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Hey! from Southern Maryland

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Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  dawnberezoski on 5/6/2016, 8:06 am

My name is Dawn and this will be my first year with square foot gardening.  I have had productive gardens for years, but the area I have had my garden recently does not get enough sun for a lot of plants.  I will be putting in new garden beds and want to get started right.  I am currently exploring my options on the most economical way to make Mel's Mix.  Hoping for excellent results!

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 5/6/2016, 9:32 am

Welcome to the forum, Dawn! I joined less than a month ago, and I've been SFG-ing for less than a year. I'm in central Pennsylvania, probably about one grow zone north of you, best I can tell. Will your new garden beds be in a better lit area? The area my beds are in has less than ideal sunlight due to house and tree shadows, but I've been really happy with what I've been able to grow.

For my Mel's Mix (MM) I got a bulk delivery of compost made from local yard waste, and used that as most of my compost portion. If you're going big and economical, look into bulk options, but remember to factor in the delivery costs -- unless you have a vehicle capable of bulk holding quantities. 

I'm not an expert, but it looks like some people have had some growth issues (not dire, but perhaps worth trying to avoid) with Mel's Mix made with compost from all animal sources (even 5 different ones), so even if you're not going bulk, try to include a vegetation-based compost as one or two of your choices, even if the manures are cheaper. The internet says Anne Arundel county collects yard waste, and it gets composted: where does it go? Is it available cheap back to residents?

The closest equivalent in Maryland to the product I got in my part of Pennsylvania, may be Leafgro - compost made from leaves collected in Montgomery and Prince George's County. Near Shady Side, I think the closest places to purchase it are (and I'm going entirely on internet resources which may be outdated or inaccurate):  Dick and Jane's Farm in Harwood, Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian, and Nicholson Nursery in Tracy's Landing. I have no idea of pricing, I'm afraid. Hope that helps!

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  AtlantaMarie on 5/6/2016, 10:03 am

Hi Dawn. Welcome from Atlanta, GA! Glad you're here.

I'd start by asking if you have your own compost pile.

We're here to help you all we can! :-)

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  Turan on 5/6/2016, 10:55 am

HI Dawn!

There is a great resource in Maryland for Mels Mix.   http://www.veterancompost.com/  look under products.

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  dawnberezoski on 5/6/2016, 11:16 am

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
For my Mel's Mix (MM) I got a bulk delivery of compost made from local yard waste, and used that as most of my compost portion. If you're going big and economical, look into bulk options, but remember to factor in the delivery costs -- unless you have a vehicle capable of bulk holding quantities. 

I do not have access to a vehicle like that.   Sad

I'm not an expert, but it looks like some people have had some growth issues (not dire, but perhaps worth trying to avoid) with Mel's Mix made with compost from all animal sources (even 5 different ones), so even if you're not going bulk, try to include a vegetation-based compost as one or two of your choices, even if the manures are cheaper. The internet says Anne Arundel county collects yard waste, and it gets composted: where does it go? Is it available cheap back to residents?


The closest equivalent in Maryland to the product I got in my part of Pennsylvania, may be Leafgro - compost made from leaves collected in Montgomery and Prince George's County. Near Shady Side, I think the closest places to purchase it are (and I'm going entirely on internet resources which may be outdated or inaccurate):  Dick and Jane's Farm in Harwood, Greenstreet Gardens in Lothian, and Nicholson Nursery in Tracy's Landing. I have no idea of pricing, I'm afraid. Hope that helps!

I cannot find anything that says that they have a program for the residents to get it back.  They may send it to the Leafgro people.  I have been in touch with one of the local nurseries and they do carry that in bulk.  It runs about 35 or so per yard.  

They nursery carries topsoil, manure and Leafgro.  I am considering ordering a mix of these products and then maybe adding vermiculite to that.......

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  dawnberezoski on 5/6/2016, 11:18 am

@AtlantaMarie wrote:
I'd start by asking if you have your own compost pile.
 Thanks for the welcome.  I have a huge pile of chipped tree branches in the back yard.  I have starting collecting leaves, grass clippings and kitchen waste (no meat) but have no container or space set aside as of yet to actually compost.

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  dawnberezoski on 5/6/2016, 11:23 am

@Turan wrote:There is a great resource in Maryland for Mels Mix.  
 Hi Turan!  I did check them out.  I'd need to contact them to find out what the delivery cost would be.  At 175 per yard its a little steep and money is tight right now.  I could make that stretch to 2 beds, but I'd have to bottom fill the bed with something.  They will be 8 inches deep......

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  dawnberezoski on 5/6/2016, 11:30 am

If I am reading this correctly, all plants need 6 inches worth of growing medium, correct?  The beds I am going to put together will have a depth of 8 inches.  My plan is to put down a layer of cardboard and/or newpapers on top of my native ground before putting the beds down.  I am considering putting layers of grass clippings/nitrogen rich materials down with a layer of wood chippings before I put in the growing medium........

For the growing medium, my local nursery has topsoil (yeah, no real value there), manure (probably horse since there are a ton of horse farms around us but I've never asked) and Leafgro.  I wondering if I can order at least something from here and then perhaps add some vermiculite and other composted materials and end up with something similar......  

Originally I had planned to get 5 yards delivered consisting of 2 each of topsoil and Leafgro and 1 of manure.....but am now rethinking my plans.

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  trolleydriver on 5/6/2016, 12:27 pm

@dawnberezoski wrote:If I am reading this correctly, all plants need 6 inches worth of growing medium, correct?  The beds I am going to put together will have a depth of 8 inches.  My plan is to put down a layer of cardboard and/or newpapers on top of my native ground before putting the beds down.  I am considering putting layers of grass clippings/nitrogen rich materials down with a layer of wood chippings before I put in the growing medium........


I use 2"x 8" boards (actually 1-1/2" x 7-1/2") for my SFG boxes.  Last year I put in two boxes on top of previously cultivated soil. I put weed barrier between the existing soil and the Mel's Mix. I filled the boxes almost to the top even though we only need 6 inches. I am currently in the process of adding two more SFG boxes which have been placed on top of an existing lawn. I put down two or more layers of corrugated cardboard on top of the grass then a weed barrier (may not be necessary) and then the boxes on top of that. I will not fill these new boxes to the top so there will be 6 inches of Mel's Mix and about 1-1/2 inch space on top for mulch.

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 5/6/2016, 8:40 pm

@dawnberezoski wrote:If I am reading this correctly, all plants need 6 inches worth of growing medium, correct?  The beds I am going to put together will have a depth of 8 inches.  My plan is to put down a layer of cardboard and/or newpapers on top of my native ground before putting the beds down.  I am considering putting layers of grass clippings/nitrogen rich materials down with a layer of wood chippings before I put in the growing medium........

For the growing medium, my local nursery has topsoil (yeah, no real value there), manure (probably horse since there are a ton of horse farms around us but I've never asked) and Leafgro.  I wondering if I can order at least something from here and then perhaps add some vermiculite and other composted materials and end up with something similar......  

Originally I had planned to get 5 yards delivered consisting of 2 each of topsoil and Leafgro and 1 of manure.....but am now rethinking my plans.
A few plants will grow with even less than 6". Some root vegetables take more, but you make add-ons for those squares rather than making the whole bed deeper.

Cardboard/newspapers - good! Make sure to overlap the seams between pieces -- I don't recall how many inches overlap is best. Offhand, I'd say 2 or 3.

Woodchips -- if you have creeping weeds or grasses with runners in your area, use those in the paths right along the sides of the beds to try to keep the grass/weeds away from where the bed meets the ground so they don't grow under and in. Maybe even extend your cardboard out a few inches if you have enough.

Grass clippings on the bottom. I'd advise against this. The nitrogen won't be available until the materials breakdown and there's a risk that things will start to breakdown anaerobically. With 6" medium on top (and plants) you won't be able to aerate that composting material. It may also form a matted layer than can interfere with proper drainage. There's lots of threads/people on the forum that can advise how to make compost outside your bed. And I'm a composting failure so far, so you may want to get other opinions on how trying to make compost under/in your beds would work, I might be wrong!

8" inches high works great -- but you don't actually need to fill to 8" deep inside. My beds are 8" high boards, like TD's (trolleydriver), but not filled to the top -- probably closer to 6.5" deep. I really like that wiggle room so I'm not knocking/washing media out of my beds. In the extra 2" of space you can even use those grass clippings on top as mulch instead of underneath everything.

(Horse) Manure - sounds like a great combination with the Leafgro. More kinds is probably better, but if you can only do two, I'd pick those rather than skimping on the vermiculite or peat moss. (My thinking is that since it's made from yard waste, Leafgro is probably pretty similar to the homemade compost Mel recommends using in the first place instead of buying.)

Topsoil - I'm glad you're rethinking that. I'd say don't spend money to dilute your money (i.e. purchased Mel's mix components) with dirt. (If you use topsoil you can't change your mind, and un-mix it out.)

Vermiculite (and Peat Moss): These are important. Last year I skimped on these in one of my beds (before joining this forum) and it didn't hold moisture properly - too dry. Things grew, but not as well as in the other two boxes. Between my mix settling, and having those extra 2", I had room to go back and fix my problem before the growing season this year by adding more of those and mixing them in before planting anything.

The Lowe's in Bowie looks to have 3 cu ft bags of peat moss for $10.50. Page 101 of the ANSFG says peat moss expands to double, so that's a little under $10 for enough to fill 2" of a single 4ftx8ft bed (1/3rd of 6" deep.) Vermiculite is the pricey part. The stuff I bought was $45/4 cu ft. There's a database on the forum to help find the right stuff local to you. Don't buy the little bags or the fine stuff.  

Make a least one of your boxes with just 6" of Mel's Mix (1/3 blended compost, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss) so you can see how it works. Remember, you don't have to make the whole garden at once - you can add (or wait to fill) boxes until next year, or later this year. My third 4'x8' wasn't filled until late-June of last year.

3 cubic yards of compost (the 2 leafgro and 1 manure you mention) is 81 cubic feet...a 4ftx8ftx6" bed is 16cuft, one third of that is 5.33 cubic ft ...81 cubic feet is enough to put 2" of compost (i.e. 1/3rd of 6") in fifteen 4ftx8ft beds, or fill five with 6" of compost -- and that's not including the volume of top soil you mentioned. How many beds are you planning to start with? (or did I math wrong.... thinking ... I've sometimes spent hours trying to figure out where my math went wrong...)

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/6/2016, 8:52 pm

Welcome Dawn! Just remember, absent the occasional adjustment, MM is an up front cost. So peat moss, vermiculite are really once. Compost, you will need to explore making your own after your start up!

Have you read the All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew? The answers to most of your questions are in that book! Also, the search window in our upper left hand corner is a wealth of info!

Get started, do the best you can, take notes and you will do great, and learn. We are all doing just that! flower

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  dawnberezoski on 5/6/2016, 10:36 pm

I probably won't grow any root plants in these beds, at least not yet.  

For the beds and surrounding area, I plan to just lay cardboard down everywhere and put the beds on top and then shovel those wood chips to make a path in between and all around to try to keep the weeds down.  

The only reason I was thinking about the wood chips and grass clippings in the bottom were to take up space, but I guess I won't bother with that.  There's always time for that later.  The grass clippings were only to offset the need for nitrogen that the wood would need to break down.  No biggie.  

I did find a location for vermiculite and they might have peat there as well.  I'll have to call. 

The beds I am using are going to be 3.5 feet by 7 feet.  I need about 15 sq ft for each one.  The truck can haul 5 cubic yards at one time.  I have a total of 7 beds, although only 3 were designated for vegetables.  I may have to just order what I can to start and then get the supplements and add it as I go.  I know not the preferred method of mixing but you gotta take what works.  I could get 3 yards of Leafgro and 2 yards of manure and then just add in the peat and vermiculite.  It'll work out.  I would have just gone with his bags and been happy with one bed to get started, but its 130 to ship that option was out the door.  Plus, i have other beds that need to be topped off......it won't go to waste, that's for sure.  I guess I call around and see what the prices are on the various kinds of compost.  It might be that I can just get away with the Leafpro and not worry about manure......

I cheat with that math.....they make calculators for that stuff.   geek

Thanks!

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/6/2016, 10:47 pm

I will always be completely honest...math is a non sequitur. I do not do it. Therefore, ratios yes. 1/3 peat, compost of a variety, and vermiculite. The gold standard. MM. Like I said, do the best you can, take detailed notes. Learn!

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  Turan on 5/6/2016, 10:57 pm

There have been some excellent results with packing the bottom of beds with manure and then putting the MM over the top.  It won't matter if deep plants go in to it.  Nor will it matter if it mixes upward.

putting a bed over wood fill is called Hugelkulture.  There have been some very fine results with that as well.  http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3216-hugelkulture?highlight=hugelkulture

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  sanderson on 5/7/2016, 4:46 am

Hi Dawn, Welcome to the Forum from California! glad you\'re here I had to catch up on all the replies on your thread. You have already received a lot of suggestions. Here are my 2 cents for starting the SFG beds.

Use the wood chips for the isles and perimeters. Cardboard, then chips. Use cardboard and weed fabric under the boxes.

I wouldn't put grass at the bottom of the beds in case they have weed seeds. I love horse manure. If money is tight, you could put a couple inches of slightly aged manure, or fresh manure if it's from stall straw beds and has some bedding hay stuck to it, in the bottom (Turan). If you can get some aged manure to mix with the Leafgro for the Mel's Mix, great. Peat moss is cheap and vermiculite is expensive but it's a one time investment. Consider making your own compost over in the now shady area. Leaves, horse manure, seaweed/kelp, crab shells, wilted produce, Starbucks coffee grounds . . . I have found that my little red wiggler worms love horse manure, you can add a small handful of worms to each bed, if the mix doesn't freeze up in the winter. Another subject.

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  bigdogrock on 5/8/2016, 7:29 pm

Welcome Dawn, this is a good place to learn and talk with people who like to help other gardeners. Enjoy. Rock

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  sfg4uKim on 5/8/2016, 8:51 pm

glad you\'re here from your neighbor in Glen Burnie.

I was in Lothian last weekend at Greenstreet Gardens.

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

Post  Kelejan on 5/10/2016, 2:41 pm

glad you\'re here Dawn happy hi 
from Kelejan :canada: in British Columbia.

I am so glad you are not going to put wood chips under your MM.  Wood chips on top to conserve moisture and help keep down weeds, yes,  or else on pathways.

We love to help with any of your questions as it help inform others as well. Very Happy

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Re: Hey! from Southern Maryland

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