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How to start with your own dirt...

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How to start with your own dirt...

Post  Jenny on Fri 4 Mar 2011 - 15:37

I have a home where the boxes are already built. I have three boxes that are 10 feet by 4 feet. I want to use one of them for SFG (this is my first time trying it). Since they already have dirt in them, how do I incorporate MM? Should I dig out a bunch of the dirt and add the new stuff or can I mix them together or what?
I know that the soil is not great - I tried tomatoes last year and they had problems! I'm hoping that I can perk that area back up and get some great yields!
Thanks.

Jenny

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Re: How to start with your own dirt...

Post  kimbertangleknot on Fri 4 Mar 2011 - 15:56

What I've had to do with fill dirt in our yard when my garden was in the ground:

I used a tiller (so slightly different but bear with me) and tilled up the ground a little. I then bought some rich cow manure and a few bags of miracle grow soil, spread half of what I had on top of the tilled earth, tilled it again. Then I did the process with the rest and just used a garden rake to even it all out.

It worked like a charm and I had so many tomatoes that I couldn't keep up with it all. I actually just tried to give up and neglect them towards the end but they wouldn't stop producing until I ripped them up or frost took them.

In your case, I think doing something similar would work and it's pretty cost effective to do more than making Mel's Mix from scratch (if you don't have the money up front to do it, it's pretty pricy off the bat). It'll give you time to figure out if you want to make Mel's Mix for the next year or just work with what you have. If you want to take the time to remove the dirt fully and mix it up well, the more power to you! But if you want to do it easily and work on it year after year until the dirt is nice and rich it's a good way to go.

Just my opinion though!
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Re: How to start with your own dirt...

Post  Furbalsmom on Fri 4 Mar 2011 - 16:02

Jenny

We are really glad you joined us.

@Jenny wrote:I want to use one of them for SFG (this is my first time trying it). Since they already have dirt in them, how do I incorporate MM? Should I dig out a bunch of the dirt and add the new stuff or can I mix them together or what?


If you have Mel's Mix, it would be better not to mix it with your existing soil if you can avoid it. Mixing MM with your soil would dilute the proportion of nutrients from your compost, fluffiness of your peat and water retention of your vermiculite, it could also bring in unwanted weed seeds.

To use your Mel's Mix and get great results, you could dig out the dirt already in the selected bed, place a layer of weed barrier, fill the bed with MM and top with a grid. Then you are ready to roll. Digging is really hard work!

Another option would be to build up the height of your existing box by adding an additional row of 2" X 6" lumber, adding a layer of weed block and filling the box with your Mel's Mix. Top it with a grid and get ready to plant!

I made an assumption that the bed is surrounded by wood. We have other members that have used cinder blocks, plastic panels and other materials.


I hope you find an easy solution to your situation.
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Re: How to start with your own dirt...

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on Fri 4 Mar 2011 - 17:24

I was thinking the exact same thing. Like Mel says, "Build up."

You already have dirt you don't want to deal with. So, just take one of your "extra" boxes and put it on top of your existing box. Fill with MM, and you've done all you need to do.

However, if $$ is an issue, you could do something really fun. 1) amend the soil you have with some versions of potting soil, top soil, composts, manures, peat moss, vermiculite, etc, and see how close you get. And, 2) start saving for MM ingredients. When you have the cash, move one of the extra boxes, or build one (the wood is the cheapest part of the SFG), and put MM in that one.

Compare the two over a growing season, and see which outperforms which.

My first year with SFG, I had to modify things slightly. I added some river top soil as "filler" and mixed it in. I still got a great yield, but it wasn't "true SFG" according to Mel. So, this year, I banked some gift cards for Christmas and bought the proper ratios. Now, I don't have that on my mind. But, I totally understand for those that do.

Choice is yours. Try and show us a picture...whatever you decide. And, welcome.
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Re: How to start with your own dirt...

Post  camprn on Fri 4 Mar 2011 - 19:31

Hi Jenny, to the forum. I have gardened for many years and all the ingredients used in Mel's Mix are classic soil amendments and conditioners. If you are not up for removing the existing soil, you may opt to add the peat, vermiculite, but add more importantly compost, to the bed and mix it with your existing dirt. There is no doubt that you will get better results than you had last year. Here are a few informational links
soil amendments

more

Soil Health

I would encourage you to avoid adding anything sold as Potting soil, top soil or garden soil.

All the best for your Happy garden! sunny
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Re: How to start with your own dirt...

Post  windrider1967 on Thu 10 Mar 2011 - 12:08

This has been a real question of mine. I was having problems finding the vermiculite, and now that I have it is $30 for 4cf. I was planning on using my existing soil, adding 2 of bags of manure and 3 cf of peat moss. Would it be a waste to buy a bag or two of the verm and split it between the 9 beds, or just get it as I can and save for next year. If a little would be a waste then it really isn't worth doing it.
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Experiment

Post  Jenny on Thu 10 Mar 2011 - 12:29

I decided to do a little experiment. I have three 4x10 beds. In one, I used just regular 10-10-10 fertilizer. In one I did it exactly as it explains it in the book - 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost. With the left over mixture, I put it in with the dirt in my third box. It is too expensive this year for me to do all three boxes with the good stuff, so I figure if all goes as well as the book says it will, I can do one box each year.

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Re: How to start with your own dirt...

Post  camprn on Thu 10 Mar 2011 - 15:17

I could not afford the Vermiculite either, so that is why I bought the seed starting mix, which is made from peat and vermiculite and perlite. I added that and compost together right on top of the dirt I put the boxes upon. It worked quite well for me. Mel advises in his book that if you cannot get vermiculite or perlite, extra compost is the way to go. If you can get a hold of leaf mold that would be great too. The idea about adding the V. or P. is to help the mix hold water. If you choose to go with extra compost instead, you can always use mulch to help the bed retain water.
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