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SFG not working out

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  martha on 4/19/2012, 6:46 pm

Zenful, I hate to get you riled up, but what is the story with your should-be-wonderful composter?

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  gwennifer on 4/19/2012, 7:14 pm

Watching the forum posts over the past year, time and again when people's plants aren't thriving, not enough water has been the culprit. Oft overlooked sentence in the ANSFG book is on the very bottom of page 138: "But because your soil mix drains readily when saturated, it also has a tendency to dry out quicker than most garden soils." If you read all the surrounding context, you'll see that the great thing about Mel's Mix is that you cannot overwater it. If I'm remembering correctly, Earth Boxes are wicking type planters? They have a reservoir for water? So if the soil in those boxes is being maintained consistently moist, and your SFG boxes aren't, that would explain the difference in your plants. That's my two cents anyway.

I personally wouldn't worry too much about one of your composts containing peat and therefore throwing your whole mix off. I mean, yeah, measuring by volume is the way to go. But look at the bottom of page 100 where Mel counts a 3.9 cubic foot compressed bale of peat as 8 cubic feet loose and a 2.2 compressed bale as 4 cubic feet loose. He says parenthetically "These measurements aren't exact, but we're not mixing a cake here."

I do hope your plants perk up and thrive for you. You have a lot invested in this and I'm grateful you found the forum and asked for help. Good luck and let's cross our fingers that you get this figured out!

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  Nicola on 4/19/2012, 7:24 pm

@tomperrin wrote:
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.
KISS,

Tom
funny post But oh, so true!
I remember all that: searching for 5 composts, filling the 5-gallon buckets, making sure we mixed it right in the tarp, et cetera (& I don't miss it!)
My SFG beds have been in place for 2 years, and I got all obsessive last year, and dragged out the tarp, re-mixed all of my MM with some new compost, and put it all back into the boxes (I think I was worried about the nutrients having been drained unevenly or some such thing). The only real problem is that there doesn't seem to be enough mix in there. And that's just because, of course, it settles. I kinda wish I had sprung for 8-inch high, rather than the usual 6. (But then I would've had to make even more Mel's Mix to fill the higher boxes.)
So you see, zenful6219, we all have our issues. It's a good thing you came here to the forum, and didn't just out&out give up! More water, maybe more compost, and please come back here from time to time to let us all know how it goes. Good luck.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  floyd1440 on 4/19/2012, 8:08 pm

I think Mel should have spent more time on making compost and I have some issues with his segment.

He suggests to turn the pile every day for fast compost yet then discusses the pile reaching 150 degrees. In my limitted experience each time I turn the pile the temp goes down and takes days to go back up.

Home made compost is the key to maintaining a succesfull SFG IMHO....

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  TejasTerry on 4/19/2012, 8:51 pm

Maybe it's a "Texas" thing. I was having the same problems, and add to that, yellowing leaves...my plants dying. Followed the book to the t, watered it in as I filled the boxes, 7 kinds of composted manure...fluffed peat...etc.

Turns out I was iron deficient. I added some 20-20-20 Green light fertilizer, and within a few days, it started turning around.. I have since added rock dust, and some organic fertilizer from Gardens Alive...and things are going crazy....CRAZY GOOD...

It's already hot down here in South Texas, and I'm currently watering every-other-day, however will prolly go to every day in the next couple of weeks.

Maybe one of these issues I had is something you're dealing with....

Oh and by the way, next year when I add new boxes, I will use a LOT less peat....

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  JennAndCompany on 4/19/2012, 11:06 pm

I appreciate everyone's comments on this thread! They have made me even more aware of the importance of balance in my MM. I know I read that if you have to go light on something - make sure it isn't the compost (my paraphrase of what I recall).

Just to be safe I am planning to pick up another batch of composts (all 5!). I have already used everything I purchased this year (sadly, I don't have a compost pile yet, so I am buying my compost). After reading everything here, I think I will top-off all three of my squares with another batch of compost before I continue planting.

It has rained the past 3-4 (or more) days... so Mother Nature took care of my watering for now!

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  TexasTracy on 4/20/2012, 7:14 am

My boxes seem to be on the dry side also but my plants don't seem to be suffering as of yet. I am concerned because my weather will get hotter. If I add mulch to help keep moisture in, won't I get more bugs? Pill bugs for instance, really liked my seedlings in the fall and they love mulch.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  camprn on 4/20/2012, 7:23 am

Its a possibility, but if you get pill bug there should be no worries, they do not usually eat living plant parts.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/20/2012, 7:48 am

@martha wrote:Zenful, I hate to get you riled up, but what is the story with your should-be-wonderful composter?

In the almost 2 years I've had it, It's yet to produce compost like that described by people on forums like this or what I can buy in a store. I seem to impaired when it comes to making compost, at least using the Compost-Twin from Mantis.

I use lawn clippings (most of it dried out for several days on tarps) for my dry ingredients. I try to keep the "wet" ingredients down to about 10% and those include green lawn clippings and non-protein kitchen scraps. I turn the composter everyday, keep it moist, but not sopping wet, but it never turns into that "black gold" I hear and read so much about. I've got stuff in the composter from last year and it's still clearly identifiable. In fact, now I've got egg-sized balls of clippings, etc. (I guess from the daily rotations.)

Anyway, this should probably be a different thread.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  No_Such_Reality on 4/20/2012, 11:32 am

Regarding the compost thing, I've got a 60 Gal Dynamic Spinning Composter from HD. It works but is a bit overrated. It was also slow and like you had big things still identifiable after a long period. The solution was painful. A chipper/shredder to add more fine ground brown waste. I think dried grass is still green waste.

The second thing is batching, empty it, and load it full with fresh and the leftover incomplete. Close it up, roll it twice a week and leave it alone for a month. Daily turning, daily adding of scraps seems to slow it down.

The final thing to get the 'store bought' texture is a chore. Make a compost sieve. Build a rectangle out of 2x4s that will fit over a convenient working bin. Attach 1/4" wire mesh over the bottom and pour your compost on and lightly brush it through. It's the nice stuff. Everything that doesn't fit goes back into the next session.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  floyd1440 on 4/20/2012, 8:28 pm

@JennAndCompany wrote:I appreciate everyone's comments on this thread! They have made me even more aware of the importance of balance in my MM. I know I read that if you have to go light on something - make sure it isn't the compost (my paraphrase of what I recall).

Just to be safe I am planning to pick up another batch of composts (all 5!). I have already used everything I purchased this year (sadly, I don't have a compost pile yet, so I am buying my compost). After reading everything here, I think I will top-off all three of my squares with another batch of compost before I continue planting.

It has rained the past 3-4 (or more) days... so Mother Nature took care of my watering for now!

I need rain and should get some tomorrow. Am glad you could find all 5 composts as I could not so home composting seems to be they way to go.

Agway had a composting class and if they email me the info, I would be glad to post it but they suggest a cylinder type that Mel talks about in his book. They showed us how to fill in up, then simplily pick the cylinder up and put the compost back in.

I built 2 4x4 bins but perhaps I should have started smaller.........

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/20/2012, 11:40 pm

@floyd1440 wrote:Agway had a composting class and if they email me the info, I would be glad to post it but they suggest a cylinder type that Mel talks about in his book. They showed us how to fill in up, then simplily pick the cylinder up and put the compost back in.

I built 2 4x4 bins but perhaps I should have started smaller.........

lol!

It's funny you mention that floyd because while I was sifting my compost today I was thinking how much easier it would be to have one of those cylinder bins. If I take my current bin apart, I'll use the hardware cloth to build support for some kind of climbing flower.

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SFG in Guam

Post  ScottInGuam on 4/21/2012, 2:45 am

I've had my own trials and tribulations out here in Guam. My mix was very light on compost, but most of the plants are doing well. After two months I have removed the poor performers and replanted with others that are doing well. We have a shortage of pollinators, but the ants seem to like the nectar and are doing some of the work.

As for the mix, it is very hot in Guam, where even in winter the coolest it gets is 77F. I water morning and evening and the plants like it. I learned the hard way that the pots with 'retention cups' on the bottom are NOT suited to MM. I tear them off and keep water morning and evening.

Now if I could get rid of my few bug problems...

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/21/2012, 7:57 am

@zenful6219 wrote: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.

I wanted to make sure I clarified something. The Earthboxes I referred to are not filled with Mel's Mix. They use commercial potting mix and Earthboxes' unique fertilization and watering system.

From the comments I've received, I'd say watering is the main problem I'm having with MM. I guess I misunderstand, being a newbie, about how much water is required, especially in hotter climates. I recall reading in the book that a cup of warm water per plant is sufficient.....well, not in Texas.

I also bought some compost tea to supplement possible compost deficiency.


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Re: SFG not working out

Post  zenful6219 on 4/21/2012, 7:58 am

@ScottInGuam wrote:I learned the hard way that the pots with 'retention cups' on the bottom are NOT suited to MM. I tear them off and keep water morning and evening.


What problems did you encounter by using MM in pots with drain pans?

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  ScottInGuam on 4/21/2012, 8:34 am

MM is designed for full drainage. The mix retains water, but not too much. With a retention mechanism, it stays too wet. At least, that is my experience. I just pull them off and have far less trouble.

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  ScottInGuam on 4/21/2012, 8:37 am

In the Guam heat watering once a day will not benefit plants. The weather here year round is quite close to mid-Atlantic July/August. It is very warm and very humid, and the intense sun dries things quickly. Provided the crops you choose can stand the sun, frequent watering lets them go crazy. Corn, eggplant, radishes, and more grow like crazy, but only with lots and lots of water. Once a day and I know they will be dead in a week. At least until rainy season starts. Smile

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Re: SFG not working out

Post  elliephant on 4/21/2012, 9:53 am

@zenful6219 wrote:
@zenful6219 wrote: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.

I wanted to make sure I clarified something. The Earthboxes I referred to are not filled with Mel's Mix. They use commercial potting mix and Earthboxes' unique fertilization and watering system.

From the comments I've received, I'd say watering is the main problem I'm having with MM. I guess I misunderstand, being a newbie, about how much water is required, especially in hotter climates. I recall reading in the book that a cup of warm water per plant is sufficient.....well, not in Texas.

I also bought some compost tea to supplement possible compost deficiency.


Laughing No, definitely not enough in Texas. I used to live in Denton. Way down at the opposite in the of the state now, but not using a cup of warm water here, either. I tried that the first season and ended up with a bed that water would simply run off of because the peat moss formed a crust that wouldn't let water in.

For the past couple of years I've gotten by using a watering wand and making the rounds twice, allowing it to soak in some before I came around to the first bed again. I only water in the morning here, due to fungus problems.

This year I finally have drip irrigation set up and I'm loving it. I think I'll still go around with the watering wand once in a while to make sure I'm not getting dry spots on the surface because I'm afraid those will spread. But so far we've actually gotten rain Shocked from time to time, which has taken care of that for me. Ok, so it was accompanied by garden-killing hail last month, but things are recovering and last night's hail didn't do much damage.

Nutritionally, however, I haven't had much trouble. That depends on your compost. Oh, and I tend to double up on my compost, or at least go heavy on it.

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Are rootbound transplants the problem?

Post  tomperrin on 4/21/2012, 4:07 pm

@zenful6219 wrote:The problem is everything is growing very slowly and some of it actually looks unhealthy or stressed.

I don't remember whether or not we discussed this on this thread, or another. When transplanting my seedlings this afternoon, I wondered whether or not I failed to prune the roots on the pepper seedlings I planted last year. These ended up being considerably diminished in size, to the point of crop failure.
Now I know that I need to cut the roots of all transplants, all four sides and the bottom, in order for the plant to reach out.
It's not necessary to do this when planting directly into the square from seed, of course. But those little pot plants get root bound very quickly.
In addition, the peat pots that come with some plants get thrown on the compost heap. They don't do the plant any good in MM, the pot won't rot, and the roots can not break through easily, if at all.
Tom

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Re: SFG not working out

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