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SFG not working out

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SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 9:14 am

I read the new SFG book this past winter and was very intrigued. I have 40 square feet (sf) of raised beds all six inches deep. Mel's Mix Calculator determined I needed 25 cf of Mel's Mix (8.33 cf of each ingredient). I used bailed peat moss and huge bags of coarse vermiculite. I searched every store in the area for 5 different kinds of compost and ended up with turkey, mushroom, chicken, cow, and one other kind, but I can't remember the type.

I have yellow squash, tomatoes, basil, onions, bell pepper, cantaloupe, zinnias, corn, dahlia, and okra planted (using the guidelines per square foot).

It was unusually warm here in North Texas in late February, March and April, so I had most everything planted between the first and middle part of March.

The problem is everything is growing very slowly and some of it actually looks unhealthy or stressed. The cantaloupe which were germinated indoors during February and planted in mid March haven't grown at all. Another cantaloupe I planted in a Earthbox at the same time, is doing fantastic. In fact, I've planted some of the same kinds of plants in Earthboxes at about the same time and they are ALL doing much better than those in the SFG. The okra, which I grew from seed directly in the SFG around the first of March, still have their first leaves and have not grown at all since.

Because I thought I had properly followed the Mel's Mix "recipe" my first instinct was not enough water. I'd begun to notice that the media always seemed a little dry, by finger test. I water every other morning, but by afternoon, the media always seemed overly dry. So I added a layer of Texas Native Hardwood mulch to help retain water. That seems to be keeping the media moist, but not saturated. That was two weeks ago, but still no significant growth.

So I'm really getting discouraged. I'll post pictures later today.


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Re: SFG not working out

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/19/2012, 11:02 am

You may be correct that water is the problem. Did you wet down your Mel's Mix thoroughly before planting?

Another possibility is that one or more of your composts contained peat, which would throw off the balance of ingredients.
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I've got SQFT + Earthboxes too

Post  Cincinnati on 4/19/2012, 11:11 am

Bummer!

I had a problem with my 14 earthboxes during my fall season. It is frustrating to lose a crop.

I dumped most of the soil and started over in most of the boxes. They are doing very well as are my SQFT beds.

I'm in Lower Alabama. The heat here is enough that I water my beds daily. I too notice the beds drying our every other day. I was watering my lettuce 2X per day because it was looking a bit "saggy" in the mid afternoon sun. The MM drains very fast. Experiment with one of your boxes by increasing watering (amount or frequency) and see what difference a week makes.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 12:28 pm

@Cincinnati wrote:Bummer!

I had a problem with my 14 earthboxes during my fall season. It is frustrating to lose a crop.


I'm not having a problem with the Earthboxes. The same type of plants in the Earthboxes are growing like crazy and they were planted on the same days as those in my SFG beds.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 12:31 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:You may be correct that water is the problem. Did you wet down your Mel's Mix thoroughly before planting?

Another possibility is that one or more of your composts contained peat, which would throw off the balance of ingredients.

The mix seemed wet, not saturated or dripping, before I planted. It just seems like the mix dries out faster than normal growing media. As far as the mix being out of balance. I suppose that is a possibility. If that's the case, are there any suggestions on how to salvage this situation without ripping everything out and starting over?
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  camprn on 4/19/2012, 12:34 pm

I bet it's getting HOT there. I would suggest a deeper mulch (I am a huge believer in this for hot seasons, it holds the moisture and regulates the soil temp) and if you are inclined some liquid fertilizer. This may be able to salvage the beds. Send us some photos if you can.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  BrotherNorm on 4/19/2012, 12:36 pm

It's my first year with SFG as well and I've learned by searching the threads that watering every day is not out of the question, which I have started to do. I was and still am to a small extent experiencing the same issues that you are. Not so much dying back but definitely slow growth.

With watering every evening and yesterdays rain some of my veggies are starting to perk up and have a growth spurt. When it starts to get hotter I'll water morning and evening.

Having said all of that I would question the amount of peat moss that is being used in MM. If I was to do my beds over again I think I would cut back on the peat moss and apply the remainder of that ratio between the 5 compost's.

It would be interesting to know how Mel came up with the ratio he did.

cheers.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  Hoggar on 4/19/2012, 12:50 pm

I would saturate the boxes make sure there soaked all the way through
MM drains well so you won't over water by doing this. Then keep it moist.
We have had Rain here for the last three days my boxes are saturated
and cant possibly hold any more water but my seeds are sprouting and
my Seedlings are happy and growing I put out my Bells last night and
they looked fine this morning they had no wilt and its supposed to be
cloudy with more rain today.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 1:24 pm

Onions - planted almost 2 months ago - 1 square foot section


Okra - planted from seed around the first of March - 1 square foot section


Cantaloupe - Germinated indoors in February and planted mid March - 4 square foot section - plant is about size of a hand.


Yellow Squash - Planted from seed 1st week of March - 1 per 4 square foot section
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Peet

Post  CharlesB on 4/19/2012, 1:45 pm

@BrotherNorm wrote:Having said all of that I would question the amount of peat moss that is being used in MM. If I was to do my beds over again I think I would cut back on the peat moss and apply the remainder of that ratio between the 5 compost's.

I tend to agree. I like the peet moss because I can get it for a good price and it is very easy to handle. I like coco coir but it is harder for me to get and harder to handle. What I get is pressed in to very tight bricks that I need to wet and brake apart by hand. Takes a long time and is a lot of work.

If I could get big bags of unpressed coir I would go with that.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  No_Such_Reality on 4/19/2012, 2:15 pm

Hmm, my prior reply seems to have gone awol.

Anyway, I've had the school of hard knocks with a raised bed. Like other I suspect the watering as that was my downfall everytime. Like you, my containered plants did fine, the raised bed, stunted or died. The problem boiled down to too dry and the peat slowly drying out creating "air pot" pockets around the plants. my bed originally started out completely moist, but ended up as detailed last summer here in this old thread.

Have you checked every 3 inches or so and checked all the way down? With drip in my raised bed, I've concluded that I'll think it's soaked all the way through because the water is running out all over, but two inches down you can have dry patches hiding everywhere. Straight down from the drip points, a channel of wetness ran straight down to the ground underneath and out the bed.

I literally checked my bed again last night after this last failure and while I've thoroughly soaked it and mixed it to get it all wet, I obviously missed a spot or too that I found last night, a little bone dry patch buried under wet surface, surrounded by wet mix (yes, wet and saturated, not moist mix) about the size of a tennis ball. That's how difficult it can be once it gets dry.

In warmer climates, I think MM and any mix with a fair amount of peat is prone to dryness problems if the entire surface and mix isn't moistened and kept wet. I

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  Pepper on 4/19/2012, 2:38 pm

camprn what do you recomend as a mulching agent? I am in west central Ga so it is about to get hot here also.

opps sorry about the topic change
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  landarch on 4/19/2012, 3:07 pm

if this is the first season for your Mels Mix then you could have a nutrient problem...I've been reading about this lately on this forum. You may want to try some compost tea, working in additional compost, mycorrhiza, bloodmeal, etc. From what others have experienced, it may take a full year for Mels Mix to season in.

I am trying to get my first year's Mels Mix dialed in before summer veggies need to go in...spring veggies struggled. I used compost tea, chickity doo doo, and worked in some additional compost in and around existing plants and open squares.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 3:18 pm

I'm seeing lots of good ideas. The consensus so far seems to be that the mix is too dry. I'll try extra watering for a few days and some supplemental nutrients.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  camprn on 4/19/2012, 3:28 pm

@Pepper wrote:camprn what do you recomend as a mulching agent? I am in west central Ga so it is about to get hot here also.

opps sorry about the topic change
Pepper, I think if you look in the 'Drought' thread I put a few links there about mulching. You could use any thing from straw (not hay) to pine needles to shredded pine bark to compost... depends upon what you can get your hands on. I would not recommend wood chips in the garden bed.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  Goosegirl on 4/19/2012, 3:32 pm

@zenful6219 wrote:I'm seeing lots of good ideas. The consensus so far seems to be that the mix is too dry. I'll try extra watering for a few days and some supplemental nutrients.

Also, (I may have missed this info on the thread), when you originally made your MM, did you fluff the peat before measuring? It is sold in compressed bales, so a 2 cu ft bale will yield 4 cu ft fluffed peat. If you went by the measurements on the bales you will have twice the amount of peat in the mix which will definitely cause the watering/drying issue as well as the stunting.

GG
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OH NO!!! Now it's my problem too!

Post  hruten on 4/19/2012, 4:28 pm

Ack! Thanks GG! I would be in the same condition, hopefully there is a remedy?!?

In my 2nd round of MM, I bought 2-2.2 cu ft bales of peat!! I thought it looked more brown than the first round, but played it up as usuing a different type of compost.

I mostly work in containers with water mats and self-watering... Is this stuff going to grow, or do I need to amend it before planting gets serious in a couple of weeks?

*sigh* It seems like I always do it backwards first!
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  camprn on 4/19/2012, 4:34 pm

Hr, Good Catch! If I were you I would go ahead and add more compost, if you think you made an error and have too much peat. Now is the time to fix it before you plant. Very Happy

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Too much math!

Post  tomperrin on 4/19/2012, 4:57 pm

@Goosegirl wrote:..... when you originally made your MM, did you fluff the peat before measuring? It is sold in compressed bales, so a 2 cu ft bale will yield 4 cu ft fluffed peat. If you went by the measurements on the bales you will have twice the amount of peat in the mix which will definitely cause the watering/drying issue as well as the stunting. GG

Trying to add up all the cubic feet and pounds when making MM is probably the quickest way to square failure, methinks. Thank Goodness I was never good at math! On a good day, I can count to three on one hand, and all the way to five on the other. And that, really, is all I need to know. And I only learned it in the last year.

FIVE different kinds of compost, mix together, then
THREE 5-gallon pails: ONE each of blended compost, vermiculite, fluffed peat, blended & mixed.

WATER thoroughly.
PLANT seeds.
CONTINUE to water.
WATCH plants grow.
HARVEST great organic veggies.

I just find it interesting that we (been there, done that) can take a very simple set of instructions, complicate it beyond belief, and then wonder why the formula doesn't work.

KISS,

Tom
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 6:11 pm

@Goosegirl wrote:Also, (I may have missed this info on the thread), when you originally made your MM, did you fluff the peat before measuring? It is sold in compressed bales, so a 2 cu ft bale will yield 4 cu ft fluffed peat. If you went by the measurements on the bales you will have twice the amount of peat in the mix which will definitely cause the watering/drying issue as well as the stunting.

GG

I actually used one 3.9 CF bale of peat moss. My understanding was that one bale of that size would yield about 8 CF of fluffed peat and I did fluff it before mixing. According to the MM calculator, I only needed 8.33 CF of each of the three ingredients. So I was afraid I wasn't adding enough peat. But now I'm wondering if one of my composts contained additional peat.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 6:13 pm

@tomperrin wrote:
FIVE different kinds of compost, mix together, then
THREE 5-gallon pails: ONE each of blended compost, vermiculite, fluffed peat, blended & mixed.

WATER thoroughly.
PLANT seeds.
CONTINUE to water.
WATCH plants grow.
HARVEST great organic veggies.


I wish now I'd read the forum more thoroughly before mixing up the MM. The new book makes it seem easy, but the above is even easier.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  plantoid on 4/19/2012, 6:20 pm

@zenful6219 wrote:
@Goosegirl wrote:Also, (I may have missed this info on the thread), when you originally made your MM, did you fluff the peat before measuring? It is sold in compressed bales, so a 2 cu ft bale will yield 4 cu ft fluffed peat. If you went by the measurements on the bales you will have twice the amount of peat in the mix which will definitely cause the watering/drying issue as well as the stunting.

GG

I actually used one 3.9 CF bale of peat moss. My understanding was that one bale of that size would yield about 8 CF of fluffed peat and I did fluff it before mixing. According to the MM calculator, I only needed 8.33 CF of each of the three ingredients. So I was afraid I wasn't adding enough peat. But now I'm wondering if one of my composts contained additional peat.

I'd bet my pension fund that the purchased composts contained a bit of peat and all sorts of woody bits that were ground up. . Get your own compost heap made to Mel's directions going as soon as possible
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/19/2012, 6:25 pm

@plantoid wrote:
I'd bet my pension fund that the purchased composts contained a bit of peat and all sorts of woody bits that were ground up. . Get your own compost heap made to Mel's directions going as soon as possible

oh my.....don't get me started on the homemade compost. I've had a Mantis ComposT-Twin for a year and half and have yet to get compost out of it. But, that's a whole other thread.
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  jennifer37918 on 4/19/2012, 6:30 pm

@zenful6219 wrote:
I actually used one 3.9 CF bale of peat moss. My understanding was that one bale of that size would yield about 8 CF of fluffed peat and I did fluff it before mixing. According to the MM calculator, I only needed 8.33 CF of each of the three ingredients. So I was afraid I wasn't adding enough peat. But now I'm wondering if one of my composts contained additional peat.

I bought a 3 cu ft bale of peat moss, but then measured everything by volume one bucketful at a time because I was that unsure of my ability to eyeball the volume. I filled almost 2 4x4's with just that one bale. I don't understand it, but that's how it turned out for me. So far everything I'm growing is flourishing. Maybe you have double the needed peat without even counting the possible compost issues?

Good luck...
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Re: SFG not working out

Post  westx on 4/19/2012, 6:35 pm

Being south of Dallas my garden has been slow go also with the cold crops as it got to hot to soon. Like the others water the heck out of those beds. Once you give it a good soaking you only need 1" of water a week which can be measured by using a tuna can. I only water every couple days. Also if the plants are yellow looking when they should be brite green then you may have had some old or bad compost. You may want to get some liquid kelp or seaweed and hit the plants with that to give them a boost. Good luck

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