself scarce at this point so I said, "Thank you! Now I know how to compare prices."
I always think you should try negotiating a good price when you are talking about buying damaged merchandise. Not only had the bags lost some soil, we had a heavy rain two nights and the bags were somewhat water logged. Very often store managers will work with you. This guy must have been having a hard day. I guess if I was stuck working hardware on a hot muggy Saturday I might be grumpy. Still think you should always be polite to your customers! You never know, they might just have a blog! "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man." Just not a helpful lawn and garden man. :-)
Back to Mel's Place
After the ACE experience, I went back to Mel's site, Square Foot Gardening, and I very pleased to see that I don't really even need soil! What I really need is peat, vermiculite, and compost. I knew I needed vermiculite and peat, but couldn't remember if the third component was soil or compost. My brain is either my computer or a piece of paper...and I hadn't written this down. Ace didn't have vermiculite, but they did have a good price on peat, 3.8 cubic feet at $5.99.
I picked up a local gardening paper at Ace where I found information about the Master Garden program in the area. They have "hot-line" numbers for gardeners and you can email. Cool! Maybe I can get some help on the best place to get the vermiculite and compost. I also found an ad for Suburban Lawn and Garden, a local garden center that appears to offer soil and soil amendments in bulk so I am getting closer to the goal!
I feel that I have to get the bed up and planted this week. We take a week-long vacation in July and I want my plants to be well established before we leave town.
I do have a couple of full compost bins, but since I haven't gardened in a couple of year, they bins have been full but not turned enough to really cook the compost and break it down. I am considering turning it out on my garden area and turning it in with the soil to be the base for my raised bed, then put the 3-part mix that Mel suggests on top. I am going to try that this evening...now that the sun is lower in the sky and we have some shade out back. If it works, then I will only need half as much mix.
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