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Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

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Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  Nia in VA on 5/8/2014, 4:21 pm

Okay...my husband and I started a raised bed this year (4' x 8' x 10.5").  However, instead of using Mel's Mix or even a similar equivalent on our own, we put in the bottom half of of the beds topsoil mixed with peat moss, vermiculite, and soil conditioner (all organic).  Then we mixed in a layer of Black Kow and Mushroom Compost, a layer of peat, and a final layer of Black Kow.  Since this is nowhere near "Mel's Mix," should I go ahead and add some organic fertilizer for my tomatoes, peppers, etc?  We're just traditional backyard gardeners with not a lot of success the last couple of years, and my hubby doesn't take to new changes easily.  He just wants to till in some compost, dig a hole, throw in some fertilizer, toss in the plant, and get 'er done!  LOL!  I have to say though, he's been an awesome trooper on this "newfangled" idea of mine!  I know, I know....I need to GET THE BOOK!  Thanks for your advice and suggestions!

Nia in VA

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  llama momma on 5/8/2014, 4:35 pm

All I can say going into year number 4 with square foot gardening is that you don't have to figure out a lot.  It's all been done already with decades of experience and put into an easy to read book.
Square foot gardening lets you be successful first time out, and its pretty thrilling too.
I'm not sure how to fix your situation. Maybe someone will come along soon.
 Check out the gallery section above in the green bar.  Plenty of us have success with this method, including myself. Here's one example-

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  Marc Iverson on 5/8/2014, 4:55 pm

Sounds pretty haphazard. It's hard to guess whether to add organic fertilizer on top of all that since it's impossible to know how fertile it already is, and what the balance of nutrients are.

How much space do you have left until your beds are as full as you want them to be, before they overflow or crowd the top too much?

Unless you want to go to the trouble of sending in your soil for analysis, you might want to resort to taking a page from the book, so to speak, of how SFG is done in countries too poor to put together real Mel's Mix or who for other reasons cannot access vermiculite or peat moss at non-prohibitive costs. They just plant in pure compost.

If you're going to still be adding anything at all, or have the room for it, that would probably be better than adding fertilizers to what you've already got. Better yet, of course, would be to combine five types (not just five sources) of compost to fill in whatever space you might have left on top of your bed, and consider mixing it down a bit, at least at the bottom of the layer, so there is not a stark transition between soil types that makes roots retreat from the transition zone and refuse to grow any further down.

It's hard to guess from your description what the proportion of vermiculite and peat in your beds already is, so it's hard to recommend anything but a soil analysis prior to doing anything, or to just add some good blended compost. I doubt you want to throw out all the soil you've already got down there, especially since you've already mixed vermiculite and peat in it and added more peat in another layer too.

For the next bed(s) you might consider making in the future, it would be better to follow a structured plan such as can be found in the All New Square Foot Gardening book. It's not as inexpensive as using topsoil, but it's more foolproof and eliminates the host of questions that can arise from more unusual or idiosyncratic mixtures of soils and amendments.

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  H_TX_2 on 5/8/2014, 5:12 pm

If you have not started composting already then start now. Next year or in the fall add your homemade compost and mix it in. That should be all you need. It may not technically be Mel's Mix but it should work just fine. Some people here spray some occasional fish or seaweed emulsion for added nutrients.

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  greatgranny on 5/8/2014, 6:31 pm

@Nia in VA wrote:Okay...my husband and I started a raised bed this year (4' x 8' x 10.5").  However, instead of using Mel's Mix or even a similar equivalent on our own, we put in the bottom half of of the beds topsoil mixed with peat moss, vermiculite, and soil conditioner (all organic).  Then we mixed in a layer of Black Kow and Mushroom Compost, a layer of peat, and a final layer of Black Kow.  Since this is nowhere near "Mel's Mix," should I go ahead and add some organic fertilizer for my tomatoes, peppers, etc?  We're just traditional backyard gardeners with not a lot of success the last couple of years, and my hubby doesn't take to new changes easily.  He just wants to till in some compost, dig a hole, throw in some fertilizer, toss in the plant, and get 'er done!  LOL!  I have to say though, he's been an awesome trooper on this "newfangled" idea of mine!  I know, I know....I need to GET THE BOOK!  Thanks for your advice and suggestions!
I know this will be a lot of hard work but I would get a tarp and put all of what you currently have on the tarp and get it mixed together.  It sounds to me like you have it in layers when in fact it should be combined to be effective.  You already have 2 different composts.  You need 5 so get 3 more and mix in with this mixture.

Yes, by all means, if you don't already make your own compost, it's a good idea to start.  It's black gold.

Yes, get the book.  Can't emphasize that part enough.  It is the simplest form of gardening I have ever done and I'm an old lady.  I grow more in 110 square feet than I did in a huge garden.  Never have to cultivate, use a tiller, etc. 

Good luck.

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Thanks for all the quick replies!

Post  Nia in VA on 5/8/2014, 7:37 pm

Thanks everyone for all the wonderful advice!  Great Granny....everything did pretty much get mixed up, except for the final top layer of Black Kow.  I just finished putting the plants in, and hubby would have a fit taking everything out and redoing it.  I didn't put any other fertilizer in with the plants except for a half cup of bone meal under the one tomato plant I put in.  Hubby planted the other six in his "row."  I'll be ready to "amend" if plants show any signs of not doing well, and will let you know how it goes as the season progresses.  Honestly, the soil has GOT to be better than what we had in just the ground.  FYI, I planted the tomato plant, 3 bell peppers, 3 okras, 3 green beans, 3 limas, 2 basil, 1 oregano, 1 thyme, 2 dill....and a partridge in a pear tree!  I will definitely set up another raised bed next year, but I'll read the book first, and probably order Mel's Mix for that one.  Great Granny.....old lady?  I'm 61, and "old" is always 50 years older than me!!!

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  camprn on 5/8/2014, 9:49 pm

I would mix it all up and plant .

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

Post  AtlantaMarie on 5/9/2014, 8:52 am

Hi Nia.  Welcome to the forum!

+1 with Camprn - Mix & plant.

Please let us know how everything does.

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Re: Fertilizer for 1/2 topsoil and 1/2 peat, vermiculite, and compost

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