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Did I mess Up? Please help!!

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Did I mess Up? Please help!!

Post  mconrad on 4/26/2012, 10:03 pm

hello to all. Glad to be part of this group. Neat stuff on here.

Anyway...I have built up 6 raised 4 x 8 beds in my old garden spot as I always had issues with standing water and thought this would be my answer. So far I think that is still a good option but I have a problem (possibly) with my soil that I put into the beds.

I recently put compost in from a mushroom plant out of Oklahoma. In addition I put 2 bags of fresh topsoil from bags into the compost and tilled it into the beds. I laid out my grids and proceeded to plant.

FYI... I have the following:

bed 1) all corn (1/sq)
bed 2) all peppers (1/sq diagonal spaced) and egg plant in two squares
bed 3) all tomatoes
bed 4) onions (4/sq) lettuce, spinach, radish
bed 5) zucchini (on trellace at ending 6 squares) beans in middle squares (4/square)
bed 6) cucumbers on trellace at ending 6 squares) onions in middle square (4/square)

back to my soil....

it has been nearly a week and my onions have started to turn brown and dying. I think this because I pulled out a few onions and seen that the roots are no longer white but brown/tan. One tomato plant is turning brown at the leaf ends and the same on one pepper plant. No seeds have grown yet but still too early for germination to know for sure if they will grow or not.

I am concerned that I did not add enough soil to the compost to reduce the potency (if this is what I should call it). I have read recently that you should mix garden soil into the compost before putting it into the bed. Sounds like there should be much more soil added. Am I correct on this? I really do not know what is enough or too much.

I am sorry that I did not have the ability to use Mel's mix but the costs were too much for me to go this route. Can I salvage my gardens? Please Please help!

Thanks Mike!!

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Re: Did I mess Up? Please help!!

Post  1airdoc on 4/27/2012, 8:55 am

HI, Mike, and welcome the the forum.

"I recently put compost in from a mushroom plant out of Oklahoma. In addition I put 2 bags of fresh topsoil from bags into the compost and tilled it into the beds."

You'll definitely have nutrient issues with the contents of your beds. Mushroom compost varies greatly in its content - some is great and is made of a nice mix of materials, but some is more monotonous. You really have to read the ingredients list to find out. If your bagged "topsoil" is like some I bought and used in my beds last year, it may be worthless for nutrients. The stuff I bought was mostly bark and wood chips, poorly composted. That means the bark and wood chips act like a sponge and trap other nutrients from your mix, particularly sucking up the nitrogen. You live and learn - I have learned a lot from the generous members of this forum.

The number one key to square foot gardening is the Mel's Mix (MM). See the excellent thread on the importance of MM here. Without that full blend of nutrients you find in MM, you will not be successful with the intensive gardening technique. If you cannot manage to build MM in all your garden right now, consider doing it one bed at a time.

As a first step to addressing the issue, you need to start a compost pile right away. Making your own compost can cost little to nothing. There are lots of references on how to do that in this forum and elsewhere on the internet (see section of the forum on compost). You definitely DON'T need any fancy tumblers or other costly startup supplies. My compost pile is made of pallets that I collected for free at various businesses, and I have paid nothing for the materials that I put into my piles, and the compost that I got from it this year has been incredible. Making good compost and having plenty of it requires a good bit of effort, but not a good bit of money. This will not be a quick fix to your current problems, but will be the long term solution for you.

For now, you will likely have to aggressively amend your soil mixture. I would not recommend adding any soil (dirt) to your beds. Root issues such as you describe often relate to a lack of phosphorus, and bone meal or rock phosphorus are good additives. (Of note, good homegrown compost will be a good supply of phosphorus, too). You don't mention evidence of this yet, but your mix is likely to be low in nitogen, too. Blood meal can supplement your garden until you can get your mix built up. Of course, using a commercial fertilizer may be a means to get you through this season, though many on this forum would discourage that.

Best of luck.

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Re: Did I mess Up? Please help!!

Post  walshevak on 4/27/2012, 2:01 pm

In addition I put 2 bags of fresh topsoil from bags into the compost and tilled it into the beds.

I would say this is your problem. Topsoil doesn't have enough nutrients and is not a part of the mel's mix formula. Do not weaken your compost with topsoil. The plants will actually grow better in pure compost, but the mix of compost, vermiculite, and peat gives the best results.



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Re: Did I mess Up? Please help!!

Post  H_TX_2 on 4/27/2012, 5:38 pm

There is no need to reduce the potency of compost as it is not harmful to plants; it's actually very good for them and what gives them life. I guess some compost that is not fully cooked could cause some damage depending on what it is made of; something like fresh chicken poop I have heard is too much for plants until after it is composted.

In other countries where Mel teaches this method the option of buying vermiculite is out of the question. Peat or something like coconut coir may or may not be available so he teaches 100% compost in those situations.

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Re: Did I mess Up? Please help!!

Post  squaredeal on 4/27/2012, 11:40 pm

I basically did the same thing as you last year - skimped on my Mel's mix - and then noticed I had problems when my radishes would not turn into bulbs. So I added Gardentone (a "natural" fertilizer with microbes) during the season, and then as I could find/ or make it, added composted horse manure, worm castings, and homemade compost. Don't ignore the peat moss or vermiculite because they help with drainage. Having much better results this year.

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