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Unscientific Experiment Results

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Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  Hardcoir on 4/1/2013, 4:19 pm

A month ago, I was asked if I had any scientific evidence that showed if adding Azomite, Bio-tone Starter +, and Flower Tone would improve on Mel's Mix.

I decided to try an experiment, which I realize is not fool-proof and would not suffice for peer-review.

I took my tomato seedlings and planted all but a few in what I call Mel's Mix Plus--the standard mix plus Azomite, Bio-tone Starter +, and Flower Tone. I used straight Mel's Mix on the remaining few.

I have a combination of Red Mortgage Lifter, Druzba, Atkinson, Arkansas Traveller, Cherokee Purple, and Risentraube tomatoes.

Here are the pictures taken today as the tomatoes are in the final stages of hardening before going into the ground this coming weekend.

Here are the tomatoes grown in Mel's Mix Plus.


And here are the tomatoes grown in Mel's Mix.


(The plants in the coconut yogurt cups are not part of the experiment. They are leftover seedlings that I could not euthanize and decided to keep and give away to an elderly neighbor for her patio planter).

Both are thriving, but there is no debating that the Mel's Mix Plus just may be the be all and end all. The plants are extra-sturdy, and they look like they should look about 10 days after being placed in the ground. The regular Mel's Mix tomatoes look just fine and are right on schedule for where they should be. They just received the Plus addition.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  camprn on 4/1/2013, 4:42 pm

Question: What did you use in your compost blend when you made your Mel's Mix?

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Our blend

Post  Hardcoir on 4/1/2013, 5:13 pm

In the tomatoes pictured, the Mel's Mix was made with Palmetto brand coarse vermiculite, coconut coir that was included in the Growum's boxes we purchased, and our home compost.

To delve further into our home compost, I started last year's pile with the chopped up remains of the 2011 garden (all the dead plants and whatever Mel's Mix adhered to the uprooted roots.) I added several wheelbarrow loads of fallen leaves from Oak, Ash, Hickory, Hackberry, and Locust trees. Then a layer of grass clippings and several pounds of kitchen scraps were added. Blood meal, some dirt, shredded newspaper, cow poop, and the hair from when my wife got sick of my receding hairline and shaved my head were added. We never tap water in our garden, and the compost received rainwater and reverse osmosis water. That particular heap was built up to about 5 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 6 feet high. It heated up to 135 degrees at its peak. It produced pure black gold.

I had to buy compost to complete our Mel's Mix for this year, but all of our seedlings received our compost. FWIW, I bought cow manure, hen manure, worm castings, mushroom compost, lobster compost, and humus. I had a couple bags of horse poop, but weeds were growing in it, so I used that in our compost pile for 2013.

BTW, I am adding Azomite to this year's compost pile.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  camprn on 4/1/2013, 5:19 pm

So the tomatoes growing in the mix with the azomite are also in a coir based Mel's Mix? Did you do any grow tests with the MM recipe with the recommended sphagnum peat?

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  southern gardener on 4/1/2013, 5:27 pm

@Hardcoir wrote:In the tomatoes pictured, the Mel's Mix was made with Palmetto brand coarse vermiculite, coconut coir that was included in the Growum's boxes we purchased, and our home compost.

To delve further into our home compost, I started last year's pile with the chopped up remains of the 2011 garden (all the dead plants and whatever Mel's Mix adhered to the uprooted roots.) I added several wheelbarrow loads of fallen leaves from Oak, Ash, Hickory, Hackberry, and Locust trees. Then a layer of grass clippings and several pounds of kitchen scraps were added. Blood meal, some dirt, shredded newspaper, cow poop, and the hair from when my wife got sick of my receding hairline and shaved my head were added. We never tap water in our garden, and the compost received rainwater and reverse osmosis water. That particular heap was built up to about 5 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 6 feet high. It heated up to 135 degrees at its peak. It produced pure black gold.

I had to buy compost to complete our Mel's Mix for this year, but all of our seedlings received our compost. FWIW, I bought cow manure, hen manure, worm castings, mushroom compost, lobster compost, and humus. I had a couple bags of horse poop, but weeds were growing in it, so I used that in our compost pile for 2013.

BTW, I am adding Azomite to this year's compost pile.

wow! that sounds like just about the most perfect compost you can make! way to go. Thanks for the results of your experiment. Always interesting to see how things turn out. The other ingredients, the coir and vermiculite sound like they're "inert" ingredients, so I don't think they would have had much to do with good/bad results. Congrats!!

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/1/2013, 5:44 pm

Hardcoir, This is so cool! Altho I have read that hi nitrogen can cause great leaf growth at the expense of fruits. Can you continue this experiment to see what type of production results from same plants? or did you already soup up the plain MM maters?

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Sorry, they have been fed

Post  Hardcoir on 4/1/2013, 5:58 pm

Sorry, Cape Coddess. By the time these pictures were posted, I had already added the Azomite and two Espoma fertilizers to the smaller plants.

The Azomite contains all of the trace minerals on the planet. It is rock dust from Utah. You can buy similar products for your own supplementation. Some people are opposed to it because all minerals include strontium, arsenic, lead, etc. I say we need these minerals in the trace amounts, as do our green friends.

The Bio-tone Starter + and Flower Tone combine to make a balanced organic fertilizer, and the nitrogen level is not overly high. Our compost is hopefully just as balanced, but I have never had it tested.

Later, when the plants are in the boxes, I will add liquid seaweed to the water of the self-watering containers, and I also have a free bag of compost tea from Boogie Brew (part of the deal presented by John Kohler when I bought the Boogie Brew garden hose water filter).

I want to make it perfectly clear that I am 100% dedicated to SFG and just want to help make it even more potent. I think of this as a great place to trade information much like scientists once did before greed reared its ugly head at the expense of the advancement of mankind. It can only make our end result better, and I thought that is what we all want from our gardens, or mini-farms if they get really large.

Cape Coddess, I love your kitty picture. I hope you grow some catnip and other greens that felines like to nosh on.


Last edited by Hardcoir on 4/1/2013, 6:05 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  camprn on 4/1/2013, 6:02 pm

Hard coir, did you see my previous question about sphagnum peat??

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Outlander is outstanding!


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concerning peat

Post  Hardcoir on 4/1/2013, 6:14 pm

I have used peat moss in my mix in other years. I started using coco coir last year as an experiment and because a really cute redhead that controls me like a puppet on a string and wears my ring convinced me last year to consider the environment and try a sustainable product.

It just so happened that when we bought all the Growum's boxes this winter, they came with coco coir blocks. These were big enough to fill a Growum's box, and of course we only needed to use 1/3 of the coir for each box, using it as that part of our Mel's Mix. With the leftover 2/3 coir from all the boxes, we had more than enough coir to build two new 4X4 squares.

Another benefit of the coir is that it does not smell offensive like peat, which sometimes makes me gag and gets me nauseous enough to start a vomit reflex.

I can see in the future where Mel will decide that coconut coir is the preferred component material. I am quite happy with the coir and would never go back to peat as long as I can obtain it. Coconut is a perfect food. The oil, meat, water, and milk are nutritious and immune-boosting, and now the outer coir is proving to be beneficial as well.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  RoOsTeR on 4/1/2013, 6:27 pm

Topic moved to Non-Sfg forum.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  plantoid on 4/1/2013, 8:47 pm

Hardcoir,
Is the MM in the tomatoe pots made from bagged components or made from your own produced balanced compost ?

In the accuracy of the experiment you need a set of each as well as the MM with the added bits .

I suspect that once you have your own home made balanced compost there will be no need for additional additives / fertilizers

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  jazzycat on 4/1/2013, 9:35 pm

Looks AMAZING! Everything I've seen about rock dust has convinced me to use it. I know some people don't think it's needed, but I'm going to do it anyway.

I notice all the growums boxes in the background. Very Happy Lucky you. I only found out about the sale after something you posted, but they are all gone from my local Lowes. Oh well. Maybe next year.

Let me ask (since you brought it up), what do you think of the Boogie Brew tea? (I am also a big fan of John Kohler, and was thinking of ordering some, since I don't have a compost pile yet. I'm working on it though.)

I was also going to experiment on using peat in some boxes/containers and coir in others. Do you think the coir is superior?

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  camprn on 4/1/2013, 10:02 pm

http://www.usu.edu/cpl/PDF/CoconutCoirPaper.pdfIt would appear that coir is not superior.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  jazzycat on 4/1/2013, 10:29 pm

I've seen that study, but I've also heard from some people that they like it better. I suppose it might depend on what you're growing, and how. They guy who owns the hydroponics store prefers coir, but you know, that's what he sells, so there could be a conflict of interest there. I do like the way it looks and feels better though. But, I want my PLANTS to have whatever THEY prefer. What a Face I will say, the plants I started in peat pellets did slightly better than the ones in cc pellets. But only slightly. VERY slightly.

Personally, I want the least expensive product, because I'm shelling out so much money elsewhere. I have 4 bags of peat sitting on the patio right now, just waiting...

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  dvelten on 4/2/2013, 6:57 am

Hydroponics and SFG are polar opposites of each other. Hydroponics is an artificial growing method that flushes chemical nutrient solutions through a bedding medium. The mechanical properties they look for in a hydroponics medium are different than what you want for a raised bed. Coir is becoming popular because it is cheaper and the fibers are stiffer, with more cellulose, so they resist compacting better. Coir drains better than peat but is also less hygroscopic, so beds or pots with coir tend to be too dry at the top and too wet at the bottom. Peat-based MM is based on over a decade of research and experience and the testimony of thousands of gardeners, and peat itself has 50 years of positive experience in the gardening industry. You might save a few bucks using coir in beds but in fact you are just running what could be an expensive experiment. Good luck with it.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  WI FarmChick on 4/2/2013, 9:44 am

Hi I am new here and I am confused a little, I thought that mel's mix uses 1/3 peat moss.
The study suggested (from the above link) ill effects at 50% use of coir. Did I not read that right?
In my mind wouldn't mel's mix have the same/similar ill effects with 50% peat moss. Isn't that why it has only 1/3 peat?
I am guessing his mix was developed for the best results. Mel, as I understand this has developed this way of gardening/mix over many many years. I am also guessing he has changed his gardening/mix a bit, from his experiments in his own garden form the very first few years he started.
Has He changed things from his first book, correct? I hear things have changed but not sure what has changed, as I only have the ANSFG book.
He is also supportive of doing experiments to see what works and what doesn't for us. right? correct me if I am thinking this wrong. Very Happy

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  camprn on 4/2/2013, 10:49 am

Hey WI Farm Chick, please note this thread is in the NON square foot gardening forum.

Yes Mel's mix recipe calls for 1/3 sphagnum peat, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 blended compost from at least 5 different sources. That' s it, simple.
Some folk like to tinker and that is basically what this thread is about, tinkering.

YES, Mel's process has change quite a lot since his first book and he has recently published the second edition of The All New Square Foot Gardening Book <~~~click

Also if you have not had a chance, on the main page to the left will be links to articles/ threads about SFG and Mel's mix.

Please do not confuse the opinions expressed in this particular thread as being in any way representative of the SFG method as put forth by Mel.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  WI FarmChick on 4/2/2013, 11:56 am

Thanks camprn,

Oops, didn't see Non-SFG, sorry.
I do have the ANSFG book and have read it a few times already.
Yep, simple and I did find the links on the side. Thanks
No I won't confuse them.


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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  Turan on 4/2/2013, 12:30 pm

Just thought I would point out that Mel is selling coir bricks to replace half the peat in MM.
Could some one who bought MM at Home Depot go look at what the ingredients are? Very irritating that Mel does not list this on his website, nor does HD. I thought some one mentioned it is made with coir, not peat, but that needs some one to check.


Now to get back to the OP. So the same base line MM was used for all the plantings? And then to half the plantings the extra stuffs were added? Correct?
If that is so then it does not matter whether coir or peat or what were the composts. We can see the base line MM does fine so it is a good MM. We can see it did better with the additions. Mix that is great for growing transplants is not the same as that for growing fruits, but it looks a good start.

Thanks for doing the experiment and sharing the results.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  RoOsTeR on 4/2/2013, 1:40 pm

Not to totally go off topic here, but... Turan I will try and get Victoria to shed some light on the coir/peat. I do know, the last time I spoke with her the storefront was indeed selling coir for folks to test out. Somewhere here on the forums I posted on that thinking

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  southern gardener on 4/2/2013, 1:41 pm

@Turan wrote:Just thought I would point out that Mel is selling coir bricks to replace half the peat in MM.
Could some one who bought MM at Home Depot go look at what the ingredients are? Very irritating that Mel does not list this on his website, nor does HD. I thought some one mentioned it is made with coir, not peat, but that needs some one to check.


Now to get back to the OP. So the same base line MM was used for all the plantings? And then to half the plantings the extra stuffs were added? Correct?
If that is so then it does not matter whether coir or peat or what were the composts. We can see the base line MM does fine so it is a good MM. We can see it did better with the additions. Mix that is great for growing transplants is not the same as that for growing fruits, but it looks a good start.

Thanks for doing the experiment and sharing the results.

Here is a pic of the back of a bag of Mel's Mix. I would also note, the vermiculite is not the coarse grade. It's very fine..almost like "flecks" of gold.


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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  Turan on 4/2/2013, 1:51 pm

Thanks, RoOster and Southern Gardener.

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  RoOsTeR on 4/2/2013, 1:59 pm

Well, I guess that answer's that Razz Thanks southern

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

Post  southern gardener on 4/2/2013, 2:56 pm

You are most welcome. I too, am baffled as to why the Pre Made mix doesn't go by the recommended recipe..ie, straight peat moss and coarse vermiculite. Oh well............I still think everyone is better off making their own. Have a good day all

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Re: Unscientific Experiment Results

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