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How long does MM last

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How long does MM last

Post  ralitaco on 9/28/2014, 1:56 pm

I am trying to determine if the Mels Mix I have is still good / usable.

I have 2 4x4 beds that are sitting on the ground. They have not had anything planted in them for since summer of 2010. Grass has grown up through the weed cloth. Back in July my daughter pulled the grass / weeds from one of the beds and only a couple of sprigs have come back up. The other bed is still full of grass / weeds. 

I also have enough MM for another 4x4 stored in my shed. It is from the same batch that was mixed back in 2010 but I never made a third bed to use it and it has been in bags and tubs in the shed for the past 4 years.

I am thinking that I read that MM lasts because the Vermiculite and Peat Moss dont break down but the Compost needs to be added becuase it breaks down.  So I think I can use the 2010 batch of MM but will need to add compost to the ones that have been sitting in the yard. Not sure if I need to add to the batch in the shed.

Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  sanderson on 9/28/2014, 2:44 pm

I'm sure others will respond to your question(s) - here's my 2 cents. Throwing away MM would break any SFG gardener! sobbing

The stored MM can be used. Mix in some fresh compost to get it re-inoculated with living microbes. Water well and wait a few days before planting.

The MM in the unused box can brought backto original height with new compost and then used with a few considerations. If the grass really grew UP though the weed cloth, do you want to replace the weed cloth? Is the grass an invasive root type where it might be better to either raise the box against future grass growing up through the bottom or to remove the mix, layer cardboard for ground control, then put new weed fabric in? It would be good to screen the MM to remove roots which should be numerous by now. If the roots are from invasive grass, do you have the patience to thoroughly screen out all of those roots for sure? Did the grass go to seed so that you will be pulling grass weeds for a long time? If so, I would plant varieties of 1/sq so I would definitely know what is the plant and what are the weeds/grass germinating.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ralitaco on 9/28/2014, 3:12 pm

Sanderson, thanks for the quick response...as always. (sometimes I think you and I are the only ones on the forum  Very Happy)

I forgot to mention that I am not planning on leaving the boxes on the ground. I am in the process of building my Elevated beds and want to move the MM into them. Part of the reason they sat for 4 years was due to them being on the ground and I have become fat and lazy and didn't enjoy having to get up and down on the ground. 

I like your idea about planting the 1/sq to make sure what pops up is what I planted because I am such an amateur, I would probably not know a carrot top from a weed.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/28/2014, 3:26 pm

Your likely worst case scenario would be that you have less than nutritious soil plus a lack of native soil organisms. Compost plus perhaps a bit of native soil to supplement the live biologicals in your soil should help address both problems.

You could always try the test used to check seed viability to give you more information on your soil's vitality.

Test-plant some plants, either something noted to be especially fast and easy to germinate, like small radishes, or plants more like the ones you were hoping to grow. See if they germinate well and how they grow. Do they struggle to grow into their first or second set of true leaves? Do they seem to stall out at any point? After a month you should have a better idea of how good your growth medium still is, at the cost of some seeds, which are cheaper to buy than compost.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  camprn on 9/28/2014, 3:29 pm

My advice is keep it simple: pull the weeds now, before they can drop more seed, and fill the boxes with new well rounded compost, mix it up and plant. It will work! okay

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  sanderson on 9/28/2014, 4:17 pm

Ralitaco, It just seems like I'm always on the computer. It's just in a central location so I can easy check in. I stay logged in so in the morning, I just bring up the computer with my second cup of coffee.

I forgot that you are in the process of raising your beds. That simplifies things since you will be emptying the boxes anyway. Pull the weeds, shaking out clumps of roots, add new compost, and plant.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ralitaco on 4/8/2015, 10:20 pm

I have decided to put my "Stored" MM in the new 4x4 that I built.
As for the stuff with the grass growing in it, I am pretty sure I am going to build a 4x8 and just put all that MM in that one box. Of course I might want to do 2 - 4x4's but either way, I am going to re-use what I have and hope for the best. Worst case is that it keeps growing grass and I keep weeding it like an old-fashioned row garden until either the grass or I give up.

Now I just have to finish building the boxes and get some compost...hopefully I will have this going by the end of the month.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ps1914 on 4/21/2015, 12:14 pm

I am in the same boat! My husband made me a total of 9- 4x4 square foot garden beds but we made the mistake of putting them on the ground  Evil or Very Mad Even though we removed the grass/weeds underneath and used a mulch cover as described in the book, the nasty stuff came back up through after a few years. I loved the ease of the beds before that though!  Smile  So now I am going to all the trouble of raising the beds off the ground completely. Well ok, mostly my husband is doing the work but I am trying to clear out all the weeds and roots and remove the dirt so we lift them up and he will build the legs and put a bottom on it for me. Looking forward to seeing how stuff will grow in the elevated beds! Anyone on here using just elevated beds?? I am going to leave the boxes where they are in our regular dirt garden because it is all fenced and protected from the deer, rabbits, etc. Just have to figure out how to run some sort of watering system to the finished boxes once elevated.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ralitaco on 4/21/2015, 1:59 pm

@ps1914 wrote:I am in the same boat! My husband made me a total of 9- 4x4 square foot garden beds but we made the mistake of putting them on the ground  Evil or Very Mad Even though we removed the grass/weeds underneath and used a mulch cover as described in the book, the nasty stuff came back up through after a few years. I loved the ease of the beds before that though!  Smile  So now I am going to all the trouble of raising the beds off the ground completely. Well ok, mostly my husband is doing the work but I am trying to clear out all the weeds and roots and remove the dirt so we lift them up and he will build the legs and put a bottom on it for me. Looking forward to seeing how stuff will grow in the elevated beds! Anyone on here using just elevated beds?? I am going to leave the boxes where they are in our regular dirt garden because it is all fenced and protected from the deer, rabbits, etc. Just have to figure out how to run some sort of watering system to the finished boxes once elevated.

PS, Welcome aboard the SS Weedy Beds...Our activities director has some exciting activities planned for us, including sifting Mels Mix to remove Grass roots AND Assembling Table Top beds. Woohoo!

I am currently using some 1/2" hardware cloth to sift out the roots from the MM that was in my ground beds. So far I have just about filled a 3 gallon bucket with those nasty things. I will post some pictures of my set up a little later on. Since I am planning on building some 2x8 beds, I am thinking about tacking down some 1/4" hardware cloth on top of the new 2x bed and re-sifting the weed filled MM a second time. I have to admit, I was surprised that the felt type weed cloth did not disentegrate and I was able to easily tell when I hit the bottom of the box and I didn't dig up any native soil.

As far as others that use Elevated beds or Table Top beds, Boffer and Sanderson come to mind. I know there are lots more, so search table, table top, tabletop, etc and see what you find. Some folks use plywood bottoms, others use hardware cloth. Some folks use wood legs others use cinder blocks.

Here are some threads to get you started:

Table Top Threads
MY other thread "Adventures in Table Top"
TSHRED's Very nice Elevated Beds
Boffer's Tutuorial: Building a Table Top SFG...some ideas
Gwennifer's Table Tops


Mels Mix Threads (I know you didn't ask about this but I found them helpful)
Rejuvenate Mels Mix
Another one of my threads: Compost to Re-activate old Mels Mix
Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?


One last thing...the height of the bed can vary, the one I have is about waist high (I will measure later) and I think it is maybe 6" too high. I am thinking about cutting down the legs at some future time. 
I know Sanderson has some that are about 4-6" off the ground.

Good luck

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  boffer on 4/21/2015, 2:55 pm

@ralitaco wrote:...One last thing...the height of the bed can vary, the one I have is about waist high (I will measure later) and I think it is maybe 6" too high. I am thinking about cutting down the legs at some future time. 
I know Sanderson has some that are about 4-6" off the ground....

We haven't talked about the height of TTs in a while. Very Happy

When looking for the best TT height for you, I suggest considering the height of your kitchen counters.  The standard height for kitchen counters has been 36 inches, for decades.  Is that a comfortable height for you?  Do you wish it were higher or lower?  Plan the height of your boxes accordingly.  

I have found that 36-38 inches is my preference.  I made a couple boxes at 28-30 inches thinking it would be a better height for taller plants like broccoli.  But I didn't like that height afterall, and after a couple years I raised them.

I also increased the depth  of a couple boxes that were at 36 inches, so they ended up at 42 high.  That's too high for me; I found that I would be stretching and reaching for an inner square, and my body would crush the plants in the squares that I was reaching over.  One of these years, I'm going to take a hack saw to those legs!

I have some boxes in my greenhouse that are raised about 6 inches off the ground.  That's a good height for veggies that get planted one per square like tomatoes or broccoli.  It's not a good height for veggies like carrots and beets that have many planted per square and then need to be thinned.  I imagine somebody with healthy knees would find 6 inches off the ground easy to manage for all their veggies.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ps1914 on 4/21/2015, 3:42 pm

Thank you boffer and ralitaco! I have a lot more reading to do!

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ps1914 on 4/21/2015, 3:59 pm

oh! and I have taken *many* 5 gallon buckets full of weeds and roots to my chickens in just the 3 boxes I've got cleaned out so far! It is unbelievably awful!!!  Mad

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ralitaco on 4/21/2015, 9:23 pm

Boffer, Great points on the height and the reasoning. I think, but I still need to measure, I think that I made the bottom of the box 36, then added the 6" sides. So just remember to calculate the height including the sides. 

PS, thats alot of weeds. did you find many worms, I know I did

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ps1914 on 4/21/2015, 9:32 pm

Yes, lots of earth worms. I tried to leave them alone but I even found a few grubs and the chickens just *love* those  Laughing

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Weeds in Boxes

Post  Rahab222 on 4/22/2015, 12:21 am

Instead of putting down cardboard or newspaper, which did nothing to keep the grass from growing through the Mel's Mix, I dig all the grass out with a hand tiller I bought at Home Depot; yes, it's labor intensive.  I then put a deep layer of fall leaves in my boxes to kill the grass/weeds that may have remained and poured my Mel's Mix on top of that.  The leaves killed the grass.  I've had my boxes for 3 years and only have to pull the grass or weeds out that get in there when I weed eat around the outside of the boxes.  I'm on the bayou, so I have to keep my ground areas where I can see anything that crawls out of the bayou and into my yard.  I haven't found a way to keep the grass from weedeating from kicking up into the boxes, even though they are 12" - 18 " deep each.  However, I do not have major grass or weed issues in my boxes of Mel's Mix that are also on the ground.

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Re: How long does MM last

Post  ralitaco on 4/22/2015, 9:43 am

@Rahab222 wrote:I'm on the bayou, so I have to keep my ground areas where I can see anything that crawls out of the bayou and into my yard.
Lucky you...I thought I had it bad with hornworms Very Happy

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Lucky

Post  Rahab222 on 4/22/2015, 7:16 pm

I've only seen two horn worms in my garden.  I took a picture before crushing the first one and looked on the Internet to see what it was.

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