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Expensive Dirt!

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Expensive Dirt!

Post  Dirt Girl on 6/15/2013, 8:20 am

I just started to look at filling my 4 x 4 box... and am I doing my maths wrong or is it going to be BLOODY expensive?  Like $300?

Where did you get your peat moss and vermiculite?  I'm not relishing the thought of getting 30 bags from Bunnings Mad

I'm in The Hunter Valley / Newcastle area... are there any community recycling places here where we can get compost?  I'm not having much luck and I'm a vary amateur gardener.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  ETNRedClay on 6/15/2013, 9:35 am

If my notes are right for a 4'x8' 6" deep (twice as big as your bed) I used:

- $10 3cft bale of peat fluffed
- $18 3cft course vermiculite
- 4x$7 20# Black Hen
- 2x$5 40# Black Kow
- 2x$6 40# Nutri-Fiber plus Bio-Char
- 2x 5-gallon bucket Mushroom Compost ($15/bobcat scoop)
- 2x 5-gallon bucket aged Horse Stall Leavings ($15/bobcat scoop)

Or $78 plus parts of two scoops.so add $2  and say $80. 

Now, since mine are on a slope, I leveled the bottom of the bed with straight compost -- horse stall leavings in most cases, but sometimes mushroom added, too.  That's the remainder of a scoop or 2 of compost.  And that's separate from the 6" of MM.  My beds are made from treated deck boards and stacked, so another $25 for lumber.  Which comes to just about $120-135/4'x8' filled. Plus tax, so $150 to round if off.

And wincing, I remind myself this is a one-time expense. 

How deep is your bed and what are you paying for your mix materials?
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  camprn on 6/15/2013, 9:51 am

You don't want dirt you want compost! There are more places to find it than the store...
Check Craigslist, your local freecycle, farmers market, dairy, horse, goat, rabbit, llama and chicken farms.

Welcome to the SFG Forum!

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  walshevak on 6/15/2013, 10:45 am

Welcome to the forum.  I have always wanted to visit Australia.

There are a few others from Australia that have posted to the forum.  I hope they are still active and can help you out.  Just remember, the vermiculite and peat moss are 1 time expenses.

Camprn is right.  Compost is the absolute key to this method of intensive gardening.  It is essential for feeding your plants and it is the ingredient you will add each time you replant to nourish the soil.  In some countries, compost is the only thing used in Mel's Square Meter Gardening as vermiculite and peat moss are simply not available. (but they do make the soil nice and light and water retentive)

Check local dairy farms, riding stables, even zoos.  And most important - start your own composting bins so you will have compost to add every time you replant a square.  There are a number of threads about composting on the forum.

Good luck

Kay

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  mschaef on 6/15/2013, 10:51 am

You only need 8 cubic feet to fill your 4x4 box. That is only 2 2/3 cubic feet of each of the 3 components of Mels Mix: vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. Compost is the most important because that is what feeds your plants so don't skimp on this.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  camprn on 6/15/2013, 11:24 am

mschaef wrote:You only need 8 cubic feet to fill your 4x4 box. That is only 2 2/3 cubic feet of each of the 3 components of Mels Mix: vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. Compost is the most important because that is what feeds your plants so don't skimp on this.
I'm terrible at math, but that doesn't seem right..... I'm sure it would be quite a bit more than that? Where's Boffer? He's good at this maths stuff.

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  southern gardener on 6/15/2013, 11:31 am

[th]Length of Box(in Feet)[/th][th]Width of Box(in Feet)[/th][th]Height of Box(in Inches)[/th][th]Total Box Volume[/th][th]Each Ingredient[/th][th]Each Compost Type[/th]


MEL'S MIX CALCULATOR
 

The above numbers that you entered, 
result in the calculated volumes below.


8.00 cubic feet
2.67 cubic feet
0.53 cubic feet

this is for a 4x4 box from the MM calculator page.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  boffer on 6/15/2013, 11:34 am

The mathy stuff is right, but practically speaking, it takes a couple more cubic feet to top off the box, to account for settling.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  camprn on 6/15/2013, 11:49 am

Well, I'm glad to know that. I just keep adding it all together until the box is full... dangit

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  walshevak on 6/15/2013, 12:00 pm

Here is the international vermiculite database.  Perhaps that will help.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AkxGrCEb40U2dEptWFlDOEVJWXpkTV9WRzBjVDVSTVE&hl=en#gid=0

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  yolos on 6/15/2013, 1:22 pm

mschaef wrote:You only need 8 cubic feet to fill your 4x4 box. That is only 2 2/3 cubic feet of each of the 3 components of Mels Mix: vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. Compost is the most important because that is what feeds your plants so don't skimp on this.

The OP did not say how deep the bed was.  The 8 cubic feet is if the bed is 6 inches deep.   4 ft X 4 ft x 6 inches or 4x4x.5 = 8

If it is 12 inches deep it requires 16 cubic feet.  4x4x1 = 16
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  Dirt Girl on 6/17/2013, 12:24 am

Thanks for all the replies and welcomes! Warm and fuzzy Very Happy

Yes the bed is 4'x4' and 6"... I think a lot of my confusion is coming from the conversions. They don't sell by cubic foot here, which would be easier - it's all by litres. And a litre of air is obviously not equal to a litre of dirt.

I went to the shops yesterday and the compost is the cheapest. I had wanted mushroom compost but they were all out so I got second best which seems to be a diverse-ish mix and I'm ok with that. I do my own composting but it's not yet mature enough to use, and we only have a single bin at the moment so there is lots of very immature material in there which would be a pain in the bum to screen out. Ambition is to have two bins eventually to let one 'cook' while still adding to the second.

We are currently in winter but "winter" here is still very growable (lettuces, etc.) so I want to get started ASAP. I ended-up getting coir-peat bricks instead of the peat moss bags (which only came in 5L bags for like 4 times as much the cost of the bricks.) Now I understand that it won't have any nutrients but that's what the compost is for. I also only got two wee bags of vermiculite (well, one vermiculite and one perlite since there's was only one bag of vermiculite left. But, same difference, right? It was only $0.04 difference!)

So... looks like that's what I'm going with. I spent $80 yesterday (exchange rate is very comparable at the moment) and may have to get more compost to fill it up but at least I can get a start and actually see how it will fill the bed.

Also so you know I'm an ex-pat Canuck, and grew up with a green-thumb-mom, but things are pretty different here and also different when Mom made it all seem so much easier than it is when doing it on your own!


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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  sanderson on 6/17/2013, 2:54 am

For the first year, you do what you have to do. In some countries, peat moss, vermiculite and perlite are not available. (unless you are rich!) I had to use at least 2/3 perlite and barely 1/3 medium vermiculite.

If you can add a little composted cow or horse manure, bunny droppings, sea kelp meal, or worm castings to your compost you will have a better quality mix. I learned the hard way this spring. Do you have an eBay for Australia? I bought some kelp meal and worm castings on eBay, got my coffee grounds free from Starbucks (with a smile), and composted cow manure from a big box, and retro-added to my boxes. Good luck, and don't get discouraged! I think the first year is all about learning.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  Dirt Girl on 6/17/2013, 4:26 am

Thanks, Sanderson! We'll see how it goes with mostly half compost half coir-peat and like... a very small bit of vermicu/perlite. I'm encouraged by what I read about it being ok to have all compost as well.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  CapeCoddess on 6/17/2013, 10:44 am

camprn wrote:I just keep adding it all together until the box is full... dangit

+1
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  walshevak on 6/17/2013, 1:28 pm

I would say you are well on your way to a successful SFG.

Coir is an acceptable substitute for peat moss - not as good but acceptable and peat has no nutrients so you haven't lost out there. The same with perlite, not as good as vermiculite but acceptable. So if you need to increase perlite to get a fluffy mix, go for it. If the store gets more mushroom compost in stock, get some. You may need to top dress your beds if the second best doesn't work out so well. Anyway, a 5 compost blend is recommended so anytime you find something else for these first beds you are ahead of the game.

Keep doing your own composting, adding anything you can beg, buy, or steal. Very Happy Your plan to have 2 bins is a good one. Some of us even have 3 (or more), one active, one cooking, and one ready to used.

Finally, post pictures. We are all suckers for pictures.

Kay

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  IrishDigger on 6/26/2013, 11:20 pm

Don't know about the rest of the soil additives but the average cost of soil mix which is soil and mushroom compost is $40 a cubic metre.

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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  murarrie25 on 7/14/2013, 6:50 pm

Vermiculite  comes in 100 L bags  and is about $30- $40 range  , the smaller bags  5 L $9 .Hydroponics media seems to be one of the main uses and  for seed propagation.
  Chicken litter in Australia inorganic arsenic is legal to use but the chicken industry  farmers  say it is not being used ,can the chicken industry be believed  with there discredited  "free to roam" claim

Steggles chickens sold as "free to roam" were being held in cramped sheds and given less than the size of an A4 sheet of paper in space, the Federal Court has found.
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Re: Expensive Dirt!

Post  Triciasgarden on 7/14/2013, 8:21 pm

Dirtgirl welcome to the forum! As I was reading your post you said you got second best which is good enough.  The most expensive compost isn't as important as the ingredients that are in it.  A lot of bagged composts have the main ingredient as forest humus.  If the biggest volume of ingredients is woody, it does not have the variety it needs and will rob your mix of nitrogen as it finishes decomposing.  I know with a bag of mushroom compost I bought once, it was mostly woody stuff.   I didn't read the ingredients until I got it home.  Some bagged compost also has peat moss already in it but it's hard to know how much and will throw off your mix.   I know you are anxious to get started but if your plants are not growing right, you will have to try to fix it after the fact.  Some may grow a little and die from lack of nutrients.  I am not trying to discourage you but want you to have success from the start.

Also, I would suggest if you haven't yet to read the threads about composting to learn as much as you can about it.  You are very wise to get your own compost going.  For me it seems to take longer than I expect to get finished compost.  I like your idea of two piles, one for adding to and one to cook and get finished.  When people suggest sifting it, it is usually finished compost and they sift out bigger parts like sticks and things that didn't break down but the rest is done.

Let us all know how you are doing and we love to look at pictures!
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