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Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

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Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Judy McConnell on 3/14/2014, 7:47 am

About 8 yrs ago, I used the 2006 book as my guide and built 6 - 4"x8' in ground beds.  They worked well but were neglected during caregiving for my sick husband.

This year I decided to rev up again and now have the 2013 book in hand.  Starting small, I purchased 2 tts from HD and plan to fill them with:
1) commercial Mel's Mix (from Amazon) (HD wouldn't order it for me, without horridenous shipping costs)
2) compost from local nursery - looks to be a decent mix - not just brown plant material
3) worm castings around the individual plants
4) black cow to be mixed with compost before adding to boxes

Know that I should be buying different animal poo, but that will take time to obtain, the above were really expensive.

My compost pile has just been left to sit, but really only has leaves and a bit of grass in it - down deep, should have nice brown "humus" (does have lots of native earthworms residing)

So guess I am asking you experts - will this be enough to start with or should I try for more goodies before filling the boxes next week.  One box will be strawberries with onions around the perimeter; the second box - too early to tell.

Appreciate any info or suggestions.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  jimmy cee on 3/14/2014, 8:22 am

Hi Judy
I'm certainly no expert as I only started last season, however, I am thinking if you have the worms living there, that's a great sign everything is good.
Why not go ahead with what you have, and I am sure there will be more advice coming from knowledgeable folk.
Good Luck

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  llama momma on 3/14/2014, 8:52 am

Feel free to re-read the compost chapter. Mel's book has a way of surprising you with new gems of info that were missed before!
Is black cow composted?  If the bag does not say so, then it needs to be composted, to be safe.
Different animal manures still only count as 1 ingredient of your 5-way mix.  Lets get beyond manure and think of four more ingredients as the minimum.  In this case more is always better.  Think of leaves, spent plants, coffee grounds, straw, paper, kitchen veggie and fruit scraps, etc.  I easily rattled off 7 more possible ingredients, and there are many more!  Worm castings are terrific too. But if you plan to sprinkle around the plants like I do, I don't count that small amount as part of the compost.  I count it as icing on the cake.
The local nursery compost can be a gamble until you press someone there for exact information about the contents. If the manager won't write down the contents for you I'd get a refund cause its probably not very good stuff.  It sounds mean but you know what? I see no reason to purchase poor quality compost with lousy results.
Purchased Mel's mix will contain 1/3 compost from 5 or more sources.  You'll need to adjust your final mix with the bags contents of  vermiculite and peat.
Hope some of this helps!

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/14/2014, 12:03 pm

Why are you going to add more stuff to your commercial MM?

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  gwennifer on 3/14/2014, 1:35 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:Why are you going to add more stuff to your commercial MM?

CC

This was where I also got confused. Although the nutrients are the most important part of your mix if you actually want your stuff to grow, and the most difficult to obtain and retain. So getting a good compost mixture ready to replace nutrients after harvesting and before replanting is certainly necessary. But for your initial filling of your beds, your commercial MM will already be 1/3rd compost.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Turan on 3/14/2014, 1:57 pm

Reveiws of commercial MM so far seem to be nutrient light. So it is probably wise to only use it as part of a garden's MM. Aside from the expense and all of getting it.

Again what I get from people here is that Black Cow is a great compost. I think it is Kay who uses it as a standard part of her mix?

So I think this all looks like a good mixture, home compost, MM, Black Cow. These are for TTs? I would add some vermiculite or perlite to keep the mixture light and friable. The old home compost is likely close enough to peat (humus) to not bother adding any peat.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  camprn on 3/14/2014, 1:59 pm

Over the past few years it has been noted in various regions of the USA that the pre made Mel's Mix has had less than ideal levels of compost. Adding another bag or two of compost to commercial Mel's Mix is not contraindicated, in fact it is kind of like taking out insurance and may give you terrific results.  cheers 

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  sanderson on 3/14/2014, 2:52 pm

@camprn wrote:Over  the past few years it has been noted in various regions of the USA that the pre made Mel's Mix has had less than ideal levels of compost. Adding another bag or two of compost to commercial Mel's Mix is not contraindicated, in fact it is kind of like taking out insurance and may give you terrific results.  cheers 

I agree with Camp. Add a little bit of compost to the commercial MM, just in case someone was asleep at the switch during manufacturing, literally.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Judy McConnell on 3/14/2014, 4:02 pm

Thanks everyone for your responses.

Cape Coddess and Gwennifer - from what I've read in the forums, commercial MM can be light in certain areas - just as Turan, Camprn, and Sanderson responded reminding us.

No, I don't want to overdo because too many nutrients are just as bad as too few. Until I can make my own and know what goes into the mm, this is still a guessing game (for this year)

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/14/2014, 4:10 pm

Sounds like it's a great set up for experimenting, if you're into that kind of thing.  A little of this here, some of that over there... okay 

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Judy McConnell on 3/15/2014, 7:30 am

Experimenting sounds great and I'm into trying different things - so yes, this will be a year to experiment with the mixes.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  camprn on 3/15/2014, 7:48 am

To be clear, the commercial Mel's mix is often light on compost. So adding compost is ok to keep the new growing mix in a healthy state, but if you starting adding all sorts of other amendments that are not compost, unless your plants need them, may be asking for trouble in the first gardening year.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Judy McConnell on 3/15/2014, 8:30 am

Good point, Camprn    I'll be very careful!

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Judy McConnell on 10/12/2014, 10:16 am

Yes, this year was one of experimentation:

1) 1 tabletop(2'x4') with only the commercial MM
    Results: peas, beets, onions - the peas did fine, the onions were small,   the beets did nothing
2) 1 tabletop (2'x4') with commercial MM with Black Cow as a base (under the MM)
     Results: bush beans and swiss chard - did well
3) 1 tabletop (2'x4') with Miracle Grow potting soil
     Results: flowers, no veggies - did well
4) 1 4'x8' bed with garden soil, with leaf mold added
     Results: tomatoes (for second yr) scarlet runner beans - tomatoes diseased, beans did fine
5) 1 4'x8' bed with commercial MM, underlain with garden soil
     Results: bush beans, carrots - both did well, beets nothing
6) 1 4'x8' bed with com MM AND leaf compost, black cow, some MG
     Results: tomatoes did well but smothered carrots and beets
7) 4 5-gal buckets with com.MM, bottom 4" of Black cow
     Results: peppers, needed additional fertilizer
Cool 4 5-gal buckets with MG potting soil
     Results: bush tomatoes - made fruit, but not many
9) 4 5-gal buckets with com MM, underlain with black cow
     Results: bush tomatoes - did fairly well (pre- and post- leaf disease)
10) 3 4'x8' beds with soil (2 with flowers,1 with strawberries)
      Results: strawberries produced, flowers were pretty 
 
Not really a good experiment because same plants were not grown in each medium.  Amount of sun reaching the beds was different.

But the results did indicate that comm MM needs additional good compost (with leaf mold) and more vermiculite - compressed too much.
Miracle Grow - is fast but not lasting - will remove from the containers to mix with new compost and reuse for next year because there is a fair amt of peat still.

Conclusions:  Love tts and will have more. Flower beds receive most sun. Two new 4'x8' beds are needed (because of shaded areas) and will be placed in maximum sun area.

My compost MUST be better than both com.MM and MG combined!Very Happy

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  boffer on 10/12/2014, 10:49 am

Thanks for the follow-up. It's a good learning opportunity for everyone.

It's unfortunate that so many blogs, posts, etc. get enthusiastically started in spring, then fall by the way side over summer with no conclusions.

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  sanderson on 10/12/2014, 12:28 pm

@boffer wrote:Thanks for the follow-up.  It's a good learning opportunity for everyone.

It's unfortunate that so  many blogs, posts, etc. get enthusiastically started in spring, then fall by the way side over summer with no conclusions.  
+1

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  CapeCoddess on 10/13/2014, 12:02 pm

Beautiful review, Judy. Thanks for that.  Was your weather cooler than normal also? 
I know it was cooler here which made my experiments difficult to conclude...

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

Post  Judy McConnell on 10/13/2014, 12:20 pm

Thanks all for your kind comments.

CC - YES! the temps were NOT up to our usual standards:x

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Re: Am I doing this correctly? Suggestions welcomed

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