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Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

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Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  GardenSurprise on 5/22/2012, 6:12 am

I'm on a fixed income and making or buying Mel's Mix is very expensive! Is it worth it? Are you using the pre-made Mel's Mix, or making your own? How do you like Mel's Mix? I'm in the mountains in Central California in zone 9, at about 3,200 feet. We are building wheelchair accessible raised bins, 24" high, some 2' wide along the garden fence and some 4' wide in the middle of the garden. We are filling the bottom 18" of the bins with things that will eventually compost, small scrap wood, leaves, manuer, old hay, sand, in layers....then will work on some better for the top 6". The soil in most of the central valley is great for growing, where this garden will be has some clay soil that is a problem, but other areas have untouched composted areas under trees that may have good soil. Is compost enough...I can get ORMI organic certified compost for $21.95 a cubic yard...27 cu. feet!..... or is the vermiculite and peat moss really needed? I would appreciate your comments please before we do all the work, or try to spend money that is not necessary! We want this garden to be very successful, but the money is just not there to do it all with Mel's Mix! I've been reading the new book and have the old one too. I'm thinking maybe I should use the old way??? Best gardens I've ever had were in the soil with lots of steer manuer!

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  philct on 5/22/2012, 6:24 am

I remember someone saying on here, or maybe I read it, sorry it's been a long night at work that Mel says compost is enough if vermiculite/peat moss wasn't available. Someone will post it here but I believe it'll work out just fine. My Mel's mix cost under 60 bucks for a cubic yard when I shopped around a little.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  camprn on 5/22/2012, 6:56 am

@GardenSurprise wrote:I'm on a fixed income and making or buying Mel's Mix is very expensive! Is it worth it?
Yes!

@GardenSurprise wrote:Are you using the pre-made Mel's Mix, or making your own? How do you like Mel's Mix?
Home made and amended annually with homemade compost.


@GardenSurprise wrote:or is the vermiculite and peat moss really needed?
I have found that even in smaller amounts than the book calls for, the peat and perlite I use makes a big difference in the friability of the mix, allowing for good aeration of the mix and good root growth.

@GardenSurprise wrote:Best gardens I've ever had were in the soil with lots of steer manuer!
Composted manure is great and I used a lot of dairy manure in my Mel's Mix.

Is the new Mel's Mix worth it? I think so. Even if you go 2/3 compost and 1/3 peat/perlite/vermiculite mix, I think it will be a superior growing medium to straight compost.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  cheyannarach on 5/22/2012, 8:39 am

+1 to what camprn said! I would add some peat and vermiculite to also help with moisture retention!

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  littlebear on 5/22/2012, 2:47 pm

Hello neighbor. My husband and I make our own mix. This year I am attempting to get a good compost pile going. No, really, I'm going to do it.....

The initial outlay is expensive, so we started with three beds and added three more this year. I have BIG plans to add three or four more next year... The plan being to only eat my own stuff. Nothing from the market!

We are closed to Merced, so purchased most of our compost there from several different places: WalMart, Home Depot, Orchard Supply, and Lowe's. We have also purchased some items from our local feed store in Mariposa, the vermiculite and steer manure and some compost....

I think you wil find it is worth the expense in the end. Start small and work your way up!



Happy harvesting!

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  malefacter on 5/22/2012, 8:30 pm

make 2, 2 foot by 2 foot gardens one with mells mix one with whatever you want. Grow stuff you like in them and post your results try difrent things be creative you might find an alternative that can save us all lots of money

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  Kelejan on 5/23/2012, 11:04 am

Welcome, garden surprise and little bear. I see that both of you have made your first posting.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  Turan on 5/23/2012, 12:07 pm

One of the nicest, most productive gardens I ever saw was 2 feet deep filled with organic mushroom compost. That was in SoCal. A couple decided they could get better use from their patio if they built a raised bed that was high enough to sit on the edges easily. That soil was friable, fertile, full to bursting of good things. I found it inspiring in how much can be done with small space and good soil.

My garden beds are my native soil heavily mixed with composted stable stuffs. I have added some peat to some beds and think it was a mistake now, they are the beds that need more watering. This year I added some vermiculite/perlite to parts to see how that does and sand to other parts of the garden for some sort of a comparison.

Why not start with what you can do. See if it compacts too much and then add vermiculite/perlite/sand if needed.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  littlebear on 5/23/2012, 12:51 pm

Kelejan,



Thanks for the welcome! Have been lurking forever, and finally took the plunge. Love everything and learn tons.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  NHGardener on 5/23/2012, 3:50 pm

One thing about splurging the $$ for MM is that you only have to do it once, and then it is re-used year after year, with some compost added in when you plant.

At least, that's what makes me feel better. Smile

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Thank You - I'll give it a try

Post  GardenSurprise on 6/3/2012, 7:11 am

Thank You to all that replied so far. From all that I have read so far, there are a whole lot of people that are having to do something different from the "Mel's Mix" in the New Square foot Gardening Method, either for financial reasons or because the ingredients...mainly the vermiculite or perilite are not available. I haven't really found many postings yet that say that they bought "Mel's Mix" or made their own according to the directions in the book and how they did with it. I'm really surprised though that some have said that it needs more water. I thought it was supposed to make it hold water more. Some have even told me to be sure and mulch heavily in my area.

I must say though that SFG as in the new book is just soooooo easy to set up. What a joy to have. I will do the best I can to start SFG and sa ve for more as I can. I'll try to post something when we get it going.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  NHGardener on 6/3/2012, 7:53 am

No, I do MM when I put in new raised beds. I buy 1/3 vermiculite, and the first time I bought bags of peat and then bags of composts, but this time I realized the composts were blends and had peat in them, so yes, I did scratch the peat for this year's boxes, also because the store I use was out of peat anyway. I put in 3 different bag types of compost blends, plus added local sheep manure and my chicken manure/shavings and my compost pile. But I did mulch with straw on the top of the beds, and I also added an acceptable compost ingredient, kelp meal, when I transplanted plants in there.

So I do the method, but then I add and tinker, because I'm a helicopter mom. Smile

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  RoOsTeR on 6/3/2012, 8:01 am


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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  Goosegirl on 6/3/2012, 8:58 am

@NHGardener wrote: because I'm a helicopter mom. Smile

?????????????????????????????

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  NHGardener on 6/3/2012, 9:18 am

Hover too much. Smile Always tinkering. Anything good can always be made better.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  Goosegirl on 6/3/2012, 9:34 am

@NHGardener wrote:Hover too much. Smile Always tinkering. Anything good can always be made better.


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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  llama momma on 6/3/2012, 10:13 am

@GardenSurprise wrote: I haven't really found many postings yet that say that they bought "Mel's Mix" or made their own according to the directions in the book and how they did with it. I'm really surprised though that some have said that it needs more water. I thought it was supposed to make it hold water more. Some have even told me to be sure and mulch heavily in my area.

I must say though that SFG as in the new book is just soooooo easy to set up. What a joy to have. I will do the best I can to start SFG and sa ve for more as I can. I'll try to post something when we get it going.

Welcome to the forum, Garden Surprise. I'd like to tell my experience. I tried to go by the book and I found this forum later on. Was very pleased with the results right from the start. I started with 1/3 peat and 1/3 vermiculite. I didn't have 5 way compost to start with. I had a tiny amount of yard compost and a large amount of aged manure on hand. Crossed my fingers and used it. The first square foot garden attempt gave me a large load of beautiful Autumn broccoli. Since then pretty much everything else I want to grow has been a success, including tomatoes, corn, eggplant, strawberries, the list is long. Once you have a continued source of your own compost to feed your garden, I think you will love this method. I find at times there is more physical effort tending the compost pile then the 5 garden beds. But this is not a negative. It is satisfying to know exactly what ingredients are going into the food. Finally, in addition to knowing the book inside and out, this forum is a great way to discuss questions and celebrate your success. Again, Welcome and enjoy!

p.s. the water issue you mentioned -- Mel's mix drains very well so it is hard to over water. A factor is where you live and how many hours of daily sunlight. In the south you will have to probably water and mulch more than up north. Your practical experience will determine how to handle it.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  CapeCoddess on 6/3/2012, 5:26 pm

I have different things going on in my 'boxes' as an experiment. They are 12 inches hi and like you, I put a bunch of stuff in the bottom 6 inches- sticks, then leaves, then home made mulch, then seaweed,then home made compost. then I topped:

Box 1 with Fafard organic planting mix

Box 2 & 3 with straight home made compost, much like you'd find in the woods under the leaves, intermixed with a small amount of organic fertilizer

Boxes 4 & 5 with Mels Mix that I made according to the recipe in book 2

Box 6 (just added today) is only 6 inches tall and contains 1/2 Mels Mix and 1/2 home made compost

My 2 squash mounds are striaght mulch - like mini compost piles. Cool

So far everything seems to love everything. But this is my first year and I'm not growing the same things in each box so I really can't compare. The boxes that seem a little slow are the Earth Boxes that were filled last year with Fafard & fertilizer. Supposedly you can use them over and over but I'm finding the soil very heavy and difficult to work with.

I vote do it however you like...you plant them, they'll grow. Very Happy


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Shop Aournd

Post  Ericka2385 on 6/3/2012, 6:21 pm

Garden Surprise....

I can't tell you if growing in MM is really worth it, as I'm just building my (rather large) garden right now. What I can tell you... is if the money is an issue, shop around. I'm sure that prices are different in CA, I'm in FL, but.... I found that I can buy three cu ft of peat moss for the same price as two if I'm willing to break up the compacted cube of peat moss instead of buying the pretty bag of name brand stuff AT THE SAME STORE... and I found vermiculite at a green house supply store that ran about $4 a cu ft cheaper than the 'big have everything' stores.

Just some thoughts.... Hope it helps.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  squaredeal on 6/3/2012, 11:29 pm

Yes, its cheaper to eat potato chips and store pizza, but a healthy diet is diverse and includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, energy and protein. Better to have a smaller garden with great Mel's Mix, than a larger garden with mediocre mix.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  southern gardener on 6/4/2012, 12:35 am

we purchased about 50-60 bags of the Pre Made Mel's Mix from Lowe's and are having very mixed results. We live in So California with nice weather. I am in contact with the members of the foundation here for some help/suggestions. We had made several batches, but we had the "old book" with the sand in the recipe, so tore all that out then bought the pre mix. Hoping to get some good results somehow!!

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  Daniel9999 on 6/4/2012, 12:36 am

@squaredeal wrote:Yes, its cheaper to eat potato chips and store pizza, but a healthy diet is diverse and includes vitamins, minerals, fiber, energy and protein. Better to have a smaller garden with great Mel's Mix, than a larger garden with mediocre mix.

I am not sure it even turns out to be cheaper in the long run.

After all if you eat nothing but cheap potato chips and store pizza you often end up suffering from all sorts expensive diet related chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

If you start out with cheap poor quality soil for you SFG you will probably end up having to constantly amend it with fertilizers and such.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  kgooding on 6/4/2012, 8:12 am

I went a head and invested in making my own Mel's mix. Definitely shop around for your ingredients and READ LABELS. Lots of "compost" that I saw was a mix of ingredients and wasn't even compost, it was perilite and peat moss with a little bit of manure! If you shop around though, you can find real compost! The initial investment was a big steep with the Mel's mix, but I've had good results and my thought was that I already spent a bunch of cash on the boxes, the trellis, cages/fences for plant protection, seeds and plants that I wasn't going to chance all that money going to waste. I've been happy with what I've gotten out of the garden so far and the good thing is that next year I don't need more Mel's mix.

Now, that being said, others have had success with local soil or modified Mel's mixes so it's really up to you as to what you decide to do, just be prepared that your yields might not be as good (or maybe they will be better, who knows!) if you go with just compost. If you do decide to go with just compost I would plan on over the next few years changing it out to Mel's mix as you are able.

Good luck!

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  milaneyjane on 6/4/2012, 6:04 pm

If you are doing deep beds, I have used soil in the bottom part of the bed and then done MM in the top 8 inches to save money. I am in the process of adding another 4 ft x14 ft x 10 inch bed as we speak. I have spent the day hauling bagged compost. I spent over $100 just on the compost, and another $100 for vermiculite and peet. Hopefully it will fill the bed. It is expensive!!! That said, this is my hobby and how I spend money on myself, otherwise I would opt for another option.

As someone stated, many of the composts have added peet. In the long run it was CHEAPER to buy the compost without the peet (even though more expensive per bag for straight compost) and add peet separate.

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

Post  RoOsTeR on 6/4/2012, 7:13 pm

As someone stated, many of the composts have added peet. In the long run it was CHEAPER to buy the compost without the peet (even though more expensive per bag for straight compost) and add peet separate.

It's even CHEAPER to make the compost yourself...just sayin

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Re: Mel's Mix or Substitutions?

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