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Topsoil question

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Topsoil question

Post  MrBooker on 8/25/2016, 9:54 am

My wife bought some Scotts Premium topsoil to fill in some low spots in the yard. When I open the bag, I notice the soil was dry and had a rich black color. Some of the clumps crumbled easily.

 The ingredients are: peat, composted forest products, aged rice hulls (or compost) and sphagnum peat moss. Good thing is, it's on sale for .50 cnts for a .75 cubic foot bag.

My question is, could this be counted as one of the 5 kinds of bagged compost?
I have 2 1/2 bags left over and I'm in the process of putting together another 4x8 bed. Would it be ok to use the 2 1/2 bags of topsoil in my new bed.??

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  Robbomb116 on 8/25/2016, 10:40 am

I'm a newbie,  so take this with a huge grain of salt, but I would guess you could some of it the catch being to cut back on your normal amount of peat moss as the top soil contains some.   If the packaged says what percent of each ingredient it contains that would make it easier to decide if it's worth trying to use / how much peat moss is in it.   

It might not say percentages though.   My guess is if it's that cheap though it's probably not very high quality compost, so I'd make sure the others are from a decent source Iif you try to use it.   

It might not be worth it in the end,  but I totally understand the desire to use what you got and save a few bucks!  Just some things I would consider when trying to make this decision.   But definitely wait for more postpone yup respond than just me; I haven't even successfully grown anything yet,  so I'm in no position to give advice!

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  Robbomb116 on 8/25/2016, 10:45 am

One afterthought: since the main source of compost in the top soI'll sounded to be from composted forest products, it might pay off to see if your other types of compost contain forest products.   If they don't,  maybe the topsoil could be useful as a new type of compost to add a different variety / balance of nutrients.   If your other composts already have a decent amount of forest products,  mixing in the top soil might not add much of worth to your blend.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  MrBooker on 8/25/2016, 11:19 am

@Robbomb116 wrote:One afterthought: since the main source of compost in the top so I'll sounded to be from composted forest products, it might pay off to see if your other types of compost contain forest products.   If they don't,  maybe the topsoil could be useful as a new type of compost to add a different variety / balance of nutrients.   If your other composts already have a decent amount of forest products,  mixing in the top soil might not add much of worth to your blend.
  The spot where I'm putting my new 4x8 bed has a low spot in the middle so I'll just use the topsoil to get my ground level then put down the weed barrier and fill with MM.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  Robbomb116 on 8/25/2016, 1:37 pm

Might be the safe way to go.   Still get some use out of it too!  Hate letting things go to waste...

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  jimmy cee on 8/25/2016, 10:18 pm

These ideas I am noting here are just mine. I don't want to come along as a know t all, however there are a few books I have read that have proven their value to me..
Top soil is worthless in a vegetable bed. it has a compaction value not wanted in a garden bed. I use nothing with top soil listed in ingredients. ( excellent for grass areas )
 When ever I see the name products I become concerned, ( composted forest products )..never really know what the products are. Best to get into the woods and scrape some real forest products, extremely rich in fungal growth, I would add it along with compost and also in with my compost pile.
Peat and peat moss will already be in the mix, so that's wasted.
Rice hulls ? A worthy addition to the compost pile, rich in potash, it also makes a good mulch.
 Making your mix especially a first for a bed is so important, you do not want to deviate, using questionable material.
Anything I purchase I consider questionable. There are some great products to be purchased, to be added along with compost..Biochar, chickitty doo do, blood meal, bone meal. fish emulsion are my main purchases.
Here is a valuable book on composting....below this book is how fungi helps add bulk to roots,
good luck



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Re: Topsoil question

Post  Kelejan on 8/26/2016, 12:40 am

Mr. Booker, I agree with putting this topsoil as a filler in the low spot in your bed.

I feel the important thing is to encourage all the creatures that make up the Soil Web.
Put "Soil Web" in the search box in the top left hand corner of this page and see what you come up with.

Edited: Well, blow me down, but nothing came up and I was sure there would be heaps about the Soil Web. I think what happened is that those two words do not appear in any heading which is why nothing shows.

I believe  jimmi cee knows a lot about it.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  sanderson on 8/26/2016, 4:33 am

Kelejan,  is this the thread you we thinking of?  http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20218-microbes-you-gotta-see-this-one

Mr. Booker,  If you are only using it as a filler under the weed fabric, it would be okay.  Maybe hill it slightly as it will break down.
The spot where I'm putting my new 4x8 bed has a low spot in the middle so I'll just use the topsoil to get my ground level then put down the weed barrier and fill with MM.

Rob, The product has too much peat and if there are wood chips, it will just tie up the nitrogen while it breaks down. It would be okay to use to amend dirt as long as there are plenty of good composts added for nutrients.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  MrBooker on 8/26/2016, 6:23 am

@jimmy cee wrote:These ideas I am noting here are just mine. I don't want to come along as a know t all, however there are a few books I have read that have proven their value to me..
Top soil is worthless in a vegetable bed. it has a compaction value not wanted in a garden bed. I use nothing with top soil listed in ingredients. ( excellent for grass areas )
 When ever I see the name products I become concerned, ( composted forest products )..never really know what the products are. Best to get into the woods and scrape some real forest products, extremely rich in fungal growth, I would add it along with compost and also in with my compost pile.
Peat and peat moss will already be in the mix, so that's wasted.
Rice hulls ? A worthy addition to the compost pile, rich in potash, it also makes a good mulch.
 Making your mix especially a first for a bed is so important, you do not want to deviate, using questionable material.
Anything I purchase I consider questionable. There are some great products to be purchased, to be added along with compost..Biochar, chickitty doo do, blood meal, bone meal. fish emulsion are my main purchases.
Here is a valuable book on composting....below this book is how fungi helps add bulk to roots,
good luck


Thanks Jimmy. 30 years ago, I thought topsoil was the best thing on the planet. 
I still see signs, "Topsoil for sale" and I've some old timers use the phrase "Good rich topsoil"......

        I've done some research on it and you are correct. It is almost worthless. I have some low spots in my yard where I will use the topsoil this fall. Thanks for your input.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  jimmy cee on 8/26/2016, 11:02 am

@Kelejan wrote:Mr. Booker, I agree with putting this topsoil as a filler in the low spot in your bed.

I feel the important thing is to encourage all the creatures that make up the Soil Web.
Put "Soil Web" in the search box in the top left hand corner of this page and see what you come up with.

Edited: Well, blow me down, but nothing came up and I was sure there would be heaps about the Soil Web. I think what happened is that those two words do not appear in any heading which is why nothing shows.

I believe  jimmi cee knows a lot about it.
Should be soil food web

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  jimmy cee on 8/26/2016, 11:09 am

MrBooker.
Top soil has it's place, not in a garden though.
Years ago we stripped a lot of top soil off a river bottom area. needing to get at the stone below, the top soil was saved in large piles and then trucked to sales points.
It is great for establishing lawns and such, compaction after seeding is good for a lawn, however it needs aeration from time to time..Many folk use it because it is easily purchased and when loose looks great.
I never realized this until II started the SFG program, and found the beauty of composting.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  yolos on 8/26/2016, 12:25 pm

@MrBooker wrote:My wife bought some Scotts Premium topsoil to fill in some low spots in the yard. When I open the bag, I notice the soil was dry and had a rich black color. Some of the clumps crumbled easily.

 The ingredients are: peat, composted forest products, aged rice hulls (or compost) and sphagnum peat moss. Good thing is, it's on sale for .50 cnts for a .75 cubic foot bag.

My question is, could this be counted as one of the 5 kinds of bagged compost?
I have 2 1/2 bags left over and I'm in the process of putting together another 4x8 bed. Would it be ok to use the 2 1/2 bags of topsoil in my new bed.??
As far as I am concerned this is not soil.  It is not made of minerals (which I thought was what differentiated soil from compost).  Minerals may not be the correct term.  Compost made of peat, forest products, rice hulls will eventually completely decompose.  I don't think soil will completely decompose because of the makeup of the soil.  

I have been looking for some true soil (or maybe I should be calling it dirt) and can't find any bagged product that is not made of compostable products or products that will eventually disappear from decomposition.

https://southwestgardener.com/soil-vs-compost/

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  landarch on 8/26/2016, 1:37 pm

From my experience, it is difficult to beat native loam soils (mixture of sand, silt, clay, organic particles, living organisms, etc)...for their ability to drain, retain water, retain nutrients, etc. 

Mels Mix is good for some things...like being weed free and draining really well, however my veggies grown in native loam soils do a bit better than in the SFG.

My best results is when I amend native soils with mels mix components...best of both worlds.

Be leery of anything bagged and labeled as topsoil...it really does not represent what you may actually get.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  sfg4uKim on 8/27/2016, 6:30 pm

No it would not be considered as one of the composts.

If you notice, the first ingredient was peat. Once I called a "compost" manufacturer when I notice the first ingredient on the bag of "compost" was peat. When I asked what was the percentage of each ingredient in this "compost" they proudly told me, "Our compost is not more than 80% peat and not less than 20% compost." Wait! What? Shocked Shocked Shocked Shocked Aren't you selling me an expensive bag of peat? CLICK. Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  sanderson on 8/28/2016, 12:45 am

Landarch, I'm sorry your Mel's Mix alone doesn't work for you. Can you share your recipe and % of ingredients?

Kim, Great catch! Sometimes it's worth contacting the company. Very Happy

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  sfg4uKim on 8/28/2016, 11:29 pm

Soooooo, how many people have good loam in their back yards? The whole reason Mel went from his original SFG method (amending your existing soil) to the All New method and developed Mel's Mix is because so few people actually have good native soil.  

It takes the average person TONS of amendments and a lot of back breaking work for a good seven years to turn their native soil into really good lam. Mel's Mix was developed to allow gardeners to start with perfect soil from day one. 

LOL I personally am lazy and would not want to work that hard to develop my nasty clay soil into something usable. Mel's Mix makes SO much more sense for me.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  sanderson on 8/29/2016, 3:41 am

Amen, and I don't even have the worst dirt! Ours is a sandy hard pan that can drown plants. When we moved in, husband had to trench and hole-punch down 3' before planting. We filled the holes and trenches with native fill and Kellogg's. Taking Mel's method one step further, elevating the SFG beds prevents invasive roots and plants, and reduces the chance of wind/lawnmower transported weed seeds.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  landarch on 8/29/2016, 5:36 pm

I make Mels Mix by the book...1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost (home made with horse, cow, chicken, rabbit manures, coffee grounds, kitchen and garden scraps, lawn clippings, fall leaves, etc.).

I really like Mels Mix, however I find my veggies in native soil amended with compost do a bit better...and with less water.  

I treat all my gardening methods as one big experiment...I am not a SFG purist especially when there are other successful methods that don't have the added cost of vermiculite and peat.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  yolos on 8/29/2016, 8:49 pm

@landarch wrote:I make Mels Mix by the book...1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 peat, 1/3 compost (home made with horse, cow, chicken, rabbit manures, coffee grounds, kitchen and garden scraps, lawn clippings, fall leaves, etc.).

I really like Mels Mix, however I find my veggies in native soil amended with compost do a bit better...and with less water.  

I treat all my gardening methods as one big experiment...I am not a SFG purist especially when there are other successful methods that don't have the added cost of vermiculite and peat.
I am having the same kind of results as landarch.  1/4 of my garden is composed of 50% original soil and 50% MM.  I only have to water that part of my garden once a week even in the heat of the summer.  I have to water the MM SFG beds every other day.  It is too difficult to keep the MM hydrated.  If my growing season was only a few months long, it wouln't be so bad.  On the other hand, things grow just as well in the MM as they do in the non MM, they just need more water more often.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  trolleydriver on 8/29/2016, 9:50 pm

My regular garden soil grows veggies just as well (in some cases better) than my MM filled boxes. The problem for me is the weeds. They are easy to control in the MM but not in the regular soil beds. But I may have solved that problem by putting down a thick layer of straw on the regular soil. The MM is much easier to work (i.e., no heavy digging like regular soil). I have not had a big problem with keeping the MM hydrated. I rarely water the SFG. We seem to get enough rain to take care of that. I do give it a really good soaking if we are going to be away for a few days. The TT is a bit more problematic when we are away but even it has survived really well when we have been away for up to 10 days during a hotter than normal summer.  Our growing season is short but my soil and the weather seem quite suitable to getting good crops.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  yolos on 8/29/2016, 11:17 pm

Ok, so what is the difference between your SFG's TD, and my SFG's ability to retain moisture.  

Temperature - One thing that affects moisture retention is temperature.  In July, Ottawa had one day where the high temp was above 90* F (according to the Weather station in our strap lines) and the average high temperature was 82*F.  Brooks, Ga had 27 days where the high temp was above 90*F and the average high temperature was 94*F.  

Rainfall - Ottawa and Brooks had almost the same rainfall in July.

Condition of MM - My SFG beds and MM is 5 years old and TD's is maybe 2+ years old.  I would expect maybe that I need to seriously recondition my beds as Camprn suggested.  Maybe it is the factor that my home made compost is so finely sifted that it just will not retain enough water.  I have been thinking about adding the almost finished compost without sifting it thereby allowing larger pieces of compost to maybe absorb more water.

Mulch - It doesn't seem to matter what type of mulch I use (usually wheat straw) so I don't know if that is a factor.  

Underlying Soil - My soil, under the MM is hard clay.  The soaker hose runs, the water trickles down (9-1/2 inch deep beds) until it hits the clay and then seeps out the bottom of the bed.

What I don't understand is how the folks in CA keep their beds hydrated without watering every day given their high temps.  I know a couple of them have converted some of the beds to BTE so that may be one answer.  

TD, I don't mean to single out your response, I am just trying to figure out why I have such a hard time keeping my beds hydrated.  Because of the Southern Blight in my soil, I am going to have to start over in many of my beds and I have been debating with myself about whether to use straight MM or mix in about 50% true soil.

Sanderson - how do you keep your beds hydrated.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  sanderson on 8/30/2016, 4:25 am

Oh, my, this is kind of complicated.  How to keep the MM moist during summer?

First a clarification.  Audrey and I have not converted any of our beds to BTE.  We have expanded the growing area by amending unusable areas in the BTE fashion.  Compost and ramial chips.  Audrey's is super thick, like 1 foot to 2 feet (2) deep, depending on the hilly slope.  Mine is only 3" right now Embarassed but will get 2-3" of horse manure under the chips to mature this winter.

My beds are all TTs with exposed plywood bottoms, so once the water drains, it's gone. In fact, water drains out between the plywood bottom and first row of 2x4, and the gap between the first row and second row of 2x4, so I am in the process of caulking the joints with silicon. I have drip irrigation but it only runs 15 min 2x week. I use a hose wand to uniformly water. I run the water between 2-3 gallons per minute (I tested it) and hold the wand for maybe 5 seconds = 1 quart per square. The thicker the straw mulch, the wetter it stays. Everything gets some kind of shade assistance when it's over 100*F. Translated = June-August. Our humidity is dry. When we get a hot wind, everything suffers. We usually get one summer shower in July or August, but it looks like it is passing this year.

Audrey uses a thick layer of wood chips (maybe some areas with straw?) to prevent evaporation. I think she waters the SFG beds slowly for a long time. Hope she pops in on this.

I'm trying to find the right blend of chunky compost vs. screened compost. Chunky dries out faster in the summer but the finer compost stays wet during the winter. thinking

I don't think my answer helps you. I just wanted to go over what I have in place. And, Yolos, I'm so sorry about the Southern Blight. How heart breaking.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  trolleydriver on 8/30/2016, 7:58 am

@yolos wrote:...
TD, I don't mean to single out your response, I am just trying to figure out why I have such a hard time keeping my beds hydrated.  ...
yolos ... not a problem ... those are all valid points that you made. Best wishes.

The point I am making is that I can grow veggies in my existing soil or in my SFG MM. I do like my SFG beds. The soil gardens are good for certain crops that I would not grow in MM or that take up too mush space in the SFG beds.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  landarch on 8/30/2016, 11:36 am

I love my mels mix for seeding carrots and beets for several reasons...I can plant with just a finger, no soil crusting, little to no weeds, root crops like these love loose soil, etc. 

I just seem to have problems with mels mix drying out in the brutal summer sun/heat...and that is a challenge for shallow seed beds for fall crops, especially beets.  When I keep the top layers moist enough for germination I tend to have problems with fall beets dampening off.

Some of my best SDG boxes are built over really good native soils...and the soil has been slowly mixing over time to make some really good stuff.

This fall I'm also trying something recommended by Jimmy C...I used to grab a spade and turn my mels mix through the entire bed to break up compaction, settling, root masses form previous crops, work in new compost, etc...this year I'm adding new mels mix to the top and slightly working into the surface, trying to leave the organic web in place beneath the surface...we'll see how it goes.

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Re: Topsoil question

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 8/30/2016, 4:19 pm

The soil in my gardening area seems to be patchwork/highly variable. Some areas have very little soil depth before running into clay or gravel. Other areas have a good texture to a nice depth. My garden is part ANSFG, and part dirt amended to varying degrees. I'll be switching over some of the dirt to additional raised beds now that I've saved up a little more $ for MM components. I won't be using a weed barrier of any sort so that the veggies can easily reach into the dirt if they want, since I've already mostly de-weeded it. However, as others have said, there are plants I would not put in raised beds (Jerusalem artichokes, for instance.) Likewise there are plants I wouldn't bother trying in the dirt again - carrots, for instance (could not get any of them to germinate.)

My experience is that some vegetables grow better in my MM, others don't seem to care whether they are in MM or the slightly amended dirt. Weeds haven't been a big problem for me in either MM or my dirt. I've had some issues with grass going from the paths into the MM, but wood-chipping the paths has helped. Like TD, I've used straw in some locations for weed control on dirt and it's been quite effective for me. Watering - last year I didn't have a problem with the MM going dry, this year I had some issues with that. The dirt has sufficient clay that the dirt portions of my garden have needed less watering. I have had somewhat less issue with slugs in the raised beds with MM than the dirt portions -  probably a combination of less water retention yielding a dryer environment, and the texture of MM not being as amendable to naturally forming slug caves.

BeetlesPerSqFt

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Re: Topsoil question

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