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temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

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temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  jblessing on 3/19/2013, 6:02 pm

Hi folks.
While I know that this is Mel's website and that Mel's Mix comes highly recommended, Mel's Mix isn't available here in stores just yet and I'm on a tight budget for a bit. So, I was wondering if there was an alternative to it, to be used on my first square. After that, my budget should open up enough to allow me to make my own mix. So the question is this...I've seen "garden soil" and "potting mix"; which one would be best as an alternative, if such can be advised here without offending Mel, the admins, or anyone else, for that matter? The garden soil says it's intended for mixing with the native soil, so I'm assuming it doesn't have the moisture holding capabilities of potting mix. Would garden soil mixed with some peat moss work? Or should I try just compost? Any advice would be appreciated.
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/19/2013, 6:25 pm

If using the Square Foot Garden method, there is no alternative for Mel's mix.

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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  H_TX_2 on 3/19/2013, 6:35 pm

According to the Lady Bug Brand website there are some places in Spring, Conroe and Willis that carry their products you could call and ask if the carry the SFG mix or if they can get it for you. Their revitalizer compost is a mix of 5 different types but it doesn't say what percentage of each type. Home depot is supposed to sell it and possibly deliver to your home from their website.

If you buy something else now then buy the real stuff later then you are actually spending more overall and not saving any money.

If you really can't afford it then you could put what money you do have into starting a compost pile and save up for next year or even the fall season. I know that is not the most fun option.
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  camprn on 3/19/2013, 6:38 pm

Thank you for the appreciation of the SFG Method. In the book Mel does touch upon the subject of areas of the world where the products to make Mel's mix may be unavailable, either regionally or financially. His recommendation is to use compost if that is the case. I encourage you to not be swayed by potting soil products, they have fertilizing agents in them that typically run out in under 4 months. Do use the search feature of the forum to find previous threads about the subject. Very Happy

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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  Tris on 3/19/2013, 6:52 pm

Mel's old book has a recommendation for current dirt you've got and amending it to work, if you can get your hands on that. You might be able to call around and look for compost, if its not from a store it's generally cheaper, and I know some cities compost so you might try to see if they have compost you can buy Smile
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  plantoid on 3/19/2013, 7:13 pm

jblessing wrote:Hi folks.
While I know that this is Mel's website and that Mel's Mix comes highly recommended, Mel's Mix isn't available here in stores just yet and I'm on a tight budget for a bit. So, I was wondering if there was an alternative to it, to be used on my first square. After that, my budget should open up enough to allow me to make my own mix. So the question is this...I've seen "garden soil" and "potting mix"; which one would be best as an alternative, if such can be advised here without offending Mel, the admins, or anyone else, for that matter? The garden soil says it's intended for mixing with the native soil, so I'm assuming it doesn't have the moisture holding capabilities of potting mix. Would garden soil mixed with some peat moss work? Or should I try just compost? Any advice would be appreciated.

Like Rooster says , " There is no alternative to MM "

However ..
Tomato grow bags opened up and put in the bed will grow something for six or so weeks before it needs feeding , unless it is root crops them it's best not to feed them lest they grow dozens of roots on each plant .

Meanwhile start making your compost as per Mel's reccommentations . Buy vermiculite when you can , add 1/3 by volume to the box when you have it & work it in well a square at a time
Replenish each square with your own compost as indicated in the book, for it is actually a slow to medium to to quick release materail full of highly nutricious feed with lots of trace elements besides the all important N ,P & K .

If all you can ever get is your own quality home made compost use that , keep adding it and eventually even use 100 % home made quality composts , you'll have far less problems with it.

Still keep an eye out for vermiculite for when your pocket is wealthier , as it not only helps lighten the growth medium it also acts a a reservior for moisture and nutrients . it does not easily breakdown for ten years or so , it also helps to aireate the soil right to the bottom of the bed .

Have a good look into the compost threads shown in the home page index and the comb on the left hand side of your page .
There is a lot in there that you will find very helpful , once you get a flavour of the site and what we are doing i'm betting you'll do everything you can to end up doing what most of us are doing with Mel's system and ideas.. they certainly work well if followed through.
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  Farmer Don on 3/19/2013, 10:22 pm

Hi jblessing,

Here's a thought for you. thinking Why not get a friend, neighbor or co-worker interested in all the delicious veggies you will be growing and get them to kick in for the up-front costs? Gt them interested by asking for their input as to what fresh vegetables they enjoy. Then ask them if they have ever had it fresh picked just moments before eating it. As we say in sales, "Sell the sizzle not the steak!"

You could perform the labor and everybody wins! Sort of a mini CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) arrangement. Good luck and Happy Gardening!
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  jblessing on 4/18/2013, 9:07 pm

I just wound up waiting a few weeks until I could spare the $ for the vermiculite. Rather than using 2.6 cubic feet of each ingredient, which was rather difficult to measure, I just used approx 2 cubic feet of each. Can now make a second batch with the addition of a little more peat moss. May later just make a third batch to bring both beds up to the 8 cubic feet recommended rather than my make-shift 6 cubic feet. Thanks for the grace you folks handled my question with. Smile
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  RoOsTeR on 4/19/2013, 7:23 am

jblessing, it's better to "stretch" your mix with compost rather than peat. Smile If that's what your intentions were.

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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  jblessing on 4/19/2013, 3:37 pm

That's not quite what I meant. I purchased a 3 cubic foot package of compressed peat. I used 2/3's of it in my first square, leaving me with approx 1 cubic foot in the bag. In order to make another square, I would need an additional cubic foot of peat for the proper mix, right?
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/19/2013, 5:47 pm

jblessing,

From your calculations in a previous post, you probably have a 4' x 4' raised bed. Is it also 6" deep? Please correct me if I'm wrong.

2/3 of a 3-cubic-foot bag of peat moss expands to approximately 4 cubic feet when "fluffed." Based upon these assumptions, your mix is probably too "peaty" and may not provide a favorable environment for your seeds and plants.

A 4'x4' raised bed normally takes 8 cubic feet of Mel's Mix, or 2.67 cubic feet each of coarse vermiculite, peat moss, and at least 5 different composts. By my calculation, that would mean that your bed contains an extra 1.32 cubic feet (I'm rounding everything off) of peat moss.

This would be an imbalanced mix. Others who have included too much peat moss have reported stunted plants and difficulty watering.

On this forum, I discovered that an easy way to measure the ingredients for Mel's Mix is to use 5-gallon buckets, which hold approximately 2/3 of a cubic foot of material. Using that as a measure, 4.0 buckets = 2.68 cubic feet, and 12 buckets = 8.04 cubic feet.

If you found 5 different composts, you would need to eyeball those measurements a bit, which would come out to a tad bit more than 1/2 of a bucket of each compost. Just divide 2.67 by the number of composts you have.

I hope I haven't lost you with all this math! However, we all want you to succeed with your SFG, and I've learned a lot of this the hard way.

Best of luck, and please post pictures as your garden progresses!
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  jblessing on 4/19/2013, 8:53 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:jblessing,

From your calculations in a previous post, you probably have a 4' x 4' raised bed. Is it also 6" deep? Please correct me if I'm wrong.


Correct. I'm gong with a "standard" square to begin with.

donnainzone10 wrote:

2/3 of a 3-cubic-foot bag of peat moss expands to approximately 4 cubic feet when "fluffed." Based upon these assumptions, your mix is probably too "peaty" and may not provide a favorable environment for your seeds and plants.

A 4'x4' raised bed normally takes 8 cubic feet of Mel's Mix, or 2.67 cubic feet each of coarse vermiculite, peat moss, and at least 5 different composts. By my calculation, that would mean that your bed contains an extra 1.32 cubic feet (I'm rounding everything off) of peat moss.

This would be an imbalanced mix. Others who have included too much peat moss have reported stunted plants and difficulty watering.

hmmm... took another look at the bag. Was really hard to tell if the 3 cubic foot measure was compressed or expanded, but from the looks of the bag, instead of using 2/3 as I had planned, I may very well have only used half, so maybe my square isn't quite as over peated as previously indicated. Smile I will keep an eye on it. And maybe I have just enough peat moss for proper mix on a second square.

donnainzone10 wrote:
On this forum, I discovered that an easy way to measure the ingredients for Mel's Mix is to use 5-gallon buckets, which hold approximately 2/3 of a cubic foot of material. Using that as a measure, 4.0 buckets = 2.68 cubic feet, and 12 buckets = 8.04 cubic feet.

If you found 5 different composts, you would need to eyeball those measurements a bit, which would come out to a tad bit more than 1/2 of a bucket of each compost. Just divide 2.67 by the number of composts you have.

I hope I haven't lost you with all this math! However, we all want you to succeed with your SFG, and I've learned a lot of this the hard way.

Best of luck, and please post pictures as your garden progresses!

Interesting idea using the 5 gallon buckets...I hadn't come across that particular gem. Thanks. As for taking pictures, I tried...my camera stinks for outdoor photos...the pictures all come out completely white-washed. Haven't been able to find what adjustment to make to correct that.


Last edited by jblessing on 4/19/2013, 9:00 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added content.)
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  bowhuntaz on 4/20/2013, 8:27 pm

Is it possible to grow in a non-MM bed?
Yes.
Is it"square foot gardening"?
No, by definition.
Can the same basic rules be applied to a non mels mix filled bed?
Sure they can.
Am i a"square foot gardener"? Sort of.
I have two beds with Mel's mix, and 9 without.
The others are a mix of compost, peat, and local dirt.
For myself, i definitely see some benefits to the use and principle of Mel's mix, as I'm getting a fair amount of weed growth in my other beds.
My perspective is this- i garden to feed my family and provide the excess to local food banks and churches. My family eats very well from what we grow, and our friends do too.
Last year, we donated about 1500# of produce to churches and the local food bank.
I was filling the bed of my truck every other Friday morning with the excess that we didn't need, and delivering it accordingly.
What I'm saying is, examine your priorities, figure out what your needs are, and then figure out how to make it work best within your budget.
SFG is truly am excellent and almost foolproof method to gardening.
It's a great way to get started, and the principles are very sound across the board.
It's also one of many methods to growing whatever your heart desires.
Knowledge is power. Experience comes in time.
Good judgment is the result of bad judgment in previous experiences.
We've all been there.
Learn something today. It makes you wiser for tomorrow.
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  schristi69 on 5/22/2013, 1:52 pm

I am using deep raised beds, 1.5 to 2 ft deep. I calculated the cost of Mel's Mix and it is almost $200.00 to fill each if bought from Home Depot. Can I fill most of the box with compost and the top 1/3 with Mel's Mix and get good results? Seems to me like it will work. On a tight budget right now.

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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/22/2013, 2:01 pm

All you need is 6" Very Happy

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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  ETNRedClay on 5/22/2013, 2:18 pm

schristi69 wrote:I am using deep raised beds, 1.5 to 2 ft deep. I calculated the cost of Mel's Mix and it is almost $200.00 to fill each if bought from Home Depot. Can I fill most of the box with compost and the top 1/3 with Mel's Mix and get good results? Seems to me like it will work. On a tight budget right now.

That's precisely what I did. Top 6" of MM Mel would be proud of and the bottom is straight compost. My beds are on a steep slope so the back side of the 4'x8's are 11" and the front 17" tall. Shouldn't be a problem. We'll both see.
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  artisticfoodie on 5/22/2013, 2:22 pm

RoOsTeR wrote:All you need is 6" Very Happy

+1
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Re: temporary Mel's Mix alternative?

Post  schristi69 on 5/26/2013, 4:22 pm

Thanks

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