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Blending MM with native soil??

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Blending MM with native soil??

Post  jymarino on 3/27/2011, 3:17 pm

Our native soil has been really good the past few years and just about anything grows in it very well. I know that the "official" way to do SFG is to use weed barrier and only use the Mel's Mix but it is kind of pricey for our budget. I am considering making a smaller amount of Mel's Mix and incorporating it into the native soil to make it better. Again, I still don't have the book. My local Border's store doesn't have it and doesn't know when they will and I don't want to have to pay full price if I can avoid it. At any rate, I am trying to this whole thing as affordably as possible so any advice is appreciated. Thanks

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/27/2011, 3:22 pm

Those in 3rd world countries cannot access the ingredients, and do fine. Getting MM at my house was just not possible, we have kids to feed and bills to pay, but hope to get it next year. There are those here who have gradually ammended thier soil with MM and had great results. Having said that, if you can in any way shape or form get it now, then do it. You will never look back. This is my second year SFG and I will have to re-do everything as soon as I can get what I need, making my work load heavier than it would have been had we just started with MM. Don't let not being able to get MM stop you from being here or SFG'ning, but as I said if you can get creative with finances and get you hands on MM then go for it.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  jymarino on 3/27/2011, 3:30 pm

Thanks FM I appreciate it! I know there will be more work involved but since we already have such good soil I hate to just let it be dormant. The beds I just got are only 5.5" deep so that is a consideration as well.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  rowena___. on 3/27/2011, 3:41 pm

in my opinion it is better to start with whatever you can--whatever is in your budget or your conscience--than to not do anything simply because it isn't "by the book". over time, you can add or change whatever doesn't work for your situation.

so my vote is that if your soil is really that good, you could be putting the money you save toward good seed and growing extra to feed your family or to donate.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  Lindacol on 3/27/2011, 3:49 pm

@jymarino wrote:Our native soil has been really good the past few years and just about anything grows in it very well. I know that the "official" way to do SFG is to use weed barrier and only use the Mel's Mix but it is kind of pricey for our budget. I am considering making a smaller amount of Mel's Mix and incorporating it into the native soil to make it better. Again, I still don't have the book. My local Border's store doesn't have it and doesn't know when they will and I don't want to have to pay full price if I can avoid it. At any rate, I am trying to this whole thing as affordably as possible so any advice is appreciated. Thanks

I don't know how many beds you are planning but I suggest you experiment. One bed with native soil, one with MM and one with a mixture. Then see how they compare. And we like pictures:)

The book is available at HD & Lowes for under $18.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  Megan on 3/27/2011, 3:54 pm

I started out with a mix of native soil and MM last year myself, for similar reasons. It worked well, but I DID get a lot of weeds. I am trying the "real deal" this year while building my new beds in the back yard, and am eager to see what the difference is. Virginia red clay is clay, but it is actually quite rich--our subdivision is built over old farmland--so I think that helped me last year, and I was actually considering red clay (complete with weed seeds) as one of my five "composts" until I found a 5th source.

I also held off buying Mel's book for a while, but late spring last year I did break down and buy it. I do find it very helpful. Maybe you could get it via an inter-library loan?

The most important thing, I think, is to get out there and try it! Smile Maybe in another year or so you will be able to do more.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  jymarino on 3/27/2011, 3:59 pm

Thanks! One thing I have noticed here is that with the amount of birds and bunnies the weed seeds are everywhere and in everything. Someone at a local nursery told me that it is very hard to totally eliminate the weeds. Preen does a good job if you get them before they have germinated so I am planning to use that also. I'm hoping to be able to put in a lot of established seedlings this year since we got a late start so they won't be affected by the Preen.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  camprn on 3/27/2011, 4:11 pm

@jymarino wrote:Our native soil has been really good the past few years and just about anything grows in it very well. I know that the "official" way to do SFG is to use weed barrier and only use the Mel's Mix but it is kind of pricey for our budget. I am considering making a smaller amount of Mel's Mix and incorporating it into the native soil to make it better. Again, I still don't have the book. My local Border's store doesn't have it and doesn't know when they will and I don't want to have to pay full price if I can avoid it. At any rate, I am trying to this whole thing as affordably as possible so any advice is appreciated. Thanks
Last year when I built the new vegetable garden, I did what you are proposing for the same reasons and I had very good results. I did however have the book and did my best to take all Mel's advice. This morning I saw the All New Square Foot Gardening book on Amazon for 11.69. Very Happy

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  camprn on 3/27/2011, 4:12 pm

@rowena___. wrote:in my opinion it is better to start with whatever you can--whatever is in your budget or your conscience--than to not do anything simply because it isn't "by the book". over time, you can add or change whatever doesn't work for your situation.

so my vote is that if your soil is really that good, you could be putting the money you save toward good seed and growing extra to feed your family or to donate.
+1

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  boffer on 3/27/2011, 5:19 pm

Hi,

Another option would be to check out the book from the library. Once you have a chance to read the book, you'll get a better understanding of all the intertwined advantages of the SFG method that develop and appreciate with each year of use.

There has been some misunderstanding on the forum about just what the SFG method is comprised of. This is part of a recent post to management here on the forum.
Mel has refined the current system over decades. Can it be improved? Of course, but currently, it is the best we have found. Important parts include the spacing, the grid and Mel's mix. We teach a very specific way of planting by the SFG spacing, using a grid for a visual guide and using the Mel's Mix the way we've developed it(at this point in time, it the best mixture we have been able to develop) So for newcomers to the forum, please share the system the way we have taught it. Once the newcomers have got the basics and have seen success with them, it is perfectly acceptable to try new things, but the system has worked great for decades and is a great place to start.
As you can see, there are specifics that we need to adhere to as we share our knowledge and enthusiasm. It's important that everyone presenting the SFG system is starting from the same place.

This forum was created so SFG gardeners had a place to help other SFG gardeners. But let's face it: gardeners like to talk gardening of all kinds. Some of us who have drunk the SFG Kool-Ade still do other kinds of gardening also. There are some non-SFG gardeners, who are active on the forum, that have been gardening their entire lives. They are such a wonderful source of information about so many things, and we're so lucky to receive their participation. But sometimes we forget that this is not a general gardening forum. There are a bazillion gardening forums out there talking about a bazillion different ways to garden. We're not one of them. We are a forum who's focus is first and foremost SFG as presented by the teaching curriculum of the SFG Foundation, and oh by the way, we like to talk about other kinds of gardening as well on occasion.

You asked for suggestions. From what I can tell, you are already successfully gardening. As you know, gardeners are wont to try a little of this, a little of that, add a little here and there, omit this or that, and try a lot of new things that come along. You are certainly welcome to try any ideas that you like in the SFG method. A lot of the ideas have been around a long time, but it was Mel who put them all together, worked out the kinks, and created a method that is so simple and sophisticated at the same time.

If you are interested in the SFG method, why not do just one 4x4 box this year. As you'll see when you read the book, that will include a box, a grid, and Mel's Mix which is comprised of 1 part peat moss, one part vermiculite, and one part compost comprised of a minimum of 5 different types of compost. It would really be cool if you could do that. We would love to see feedback next fall about how the SFG box compared to your good soil. Let us know if there's anything we can do to help you get your first SFG box going.

Happy Gardening

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  boffer on 3/27/2011, 5:42 pm

@jymarino wrote:Thanks FM I appreciate it! I know there will be more work involved but since we already have such good soil I hate to just let it be dormant. The beds I just got are only 5.5" deep so that is a consideration as well.

Oops, just saw this. Another thing that you'll learn when you get to read the book is why 5.5 inches is plenty enough deep to grow just about anything in the veggie garden including carrots and potatoes. There is also a section about how to make parts of your box taller for growing longer carrots and more potatoes in the same square footage.


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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  WardinWake on 3/27/2011, 8:45 pm

@jymarino wrote:Our native soil has been really good the past few years and just about anything grows in it very well. I know that the "official" way to do SFG is to use weed barrier and only use the Mel's Mix but it is kind of pricey for our budget. I am considering making a smaller amount of Mel's Mix and incorporating it into the native soil to make it better. Again, I still don't have the book. My local Border's store doesn't have it and doesn't know when they will and I don't want to have to pay full price if I can avoid it. At any rate, I am trying to this whole thing as affordably as possible so any advice is appreciated. Thanks

Howdy and Welcome jymario:

When I built my first SFG box I thought I would cut costs just a little and add some of my "fairly good soil" and see what would happen. What happened was I was penny wise and dollar foolish. While the box did OK as it produced some veggies, the labor I had to invest in pulling weeds and sweating all summer just to get those veggies, put me on my heals and I had to rethink my whole garden plan. Why I asked myself go to all the trouble to build boxes and put in vermiculite and peat moss and compost and some of my soil just to get the same results as if I had just amended my "fairly good soil" to begin with? I started Square Foot Gardening because I did not want to be a summer Santa Clause and hoe-hoe-hoe and still have the weeds get the better of me when I had to travel out of town for a few days. Oh how I wished someone had told me - Just Stick To the Book, it has proven successful all over the world and so many people who quit gardening for the same reasons that I did are now back to gardening and enjoying themselves and the harvest.

God Bless, Ward and Mary.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  Megan on 3/27/2011, 9:01 pm

5-1/2" of Mel's Mix really is deep enough for just about anything. If you are growing really long carrots, parsnips, horseradish, late-season potatoes, etc., you can build a high-rise box.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  jymarino on 3/27/2011, 9:48 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions! I have 4 boxes that I am going to do this year and plan to order the book on Amazon tonight. I took a peek at one at B&N today and it looks really helpful and informative. However I am still not willing to pay the full $19.99 for it. I will think about making one or two boxes solely the MM. I guess part of it is that I am very afraid of how much it will cost to make the MM so maybe if I only make one box at a time it won't hurt so much financially.

As for the depth of the box and growing things like potatos, I have a plastic bin with holes drilled in the bottom that I used last year for potatos and it worked really well. We have free compost and mulch from our reclamation center in town so I just planted the potatos in the compost. They grew really well but I did get impatient and didn't wait until they were fully grown before I sowed them. This year I will actually really wait until the tops of the plants are really, really dead before pulling them up.

Thanks again for all the input, I am sure to have even more questions after I get the book.

Jennie

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/27/2011, 10:53 pm

I think Boffer put it best, and most politically correct when he reminded us to remain vigilant in using the system. I am a huge fan of coachability. You tell me to build a bed 6" deep and I do. Mel says that those that don't use the grid don't have an SFG. We do what we can within our budgets, true. But, we don't have a true SFG until we have all the components correct. Simple.

As for Preen, I wouldn't use it. I would at the very least put a lot of peat moss and vermiculite in my garden for "friability." Weeding becomes a snap. You would be wasting money imo with the stuff. Personally, and I don't know your budget, I would save the money on Preen and complete as much MM as I could.

Plant your garden as big as you want. Make the section for SFG as small as you have to. If it's just a 2x2, then it's just a 2x2. But, that gets you started....the right way. You do like we all do....build from there.

You are off to a great start. Keep us posted.

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  jymarino on 3/27/2011, 11:13 pm

BBG --

I already have the Preen from last year so that is why I figured I would use it when using the native soil. I'm going to attempt to have at least one "true" SFG in the garden and build up from there like others have suggested. I am a little concerned about being able to find 5 different kinds of compost here in St Louis but I'll see what I can come up with. I might be building my own compost container as well since my first attempt at composting was very unfruitful.


Jennie

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Re: Blending MM with native soil??

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 3/27/2011, 11:44 pm

@jymarino wrote:BBG --

I already have the Preen from last year so that is why I figured I would use it when using the native soil. I'm going to attempt to have at least one "true" SFG in the garden and build up from there like others have suggested. I am a little concerned about being able to find 5 different kinds of compost here in St Louis but I'll see what I can come up with. I might be building my own compost container as well since my first attempt at composting was very unfruitful.


Jennie

I haven't had much luck finding the 5, either. It's tough here without a lot of time and work. That's one area I don't mind being lax on regarding "true SFG." And, we aren't alone across the nation by the way.

I misunderstood and thought you were buying the Preen. Sorry for that. Absolutely use up what you have.

I would definitely get my own compost going. It's simple, not time-consuming, and basically free of charge to make some of the finest dirt you can find. I can't pass that up.

Glad you are going to have a true SFG garden. I can promise you that you will notice a difference. And, you will see the importance first hand of setting things up right from the beginning. You will scratch your head at why you are breaking your back and neck over working with "native soil"...even if you lived in the Mississippi River flats around here. Their soil is great, but it isn't MM....seriously. (The nutrients deplete out so quickly with river soils and it takes a flood to renew them. We constantly renew ours with controlled doses of compost.)

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