The New Raised Bed Square Foot Garden

My Original Raised Bed Garden/Square Foot Garden suffered from a lack of sunlight. I had dreams of more and bigger.
So I found a sunny area and started a newer, bigger and more advanced square foot garden.
Lots of detail work went into leveling the boxes as the site is on a slight incline.
It started as 8 4×4 boxes fenced to keep out the critters.
Each “box” has a time controlled valve for drip irrigation with underground supply from my rainwater collection system.
Version 1.0 complete!
But it didn’t take very long before I got greedy and doubled 5 of the 8 boxes. I left 3 alone specifically for tomatoes.
I even put a mini-box on the one on the end!
Each box has a weed liner – they fail after a few years though.
It got a little crowded in there adding the SFG soil to the already fenced garden!
I also added a large rear gate to help remove plant clippings and stalks more easily.
All of the boxes with vining plants have side, roof and cross panels for trellis.
Each box also get’s bunny wire to further protect the plants. We live in the woods and are covered up with deer and various critters that eat my plants.
LOL – I even tried corn a time or two but the SFG soil isn’t deep enough so they crowd and fail to pollinate well. That corn cage is to keep the critters out and support the stalks.
My vining plants – cucumbers & tomatoes – love those extra trellises though!
I have a total of 13 4×4 boxes to work with and each has dedicated drip irrigation so I have lots of options for starting and growing a variety of plants.
But, anytime you have plumbing, you’re going to have leaks!
An early prototype of a dirt garden for corn that reuses the corn cage.
July Garden in Texas
September Garden in Texas
With careful planning and a little luck, I can harvest as late as October.

The Old/Original Raised Bed Garden

I’m a fan of gardening – more specifically, a fan of the results of gardening!

My oldest daughter wanted to learn and I wanted to teach her about gardening.
These results!
We started with a simple 4×8 wooden box filled with good garden soil. I also ran a hose from the house to a simple watering timer so I could use drip irrigation.
I then decided that official Raised Bed Garden (RBG) Mix might be better. I continue using this mis today.
I removed the top portion of garden soil and then mixed in the new RBG components.
Just in time for my youngest to enjoy with me.
RBG recommends cleanly marking the 1 square foot areas.

I installed some rain water collection at the house and then switched from a hose laying on the ground to a buried pipe for the water supply.
Even the little RBG gardens can produce quite a bit of vegetables!
Corn doesn’t do well in an RBG due to the very close spacing required for enough plants.
I stick mostly with tomatoes, cucumbers and occasionally some corn.
The RBG can get very very full!
I found that covering the RBG for winter helped but not much. I no longer do this.
Water pipes underground can break and need repairs. I’m ever watchful for leaks and moist areas on the ground.
I decided to enlarge the garden by adding some more RBG boxes. I started with killing the grass & weeds.
I tried laying the ground cloth down first to help kiil the grass and weeds even more.
Meh, but the dogs just chewed it up over night.
Deer are a problem for my garden so I use an electric cattle fence around my garden.
New RBG boxes built from deck material ready for RBG Mix mixing.
Lot’s of mixing – it’s a bigger job than I ever estimate.
Two new RBG boxes completed with room for 2 more.
I also amend the RBG soil in older boxes when I have extra or it appears they could use some help.
I think I over-bought.
Extra stakes and lattice help RBG gardens a ton. Most plants want to go horizontal rather than vertical and the lattice helps change their minds.
Drip irrigation is also a Must for me. I try to build for 1 emitter per plant.
Even little lattices help in the beginning.
This garden location is not optimal as it has too much shade. I finally learned this but it took several years.
We have snakes in TX and they can sneak up on you. This is a 3′ rattle snake.
I turned one of the RBG boxes sideways and build 2 more smaller RBG boxes at 4×4.
Bunnies started hitting me hard so I began using bunny wire also.
Full RBG Garden!
That RBG garden has been disassembled and all that’s left is the original. It now has wildflowers and butterfly weeds. My new RBG Garden is here.

Rebuilding a John Deere B Seed Drill for Bobwhite Quail Habitat Improvement

One of my biggest challenges raising bobwhite quail is managing and improving the habitat. The ranch is located in the Central Texas Hill Country and is typical Edwards Plateau grasses, shrubs, and trees.

“Cedar” or Western Juniper trees are the most prominent invasive plant followed closely by King Ranch Bluestem.

Both of these species act to reduce the habitat suitable for bobwhite quail and my main efforts in habitat improvement are removal (and replacement with native species) of both.

“Clearing Cedar” is done using a hydraulic shear mounted on a 55 HP Mahindra tractor with a brush fork mounted on the front bucket. This allows me to cut and stack cedar trees quite easily. In fact, I can cut much much faster than I can stack. We don’t currently burn the cedar trees due to the wildfire danger.

“Killing KR Bluestem” is an ongoing, somewhat never-ending, project.

KR Bluestem is a bunch grass variety but is just too thick for bobwhite quail to navigate through. My efforts are to reduce/remove the KR Bluestem are limited to shredding, discing and replanting cover crops to kill the KRB and give the native plants a chance to sprout and grow before taken over by the KR Bluestem.

I use a 6′ Mohawk shredder and an antique drag disc to cut the KRB and then expose the roots to sunshine to kill them.  I’m only moderately successful with this approach but don’t want to use fire or chemicals. I have more time than insurance or money.

I plant cover crops to shield the bare ground after discing and to provide some forage/seeds for the bobwhite quail. Doing this work also thins the ground cover dramatically which increases the area where the bobwhite quail can survive and thrive.

I shred and disc approximately 2 acres and without a seed drill, replanting presents two problems – too much seed density & too hard on my arms.

So, in 2015 I found an antique seed drill that looked “pretty good” that I could repair/refinish and then use to plant my ground cover and forage seeds.

I’m not a mechanic, either naturally or by training. So, the fact that I successfully took this drill apart, fixed/replaced parts and then reassembled it without any parts left over was cause for a large celebration!

Here’s how I did it and what I learned.

I found this John Deere “B” model seed drill on an online used-tractor website. It appeared to be in decent condition and was located just north of Dallas. She fit and I brought her home!

I really didn’t know what I was getting into but she looked pretty clean and functional right from the start. I felt fortunate. The mechanics, gears and levers, all appeared to work properly so there would be no need for deep or complex repairs.

The adjustable seed gates/flaps were in conditions ranging from “like new” to “totally rusted out”.

The first thing I needed was a parts and maintenance manual to understand what I had and what I needed to do.

I disconnected the funnels from the seed gates for cleaning and better access. The seed tubes were old, metal-wrapped tubes and were also replaced.

Yeah, I don’t need the suicide bench so I just removed the rusty bench brackets.

I washed and scrubbed the seed bin and I’m grateful it was in good condition. If it wasn’t the seeds wouldn’t flow smoothly into the gates and out the tubes.

The gears that drive the seed feeders are located inside each wheel. Fortunately, they were in good condition as well!

Gibbs is the best! If it’s stuck, Gibbs will get it!

Add a power washer and you can actually see the Zirk!

Again, I was very fortunate. The tension springs and guide bars for the seed “inserters” were all in good condition. There were 2 small homemade repairs that were still working just fine.

The feed rate adjustment handle and mechanism was and remains a bit stiff. It is so deeply embedded in the gears and seed gates that it wasn’t worth it to remove/repair just so that it slides a bit easier. Those are estimates stamped on there and I still had to calibrate it.

Testing the seed flaps and feeders. This is one of the best ones and worked just fine!

So, with everything in generally good condition, my focus will be on fixing the seed gates. This one has rusted out completed.

Prototype seed gate from cheap, thin aluminum. It only has to work good enough and stop the leakage from rusted original gates so an “appliance” that fits over the rusted gate should work, right?

My fancy 3 Dim drawing so I can get them made from heavier metal and bent accurately. www.Shimshack.com is where I went to get them built.

And, here they are!

Since each gate was rusted differently, they didn’t all fit the same. So, I custom fitted and drilled each one specific to a unique seed gate.

The acreage measure is driven off the drive bar that drives the seed gears and was dirty and rusty.  Easy to remove though, with a couple cotter pins.

A little Gibbs, a wire brush and some elbow grease and she’s as good as new!

Having the part manual and exploded diagram really helped me understand how things worked and order the correct replacement parts.

Testing the new seed tubes flowing into the planting foot and discs.

The discs were shot – completely worn out and probably the originals. I suspect that North Texas Red Dirt is tough on equipment.

Once again, the parts manual and diagrams really helped a lot.

Good Lord! Parts have arrived!

Somebody mistreated the hitch attachment point and it needs replacing.

And each disc needs the cleaner replaced. There are both right handed and left handed versions. I know because I ordered wrong the first time!

I originally suspected that finding replacment drag chains would be hard.  It wasn’t. They get lost easily though….

New disc Vs Old disc – lots of wear!

The mounting point for the disc.

I could have sworn that I got the wrong size disc. I had a tough time getting it to fit but it finally did.

As a point of reference, this is the disc I currently use. I call her The Beast!

Almost reassembled with new parts.

Final testing in the yard before heading to the fields.

Clean those Zirks because she’s gonna need clean grease!

Calibrating the seed feed rate. This worked like a charm! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42NlD_jtLj0

Loaded up like the Clampetts going to Beverly Hills!

Unloading at the ranch.

Dad giving her the first pull while I watch her behind!

My buddy Jeff, giving the seed feed a detailed inspection.

I use the seed drill twice yearly for fall cover crop and spring seed crop. She works like a charm and is 10x better than hand scattering seeds.

In hindsight, I was very lucky that she was in good condition and the only repairs I needed could be done with my limited metal repair skills. I hope my story help you and your seed drill restores as nicely as mine.