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Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

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Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  uber202 on 4/12/2012, 3:03 pm

Hello all, first year square foot gardening. I've dabbled a bit in gardening before, but this is my first real attempt at a "serious" garden. I've built my bed and measured it out for volume. Bed nominal dimensions are 4fx8fx9in. Using an online calculator and the real inside dimensions, I came up with: 22.88cf. I filled the bed with what I thought should go in and I'm stumped. I put in almost 2 full bags (less .5cf, 2/3 of a 5 gallon bucket) of 4cf vermiculite. 7.5 cf of compost (mixed). The compressed peat was a little bit tougher because of the compressed nature. I put a 3.8 cf bag in Bed 1, but I didn't "fluff" it up (though i did wet it a tad), I figured it would do that on it's own. Well, now I think that might be my issue. I'm "short" about 2-2.5 inches from the top. What should I do? I've tried mixing and stirring to no avail. Maybe soak the bed? I really hope I didn't screw it up. In Mel's new book, it doesn't really talk about "fluffing" it up (or how to do it). At least, not that I recall. Should I just compensate with more compost? Thank you in advance Smile
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  Grandpop on 4/12/2012, 3:17 pm

glad you\'re here

If you haven't planted anything yet, don't fear, there's still time to mix enough other material, just mix it in the box with a rake or something. I'm sure that more folks with more experience will be responding fairly quickly, but I'm thinking you don't have enough "variety" of materials. Didn't notice were you were from, but different parts of the country have different materials available to them. Try and find 4-5 different types: compost, chicken poo, horse manure, (make sure your manure is not "fresh" . . . it burns. . . the plants, not you Very Happy .
STick with it you'll get the hang!
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  Lindacol on 4/12/2012, 3:19 pm

@uber202 wrote:Hello all, first year square foot gardening. I've dabbled a bit in gardening before, but this is my first real attempt at a "serious" garden. I've built my bed and measured it out for volume. Bed nominal dimensions are 4fx8fx9in. Using an online calculator and the real inside dimensions, I came up with: 22.88cf. I filled the bed with what I thought should go in and I'm stumped. I put in almost 2 full bags (less .5cf, 2/3 of a 5 gallon bucket) of 4cf vermiculite. 7.5 cf of compost (mixed). The compressed peat was a little bit tougher because of the compressed nature. I put a 3.8 cf bag in Bed 1, but I didn't "fluff" it up (though i did wet it a tad), I figured it would do that on it's own. Well, now I think that might be my issue. I'm "short" about 2-2.5 inches from the top. What should I do? I've tried mixing and stirring to no avail. Maybe soak the bed? I really hope I didn't screw it up. In Mel's new book, it doesn't really talk about "fluffing" it up (or how to do it). At least, not that I recall. Should I just compensate with more compost? Thank you in advance Smile



According to the Mel's Mix Calculator you needed 24 cf, plus it does settle some. If you don't have more vermiculite or peat, then adding straight compost is fine. But you do have enough depth to leave it as is if you want.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/h22-mel-s-mix-calculator
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  philct on 4/12/2012, 3:24 pm

well, if your trying to "fill" the box, then add some more compost and mix it in, or if you have the vermiculite left, mix the two and toss the soil... However, if you have 6in depth in the box, your fine...
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  uber202 on 4/12/2012, 3:32 pm

Thank you all for your replies. That was quick! Very Happy So to answer a few questions. I'm in Columbus Ohio. I haven't planted anything yet. I went to a place in delaware for a few of the types of compost, price farms. The rest was sourced from Straders Garden Center and Oakland Nursery. I measured using my 5 gallon bucket, so I know I'm not off (at least for the compost). I think for now I'll just pick up a 2cf bag of compost and go from there. The actual inside dimensions are 94.5x46.5x9in. Will watering "fluff" the peat moss?


Last edited by uber202 on 4/12/2012, 3:33 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : another reply was posted while I was replying :))
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  plantoid on 4/12/2012, 5:33 pm

Not really , it's best to do it dry and use a fork to break the compressed bale apart and then rub it through your hands to breake it in to a finer level , some people advocate rubbing it all through a 1/4 or 1/2 inch mesh sieve .. that takes time but seems to be well worth it in the long run as things are lighter & therefore to play with.

Perhaps keep any excess made up mix you have in the empty bags and top up the beds as needed if required. I'm also using some MM to pot things on and actually direct so in to some pots as well as using straignt vermiculite .
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  Furbalsmom on 4/12/2012, 6:25 pm

uber202, nice to have you join us.

Sounds like you did a good job measuring your ingredients. Remember that once the Mel's Mix is watered in, there will be some settling, so I tend to make more MM than the calculations indicate. Like Plantoid said, if there is more than needed, store it because I can always find a use for Mel"s Mix.

Watering is not going to fluff up your peat moss. Sad In fact, you may have problems trying to water adequately because clumps of peat moss are actually resistant to absorbing water. You could end up with dry pockets throughout your bed unless you go back and break up (fluff) the peat moss.

I definately would fluff before watering. As Plantoid suggested, a 1/4 or 1/2 inch screen such as hardware cloth would be effective in fluffing your mix now. Another option is rubbing the mix between your hands (leather gloves are recommended here) to break up all the clumps. I am not sure there is an easier solution.
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I love my lil Mantis

Post  kat51415 on 4/12/2012, 7:31 pm

We built a rough 3 sided box with a bottom out of 1/2" plywood and used our lil Mantis cultivator to mix. It worked great and the peat broke up and fluffed really well. By the time we were done tilling it, moving it from the truck to a tarp, wheelbarrowed it to the boxes and filled the boxes with it, it was very thoroughly mixed. It was a trial and error thing. The first batch we mixed on a tarp on the concrete floor in the barn. It was a 3 box (4x4x12" deep boxes) batch and just about killed us all plus the Mantis chewed up the tarp. That's when my sweetheart of a hubby got creative and built the boxes for the pickups. We used one to mix the 5 composts and one to make the MM. We parked the trucks really close and just handed the 5 gal buckets from one to the other. We could only do a 1.5 box batch in the trucks though. I'm going to post pictures in the Mid South region forum if anyone wants to see. Might be a while before I get them up though. Back on the road again. tongue
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/12/2012, 7:56 pm

I wish I could get my hands on a little tiller like that. I'd use it to mix up my monstrosity of a compost collection.
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Re: Mel's mix and math, I'm doing it wrong?

Post  plantoid on 4/12/2012, 8:04 pm

Interesting Kat , very interesting .. Thanks .

I have an 220 - 240 volt electric Mantis and used the wheeled lawn dethatcher attachments on concrete to aireate the composts before rebuilding the bins.

I'm due to make a big batch of MM but my disabilities are kicking me hard this last few days .

Making the MM with the Mantis and de thatcher tines running it on solid smooth concrete sounds good & do-able , I hadnt thought of that one .

Cheers David
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Making Mel's Mix

Post  tomperrin on 4/12/2012, 8:22 pm

All those math calculations hurt my old head! Last year I measured ingredients by counting shovel fulls of the ingredients. Didn't take me long to lose count. This year, with all my new squares, it got a lot easier simply by using a 5-gal pail as a measure.

Shoveling the peat into a pail effectively fluffs it. Once its poured on the tarp it's easy enough to break up any clumps using a garden rake.

I make my batches of MM use one pail each of blended compost, vermiculite and peat mixed on a tarp (See ANSFG). Mix it, dump it in the square, and repeat until the box is full. Water down after each batch, rake it and water it again. The mix is light enough so that I can lift the whole tarp and dump it into the square.

The procedure is elegantly simple and effective.

Using compressed peat unfluffed in a square is one of the few reasons a square can fail. It's also more expensive, as a bale of peat goes a long way.

Tom
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