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Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

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Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  trolleydriver on Wed 23 Aug 2017 - 6:48

This year I experimented with growing tomato plants in MM and in soil amended with home made compost.  I did the same with zucchini.  Here is what I found:

Sweet Million Tomato

  • In MM the plant is 40 inches high
  • In amended soil the plant is 70 inches high


True Black Brandywine Tomato

  • In MM - 40 inches high
  • In amended soil - 50 inches high


The tomato plants grown in amended soil are producing more and better quality fruit.

Golden Zucchini

  • In MM - plant width is 31 inches and largest leaf is 7 inches
  • In regular soil in front of an old compost bin - plant width is 60 inches and largest leaf is 17 inches


The zucchini fruit production to date has been about the same on both plants but the one in soil looks to be putting on more new fruit.  It should be noted that the plant in MM gets more sun than the one in the soil next to the compost bin which you would think would help increase production for the MM based plant.

I can see the benefit of MM in Table Tops and for those who have poor soil conditions. There is also the benefit of water retention and ease of pulling out weeds in MM.  As well, using MM in my All New SFG beds allowed me to build raised beds on top of the existing soil without having to bring in more soil (of doubtful quality) or moving soil from another area of the garden which would have left a problem in the area from which it was taken. 

I have pretty good base soil in my garden to begin with even before amending it. I have had very few weeds in my two 4x4 amended soil beds this year. Perhaps the reason is that I covered one bed with cardboard and the other bed with newspaper. I amended the soil under the cardboard/newspaper with home made compost and I covered the beds over the cardboard/newspaper with partially composted stuff. 

I apologize if this offends die hard MM SFGers.


Tomatoes at the stakes in amended soil bed.




Tomatoes at the trellis in MM (may be hard to see).


Zucchini in soil in front of old compost bin.


Zucchini in MM.

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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  plantoid on Wed 23 Aug 2017 - 12:51

Nice one TD .

For those that haven't yet twigged it ........  

That's the whole idea of using " Mel's Mix "  ,  start with his mix to fill the beds initially , then build the beds to a greater fertility over time with home made quality compost. 

It works every time & is as cheap as chips  , as you'll rarely need to add anything else after year four or five of making & using your own high grade composts .
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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  CapeCoddess on Wed 23 Aug 2017 - 13:08

VERY interesting, TD! Thank you for sharing this. I wish I had your original soil, but alas, I live on a sand bar.
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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  Turan on Wed 23 Aug 2017 - 13:41

Interesting and useful comparisons, thanks TD. Along with Mr Bookers experience it is thought provoking.
At one point in time my Old Style SFG beds were a step down from the lawn. I had rototilled the old garden and then filled the beds with the loose soil. Over time and a few bags of bark in the paths and it has evened out. If I ever move I might be tempted to bring my garden soil with me.

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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  sanderson on Fri 25 Aug 2017 - 9:36

I don't want newbies to get the wrong idea. SFG works. It's a proven method.

Yes, I'm a SFG purist but my back yard is so small, that if I didn't use SFG, I would never have started a garden (much less expand it). Mel never stated (that I can find) that SFG produced bigger, better crops than amended good soil.  But, SFG works. "The method was designed for anyone to have success, with a proven recipe in a contained, organized package." (Another members statement.)  It allows one to have a garden.  It is great for Table Tops, great for off the ground beds where tree, rose or shrub roots invade beds on the ground, it's great where all one has is a balcony, patio, roof top or a drive way, or rocky or clay soil, or gophers (wire mesh bottoms).  It is easy to weed, water and tend.  It is easy to secure trellises to the boxes.

This year, I grew tomatoes in the TTs, buckets and amended soil.  The buckets are smallest and least producing.  The ones in the amended soil are the biggest with the ones in the SFG TTs just a little smaller than the amended soil.  So, my conclusion is, SFG works.  Good soil amended with MM and topped with good compost also works.

Getting a little 1'x50' strip, of miserable soil, wasted space, amended over 2 years allowed me to extend my garden and play with sunflowers, corn, sorghum, some tomatoes and okra.  I can use the precious beds for other produce, more precious produce, besides the bed hogs.


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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on Fri 25 Aug 2017 - 9:55

I like how you phrased that, Sanderson! It works. It may not always work better, but it works. Some plants have done better for me in my OSFG, other plants in my ANSFG - and whether one or the other works better sometimes just depends on the weather (or the effort I'm putting in.) ANSFG is a shortcut to getting gardening quickly. Digging and amending a 4'x8'x6" out of the lawn in clay-heavy soil with rocks is a LOT more work than filling up a 4'x8'x6" raised bed!
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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  trolleydriver on Fri 25 Aug 2017 - 10:19

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:I like how you phrased that, Sanderson! It works. It may not always work better, but it works. Some plants have done better for me in my OSFG, other plants in my ANSFG - and whether one or the other works better sometimes just depends on the weather (or the effort I'm putting in.) ANSFG is a shortcut to getting gardening quickly. Digging and amending a 4'x8'x6" out of the lawn in clay-heavy soil with rocks is a LOT more work than filling up a 4'x8'x6" raised bed!
Amen to that!

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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  sanderson on Fri 25 Aug 2017 - 10:21

Thank you, Beetles and TD

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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  ColleenW on Fri 25 Aug 2017 - 14:05

Thanks for sharing, everyone. As some of you know, I'm very new to the concept of SFG. And totally new to the concept of good soil. I thought dirt was dirt. Embarassed  But I'm reading up and next year I'm planning on creating the new MM for my raised garden bed and amending with my own compost, which I started this summer and seems to actually be creating compost!  cheers 

The reason SFG appeals to me is because:

  • I have very little yard space.
  • My soil is rocky (and seems to be different in each part of my yard--my perennial flowers grow twice as big on one side of the porch than on the other side).
  • The veggies I've grown in pots on my porch haven't done well--I think it's because the porch is south-facing and gets very hot in the afternoon.
  • I'm not familiar with the history of this yard. The house was built in 1880 and who knows who put down what into the ground over the years? My biggest concern is where weedkiller, etc might have been used.
  • And all of that brings me to my heart's desire: Growing a large variety of veggies!

My raised beds were a good learning experience this summer and are ready for me to really test drive SFG next summer. I appreciate this discussion, will be mulling it over. I really had no idea gardening was as much of an art as a science. I'm learning to manage my expectations as well as learning to leave myself open to happy surprises.
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Re: Experiment - Amended Soil and MM

Post  sanderson on Fri 25 Aug 2017 - 16:27

Colleen, You listed some valid points on why SFG is best for you. Congrats on making your own compost. A house built in 1880 probably has a lot of 50% lead-based paint chips in the perimeter soil.

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