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First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

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First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  Aspen71 on 2/11/2015, 11:26 am

I have two 4x4 square foot beds.  The first year my harvest was great!  The second year was so-so, even though I added mushroom compost.  Last year was the 3rd year and the harvest was pretty disappointing even though I amended with bagged compost.  Out of desperation I added some organic fertilizer.  This year I am considering removing 1/3 of the mix from the boxes and adding a lot of compost from a variety of sources.  Anyone else have this experience?  What did you do to get things growing well again?

Thanks!

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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  johnp on 2/11/2015, 12:54 pm

The  all new SFG book says you need compost from at least 5 different sources. My second year was a disappointment as I refreshed the MM with a single source compost. The last three years I have used a combination of my own compost with compost from manure, wood, grain, worm castings, grasses, cotton ball,  and others as I find them. It works. Just get a variety of composts and refresh your boxes, no need to remove any unless they are totally full.
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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  VJ72584 on 2/11/2015, 1:19 pm

When you add compost to your box, I think it should have 5 different types in it. If I mix up the five kinds, I may not use all of it to fill the box the first time.  I put the leftover in a plastic tub and when I replant, I use that compost that already has the five types in it.  I am getting ready to plant soon. I will mix all the types together on a tarp and then add about a trowel (or a little more) to each square and rake it all in and mix well.  Whatever is left will go into the tub to be used as I replant squares that are finished producing.

I still find that something that grows great this year will have an off year the next. I chalk it up to mother nature.
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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  sanderson on 2/11/2015, 1:24 pm

Hi Aspen,  Welcome to the SFG Forum from California!  glad you\'re here

We are here to help you get back to great gardening.  Not everyone has successful gardens, but with a little detective work, we (the collective group of friendly, helpful folks here on the Forum) can usually get someone back on track to happy gardening.  So, that said, don't remove any Mix at this point.

What did you do the first year that made your garden great?  Did you use the Mel's Mix (MM) recipe for making your Mix.  Did you use 1/3 fluffed peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite or perlite, and 1/3 compost made from at least 5 different sources of compost?  What were the composts you used?  This is probably the most important part of making a nutritious MM.

Each time you replant (is it once a year where you live?) you are suppose to add 5-source blended compost.  You state you added only mushroom compost the second year and bagged compost the third year.  This is like a person eating only once type of veggie, say turnips, and saying they eat their veggies.  They are only getting one group of vitamins and minerals in their diet.  If they ate a little from each group of veggies, they would be getting all of the vitamins and minerals possible.

Mushroom compost is just one source of compost.  Nice, but incomplete.  Bagged "compost" often has a lot of little pieces of wood which have not fully composted, thereby, tying up the nitrogen until they are fully composted.  My personal mistake when I first strted 24 moonths ago, was to use bagged compost, only, as the compost 1/3.  I read the ingredients and saw it had over 5 different ingredients so I called it good.  Boy was I wrong.   Embarassed I had to use a little bit of Miracle Grow to keep things growing.  When the Folks showed me what I mis-interpreted, I set about correcting it immediately by adding a little bagged composted,manure, and worm castings and sea kelp.  AND, building my own compost pile so I could insure a variety of things to compost.  My beds have gotten richer and richer by adding a proper, balanced compost mix at planting time.

I'm sorry for all the questions, but we want to help you have a happy 4th year.   Very Happy

Adding at least one source of farm manure is important.

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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  llama momma on 2/11/2015, 1:29 pm

If all you added was mushroom compost the 2nd year then it was not enough.

Bagged compost is a huge gamble, you have to be wary of poor quality contents in many cases. 


Keep in mind finished 5 way (or more)compost that you make yourself is the best nutritional source for your garden.  Add some every time you harvest a square.  Left over or extra finished compost can be stored and further cured until needed.

I haven't purchased any fertilizer in nearly 5years since I began sq. ft. gardening.
Honestly, well made compost with a minimum of 5 sources really does take good care of the garden.
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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  Aspen71 on 2/11/2015, 1:35 pm

Thanks, everyone!  I did use the 1/3 peat moss, vermiculite and compost the first year.  Honestly, I cannot remember the brands of compost I bought.  The second year I used leftover compost from bags that had sat in the garage for a year.  It was dry and probably dead. (Someone at the garden center said I could still use it.)  So this year I will buy no less than 5 kinds of compost, and try to find local sources.

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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  llama momma on 2/11/2015, 1:50 pm

okay
Looks like we jumped on you all at the same time! hyper
Don't mind us, we just want to help you be successful
hyper
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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  camprn on 2/11/2015, 3:30 pm

@Aspen71 wrote:I have two 4x4 square foot beds.  The first year my harvest was great!  The second year was so-so, even though I added mushroom compost.  Last year was the 3rd year and the harvest was pretty disappointing even though I amended with bagged compost.  Out of desperation I added some organic fertilizer.  This year I am considering removing 1/3 of the mix from the boxes and adding a lot of compost from a variety of sources.  Anyone else have this experience?  What did you do to get things growing well again?

Thanks!
Yes I have. one trowel full of compost is simply not enough to feed the next season plants. What I do is dump a whole wheel barrow full of compost into a bed. My compost has a bunch of different stuff in it from coffee grounds to chopped leaves to poultry litter. It make my garden grow wonderfully.

If I may, mushroom compost is mostly fluff and not a lot of nutrients. Wink This is why Mel recommends a mix of composts when making the Mel's mix.

Now, I reccomend next season make a blend of composts, including animal compost (cow, steer,sheep, goat, llama, poultry, whatever) or use your own homemade compost.YOu do not need more vermiculite or peat moss. Put at LEAST a shovelful per square or a whole wheelbarrow full into a 4X4 bed. then mix it in with the existing MM.

That should give you some good results.


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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  AtlantaMarie on 2/11/2015, 3:48 pm

Hi Aspen.  Welcome from Atlanta, GA.

Gotta agree w/ what everyone's saying about the mix...

We'll give you all the help we can.
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Re: First year was great, following years pretty disappointing

Post  sanderson on 2/11/2015, 4:24 pm

@camprn wrote:
Yes I have. one trowel full of compost is simply not enough to feed the next season plants. What I do is dump a whole wheel barrow full of compost into a bed.  . .  Put at LEAST a shovelful per square or a whole wheelbarrow full into a 4X4 bed. then mix it in with the existing MM.

That should give you some good results.
I agree with the rest of Camp's reply, but this one part is so true in my experience.  A trowel may work for one little lettuce, but it takes shovels' full to bring a box's level back up to its original height of mix.

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