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mulching over Mel's mix?

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mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  lisaphoto on 2/26/2014, 3:14 pm

I watched a video last year (www.backtoedenfilm.com) that described a gardening style where you layer newspaper, then compost, then mulch.  The mulch keeps in and repels moisture while also breaking down and changing the earth below it.  I am receiving some extra mulch soon and thought about covering my existing beds with it.  They say at first to move it out of the way when planting seeds, then fill in when the plants come up.  Once it's aged, you plant directly in the covering.  Have any of you done anything similar?

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  camprn on 2/26/2014, 3:24 pm

Lisa, see the current wood chips thread for recent discussion about this. Later today, I will merge this post with that thread.

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  sanderson on 2/26/2014, 3:29 pm


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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  lisaphoto on 2/26/2014, 4:23 pm

after posting, I saw that thread, thanks.  My material isn't wood chips, rather a blended organic mulch.  Think that will be okay?

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  southern gardener on 2/26/2014, 5:56 pm

@lisaphoto wrote:after posting, I saw that thread, thanks.  My material isn't wood chips, rather a blended organic mulch.  Think that will be okay?

I'll bet it would be fine. The basis of the BTE movie is to cover your soil, the author prefers woodchips (which are actually chipped up branches with 90% needles and leaves), but he says use anything you have!

We are transitioning over to this method, and are having really good results. Read the whole thread if you have time, it's a good one!!

God bless...........

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  camprn on 2/26/2014, 8:34 pm

To be perfectly clear, using mulch in the SFG is recommended for a variety of reasons. Back to Eden style gardening also uses mulch but is not Square Foot Gardening as developed by Mel Bartholomew and promoted by this forum.

Lisa I bet that would be a perfect mulch material.

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  sanderson on 2/26/2014, 9:21 pm

The various methods of gardening can be confusing when trying to garden for the first time.

I'm so glad that I am a simple person!  I'm staying with simple SFG per book.  If I had some land, I would be interested in trying BTE on non-box ground areas.  If I took the Master Gardener class, my brains would be scrambled.   What a Face   

Build box, mix and fill with Mel's Mix, plant and water.  Replenish with homemade compost made with a variety of former life.  The harder parts of gardening are pests, disease, and controlling the urge to build more boxes and composting 'til you drop.

Can you tell I'm rabid about SFG?

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  southern gardener on 2/26/2014, 9:50 pm

@sanderson wrote:The various methods of gardening can be confusing when trying to garden for the first time.

I'm so glad that I am a simple person!  I'm staying with simple SFG per book.  If I had some land, I would be interested in trying BTE on non-box ground areas.  If I took the Master Gardener class, my brains would be scrambled.   What a Face   

Build box, mix and fill with Mel's Mix, plant and water.  Replenish with homemade compost made with a variety of former life.  The harder parts of gardening are pests, disease, and controlling the urge to build more boxes and composting 'til you drop.

Can you tell I'm rabid about SFG?


I thought you used wood chips and chicken manure or something over your MM? Or was it someone else?

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 2/26/2014, 10:26 pm

Perhaps you might have been thinking of me.  I have both SFG beds, 3, 4 foot square raised table tops and one 5' x 10' bed that was started without knowing about Mels' mix but based off of what I knew from the old SFG.  I have been amending that bed's soil which was a bedding soil purchased from a local nursery by the truckload so God only knows what it was made of.  We are digging in coarse vermiculite and compost in each square as we replant in there.  I have not added peat moss as it retains moisture quite adequately and the texture is loose and friable.  

I have mulched each of those beds, but consider them SFG gardens and work them according to the newest book.  I will say that using the mulch (using the small twigs, leaves and fine multi sized material) has only improved the performance of my SFG gardens.  

For my other garden spaces we simply did not have the money to develop with SFG soil, especially due to their sizes (20' x 10', 25' x 12', and 30' x 4').  They are BTE style.  I have found over the past year that the soil in those beds are quite competitive with the productivity of my SFG beds HOWEVER that is my soil, in my location, with my weather and rain.  The beauty of SFG is that you take the guess work and massively different soil variations out of the equation and give yourself a great system that works virtually anywhere.  

That was the point of Mel's system.  

Follow the system to the T and it will work.  Chintz on the ingredients, change the basics and it just might not work nearly as well as you hoped.

I have found that I have been able to plant similarly to SFG in my BTE garden, but not quite as closely.  I actually increase spacing about 50% and find it effective.  Because of the size of my other gardens I can do that.  If I were to have a small yard like Sanderson it would make more sense to make all of the beds out of MM.  

The two main benefits of the BTE system over just digging into the ground here and hoping for the best is that the soil is very quickly loosening up without digging, there are very minimal weeds (like SFG) and it does not compact much at all, even if I have to walk on it.   The second major benefit is water conservation and plants that do not wilt in our blistering sun.  They stay consistently moist - but not too wet.  

I find them extremely compatible systems, but one does not replace the other.

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  FamilyGardening on 2/27/2014, 12:15 am

 yeppers  Audrey  +1

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

Post  sanderson on 2/27/2014, 3:14 am

Southern Gardener,  Yes, you are correct, I do use wood chips over the MM.  But it is a thin layer of "playground" wood chips, devoid of anything other than wood.  The summers are brutally hot and usually dry and my MM was drying out so fast last summer (2013, also my first year gardening).  The wood chips are light colored and really saved my garden.

I recently posted a photo of my one year old Brussels Sprout that is only 6" tall!!  Camp suggested I try a sprinkle of blood meal under the wood chips to see if it helped.  The idea was maybe the chips were talking the nitrogen.  So, instead of blood meal, I finger sprinkled composted chicken manure and then replaced the chips.  Just an experiment for now.  I also did the same with my new "Little" boxes yesterday when I planted the chard, bok choy, etc. seedlings.  A finger sprinkle all over with chicken manure and a thin layer of wood chips.


I'm sorry if it sounded like I was really laying the stuff on heavy like BTE.  I do not want the wood chips to break down or get mixed into the Mels Mix.  I use my hands more than a spade (MM feels so good) to mix in new compost and get out old roots.  Last thing I want are small wood chips giving me splinters!   What a Face 

I have such a small backyard that SFG is the only way I can go.  No room to experiment with BTE on the ground.  Yes, I also use pots, but I still use MM and SFG spacing.  The pots are for things that need to be moved to follow the sun through out the season.  Darn those neighbors' trees!

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Re: mulching over Mel's mix?

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