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Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

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Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/22/2013, 9:03 am

Well the exciting day has finally arrived...the bed is assembled...all of the components of the mix are purchased and waiting patiently for me to get out of work so they can be mixed and live happily in square foot harmony...and the seeds from Baker Creek arrived yesterday!

So here's what I've got for my Mel's Mix...not perfect...but hopefully I've made up for any of my shortcomings...

Total Volume: 23.85 cubic feet

Vermiculite: 8 cu. ft. medium grade (purchased by accident and not returnable but I'm confident it will get the job done)

Peat Moss: 7.6 cu. ft. Lambert Peat (3.8 cu. ft. compressed bale)

Compost:
3.0 cu. ft. Black Kow
2.0 cu. ft. Rabbit/Worm Compost
1.5 cu. ft. Mushroom Compost
1.0 cu. ft. Black Hen (wow this stuff is pricey! Hopefully I'm not actually expected to make this an equal part!)
0.75 cu. ft. Forest Product/Cow Compost (50% each)

So like I said, it's not perfect...but I'm pretty happy for my this being my first square foot bed (first vegetable garden period actually!)

Does anyone see any glaring issues?

I am a little short on peat, but that's sort of by design on my part to make up for the medium grade vermiculite and the fact that the garden is in a pretty shady area that won't need too much help staying wet...speaking of the shade, I'm not too worried about it. I think this will end up being my permanent greens/herbs bed while I get another one or two set up for fruiting vegetables for spring.

The seeds I'm sowing include: Kale, Kohlrabi, Chard, Carrots, Beets, Radish, Lettuces, Arugula, Collards, Mustard Greens, Cilantro, Basil and Dill (in the sunniest section of the garden)...I have 31 total squares and the mix will be between 8 and 9 inches.

I'll post pictures soon!

Thanks for any input!
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  sanderson on 10/22/2013, 12:15 pm

Brian,  I would say - go for it!! Very Happy To me, a newbie, it's a little heavy on manures, but it seems some folks go heavier on the manures and they do great. My 1/3 part compost was way worse than yours Embarassed  until I got my first 2 compost piles completed.   And keep us updated with photos.
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/22/2013, 2:05 pm

Brian, going a tad light on the peat may be fine, and actually a good idea in many cases, since peat is such a common ingredient in composts anyway that you can easily end up with a very peat-heavy mix unintentionally.

One note re herbs -- do check which thrive most in the sun. Quite a few of them need just as much sun as vegetables do, if you want them to really produce.

Re the uneveness of your compost -- that can get more balanced in time, as you add your own home-grown compost from your own compost pile (I hope you'll have one!) or renew it over time with different composts. I notice no horse manure, which is great if you can get it and compost it for use later, it's not as "hot" as some other manures and needs less curing, and it's usually cheap or free.

Re your vermiculite, it will still provide the structure your soil needs even if it's medium, and still hold water nicely. It's what I got and it's doing well for me, though if I were to do it again, I'd get the coarse. You'll be fine.
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/22/2013, 2:24 pm

Thanks for the encouragement!
 
Sanderson - In a perfect world I would've been able to find a better non-manure source...and naturally now that I'm out of time, I've found that I probably could've have gotten a few things "shipped to store" in my area...but at this point I'm pretty happy with my mix and feel like I really need to get everything in the ground asap...so I suppose now I've learned for the future.

Marc - As for right now it will just be cilantro, basil and dill...I know dill and basil need plenty of sun, so they're getting first dibs on the sunniest sections...the cilantro should be alright in the shade from what I've read.

I do plan to start composting asap...it's just a matter of finding a cost-effective tumbler...I'd love to start a pile in the backyard but my great dane finds enough ways to make a mess of my house and yard...he doesn't need any more ammunition!
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/23/2013, 8:55 am

Well I got all the mix in the bed so I guess that constitutes a successful day!

I ended up doing this in the dark and rain...by the time I got everything mixed on the tarp...it was getting dark and then it started pouring...so I had my truck pulled up to the side of the house with the lights on...my neighbors probably thought I was losing my mind out there spraying down every couple of inches of mix with the hose in the pouring rain. My girlfriend probably thought I was crazier when I came in at 9:15 covered in "Mel's mud"...I can see how people enjoy this stuff, but I can tell you from experience it does not make a flattering makeup...whether or not it improves facial hair growth, we'll have to wait a few days for those results.

Luckily, I didn't really learn any hard lessons from the experience. I think I've spent so much time researching this that I knew exactly what to expect...a plastic rake does a great job of breaking up peat! 

I will say that I should have opened up my Black Hen and dried it in the sun for a few days...the edges where water had gotten in turned some of it into a sludge that was impossible to mix in...I broke up the chunks the best I could but there's still plenty of little chunks in the mix.

I love how light and easy to work with it is...I can really already see why people love using Mel's mix so much...

Today the seeds go in and the grid goes on...can't wait!
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  jimmy cee on 10/23/2013, 9:12 am

All looks great to me, my first season just ended.
All experimental till next season
Good luck to you
Isnt it exciting ?
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/23/2013, 9:44 am

Yes it is very exciting...I've been excited about this for a while...but with a new (first) house...I've had to put the idea on the backburner for a while...I'm excited to see how I do this fall/winter and build towards more success in the spring with things that are a little more work...tomatoes/cucumbers...honestly though I'm more excited to be growing the greens...they're so expensive but so healthy, so it will be nice to get them in my diet for "free".
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  sanderson on 10/23/2013, 12:45 pm

Brian, You are hooked, and perfectly sane!  You may want to see how "sane" you are by reading this topic:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t16644-only-a-gardener-would?highlight=only+a+gardener
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  CapeCoddess on 10/23/2013, 1:17 pm

@BrianDorry55 wrote:honestly though I'm more excited to be growing the greens...they're so expensive but so healthy, so it will be nice to get them in my diet for "free".
Congrats on your new bed!

I grow and eat a huge amount of greens.  My only suggestion, and you probably already know this, is to cover the bed right away!  I don't know what kind of pests you have in your area, if any, but in my area they LOVE greens.  Covering won't stop the slugs or cutworms but it will deter all the flying & hopefully the 4 legged critters.

Happy gardening!

CC
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/23/2013, 1:33 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:
@BrianDorry55 wrote:honestly though I'm more excited to be growing the greens...they're so expensive but so healthy, so it will be nice to get them in my diet for "free".
Congrats on your new bed!

I grow and eat a huge amount of greens.  My only suggestion, and you probably already know this, is to cover the bed right away!  I don't know what kind of pests you have in your area, if any, but in my area they LOVE greens.  Covering won't stop the slugs or cutworms but it will deter all the flying & hopefully the 4 legged critters.

Happy gardening!

CC
Thanks CC! I've considered covering the bed...and I'm poised to do it if I have issues, but I'm going to see how it goes to hopefully avoid making the garden look any more gaudy than it needs to. I don't think I'll really have to worry about the four-legged pests...I'm right in the middle of the suburbs so there aren't too many animals...the occasional armadillo or opossum but I haven't seen a single raccoon or rabbit. It probably helps that I have a 130 great dane that frequents my backyard. As far as the flying insects go...I've removed some caterpillars/worms from our flower beds...about 4 or 5 and haven't seen any damage since...Luckily here in Florida we have a ton of lizards that eat anything moves...so I'll try just "supplementing" my garden with lizards and see how good of a job they do!
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/23/2013, 7:13 pm

@BrianDorry55 wrote:honestly though I'm more excited to be growing the greens...they're so expensive but so healthy, so it will be nice to get them in my diet for "free".
Yeah, they can be quite pricey and quite perishable too, another reason why getting them in the store is less than ideal. How much better to pick them perfectly ripe, only as much and exactly as much as you need, and for free!

Aside from a poor attempt at growing spinach and lettuce when it was too hot this summer, this fall season is my first attempt at growing greens -- spinach, kale, and lettuce, maybe mache, and I really hope they do well. Hope yours do well too!
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  walshevak on 10/23/2013, 8:04 pm

Luckily here in Florida we have a ton of lizards that eat anything moves...so I'll try just "supplementing" my garden with lizards and see how good of a job they do!

funny post, but also true. So encourage those lizards to live in the garden.

And I approve of your MM components. The bag may say fertilizer, but Black Hen is made of composted chicken manure.

Kay

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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/24/2013, 8:38 am

@walshevak wrote:Luckily here in Florida we have a ton of lizards that eat anything moves...so I'll try just "supplementing" my garden with lizards and see how good of a job they do!

funny post, but also true. So encourage those lizards to live in the garden.

And I approve of your MM components.  The bag may say fertilizer, but Black Hen is made of composted chicken manure.

Kay
Thanks Kay.

Yeah I was a little caught off guard when I first opened the Black Hen...certainly didn't look anything like the rest of the stuff...but it's just 1/8th of my compost...between that and the 2 cubic feet of rabbit/worm compost, at the very least I should have great nitrogen levels.
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  BrianDorry55 on 10/28/2013, 9:38 am

Well it's time for my first update:

I sowed seeds on Wednesday last week...we had some iffy weather between cloudy skies and colder than normal temps...I was a little concerned because the bed wasn't getting much sun...I watered and left for the weekend on Friday and when I got back yesterday my barren black bed that I left behind was filled with bright green little sprouts!

It was probably a little ridiculous how excited I was about discovering the inevitable (I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to make a salad Laughing )...but hey it's my first time, I'm allowed to be excited by plants that have a long way to go to make it to my diet.

Almost all of the radishes are up and seem to be moving faster than everything else (which I think is normal)...I also have a lot of lettuce, mustard greens, kohlrabi, chard, arugula, and collards coming up...didn't notice much or anything from my carrots, beets, or kale so hopefully they make an appearance in the next few days.
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Re: Critique My Mel's Mix/Square Foot Garden

Post  sanderson on 10/28/2013, 1:09 pm

Very Happy   Happy for your excitement!
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