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Why we use Mel's Mix

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Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  WardinWake on 3/23/2011, 6:47 am

Howdy Folks:

When Mel Bartholomew wrote the first Square Foot Gardening book he did just what all of us did. He started with the soil under his feet. He found that the soil in his garden was just like ours – not the best to grow what he wanted. So he set out to “fix” the soil so it would grow better veggies and flowers. He
added a number of items and worked and worked the soil and after a period of time his garden soil became just about what he wanted - loose, moisture holding, but not soggy and nutrient-dense. But,
he had to do a lot of work to get it that way.

When Mel rewrote his book he set out to make things easier for all of us. So let us
review what he has done for us by rewriting his book, which by the way, was the
best-selling gardening book of all time.

The Ten Major New Improvements to the Original Square Foot Garden Method

1. New Location – Close to the House
2. New Direction – Up Not Down
3. New Soil – Mel’s Mix
4. New Depth – Only 6 Inches Deep
5. No Fertilizer – You Don’t Need It
6. New Boxes – Above the Ground
7. New Aisles – Comfortable Width
8. New Grids – Prominent and Permanent
9. New Idea – Don’t Waste Seeds
10. New Opportunities – Tabletop Gardens

Today let us look at number 3, New Soil – Mel’s Mix, and Mel says it best so I will quote from his new book, “ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING” which is now the best selling garden book of all time.

“What’s In It?

There are three characteristics of a perfect growing mix. First of all, it’s lightweight, so it is easy to work with and easy for plants to grow in. Next, it is nutrient-rich and has all the minerals and trace elements that plants need without adding fertilizers. Finally, it holds moisture, yet drains well.

After many experiments, I found that three of my favorite ingredients made the perfect mix
when combined in equal parts.

1/3 Peat Moss -
1/3 Vermiculite
1/3 Blended Compost

What do these Ingredients Do?

All three of these ingredients are natural – not manufactured. They all drain well, so there are no puddles to waterlog the plant roots; but they also hold large amounts of moisture so the plants will grow well. This mix is a pleasure to work with, has a light fluffy texture, and smells good.

The first two ingredients have no nutrients, but the last – compost – is loaded with all the nutrients and minerals that you could imagine. Compost is the most important ingredient of the three, and making your own is good for both the environment and the garden. This is about as organic as you can get.

If you don’t think this perfect soil mix will work in the garden, ask yourself, “What do professional greenhouse growers use for growing crops on their benches? Do they go out and dig up the fields for soil?” Of course not. Professional growers mix up a perfect potting soil from several other ingredients and never use local outside soil.

When you buy a windowbox at the store, what do you fill it with-your yard soil? Of course not. You buy a bag of perfect potting soil. So why can’t we do the same for our vegetable garden? Well, there are two reasons: One, no one ever thought of it-and two, it would be prohibitively expensive, for the typical
single-row garden that everyone has been using all of these years.

So, how can we do it now? Because SFG reduces the garden size down to only 20 percent (that’s one-fifth as large), so it is now possible to consider using a perfect soil from the very start. An additional reason is next major improvement to Square Foot Gardening – New Depth-Only 6 Inches Deep.”

Remember folks, when we set out using our own soil we bring all the problems in the soil into our new garden. Weeds and their seeds, low nutrient value, and problems galore. Just what we wanted to get away from when we started using “ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING”.

God Bless,
Ward and Mary.


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/23/2011, 9:12 am



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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  ribarr4 on 3/23/2011, 10:32 am

I grew up gardening on the first book and I notice many people have very strong attachments to MM. One of the things that attracted me to SFG'ing 17 years ago was that the methods were tested from an engineers POV and I have some questions that I am curious about.

1. What is the longest anyone has been using MM in their beds?

2. Has anyone had their soil tested to see how the nutrient composition changes from year to year?

3. How does the PH change over time as all of the compost and peat moss break down further?

Thanks so much.


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  boffer on 3/23/2011, 11:27 am

I got into this gardening thing later in life than most. I was 51 when I planted my first veggie seed ever. When I came across the ALL NEW SFG book, I was sold. I bought into the ALL NEW SFG concept hook, line, and sinker. It was effortless to do because I didn't have years of experience to unlearn. Nor did I have to learn much of anything. What I took away from the book the first time I read it is that Chapters 4 and 5 are the core of the ALL NEW SFG system: a box, a grid, and MM. They comprise a system; without one part, I would not actually be doing SFG. At least that was what I thought.

I've been at it five years now, and I haven't had my soil tested for anything. Why would I? Stuff grows just fine. I'm not interested in gardening. I'm interested in the veggies that come from the garden. I own the original SFG book and the ALL NEW SFG book. Those are the only gardening books I have ever read or own. I consider myself to be an ignorant gardener compared to a lot of the forum members who have decades of gardening experience. I'm comfortable with that.

Our family joke is that Mel wrote the ALL NEW SFG book just for me. He would have called it "Gardening for Dummies" but the title was already taken. Why would a new gardener want to start gardening any other way? I asked in another thread why Mel abandoned the techniques he developed and promoted in the eighties. There have been no answers. My guess: too much work and knowledge required. He could get more people started gardening with the ALL NEW SFG system.

It's new; it's not perfect; we're all learning more as we go along. Works for me.


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  middlemamma on 3/23/2011, 1:52 pm

I figure if Mel hadn't figured out there was a better way there wouldn't have been a 2nd book!

Thank you Ward and Boff! Great posts! Love it!


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  genes on 3/23/2011, 1:53 pm

SFG is intensive gardening. Supplying sufficient nutrients is critical. MM is the greenest and easiest method that I have tried.


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  WardinWake on 3/23/2011, 4:28 pm

1. What is the longest anyone has been using MM in their beds?

iHowdy Ribarr4:

Before this forum took the present form we had a very frequent poster who was a professor at the (I think) University of Kentucky who had used Mel's Mix for 7 years and had not noticed a decline in the quality of plant,s either veggie or flower. The beds were on the grounds of the university and still had the original untreated boards that they were made of. He followed the principals laid out in the book and after every harvest he would add a trowel full of compost and replant.

Hope this helps.

God Bless, Ward and Mary.


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  ribarr4 on 3/23/2011, 11:25 pm

Cool thanks


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Re: Why we use Mel's Mix

Post  jazzymaddy on 3/23/2011, 11:52 pm

This is a great post for newbies like me, who haven't received or finished reading through their copy of the book yet. This motivates a closer look at the exact recommendations, rather than figuring out shortcuts as I was about a week ago. Thanks.



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