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Source of compost. Will this work?

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Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Wendy HS on 4/23/2011, 3:38 pm

I just started my first SFG this year and have never built a compost pile. I have three going now with leaves, grass clippings, horse poo, and will add other things as I get them. My question is this: I made three 4x4 SFG boxes and had to buy the compost from the local Lowes and Walmart. I found at least 7 different varieties, but I guess the quality wasn't good because my garden isn't doing well. I've tried to figure out why and the only thing I can see is that maybe the compost is lacking in nutrients, it has a lot of wood chips in it. I've since been trying to figure out how to solve the problem of no nutrients in my boxes and came across making compost tea. Problem is I am in search of a good compost to use to make the tea, my compost is not ready yet. I don't want to run into the same issues, but I did find a local farm that has compost and it has Peat moss, chicken poop, cotton seed meal, wheat straw, and lime in it. We've used it before on our row garden and it has grown things very good. Is this sufficient compost for my SFG to make compost tea out of? I don't see how I can add any compost directly to the squares so I figured I could make the tea and water the garden with the tea to give the plants their nutrients, at least until I can harvest the stuff and take out some old stuff and add in some new if I needed too. I will attach pics below so you can see all the wood chips.



This is a picture of the red/green leaf lettuce that I planted on March 3rd. We live in Texas near Dallas. All of the lettuces, carrots, corn, look like this, just really small and not growing much, but not dead yet. Two tomato plants did die, and I've since planted two more and they don't look so good either. The tomato plants in my SFG box are starting to turn brown, the ones we planted in the garden space outside the boxes in our regular soil with a little bit of shavings and horse poop are looking good and growing.


These are the 2nd set of tomato plants I've planted and they don't look so good.


Last edited by Wendy HS on 4/23/2011, 3:52 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : To add pics)

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Source for compost

Post  westie42 on 4/23/2011, 3:53 pm

If your MM is lean on nutrients why not look at some posts and articles on compost tea making. It sure puts a smile on my plants. Your plants look pretty nice possibly the MM looks a bit dry.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  myhouseofBOYS on 4/23/2011, 3:58 pm

@westie42 wrote:If your MM is lean on nutrients why not look at some posts and articles on compost tea making. It sure puts a smile on my plants. Your plants look pretty nice possibly the MM looks a bit dry.

note to self: do not skim replies. I read that compost tea "sure puts a smile in my pants" Embarassed

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  spankyleatherlips on 4/23/2011, 4:16 pm

EWWWWWWWW.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  yosoypanadero on 4/23/2011, 4:18 pm

The way you can add compost directly is to just pile the new compost soil on top of your existing soil level. The nutrients will eventually seep down from rain and worms.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  yosoypanadero on 4/23/2011, 4:19 pm

Also, that lettuce does look small, how many hours of sunlight is it getting?

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  AZDYJ2K on 4/23/2011, 4:24 pm

@myhouseofBOYS wrote:
@westie42 wrote:If your MM is lean on nutrients why not look at some posts and articles on compost tea making. It sure puts a smile on my plants. Your plants look pretty nice possibly the MM looks a bit dry.

note to self: do not skim replies. I read that compost tea "sure puts a smile in my pants" Embarassed

Funny, especially considering your username. I have 3 sons myself.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Wendy HS on 4/23/2011, 4:32 pm

My boxes are in full sun. I water everyday, I check down deep the next day and the soil is still a bit damp, but maybe needing some more water on top where it gets a little crusty. I took the pics before I watered that day.
My lettuce was planted March 3rd and it is April 23, that is over a month and a half and this is all the growth I've gotten out of the lettuce, the other lettuces didn't ever come up, or came up and are even smaller. You can't tell me that the plants look good, most of the lettuce never came up, 1st set of tomato plants died, Corn is over 1 1/2 months old and it is less than an inch tall, None of the seeds I planted are doing well other than the beans and maybe the peas, but that is still in question. The broccoli and tomato you see growing was from transplant, not seeds. I did my boxes by the book, very meticulous, but yet my garden stinks!!! What is going on with it? I gotta do something to help it, poor garden.

Doing compost tea to see if that will help. Any other suggestions?

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  yosoypanadero on 4/23/2011, 6:05 pm

Maybe just start all over.... dig up all the soil in one big pile and start amending it. Add all of your organic compost, worm castings, new peat and vermiculite if needed. Mix it all up, clean out all containers, and start anew. It may be a ton of work, but if nothing is going on anyway, maybe time to start over.....

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  yosoypanadero on 4/23/2011, 6:07 pm

Also, when I plant lettuce, I just use leaf variety and scatter about 30 seeds per 1x1 square all over the place. Once they grow up, I just cut a layer off of the top - like giving it a haircut - and wait for it to all grow back again. One plant here and there is good for head lettuce and romaine, but the rest I just plant like there is no tomorrow!

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Miss M on 4/24/2011, 12:26 am

Seven different composts, and bad results? I wonder if perhaps one of the composts was not finished composting, perhaps, and is burning your plants.

Just seems like there ought to be plenty of nutrients in there somewhere. I'm bumfuzzled.

Did you fluff your peat moss, to get it to expand? I almost missed the fact that it expands to twice the labeled amount when you buy the compressed bales. I know others haven't realized that before mixing, and have ended up with twice as much peat moss as they should have, which displaces much of the compost.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  walshevak on 4/24/2011, 6:19 am

I just had a thought. Some of the "composts" available at the box stores include peat as an ingredient. If you used them AND the recommended amount of peat in your mix, you may have too much peat and not enought nutrients. In that case, some of the pure manure composts and/or compost tea would help out greatly.


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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  camprn on 4/24/2011, 6:23 am

@yosoypanadero wrote:Also, when I plant lettuce, I just use leaf variety and scatter about 30 seeds per 1x1 square all over the place. Once they grow up, I just cut a layer off of the top - like giving it a haircut - and wait for it to all grow back again. One plant here and there is good for head lettuce and romaine, but the rest I just plant like there is no tomorrow!
I also broadcast leaf lettuce seed in my squares. I find it works well.

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Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  sherryeo on 4/24/2011, 11:41 am

I just noticed that, in the original post, lime was listed as an ingredient to the compost. This is usually added to adjust PH, right? With Mel's Mix, you're not supposed to have to worry about that, I don't think, since Mel's Mix is a PH neutral mix. I checked out a book on composting (coyright 2003, so perhaps not the "newest" information) at my local library recently and one of the ingredients it says not to use is lime.

So, for you who are much more experienced with making compost, should lime ever be added and would it actually be harmful or just not needed with Mel's Mix. Thanks.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/24/2011, 3:32 pm

AHA! I concur that your problem may be a lack of nutrients. Here's a clue:

A crusty surface probably means too much peat moss.

What were your big-box composts? If you had seven, I'd guess that many were different brands, rather than different types. And many, if not most, pre-blended "composts" contain peat. That's probably a good part of the issue. Also, many of the ingredients may have been redundant.

Because I have a terrible problem finding more than two or three composts locally (chicken, steer, and supermarket blend), I have to resort to using an organic planting compost, but I always make sure it doesn't contain peat.

You see, I made the same mistake when I started. Since I corrected the error, my SFG has done much better.

Did you fluff the peat moss?

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Old Hippie on 4/24/2011, 3:50 pm

When I was out shopping for compost a couple of weeks ago for my carrot boxes, I noticed that most of the bags of compost didn't have any list of ingredients. However, some of them look like there was a fair bit of wood chips and/or peat moss in the stuff when I looked closely at some of the ripped open bags.

I also discovered that if you measure the peat moss dry, then wet it and leave it sit for a couple of hours, then measure it again, you will have MORE than you did when it was dry. So......if you have peat moss in your compost which is possible since they don't always tell you, and you add dry peat moss to your mix, you will end up with more peat moss than you should have. I prefer to err on the side of too little peat moss as opposed to too much so I measure it and add it to my mix after it is wet. I prefer to have more compost than peat in my mix since that is where the nutrients are.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Furbalsmom on 4/24/2011, 5:38 pm

@Wendy HS wrote:My boxes are in full sun. I water everyday, I check down deep the next day and the soil is still a bit damp, but maybe needing some more water on top where it gets a little crusty. I took the pics before I watered that day.
My lettuce was planted March 3rd and it is April 23, that is over a month and a half and this is all the growth I've gotten out of the lettuce, the other lettuces didn't ever come up, or came up and are even smaller. You can't tell me that the plants look good, most of the lettuce never came up, 1st set of tomato plants died, Corn is over 1 1/2 months old and it is less than an inch tall, None of the seeds I planted are doing well other than the beans and maybe the peas, but that is still in question. The broccoli and tomato you see growing was from transplant, not seeds. I did my boxes by the book, very meticulous, but yet my garden stinks!!! What is going on with it? I gotta do something to help it, poor garden.

Doing compost tea to see if that will help. Any other suggestions?

Wendy, perhaps if you could locate some worm castings, you could sprinkle a small amount on top of your MM. It happens to be one of the more nutritious types of compost and will not burn your plants. It is more expensive than mushroom or manure composts. It also makes a great compost tea.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 4/25/2011, 1:11 am

I had this same problem. Many compost brands do not list ingredients and those that do which state things like "organic compost" or "organic humus", etc. ALWAYS list peat! I found several instances of a cow manure compost BLEND which also contained peat.

I was able to find mushroom compost, a cow manure and an organic humus (not sure what's in it but didn't like it too much because it was woody) at local Lowes. I actually found Black Kow cow manure compost at one Walmart (but not another) locally and I think it was a fluke because they didn't actually have it listed in their prepriced notebooks (probably not a stock item).

I have called every nursery in the near area and one had some bulk mushroom compost and one had bagged organic compost which they claim didn't contain peat. I can't find earthworm castings to save my soul nor can I find bagged chicken or steer manure??? I live in central IL for goodness sake, you'd think we'd have this stuff around here. Smile

I did find some fish fertilizer in liquid form locally and/or I thought about trying to order some liquid worm casting product online and see if I can up the nutrients with something like that. Not sure what else to do if we can't find the 5 sources???

I know that Mel advocates doing your own compost, but for beginners or people who have composting obstacles (like my black walnut tree material), is there some way we could have a compost database as well as a verm database?

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Miss M on 4/25/2011, 1:20 am

One thing to consider for one of your composts is rabbit manure. It can be added straight to the garden, unlike other manures which must be composted first. You may have a meat rabbit operation nearby, or someone who raises rabbits for the pet market, or an animal rescue place. Rabbit manure is a very close second to worm castings in value for the garden!

I raise meat rabbits. I didn't have enough manure on hand to mix MM for our garden, but I've been using it to mix smaller batches for containers and for the potato box.

It could add a LOT of nutrients to your garden, and is easy to mix in, since it comes in small, dry spheres. What a Face

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Solving compost problem

Post  Wendy HS on 4/25/2011, 4:52 pm

Well I ended up finding a source of compost from a local garden place and they have it trucked in from somewhere. It has chicken manure, wheat straw, lime, cotton seed meal, and peat moss. We've used it before in our row garden a few years back along with our neighbor and it worked great on that type of garden for both of us, so we will see how it goes. I went ahead and placed some on top of each square and watered it. I hope and pray it won't burn up the plants that are already at least trying to grow. I also found a source of worm castings to make some compost tea with if I need that. I learned my lesson and will never buy bagged compost again from any of the stores. I really am thinking that was the down fall of my garden. I think it has way to many wood chips and not enough of the good compost.
If this has fixed the problem I will get some pics and compare them to before and post them for all to see. Hopefully it will save someone from making the same mistake. Thanks for all the suggestions and help

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  walshevak on 4/25/2011, 5:07 pm

Note the peat moss in the new compost. You may want to adjust downward just a bit on your pure peat moss. Excess peat seems to be causing poor performance this spring judging from some of the posts.


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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Wendy HS on 4/25/2011, 5:29 pm

I know there may be too much peat moss, but I just don't know what else to do. I feel like I am on a time crunch to save what I've already worked so hard to start. It is already almost May here in Texas and getting pretty hot. I was really looking forward to some good salads. I am not really sure how much peat moss is in this homemade compost, it really looks like it is mostly chicken poop and wheat straw and I have no idea of knowing how much peat moss was in my store bought mels mix. My understanding about peat moss is that it is just a product to help with soil conditioning and not for nutrients, but as long as I am adding chicken poop, wheat straw and will be adding other stuff once my own compost pile is done then that should at least help. I am also going to get some worm castings this week to either make some compost tea or just sprinkle over the squares. That has got to help some, if the real problem is a lack of nutrients. Man, I'm hanging onto a thread of hope here!!!!

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  walshevak on 4/25/2011, 5:53 pm

You will overcome this setback. More nutrients has got to be the answer. When the plants get enough food and water they thrive.

I am just unhappy that the stores are selling this crappy stuff when we are trying sooooo hard to get it right. Salespeople at the stores think I weird because whenever I see a brand of "compost" that is new, the first thing I do is turn it over and check the ingredients. If peat is list first, second or third, I say no thanks.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  Wendy HS on 4/26/2011, 1:41 pm

Just to send an update incase it can help anyone else from making the same mistakes.....
Try your best to find a source of compost that is homemade at a farm or somewhere if you don't have any of your own, try not to buy it at the local stores. I meticulously read the New SFG book, took notes, typed up notes, re-read again, looked at pictures, went online and double checked everything and then I went out and bought my compost from Lowes and Walmart in the bags. I found a variety of 8 different kinds and mixed everything correctly, but my garden was failing, things just weren't growing like they should. As I researched and talked with people here, I narrowed it down to lack of nutrients in my garden, even though I did everything correctly. The composts that they sell in the bags just didn't offer enough nutrients and my garden was suffering. I knew that had to be the case because everything I planted outside of the boxes in our existing soil was doing good. I did not do anything to the things I planted outside the boxes, we just planted them and put a little bit of horse manure and shavings (not even composted) and those plants are all growing and doing well. I ended up finding a source of homemade compost from a local farm and top dressed all of my squares yesterday and I can't believe the difference in just one day. Everything in the boxes has perked up tremendously. I looked over my garden really good yesterday before I top dressed it and everything was looking really dull and or dying, there was no beans on my bean plants and I swear there is a little bean already 1/2 inch long. The tomato plants were definetly dying and they are already turning back green and healthy. I am going to wait a week and then get pictures to compare the difference. Stay tuned. I am so excited now that I think maybe my garden can be saved!!!!!!

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

Post  dizzygardener on 4/26/2011, 1:49 pm

alrighta yahoo

I'm so glad!!! I knew we could get you sorted out if we all put our heads together!

You are right. You have to be really careful with the stuff in the bags. I recommend that we all read the labels very carefully. If the label says the bag is 50% peat and mulch put it back or adjust your mel's mix ingredients accordingly. If it is full of mulch when you open it screen the mulch out. The quality of commercially available compost is seriously declining.

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Re: Source of compost. Will this work?

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