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Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

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Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  jillintx on 2/7/2012, 2:49 pm

Last year was my first year of trying SFG. I followed all instructions in the book about building the beds, the mix, the trellises, etc. I planted a combination of what the box stores sold, heirloom seeds, and varieties recommended for our area by a local nursery. I planted early spring, summer, and for fall. Now I understand that I picked a rough, dry year to try gardening. But I watered every day.

In a nutshell, it was a flop. Very little or no produce. I think in all I planted 10 squash plants, and only had one squash. Eight cuke plants and couldn't get the cukes to grow over 1 inch long before dying. Maybe a quart of beans from over 50 plants. I just was not able to keep the beds moist enough to get any produce. I had plant growth, but it was not "lush." I talked to a local master gardener in depth, and he said that the Mel's Mix won't work in this area because of how dry we are. He suggested that I add clay to the beds to help retain moisture. I know that there are a lot of posts about not straying from the formula, but are there situations that lead to exceptions, and if so what has been tried and will work? Has anyone had success using this mix in a very hot very dry area?

Thank you in advance.

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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  plantoid on 2/7/2012, 3:02 pm

Hi ,
Check out this thread , " experiment to deal with pure sand & high water bils "


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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  JK on 2/7/2012, 3:07 pm

I cant give you any help at the moment but I am starting using MM this year. Last year my yard was literally cracking open it was so how and dry. Doesnt help you now, but if I can get it to work this year then anyone should be good. Btw, .


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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  ashort on 2/7/2012, 3:34 pm

Hey Jill - welcome to the site! Sounds like you have read the book and had not very good success last year. I am just to the NE of you in Frisco and had some struggles last year too. The issue I had was that it was too hot for the fruit to set. I had tons of blossoms on several of my plants, but they still did not produce.

I did set up a drip system on a timer to keep my beds watered since it was so hot and dry, it was a bit of a hassle, but definitely worth it so that I could water 2-3 times a day automatically (I think I was up to about 2 1/2 hours of run time daily at about 2-3 gph from each emitter and I usually had one or two emitters per square - depending upon what was planted. My MM was never dry under the top inch or so.

Anyway, I don't think the answer is adding clay to the mix - a lot of master gardeners don't take the time to understand how Mel's mix works and default to the old row-n-hoe methodology.

One thing to know is that MM can hold a lot of water, so once it gets dry, it can be the dickens to re-hydrate, especially if you have plants and obscene heat like we had last year which is removing moisture at a fast rate as well.

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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  sfg4uKim on 2/7/2012, 3:57 pm

It sounds like you did a great job, but I'd like to ask a couple of questions. When you first started the box did you saturate the Mel's Mix layer by layer before planting? Did you make sure that it didn't dry out?

Hopefully a drip irrigation or other system will help you with this.



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Watering Mel's Mix

Post  tomperrin on 2/7/2012, 4:49 pm

We've had our share of extended hot dry weather here in Central Jersey. We have a huge amount of time and money invested in our landscaping and have learned to take some precautions to keep our flowers, trees, and now veggies from drying up and floating away in the wind.

1. Mel's Mix is now our standard for our veggies & flower beds. Once Mel's Mix is thoroughly saturated at the beginning of the season, maintenance of the wetness level is easy. I also use MM for lawn repair.

2. Mulch around trees and in flower beds.

3. Water Daily In the Evening. You Can't Over Water Mel's Mix. We don't water when the immediate forecast is for rain, during a rain or immediately after a rain (unless I forget to turn off the timer). Water deep. It's a pain dragging long hoses around every night. The alternative is to lose our plants. So we have made it a family ritual. The plants get watered before dinner.

4. Installed drip irrigation on one flower bed and one shrub bed. This is on a timer. We'll extend that to the square garden and our trees this year.

5. If there are heavy winds and no rain, water more often. Wind will carry off a tremendous amount of moisture in a very short time.

6. Mow your grass long to kill weeds and conserve moisture.

Mel's Mix has an interesting relationship with water. It drains easily so that plants do not get waterlogged with consequential root rot, yet it retains water in such a fashion that it promotes extended and complex root growth. There are two common mistakes in making Mel's Mix. The first is the failure to fluff up the peat moss, and the second, as sfg4uKim pointed out, is the failure to saturate MM as it is being laid into the square. I would add a third error, known as Tom's Error, which is the inability to count to 3, divide by 3, or multiply by 3, resulting in improper proportions to the mix. Such results can be called Tom's Mix, and should not be confused with Mel's Mix.


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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  ashort on 2/7/2012, 4:56 pm

Tom, you crack me up... Lots of us have "proprietary" mixes based upon faulty math....

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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  Kelejan on 2/7/2012, 4:59 pm

I did some winter-seeding last weekend, using a couple of small containers of stored MM and it took hours for it to get saturated as the MM was dry.

The first year I SFGardened, I made the mistake of missing some regular watering during the very hot summer and the result was that I gave up.

After joining this board, I kept the MM well-watered and had great results right until the end of the growing season.

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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  RoOsTeR on 2/7/2012, 7:34 pm

Don't forget about our great Mel's Mix Calculator!


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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  Chopper on 2/7/2012, 8:07 pm

The rain we get can be measured in 10ths of inches during the summer (total, not each rain event - there are maybe two of them). The heat is often in triple digits. I had no problem keeping my MM wet, but I did water daily (predawn- sprinklers) and sometimes by hand at the end of the day.

MM does fine in dry weather. Very well in fact. However, no vegetable is drought resistant and you have to accept that you must water daily or sometimes twice a day. Not a ton, but it does have to be kept moist. And that is true of everyone in Texas, not just MM users. "It doesn't work here" is just ridiculous.


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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  littlesapphire on 2/7/2012, 9:36 pm

And don't forget to mulch! It's a real water saver.

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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  januaryX on 2/7/2012, 10:02 pm

Checkout Elliphant. She lives in the southern tip of Texas, and does quite well with MM.

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Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

Post  GloriaG on 2/8/2012, 2:10 pm

Hi Jill,

I'm also very near you, just north of the DFW airport (now considered zone 8a). We had a good 2011 using SFG's with Mel's Mix exactly as described in the book. I had 32 squares in my SFG plus 6 Earth Box containers and a few miscellaneous flower
pots. For the year I produced 165 lbs of vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Last fall we significantly increased our number of SFG beds so I won't need to rely on any flower pots. My new beds are 10" deep because I want to be able to rotate my crops and don't want to make "risers" for root crops like carrots.

During the summer, I water every day at least once, mostly twice, depending on the temperature and what was growing. I also put up shade covers to protect delicate crops.

However, I really believe that in our area, the middle of summer is our "off season". I start my garden in late August, grow all winter by covering beds with green frost blankets/plastic and put spring crops in extra early so that they'll be finished when the temperature gets to be 100+. (Right now we're picking all the salad crops, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots and tomatoes.)

The hardest part for me was figuring out how to keep the beds hydrated. I found out (the hard way) that even if you water for an extended time the beds might not be wet under the surface. Now, when it's really hot - I water for about 15 minutes, then wait a short time and water the same beds again. The first watering hydrates the surface mix, the second watering sinks-in so the plants have access to the water. The technique is called "double watering" and seems to work really well for me.

Please don't give up! Use the Mel's Mix and test your water level by push your finger or a pencil pushed into the soil to see if it's damp.

Hope this helps.


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Re: Mel's Mix and the drought of 2011

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