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New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

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New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  RoOsTeR on 2/17/2013, 9:13 am

As many of you have probably seen, we have a new forum where Mel will be supplying answer's to square foot gardeners questions. As you can imagine, Mel is a pretty busy man, so it's a great honor to be receiving this special attention on our forum. Very Happy You can find Mel's Soap Box here:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/f91-mel-s-soap-box

The questions that Mel receives will be answered by Mel. The actual posting of the answer will be done by Victoria and myself for ease sake.
We are starting this thread here to generate the conversations here instead of there so it stays nice and clean. Let's use this thread for discussions pertaining to Mel's Soap Box.
Also, if you have a question for Mel, post it here and let's see if we can get it answered!


Last edited by RoOsTeR on 2/18/2013, 7:58 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  cheyannarach on 2/17/2013, 9:06 pm

What a great opportunity for us. I have one that is a little outside the box but need all the help I can get. Besides critter cages and fences has he ever heard of or used a reliable deer repellent, store bought or home remedy, I am unable to put a fence up and can't afford materials for critter cages right now. I just have too many boxes to get them all covered.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  FamilyGardening on 2/17/2013, 9:19 pm

how to set up a three sisters SFG Very Happy

happy gardening
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  snibb on 2/18/2013, 9:30 am

Awesome
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  donnainzone5 on 2/18/2013, 12:10 pm

Okay, assuming that I find several organic blended composts not containing peat or coir, how would I be able to be fairly certain that I have the proper percentages of ingredients?

For example, one such blend might contain alfalfa meal, chicken manure, rice hulls, forest humus, cow or steer manure, fir bark, and bat guano.

Another compost mixture might contain cow manure and bark fines.

Still another one might include steer manure, chicken manure, alfalfa meal, worm castings, and redwood compost.

My concern is that I might be likely to end up with too much of some of the overlapping ingredients, particularly the manures and wood products.

Is my concern justified, or should I just go with 5+ of these blended composts? Or two or three, plus single-ingredient bags for the remainder?

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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  Alternative Farmer on 2/18/2013, 1:12 pm

Well, I think you have to start with not using steer manure, as Mel says in his original post.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  donnainzone5 on 2/18/2013, 1:19 pm

I couldn't agree more about the steer manure. However, I merely included it as an example.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  Turan on 2/18/2013, 1:50 pm

A dairy I worked at near San Deigo dried its manure and bagged it sold as steer manure. So in that case at least steer manure was just the general name used for cattle manure. Which points to the main problem in bagged composts, no standardized definitions.

Yet it always pays to start small, buy a little bit, test it with planting seeds and transplants, and see how they do for a couple of weeks before a big backyard project.
AMEN!

That is probably the hugest point I have picked up from reading this forum for a year now. You do not know what residual herbicides or state of nutrients in a bought product no matter what it says. Ma Nature has the best test, try growing in a couple solo cups worth first.

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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  quiltbea on 2/18/2013, 2:09 pm

Lots of good info here, thanks Mr B.

Nice reminder, too, that when rotating crops in spring and fall, you are assuring you aren't growing the same thing twice in a row. Thanks for that reminder.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  donnainzone5 on 2/18/2013, 2:21 pm

quiltbea,

That's why I find garden planners so handy! Especially those with crop rotation warnings.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  camprn on 2/18/2013, 2:30 pm

@Alternative Farmer wrote:Well, I think you have to start with not using steer manure, as Mel says in his original post.
The only reason cited was because it was from a slaughter house... that doesn't make any sense to me why cow/steer manure from feed lots would not be acceptable if it's composted.

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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  llama momma on 2/18/2013, 2:38 pm

Steer manure can have more salt in it according to this article

http://www.ehow.com/info_8059526_difference-cow-manure-steer-manure.html
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  Turan on 2/18/2013, 2:46 pm

I would not take that article too seriously. Cows are fed salt as well in the ground grains. Pushing salt pushes water consumption which then raises milk volume, though not milk fat.

My guess is that feedlots (not slaughterhouses per say) use more antibiotics than dairy farms so the manure would be more suspicious. But,,,, I have no source if that is correct. Milk is constantly checked for antibiotic traces though.

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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  llama momma on 2/18/2013, 2:58 pm

The article claims steer are attracted to the salt in the concentrated feed. The extra feed would result in fast weight gain with high salts in the manure. I do know that quick feed conversion is primarily what feedlot operators are looking for. (The poultry industry certainly has it nailed to just a few weeks from birth to slaughter) ..ah..such nice thoughts.... Mad
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  cheyannarach on 2/18/2013, 4:25 pm

I am going to pull out the blond card here... But what is the difference between using slaughter house poo vs dairy cow poo? Embarassed
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  Kelejan on 2/18/2013, 6:51 pm

@cheyannarach wrote:I am going to pull out the blond card here... But what is the difference between using slaughter house poo vs dairy cow poo? Embarassed
I would say that Dairy cow poo is taken from fairly healthy animals that have calved and that slaughterhouse poo is from chemically treated and fattened steers that have probably been kept in horrific conditions so will have a lot of chemicals in their poo.
I know that dairy cows are killed at the end of their breeding years so perhaps they end up the same as the steers.
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discussion

Post  llama momma on 2/18/2013, 7:33 pm

Back at my old Farmingdale, NY college days, in the late 70's the cows went through their productive years then were graded down to cutter/canner quality. Sadly, they were destined to become your Big Macs at McDonalds.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/18/2013, 10:08 pm

We have a small cattle operation that leases our excess property. I'll have to ask the family what if anything they do in their feed. I don't believe they do anything of this nature.

I've already gathered fresh droppings and soiled straw and it's composting in my large pile at this moment. I'll have to do the seedling tests before using the compost - thanks for the warning. SOOOO much to learn!
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  cheyannarach on 2/19/2013, 1:31 pm

Oh good to know! Thanks everyone!
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  victoria on 2/19/2013, 3:45 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:Okay, assuming that I find several organic blended composts not containing peat or coir, how would I be able to be fairly certain that I have the proper percentages of ingredients?

For example, one such blend might contain alfalfa meal, chicken manure, rice hulls, forest humus, cow or steer manure, fir bark, and bat guano.

Another compost mixture might contain cow manure and bark fines.

Still another one might include steer manure, chicken manure, alfalfa meal, worm castings, and redwood compost.

My concern is that I might be likely to end up with too much of some of the overlapping ingredients, particularly the manures and wood products.

Is my concern justified, or should I just go with 5+ of these blended composts? Or two or three, plus single-ingredient bags for the remainder?


I like the detail and thought process in this question - Mel will love it - Let me go ahead and copy and past this into an email and get the ball rolling - Excellent test to see what Mel says vs. xyz.... sunny
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Salt blocks

Post  boog1 on 2/20/2013, 6:30 am

From what I learned working on a dairy farm about salt blocks is they have trace minerals and elements in them that are good for the cows. They help keep .the internal workings run smoothly. We had a block out in the barn yard so they could lick it when ever they wanted.in the 15 years I worked there I never witnessed a cow lick it more than 2-3 minutes. Decent pasture and hay are important for milk production than jus water. Thing about dairy cows if their feed and watered properly the happier they are ie: produce more milk better quality poorly feed jettery cows have lower milk production.
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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  Turan on 2/20/2013, 12:39 pm

@llama momma wrote:The article claims steer are attracted to the salt in the concentrated feed. The extra feed would result in fast weight gain with high salts in the manure. I do know that quick feed conversion is primarily what feedlot operators are looking for. (The poultry industry certainly has it nailed to just a few weeks from birth to slaughter) ..ah..such nice thoughts.... Mad

In the dairys I have worked in the grain that is fed at milking (or sometimes in the feed trough) is a concentrate of various grains and a salt mineral mix. One stated reason for this in the literature is to boost the water consumption to help boost milk production (milk is 85-90% water). However, I would not be surprised to learn that steers and lambs being finished in feedlots have similar amounts of salt in the grain mixture they are fed.

My point is that dairy cows are in a situation pushing for high volume as well.

All which adds up to that I raise my own meat or buy an old open cow from a rancher for burger. We prefer grass fed because it suggests a more natural slow paced environment. I buy organic milk even though it costs so much. I worked a lot of years in the dairy industry and have a lot of respect for dairymen. In the dairies I respect the most the cows lived to be 7 or older(oldest cow I knew in milk was 14), but that was getting less and less often as the push was to produce more with fewer animals.

What I worry about in the manure is not the salt, it is antibiotics and persistent herbicides that might have been used on the hay. The type of composting done at the dairies that I saw was anaerobic, ie a big cement walled holding area that is designed to not drain into the water table. The place that sold the manure would use water to push the manure out of the lots and then separated it by settling and pumping the water off and then further drying (I don't remember how that was done). I am not sure if that would separate out any water soluble contaminants,,,,and nutrients. The other dairies had pasture and hay and grain fields that the manure was spread on like we add compost after each harvest.

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Mel's Answer

Post  melbartholomew on 2/20/2013, 12:57 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:Okay, assuming that I find several organic blended composts not containing peat or coir, how would I be able to be fairly certain that I have the proper percentages of ingredients?

For example, one such blend might contain alfalfa meal, chicken manure, rice hulls, forest humus, cow or steer manure, fir bark, and bat guano.

Another compost mixture might contain cow manure and bark fines.

Still another one might include steer manure, chicken manure, alfalfa meal, worm castings, and redwood compost.

My concern is that I might be likely to end up with too much of some of the overlapping ingredients, particularly the manures and wood products.

Is my concern justified, or should I just go with 5+ of these blended composts? Or two or three, plus single-ingredient bags for the remainder?


Those are all good questions, and they prove the point that the best compost is your own compost cause you know what went into it. We could give you many complicated answers, but the simplest solution is that you want to get as many sources as possible, and I understand you don't want to overlap or get too much of one source, but without knowing the percentage of each item, it will be impossible to know. They aren’t going to tell you and you know by the price if they have loaded it up with wood products, the cheapest thing except dirt. So here's what I would do:

I would buy all five of those composts ( I like your other idea of a plain all chicken manure as one) and mix equal volume and try a planting trial, quickly, with some lettuce and radish seeds. Within two weeks, you'll know if they're doing well, having good color, growing vigorously, and then you can expand your garden.

If you just can't wait and you want to do everything now, I would still buy all five, mix them equally with peat moss/coir, and vermiculite to make you Mel’s Mix, and just hope for the best. Most people can't find more than one or two blended composts. You've apparently come up with many and even read the contents, so you know what's in them. Either that or you have done some wishful thinking of what might be in some of them.

I'm sure you could guess that the expensive ingredients are not going to be large in volume. For example, when they say "Contains Worm Castings" or "Bat Guano" it's going to be in there, but probably not much of it. I could tell from your letter that you are concerned about too much of one thing, and that would be wood products. The best thing you could add to all of those "blended composts" would be to add some of yours or neighbors (I don't mean a midnight reqresition) just a borrow till you get your compost pile humming.) homemade compost and since you probably wouldn't be putting in wood chips or any bark products in your own pile, you are going to have a better, richer growing soil than anyone on the block.

All that being said, I would highly recommend you start small, make up a batch( it could be just the 5 composts for a seed sprouting test or go ahead and do the Mel’s mix but just a small batch for one box or 2), see how your plants do. In addition to the seeds sprouting and growing, you might also try some small transplants. Either from the store or ones you have, and see how well they adjust to the new mixture.

If everything grows like crazy, let me know and we'll bag it as Mel's Compost. We'll make you rich overnight. Thanks for your questions and do let me know which direction you go in and what your results are. Everyone is waiting with baited breath.

One last idea. Unless the store makes their own mix which they will push, most places have a feel for which is best and which have had complaints. And it’s easier to take back for a refund if they recommended it. Don’t tell them I told you that. Good Luck.

Mel




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Re: New Forum: Mel's Soap Box! Discussion Thread

Post  donnainzone5 on 2/20/2013, 1:32 pm

Mel,

Thanks for your sparkling humor, advice, and tips.

Actually, I didn't make up those ingredients; for the most part, I have existing blended composts containing those materials (with a bit of imagination added here and there, but no wishful thinking).

Fortunately, I don't have to start up all at once and can begin with a couple of new boxes next month. The rest of my planned crops really can't be planted until May or June, for the most part. Meanwhile, I'll be starting seeds indoors at the proper times for my climate.

Last summer's experience was just short of amazing. I transplanted several plants I'd kept indoors for too long, and the minute they got a taste of my Mel's Mix, they took off!

So, I'll follow your advice and start a few things in a mixture conjured up from my current supply of ingredients. Will let you know the results. I'm gearing up my own compost operation, as well, but I don't ever expect to have a large quantity.
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Thanks Mel!

Post  treefrog62 on 3/2/2013, 11:38 am

Wow, this is a great addition to this forum, and I really appreciate Mel taking time to answer questions.

This is my first year trying SFG, and I am really excited.

Just wanted to say thanks, and I look forward to hearing Mel's wisdom.
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