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Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

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Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  crankyoldman on 7/14/2014, 2:27 pm

I the have been expeimenting with Nature's Way SFG mix available at Home Depot. So far I have found it to be wanting something. Using pots I planted seeds In the Nature's Way product and several potting mixes. The poorest performer has consistantly been Nature's Way. A generic brand potting mix purchased at a local dollar store grew better plants than the Nature's Way.

I planted tomato seeds in a 2' X 2' X 1' raised bed filled with Nature's Way and planted the same seeds in my poor Phoenix, AZ desert soil that I have added some organic materials to, plants in neither location performed spectacular growth or fruit set but the desert soil plants were marginally better.

I also have observed some rather large wood pieces in the Nature's Way product that appear to have not composted completely.

I have had no previous experiences with the Nature's Way product and wished to determine if it was indeed a good growing medium prior to purchasing enough to fill 32 square feet of 12" deep raised beds. So far my testing leads me to believe my test product is lacking something.

Anybody having similar experiences?

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  camprn on 7/14/2014, 2:55 pm

Yes, it needs lots of compost to be added. In the future you may find it cheaper and get more satisfactory results making your own garden mix. For now top dressing with homemade or a balanced compost blend may improve the garden health.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  Windmere on 7/14/2014, 3:48 pm

Hi crankyoldman (great name by the way)

Over time, I purchased five bags of the pre-made Mel's Mix (Nature's Way) from Amazon.  I too noticed sub-par results from seeds planted directly in the mix.  I found the pre-made soil to have a great deal of coconut coir... which made it dry and unable to absorb water very well.  Moreover, the amount of vermiculite in the pre-made mix is woefully lacking.  If it truly were 33%, it would look like my own.

I'm not too happy about these things.  My average cost per bag (including shipping) was about $30.00 a bag.   One bag was so bad with excess coconut coir that I asked Amazon for a replacement.  Amazon sent the replacement over night (they are excellent about things like that).

I have some good news though:  I used the pre-bagged mix to amend my own mix.  I figure the bat guano, kelp (and other things that I do not have in my mix) helps things out quite a bit.  I do see a perceptible difference in plant health when I use a blend of my mix and Nature's Way mix. 

I don't use a lot of the pre-bagged to amend my mix.  Maybe about 15% or so.  On top of that, I add some Azomite (yes I know the jury is out on that one, but I figure it can't hurt).

crankyoldman, this is my experience.  There are probably variations in batches of Nature's Way, so what works well for me might not work well for you.  I wish you much success!

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  southern gardener on 7/14/2014, 7:36 pm

I'm not sure if I am correct or not, but one of the board members for this SFG board is also one of the makers of "Nature's Way" soil...maybe he can help out. We also had bad results, but it was a couple of years ago. I would hope the problem is fixed by now?

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  camprn on 7/14/2014, 8:51 pm

@southern gardener wrote:I'm not sure if I am correct or not, but one of the board members for this SFG board is also one of the makers of "Nature's Way" soil...maybe he can help out. We also had bad results, but it was a couple of years ago. I would hope the problem is fixed by now?
If it's not a fact you may not want to be posting this. The board has totally changed recently. you can get more information about that at the website link at the top of this page.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  sanderson on 7/14/2014, 10:02 pm

Cranky, Welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here 

You are not the only one to find a pre-mix less than stellar, and have to add some quality compost. I just looked at Craig's List in Phoenix and there are some listings for composted horse and goat manure. I think I saw a listing for worm castings, also. You can order castings and kelp on line. Many new SF Gardeners start their compost piles where they control the ingredients. But, it takes a while before the compost is ready to use. You were wise to try out a mix before investing for the whole garden. My question is, why did you choose the boxes to be 12" deep? You only need 6". Trust us. 12" = 2X the cost, materials and work. In Phoenix, as here in hot Fresno, CA, thick mulch will be your best friend to prevent surface evaporation and to cut down on watering.

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My purchased MM experience was similar

Post  Judy McConnell on 7/15/2014, 6:53 am

From Amazon, I purchased 6 bags of Nature's Way MM mix, these bags were made in Arizona and were OK - not outstanding but useable.  I did add more compost to them.

The second 2 bags I needed were not as good and I needed to add both compost and vermiculite.  Did learn my lesson and compost is being made to add before next season's need.

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Why 12" deep?

Post  crankyoldman on 7/15/2014, 12:32 pm

@sanderson wrote:Cranky,  Welcome to the Forum!   glad you\'re here 

You are not the only one to find a pre-mix less than stellar, and have to add some quality compost.  I just looked at Craig's List in Phoenix and there are some listings for composted horse and goat manure.  I think I saw a listing for worm castings, also.  You can order castings and kelp on line.  Many new SF Gardeners start their compost piles where they control the ingredients.  But, it takes a while before the compost is ready to use.  You were wise to try out a mix before investing for the whole garden.  My question is, why did you choose the boxes to be 12" deep?  You only need 6".  Trust us.  12" = 2X the cost, materials and work.  In Phoenix, as here in hot Fresno, CA, thick mulch will be your best friend to prevent surface evaporation and to cut down on watering.
Big "A" in the knees, hips, neck, spine and shoulders makes it difficult to get down close to the ground so I will be building my raised beds 12" deep so that when I squat on my garden stool I will be able to reach things more easily. If I could figure out a practical way to fill the bottoms (cost wise) I would make the beds 18". As for 6" being deep enough I will argue that it may be true in most cases but not all. Some of my indeterminent tomatoes grow massive root systems that ofter go as deep as 18". One tomato I plant can fill a 5 gallon bucket with roots.

From the response to my post I can see that I am not crazy in my assessment of the Nature's Way product. Since the company in here it the Phoenix area I may need to visit them to check on their operation and quality control practices.

Thanks to all who responded to my post.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  sanderson on 7/15/2014, 1:22 pm

Cranky, You can make the beds 18" high or higher if you want. Just use cheap fill, such as dirt, sand, free bricks, for the bottom 12". Lay 2 layers of weed fabric , cardboard from shipping boxes, a sheet of plywood with a few holes, etc., on top of the fill and top off with quality MM.

This Forum is based on the fact that everything can be grown in a square foot 6" deep with quality MM. There are a few exceptions such as long rooted parsnips and carrots, or potatoes, asparagus, and a few others. Even corn is grown 4 per square in 6". A 5 gallon bucket short-filled is 1/2 a cu. ft., the amount needed for a plant. Folks here grow giant indeterminant tomatoes 8 - 10 feet tall. The secret is good multi-sourced compost.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  southern gardener on 7/15/2014, 2:48 pm

Cranky...maybe as others have suggested, put some "regular" soil in your beds to raise the level, then top off with "good stuff".
We sort of accidentally did it with a garden, filled it with OLD pig manure/soil then topped off and it's the BEST garden!! I think the roots hit that old manure and go nuts! Look up the "Loaded Brandywines" thread and you can see some pics of our maters!
The same area is performing the same way this year!!  Good luck to you !!

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  landarch on 7/15/2014, 3:58 pm

It sounds like they either have a quality control issue or they are selling an inferior product compared to expectations.

This is one problem with not buying local where superior customer service could hook you up with what you need and keep you as a happy client.

Use the mix the best you can...you should be in good shape after it seasons in with what you have, especially if you are able to add home-made compost.  If patience gets the best of you, you could try to add an organic fertilizer like Chickity Doo Doo and/or a product like Myke (mycorrhizae - a beneficial fungus community)

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Same Issue Also

Post  newbox on 8/19/2014, 7:36 pm

I also noticed the same results with the pre mixed mels mix. I called the company and explained my issues with the mix and the manager told me someone would call me back and i never got that call. I also experienced big pieces of mulch. I also had mushroom growing like crazy in my beds. I yeilded some small crops. I have started to add hen manure,cow manure,mushroom compost to my beds. I truly thought that because Mels name and photo was on the packaging i would have a pretty good product. i would of never though that i would have purchased such a poor quality product.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  jimmy cee on 8/19/2014, 9:26 pm

I'm wondering about the use of wood chips as a base for those who would fill below M.M. ?
If a weed barrier is laid between the 2 why wouldn't that be a good choice ?

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/20/2014, 12:17 am

I'm using bark chips as a base to fill in the area one to two feet wide behind our retaining wall that holds back the hill in the back yard. Water runs down it in the spring and fall and eats away the soil behind the wall, resulting in big cracks and disappearing soil. I didn't want to put soil in there, as it would wash away too quickly and good soil isn't cheap. The bark chips are maintaining the soil height and horizontal level quite nicely.

I'd recommend it to hold its place and/or fill in spaces because its slow decay. It's often very cheap come the end of the season around here, and whatever doesn't wash away will eventually decompose and provide a richly textured base for plant roots to push through, probably with pretty good aeration.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  southern gardener on 8/20/2014, 1:15 am

@newbox wrote:I also noticed the same results with the pre mixed mels mix. I called the company and explained my issues with the mix and the manager told me someone would call me back and i never got that call. I also experienced big pieces of mulch. I also had mushroom growing like crazy in my beds. I yeilded some small crops. I have started to add hen manure,cow manure,mushroom compost to my beds. I truly thought that because Mels name and photo was on the packaging i would have a pretty good product. i would of never though that i would have purchased such a poor quality product.
We went through the same thing. After a long time, we finally got our money refunded and moved on. You can PM me if you'd like the person we finally contacted, in addition to Mel himself. I hope you can get a resolution. Not sure how many bags you bought, but it's expensive!!  Good luck!!

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Fix for the Mix

Post  crankyoldman on 8/20/2014, 12:27 pm

Since my initial post I have been experimenting with the Nature's Way Mel's Mix. The jury is still out but it appears an easy fix to the mix is rock dust applied at 1 1/2 to 2 times the suggested application.

Rock Dust is an easy to apply soil amendment and not really costly (I get mine from AMAZON). It is also long lasting so it will not require an annual application. My testing pitted the Mel's Mix with rock dust against Miracle-Grow potting soil. Tomato seeds sprouted 2 days sooner in the Mel's Mix and after 14 days the plants were visibly larger and more robust appearing. The next phase of the test is to transplant into containers filled with the same media as used for sprouting to see if the plants continue to perform in a larger setti8ng.

Shortly after my initial post I email Nature's Way about their product, they did not reply to my message and I do not expect a reply after weeks of waiting.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  landarch on 8/20/2014, 2:12 pm

Using wood chips as filler under Mels Mix could steal available nitrogen as it decays.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/20/2014, 5:21 pm

Could be. Probably depth would make a difference.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  camprn on 8/20/2014, 6:37 pm

@landarch wrote:Using wood chips as filler under Mels Mix could steal available nitrogen as it decays.
This is a half truth and Marc makes a good point about depth. Nitrogen is tied up by the wood chips until it has decayed. One way to deal with that is the depth as Marc pointed out. Another is to, before pouring in the garden mix, feed the wood chips some nitrogen so it is not robbed from the garden mix. Sprinkling a bit of dried blood on the chips would help.

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I finally heard for the Nature's Way folks

Post  crankyoldman on 8/21/2014, 12:31 pm

I finally heard from the Nature's Way folks, I sent email again to all the addresses on their Contact page; a reply came today from a Rick Johnson who explained that they produce the product in three different facilities, each with a different compost mix. He additionally explained that last year one of their facilities failed to include one of the components for the mixture. This indicates to me that the SFG mix one gets can differ from purchase to purchase depending on which facility the product is produced at.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  landarch on 8/21/2014, 2:01 pm

people should experiment on a small scale to see if it's beneficial, neutral, or detrimental to their SFG.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

Post  Windmere on 8/21/2014, 3:20 pm

Well said.

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Re: Premixed Mel's Mix needs something

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