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New SFGer/HELP!

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New SFGer/HELP!

Post  mramirez1283 on 4/8/2011, 6:44 pm

I'm brand new to SFG and I just need a little confirmation. I built one 4x4 box and filled it will Mel's mix but I am not certain if I added enough vermiculite or if the grade of the vermiculite was correct. Also, 1 purchased two bags of peat moss of the same brand (2 cubic feet each). One bag was very moist and the other very dry. Finally, I searched high and low for 5 kinds of compost but could only find 3. I'm concerned my transplants won't bear fruit and vegetables. They have been in the ground for 3 days and appear to be thriving but I have to water once maybe even twice a day, otherwise the begin to look wilted. Any comments or suggestions?

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  buttaflie143 on 4/8/2011, 6:59 pm

It is my understanding that MM takes some time to get truly wet. It may require several waterings a day until the soil is moist down to its base, but then should require less watering. To check your actual moisture level, take your hand and dig in to the bottom, chances are you are pretty dry down below, which may explain the "drooping" you are experiencing. According to a workshop I attended recently, you can't over water MM. Its like a sponge, it will soak up water until its good and wet, then the excess will run off. I hope this helps.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  sistabelle on 4/8/2011, 7:07 pm

When you were filling the boxes did you add the mix in layers and then water?
Thats what we did but then it rain all night on top of that. The mix was wet all the way through to the bottom the next morning. I have used peat moss before and it seems to take forever to hold water!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  mramirez1283 on 4/8/2011, 7:17 pm

Wow, both responses were incredibly helpful. I will be certain to water my Mel's mix down very well tonight so that it will maintain moisture.

I watered in layers as I put it in the box but I just misted it with the nozzle. Perhaps O under watered it.

Thank you very much!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  boffer on 4/8/2011, 7:26 pm

Did your peat moss come compressed? If so, you have way too much if you used it all. A 4x4 box would take 'about' 3 cf of vermiculite. The grade won't make a difference. I'm not familiar with your climate. It's not unusual for some folks in Texas to water 2-3 times a day.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  sistabelle on 4/8/2011, 9:00 pm

IF you just misted it, that's the problem.
You have to S O A K it! I sure hope my Mel's mix grows me some food! This is my first year with this and I don't know if I have the right amounts in the mixture or if I have enough diversity in the compost. I hope this adventure pays off for all of us newbies!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  buttaflie143 on 4/8/2011, 9:28 pm

me too!

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Help! How do I compensate for too much peat moss?

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/17/2011, 8:52 am

Hello--
I'm pretty new to square foot gardening and I desperately need advice from some of you experts:
It has taken me a whole year of square foot gardening and some very puny crops to realize from reading this forum that I mixed double the amount of peat moss needed in all 4 of my beds. How did I miss the fact that 3 cubic feet of compressed peat moss actually equals 6 cubic feet when measuring it for Mel's Mix? My bush limas did okay last year in this mixture, but most everything else was either a complete failure or the growth was stunted. Some seedlings just stopped growing once they were up.

Now I'm not sure how to fix this. This year's seedlings are already emerging in this mixture. One bed is already filled with lettuce, spinach, radish and bunching onion seedlings so it's would be too late to dump out the soil and remix. I did add about 1/2 cubic ft. of good compost this year to each of my two 4' X 3' beds before knowing about my error, but that doesn't seem to be enough--the radishes are very slow maturing and those that have produced after 5 weeks are tiny. My lettuce plants have not grown any larger since transplanting 3 weeks ago. Would it help to top dress the beds with more compost and try to work it into the mix as best I can? Or would a fertilizer help? If so, I would want to use an organic product. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet (gulp!) and start over? Today was supposed to be the long-awaited day to set out my transplants...

Thanks for any help!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/17/2011, 9:14 am

You are not alone in "missing" that on the bag, the only reason I knew that 3cubic compressed meant 6 cubic fluffly was that I had read here that several made missed that fact too. Some took out a scoop or two from each square when they were planting, and added a trowel or two of mixed compost (or their own compost) and a bit more vermiculite. Hopefully someone who has had this occur to them will join in and help. Keep us posted.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  camprn on 4/17/2011, 9:22 am

Oh Dear! yes, you are not alone in this error. So, if it was my garden and the seedlings were still small and had not made much progress I would lift the seedlings out with a trowel to get the root ball and add about a quart (large yogurt container) full of compost to each square, mix it up a bit (dig down with a trowel and turn the mix over a few times) and then put the seedlings back in, press down gently around them and water lightly. Then I would cross my fingers and yet I would know that I had just fed my babies a good season long meal.

I would encourage you to do the same. Peat is a soil conditioner and has no nutritional value for your wee plants. You may also topdress with compost during the season to help them along.
Best of luck! Very Happy


Last edited by camprn on 4/17/2011, 9:25 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : fixing typos)

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/17/2011, 10:26 am

Thank you FarmerValerie and camprn! Your answers are reassuring and sound like a great solution to remixing and starting from scratch! I love this forum already!
I'd stay here longer but I'm off to "un-plant" some seedlings temporarily and dig a little in my gardens! I WILL get those new plants in before dark tonight!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  Miss Mousie on 4/17/2011, 7:41 pm

Last year I did something wrong with my Mel's Mix. Not sure what I did wrong. I'm pretty sure that I remembered about the 3 cu ft of Peat Moss being 6 cu ft in reality but I had trouble finding really good compost materials. I ended up using 1 chicken manure, 1 steer manure and 2 or 3 different blended compost products. My garden did okay but my broccoli had huge leaves and tiny heads of broccoli and my cauliflower never did forms heads until sometime this winter but then they shot up and turned into some weird multi-stemmed mutant plant. My Swiss Chard never got really huge though, so I'm not sure what my problem was. I did fertilize with fish emulsion and that seemed to help. Overall it was a learning experience.

So this year I decided to amend my beds with worm castings but when I went to the nursery, all I could get was a 22 liter (20 dry quarts) bag of Garden & Bloom Worm castings for $9.00. So I also bought a couple of bags of Foxfarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil. It has some different ingredients than what I found in most pre-made composts. The site online claims "Ocean Forest is a powerhouse blend of premium earthworm castings, bat guano, and Pacific Northwest sea-going fish and crab meal. Composted forest humus, sandy loam, and sphagnum peat moss give Ocean Forest it's light aerated texture". So I added (1)1.5 cu ft. bag of Ocean Forest and a half bag of worm castings to each bed. The soil is now a nice dark brown almost black color as opposed to the medium brown it was before.

I had Swiss Chard still growing from last fall and some lettuce seedlings that I planted late last fall that were in suspended animation until the sun has finally come out to warm them. So I transplanted them in the newly amended bed. Let's hope they love it and respond by growing really big.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/17/2011, 11:25 pm

Miss Mousy, your cauliflower description made me laugh although I know how frustrating it is when your vegetables act up like that! Here's hoping your new mix works well this year.

To follow up on my morning dilemma, I went out to add compost to my beds and realized the compost supply was very low. So I headed out to a big box store which is very close to another big box store. The first store had organic cow manure compost and mushroom compost. At the second store they had mushroom compost too, plus something called Moo-Nure, an organic mix of ""forest products, green___(can't remember the word(s) and cow manure. I bought several bags of Moo-Nure and some mushroom compost.

My husband helped me mix the composts together and we also added a little vermiculite, then I started working my way through the beds one square at a time. Thankfully the biggest bed (10' X 2') was not yet planted so it wasn't too difficult. I removed a portion of the existing mix from each square, then added back about the same amount of the new compost mix and mixed it up from the bottom with a trowel and sometimes just my hands.
As recommended by camprn, when I reached the beds with new seedlings, I eased them out of the soil very gently with their root ball using a trowel, set them carefully aside, and did the ingredient exchange as I described above. Once I had the new mix in each square, I gently eased the little seedlings back into the nice, rich mix. They seemed very happy in their new surroundings. Then I worked in some compost around the lettuce, spinach, radishes, and peas. The last step was to water them all.. Unfortunately I got a later start than I planned today, and the whole process became so time consuming (and hard on the old back) that I didn't have the wherewithall to set out my transplants! But, tomorrow is another day. I am going to sleep happy, knowing that my soil mix is much better and more capable of growing whatever I plant in it. Thank you again everyone who wrote with advice or their own story. You were all very helpful to a newbie.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/18/2011, 8:02 am

For your transplants and lettuce you may want to consider a compost tea. Here is a thread on that.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t5592p15-compost-teas?highlight=compost+tea

Just go with the second video on the second page, no need to go buy anything right now. Just put some compost in a bucket, add water, let sit, water next day. That will help speed up the process of getting nutrients to the roots.

I understand your tiredness, I spent 2 whole days in the garden this weekend, and still have a few transplants to get out and some flower seed to spread. I was hoping for a day off today, but with more rain coming Wed, no rest for the weary.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/18/2011, 8:44 am

Compost tea--what a great suggestion! I'll do it today. Thanks for all the support in getting my garden growing right this year!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/18/2011, 8:50 am

I forgot to say to FarmerValerie, truly there is no rest for the weary during planting time! I keep telling my husband that after this year when we have these SFGs set up and running with irrigation system, trellises, etc. all the hard work will be over and it will be a breeze to garden. Please tell me this is true!!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/18/2011, 8:57 am

@jthreadsmith1 wrote:I forgot to say to FarmerValerie, truly there is no rest for the weary during planting time! I keep telling my husband that after this year when we have these SFGs set up and running with irrigation system, trellises, etc. all the hard work will be over and it will be a breeze to garden. Please tell me this is true!!

In theory this is VERY true. In reality, we will always find a way to complicate things because we LOVE gardening. Wink

You have a lot of great advice in this thread. I'm glad you fell better about things now. In case I haven't said so, welcome aboard. You can see how nice everyone is here. Hope to see more of you!

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/18/2011, 9:41 am

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:
In theory this is VERY true. In reality, we will always find a way to complicate things because we LOVE gardening. Wink

You have a lot of great advice in this thread. I'm glad you fell better about things now. In case I haven't said so, welcome aboard. You can see how nice everyone is here. Hope to see more of you!

Ha! How true it is for me anyway--I'm just not happy with "simple," although I must say after the blood, sweat and tears of "regular" gardening, especially in the unrelenting heat here last year, I decided that if it couldn't be a SFG, it couldn't be a garden at all in my back yard! I do look forward to no more tilling, digging clay, weeding, making complicated soil ammendments, etc.

Thanks so much for the warm welcome. I already feel like I belong here!

Well, off to finish what I didn't get done yesterday, since I have a day off work today.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  middlemamma on 4/18/2011, 5:49 pm

If you are using "compost blends" as 1 of your 5 composts you are likely getting peat moss in your blend...it isn't straight compost and this is going to leave you with more than the 1/3- 1/3 -1/3 ration that IS Mel's Mix.

It isn't Mel's Mix unless it meets this formula. Closies do count, but if you have a blend of compost that has peat in it, or peat and pearlite, or peat and vermiculite, you don't have just compost, therefore you throw the ratio off more than what counts as closies.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  boffer on 4/18/2011, 5:59 pm

Ha! How true it is for me anyway--I'm just not happy with "simple," although I must say after the blood, sweat and tears of "regular" gardening, especially in the unrelenting heat here last year, I decided that if it couldn't be a SFG, it couldn't be a garden at all in my back yard! I do look forward to no more tilling, digging clay, weeding, making complicated soil ammendments, etc.

I haven't read the whole thread. I just wanted to say welcome, and please try to do your best by the book. It may not be perfect for every person in every climate for every purpose, but you won't know until you try. 'By the book' has worked for me, but I don't have climate extremes to deal with that you may have. Happy Gardening.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/18/2011, 11:01 pm

Thanks for the welcome and the advice Boffer. I'm working hard on going by the book ( and by the forum too! : )

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  jthreadsmith1 on 4/24/2011, 11:52 pm

Hey! I just wanted to update my saga from last week of too much peat, not enough compost. We left off last Sunday when I had removed part of that mix and added more compost with a little vermiculite. Monday I gave all my beds, including those tiny, sad radishes some compost tea.

Yesterday, just 5 days later and to my great surprise, I found full-size beautiful radishes hiding in my garden! They looked like Easter eggs--I planted a custom mix which has red, pink and purple radishes. So much better looking in person than on the seed packet. I am dying to show them to you, but I can't figure out the directions for posting photos on this forum.

At any rate, I'm feeling very heartened about my garden now that the soil has been amended and the seedlings are looking healthy.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  shannon1 on 4/25/2011, 1:52 am

So glad things are looking up.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  Old Hippie on 4/25/2011, 12:44 pm

cheers cheers cheers

How awesome.

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

Post  Miss M on 4/25/2011, 3:18 pm

I'm another one who almost missed the compressed peat moss expansion factoid. Embarassed

Miss Mousie, the tiny broccoli and headless cauliflower, etc., sound like too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus. I'm not sure how you fix that without a fertilizer that is rich in phosphorus, but I'm sure somebody on here has addressed it somewhere.

Jthreadsmith1, it's GREAT to hear things are looking up in your SFG!!!! bounce bounce bounce

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Re: New SFGer/HELP!

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