Tom Jonas

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since Feb 18, 2013
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Recent posts by Tom Jonas

Hi Kelso, you shouldn't need to get cedar. At our Lowes, the regular 2x6, 2x8, etc. is not treated. This is what I use, and have had no problems. However, exterior plywood with 2x4 and 4x4 dimensional framing will work well too. 5/8 or 3/4 inch is the ticket here. Keep the "nice" side to the outside for finishing. If you put a barrier between the wood and the soil (recommended) such as plastic, you'll have it made. This type of approach is standard practice up here and is effective. There are other ways of doing what you want as well that do not include wood touching soil such as permatuffa, ferro-cement, and cement permeated canvas. All are strong, attractive, and easy to build. For those who object to standard iron-based concrete, magnesium based cements are the ticket.Magnesium-based cement has about 70-90% less embodied energy than standard iron-based cement. This structure can be lighter than wood, and inert to normal chemical attacks such as acid, and high alkaline situations. If you would like more info on these alternative construction techniques, let me know.
Regards from Houston, Alaska
-Tom and Vania
Hi Hans, we don't eat a lot of sweet potatoes, so we don't grow too much. When we need to plant, we just buy some from the store and keep them until the "eyes" appear. However, we do plant many different potato varieties that we keep fresh and to dehydrate. Sweet potatoes keep well here, so maybe we will plant more of them this year and dehydrate the surplus, or eat more tempura with our sushi(salmon is just a short drive from here in the spring-fall period)! Also, like some previous posters do, we grow beans as well. Good for starch and the protein as well. Bean flour is an excellent addition to bread, tortillas, chapatis, etc. Flax is also an excellent augmentation for grain products as well( it really flavors puff pastry and standard pastry as well). I hope this info helps. As always, greatest regards from Houston, Alaska. -Tom and Vania
Dear Ramone, what my mom taught me about growing Nasturtiums is to use a bit of sandpaper(120 grit or so) to score the seed husk before planting. This method helps a great deal. This method also works well with lupine. Greetings from Houston, Alaska
Hi Hans, by all means grow grains! You don't have to have a huge field of them, just a bit here and there to enjoy. Even here, in Alaska, most grains can be grown. You should have no problem . Small patches interspersed with your other plantings will add diversity to your area. Your climate and soil will determine which grains are best for you. I also agree with others that an heirloom type seed stock is indicated here. We grow sweet potatoes here as well, one needs to start the plants indoors, then move them out when conditions warrant it. You can do it and have fun! Regards from Houston, Alaska. - Tom and Vania
Hi Kelso, any wood will do, except pressure treated wood which can leach toxins into the soil. Painting or staining the outside is fine. Oil based paint or stain is durable and will work fine. So will latex paint or stain. The planter design you have described will work very well in your situation. One thing you can also do in conjunction with your planter is some kind of composter to help augment your soil periodically. Very cool and permie. Your 4x8 dimensions will be heavy, so use the largest casters or wheels you can, as this will make your planter easier to move. Keep it simple. Good luck from Houston, Alaska- Tom and Vania
No matter what one does, in the long run, wood against soil is doomed to failure. Water always wins. If longevity is important to you, then use a system where the wood is not in contact with soil. I'm not a real "code" guy, but none of the structures I have seen where wood touches soil has lasted. Use a rubble trench foundation, sono tubes filled with gravel and capped, concrete(magnesium based if sustainability is important), whatever. Your foundation is the most important expense in time and money(along with your roof), that you will make. Been there, seen the elephant, as I'm a reforming engineering major. Yeah, I know, but who would have predicted when I started that being 50 would preclude a person from changing their career? lol
Don't worry about this. Just make sure your posts do not come in contact with the ground. No biggie. Good luck from us here in Alaska!
Thank you for the kudos Kate. I am by no mean an expert, but if I've seen something that has happened to me, I try to help. Regards from Vania(my ever-suffering wife) and I.
Hi Kay, I've been there. What I did was to dig away the dirt next to the boards and place a black plastic liner next to the wood. Then, I replaced the dirt. Had no problems whatsoever. Most of the volatile chemicals are already gone, but for piece of minds sake, a plastic liner will do fine. 6 mil black or clear plastic will do well. Chances are, if the paint is peeling and not just "chalky" looking, the paint on the boards is latex based. With plastic as a barrier, you'll be fine. When I did this, the plastic lasted for as long as the boards did, and I suffered no (non gardening induced) brain damage.

Good luck and good gardening from us in Alaska...
If it were me, I would do a soil test to see what I was working with. Most areas have a local gardening extension service of some kind who can help. Even the cheapie soil test kits can help. Also, look for soil texture; when the soil is wet, is it dense? Is the soil loose? You will need a balance between dense and loose. Too dense? Mix in materials that will aireate the soil such as chopped straw, etc. If loose and not too enriched by all the manure(your soil test will confirm this), cultivate and plant to what you want.
As far as your hugel question, your clippings will work well, but you will need a lot for a good sized hugelbed. Another idea is to use your clippings to add organic matter to the overlying soil, then plan your hugel for the next season. It sounds as if you have a delicious but rewarding challenge. All the luck from Alaska.
Here in Alaska, I've seen this done and it will work. Large metal mesh will also work if too much shading is an issue(with us up here, it sometimes is). Good luck and good growing
7 years ago