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Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

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Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Myndale on 10/23/2015, 6:15 am

Hi everyone, first time poster here. Also a first-time gardener, other than a few herbs...this is actually the first gardening-related forum post I've ever made and I'm hoping someone can help me out. Smile

Long story short: about 6 weeks ago I bought two 1.8m x 0.7m VegTrugs and purchased a cubic meter of "composted soil" from a local supplier to fill them. Planting was a bit of a joke, I had no idea what I was doing and wish I'd stumbled across SFG beforehand. In any case I've spent the weeks since watching everything sprout plenty of new growth only to turn yellow and die off. Two weeks ago I bought a soil tester: my soil has a pH of around 8-8.5. On the advice of a a few friends I've hit it with sulphur and heaps of dynamic lifter, the plants seem to be responding better but I know it will take time.

Which brings me to SFG. I'm not holding out hope for much of a harvest this year but I'm wondering if Mel's Mix would help with the next? From reading the book I understand that I only need it 6 inches deep, but the VegTrugs go down almost a foot more than that at the deepest point. So my question is: would I be ok to scrape the top 6 inches off, mix dynamic lifter through the whole lot and then top it off with Mel's Mix? Or should I be doing everything I can to fix/replace the soil that's there before trying to grow anything more in it?
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Scorpio Rising on 10/23/2015, 7:32 am

Welcome, myndale, from Ohio, USA! Glad you came upon our little band! I looked up your VegTrugs and Dynamite Lifter. In SFG terminology, what you have is a really nice commercial table top bed and it sounds like some inferior growing medium that isn't supporting your plants very well. Your pH is very high, alkaline, and that is a problem that you are remedying.

My beds are re-purposed window boxes, and much deeper than the 6" recommended in Mel's book. Do you have a lot invested in the growing medium that is in your box now? If not, I think if I were you, I would dump it and start over with the real Mel's Mix as described in the All New Square Foot Gardening; 1/3 each compost, peat (or coconut coir) and vermiculite. That is a winner in my experience. Let's see what others here say. Lots of great gardeners here with tons of experience!

Post some pics, too, those can be very helpful!

glad you\'re here Aboard! We love people's SFG journeys!
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  AtlantaMarie on 10/23/2015, 7:42 am

Hi Myndale.  Welcome from Atlanta, GA.  And welcome to the gardening addiction!

I've got to agree w/ SR.  If you don't have a lot invested, dump it and go with Mel's Mix (MM).   

I'd also check your area for horse barns, cow farmers, chicken, llama, whatever for manure.  Maybe check your grocery store for old fruit & veggies they're discarding.  Use all of this for compost along with leaves, grass, coffee grounds, etc. 

Once you get the MM set up the first time, you'll just be adding in compost after you pull plants from their spots.
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  jimmy cee on 10/23/2015, 9:11 am

Hello and welcome.
If your bed sides need to raised to make you feel more comfortable it's easy to do.
A couple of brackets fastened easily will allow more height to be added.
With the right mix you'll not need to be concerned about height as root systems will grow horizontally
mixing with each other.

I used 8 inch planks that actually measured 7 1/2 inch's. My mix is only around 6 inches anyway.
Knowing what I know now, and not liking to spend money I would empty your beds and refill with Mel's Mix...
You will never regret it.
Two items vermiculite and peat moss are readily available or at least like material should be...
The kicker is the compost, get that started now if you haven't already do so. It is my belief gardening is secondary to composting. Since I've been composting, I have never checked for PH..
Good Luck
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Zmoore on 10/23/2015, 10:03 am

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t19584-beginner-24-deep-bed-questions?highlight=deep+beds

Hmm, I tried inserting a link, not sure if it's going to work.  If not, top left of your screen is a search box, type in "Deep Boxes", go, then look for a thread titled: "Beginner 24" Deep Beds Questions"

Lots of good input there, similar situation to yours.

My first feeling on your situation was to say go ahead and remove top 6" and replace with MM and maybe spend a little effort on improving pH of bottom "filler" soil, but don't kill yourself.  Filling entire box with MM will work, just seems like a lot of wasted MM since it only needs to be 6" deep.

Anyway, then I saw on the post I mentioned above a comment by Boffer.  Remove top 6", put down some weed mat, replace top 6" with MM.

That seem like a less wasted material situation to me.  You might have to buy some weed mat if you don't have it already though.  Also, you could save the material you remove and then later if buy another VEGTRUG, use that as filler first before you add MM.
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  sanderson on 10/23/2015, 2:10 pm

Myndale, Welcome to the Forum from California, USA! glad you\'re here You are NOT the only beginner to encounter the "failure to thrive" problem. Ask how I know! Embarassed

It's all in the compost. The "compost soil" you bought is probably the problem. Do you know what is in it? Most bagged planting soil has fertilizer which means things will start off great, then fail to thrive. Mel's Mix uses 5 different types of real compost to ensure there is a continuous release of nutrients in Nature's way. Finding 5 different sources/types of compost is the hard part. That is why so many folks make their own. Make as big a pile or cage as you can (photos will help us help you) of the ingredients Marie listed below. The pile will heat up from the microorganisms and the items will start breaking down. When little earth worms move in, you know things are going well.

Mel's mix with the multiple-ingredient compost, plus 1/3 peat moss or washed coir, plus 1/3 vermiculite usually has a fairly neutral pH. As others have mentioned, you can remove the top 6" or all of the purchased "compost soil" and replace with Mel's Mix. Or you can continue to try to improve the existing mix with the best real compost you can find.

We're rooting for you!

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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Myndale on 10/23/2015, 4:54 pm

Thanks for the tips and advice everyone, sounds like the general consensus is I should replace the lot. For reference, this is what a VegTrug looks like:



So not the same as a standard 4x4 planter but they'll fit 2x6 nicely. Volume-wise they're around 55 gallons (~208 litres)...and I have two of them! The idea of having to cart all that soil down the side of my house in buckets again and then haul in the equivalent volume of MM will be a lot of work, but if that's what has to be done...

@Zmoore: thanks for that link, that was exactly the kind of info I was after. Now that I think about it most of the VegTrug volume is at the top so taking off 6 inches will be about half the total volume anyway, but it's good to know there's that option.
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  CapeCoddess on 10/23/2015, 4:59 pm

@Myndale wrote:Thanks for the tips and advice everyone, sounds like the general consensus is I should replace the lot. For reference, this is what a VegTrug looks like:



OH!  This is SO adorable!  With SFG you wouldn't need to fill that bottom V section up with MM, just the top.  Some of us put leaves or sand or such in the bottom of taller boxes before adding the 6" or so of MM. I think whatever you have in there now will only get better by adding MM containing good compost. The bugs will multiply and travel down.

CC
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Scorpio Rising on 10/23/2015, 5:47 pm

For what it's worth, what I did with my deep boxes, was put about 1/2 the volume at the bottome of leaves, old raked out from my perennial gardens last spring. Sprinkled blood andbone meal on the leaves, as a catalyst, since I had no compost ready. Then I topped thw whole thing with MM. Had a great season, serious deflation due to the natural composting of the leaves underneath.

All in all, fill the bottom with the cheaper substandard stuff, and do the MM on top. I think inyour sitch that might be the most thrifty and efficient!?

Ring in, SFGers!
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/23/2015, 7:23 pm

Welcome!

As has been said by jimmy and sanderson among others, the soil's the thing. So you know you'll need to fix yours. Unfortunately, changing the pH of soil isn't always a quick process. Instead of trying to fix what's broke by amending the soil you have, I agree that you should start over with the top six inches or so.

You don't have throw away the stuff you pull out. At least not all of it. You can use it as the bottom in containers or other beds, or, in limited amounts, to begin a compost pile.

And as you keep growing in it and watering it, the soil will probably compact noticeably. You may find some of that top six inches freeing itself up without your having to haul as much as you thought.

As jimmy says, start working on that compost now. As in, today! Put your vegetable-based, unsalted kitchen scraps in a container until you can take it outside, and then put it in a pile or container that's protected from being torn up by local pets or wildlife.

You can even get started composting right in your garden bed. I'm doing a very small bit of that, with help from worms, in some of my small planters. Check this out:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t19996-pnw-2015-october

And last year I did it on a larger scale by sinking a large planting container(a few gallons) into the dirt and continually throwing scraps into it over the course of the year, and covering it with its own water-catching base. By the time the next growing season rolled around, there was rich black compost in the bucket. I still do that in a patch of the garden where I want to build up some nice soil.
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Myndale on 12/4/2015, 5:20 am

Hi everybody,

just wanted to post a quick follow-up to this....dontcha just hate it when you help someone out in your area of expertise and then never hear back from them again? Wink

After reading all the advice here I decided to do an experiment before laying down any extra cash. I took a round pot that was roughly a foot square (ok, so not technically SFG, but whatever), filled it with my horrible alkaline soil, added some dynamic lifter in the hope that it would help it along and then topped it off with 6 inches of MM. In this I planted the most pathetic, dying yellow plant from my VegTrug....a tomato plant that I had completely written off and watched slowly dying over the course of a couple of months. That was 4 weeks ago, here's a photo taken today:



My only regret is that I didn't take a "before" picture to post alongside, honestly you would not believe it's the same plant!

As for my VegTrugs, the plants in that have had mixed results. I've been hitting it with dynamic lifter, a chemical sulphur treatment, fertilizer and SeaSol. Some plants are responding well, others not so much. None are doing as well as the tomato plant in MM which had nothing added to it at all.

One thing I did take away from all your comments was the need to start making my own compost, and to that end I bought one of these:



As much as I hate simply throwing money at these things in the hope it'll magically make me a good gardener (it won't) I do have a very limited amount of garden space to work with, and so far this seems to be working well.

So thanks again everyone, my disastrous initial foray into vege gardening seems to be turning a corner. As crazy as it sounds I'm actually tempted to only turn one of my VegTrugs into an MM bed and see if I can turn the other one around, no matter how long it takes. It's almost as if my mentality of "I want to grow vegetables" has recently changed to "I want to learn how to grow vegetables".  Very Happy
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/4/2015, 7:52 am

Wow, myndale!  MM is the key, and you are correct in the mindset of getting into composting.  I would seriously think about turning your other trug to MM, it just works.  Good for you, and your tomato plant!


Last edited by Scorpio Rising on 12/4/2015, 7:52 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Typo)
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  AtlantaMarie on 12/4/2015, 10:19 am

Hi Myndale!  Welcome back...!

Wasn't able to see your photo for some reason, but am assuming it's doing much better, lol!  Congratulations...

Remember, it's all a learning process.  And we're here for you!

BIG hug
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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  sanderson on 12/4/2015, 12:27 pm

Myndale, Tomato is looking good! Since we are in winter, we would love to see your photos, so keep posting. Very Happy

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Re: Mel's Mix with VegTrugs

Post  AtlantaMarie on 12/4/2015, 4:12 pm

NOW I can see it!  ??? thinking

It looks great!
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