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Growing Medium

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Growing Medium

Post  ccy333 on 5/5/2011, 5:50 pm

Hello. I am new to the forum and had a
couple of questions I was needing some help with. I have a made a 5x4
square foot garden with 10" sides. I have located a nice place to put
it. I will be removing the top layer of sod and loosening the soil a few
inches before adding the composition for growing. I have read a few
posts on Mels Mix and various alternatives but had a question or two.

My Question:

I do not have (easy) access to vermiculite, and do not have a
compost pile (yet!). I do have a collection of various soil amendments
that I was hoping someone could help me with on putting together a
recipe.

I have: Manure, Peat Moss, Premium Topsoil, Cotton Burr Compost and a few various bags of potting soil/garden soil mix.

I am still trying to hunt down some vermiculite or even perlite,
but not having a whole lot of luck. I am also starting a personal
compost heap as well

Can I achieve favorable results with the mixtures that I have? Is organic compost necessary? Can I purchase it somewhere?

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 5/5/2011, 6:01 pm

Hey there; welcome aboard! I hope you learn all you can and get all the success you dream of out of your garden. Have you checked out our vermiculite database? You likely have, but I thought it worth asking just in case.

Can I achieve favorable results with the mixtures that I have? Is organic compost necessary? Can I purchase it somewhere?

This is going to be hard to tackle. I'm an SFGer pretty much through and through. I don't mess with the MM recipe of third/third/third. And, fortunately, I have easy access to vermiculite. It's such a key component, I wouldn't be without it. Not that you are intentionally cutting that corner.

I haven't grown anything in anything other than MM for a few years. My first year, we grew directly in the dirt. And, corn, lettuce, carrots, beans, and a couple other things did very well. But, I never had to replenish nutrients because the next year we built the SFG.

Keep poking around here. Get involved, and someone will be able to help more than I can. This is a great place with lots of friendly people. Stay vigilant, and I hope to see more of you.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  stripesmom on 5/5/2011, 6:04 pm

Hi Welcome to the forum. There will be some one with you shortly that can answer your questions, lol. Oh! Since I started this, I see BYBG has jumped in Very Happy

I just started this year too. I went all over creation looking for vermiculite and had poor results. I researched it, looked at a lot of old posts on the forum and came to the conclusion that the cheapest and best possible buy was from Menard's. But, I don't think you have those in Ok. However, try a lumber yard/home center. Look in the insulation dept. for vermiculite sold under the name of Sungro. I know, it's insulation Shocked , but it's the same product as what your looking for. I went to Earl May (a garden center that is kind of high priced, if they aren't in your neck of the woods) and it was there as well. Different package, same company and same exact thing, just double the price.

Do look to see if all your products are composted, don't use straight uncomposed manure. It will burn your plants.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  shannon1 on 5/6/2011, 12:27 am

333, use the Mel's mix, it is the best. Just say no to topsoil. I got Ace Hardwear to special order corse grade vermiculite and I am so glad I did it has been postivily arid this growing season here and the moisture retention of vermiculite has been invalulable. Buying the 4 cubic foot bags is much thriftier.
Have you gotten a copy of Mel's new book yet? If not see what you can do about getting it. You can see about checking out a copy from the local liberary too. I know the start up costs can be a bit much so if that is a factor for you like it was for me just start small and remember except for a few specialty crops 6" mel's mix is all you need. If you want you can fill the bottom 4" of your box with some thing cheaper like straight compost. Check places like Freecycle and your local agrgoculture center for free compost. I just love free stuff What a Face .

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  Miss M on 5/6/2011, 12:44 am

Welcome!!! cheers

I got my vermiculite from a roofing and roofing insulation company. I thought I was getting coarse, but it turned out to be fine. It still works, though. I just may need to add some coarse in a few years.

Vermiculite is used not only as insulation, but also as a concrete aggregate. You may be able to find it with a concrete company. It is also used in hydroponics.

It is not necessary that your compost be organic. The manure can be used in your SFG as long as it is composted. The peat moss and cotton burr compost can be used in your SFG.

It can be difficult and pricey to find all the ingredients for the Mel's Mix. However, for each garden you build, the mix is a one-time expense, unlike the annual amending that must be done to a row garden. Persevering until you have found all the different components in the right amounts is worth the trouble.

Copying from something I typed to someone else earlier:

You can look in places besides stores for compost. Your
municipality may sell or even give away compost made from yard waste
collected over the year. Some have found compost on Craigslist. If you
have a horse farm or chicken farm nearby, you may be able to get
composted manure from them (just make sure it's composted before you put
it into your garden!).

Rabbit farms are excellent sources of
manure, and rabbit manure doesn't even have to be composted first. It
can go straight into the garden. (We raise rabbits, and I do this
myself.) You may have a meat rabbit business, or someone who raises
rabbits for pets, nearby.

Think outside the stores, if you can't
find what you need in the stores.

Don't give up on finding your composts!

Make sure to look at the ingredients. If peat or peat moss is anywhere near the beginning of the list (or anywhere in the list if the list is very short), try not to use this compost. You're adding more peat than necessary, which will mean less nutrients. Ideally, your composts would not contain peat.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  middlemamma on 5/6/2011, 12:44 am

Anyone posting from OK that could help ccy333 find Vermiculite?



Good luck finding what you need to make your Mel's Mix!

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  camprn on 5/6/2011, 10:27 am

ccy333 to the SFG Forum!!! can you give me a more specific region/location where you live and I will try to help find some other compost sources ! Very Happy

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  ccy333 on 5/6/2011, 4:20 pm

Thanks for all of the help so far...

I live in the Choctaw area, which is East of OKC about 15 miles.

The search is over!!! I have found some vermiculite. $29.99 for 4cubic feet. I found it at a place in Oklahoma city called Horns Seed.
I will be mixing my soil this evening.

I have removed the grass and broken/loosened the underlying soil to 6". I will be adding another 8-10" of Mels Mix on top of this. My plan is to use 1/3 Vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss. The remaining 1/3 will me a mixture of Cotton Burr compost, Composted manure, mushroom compost. Should I do equal parts of each of the composts? Should I add any Soil or sand to this 1/3?

Should I add any fertilizer to this mix before planting?

Thank you all for the help. This is a great Forum and I look forward to learning from you all.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  middlemamma on 5/6/2011, 4:33 pm

Yay! So glad you found it!

Are you going to lay down a barrier between your Mel's Mix and the natural soil you have there?

Sounds like you are 2 composts short of the recommended 5....any chance you can find 2 more? If you were planning on mixing your compost with the 6 inches of loosened dug up soil you had under your sod I would discourage you from that if possible. One wonderful thing about Mel's Mix and a perk of going through the trouble of making it is you have a weedless growing medium. You also don't have to make the Mel's Mix more than 6 inches deep. So if you are using your natural soil to fill up the bottom half of the beds I I might lay a weed barrier between to make sure I didn't gets weeds popping up from there. I'm sure some others will chime in with help as well. Smile

Yes I would use equal parts of all the compost types you have. No I wouldn't add anything but the 3 ingredients. Peat, Vermiculite, and Compost.... Smile

Happy gardening.

Jennie

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  Furbalsmom on 5/6/2011, 4:50 pm

My plan is to use 1/3 Vermiculite and 1/3 peat moss. The remaining 1/3 will me a mixture of Cotton Burr compost, Composted manure, mushroom compost. Should I do equal parts of each of the composts? Should I add any Soil or sand to this 1/3?

Sounds like you are off to a good start but you really need two more types of compost.

If you have composted steer manure, you might look for composted chicken manure. Other types of compost might include worm castings, composted goat manure, composted emu manure, composted llama or alpaca manure, rabbit manure (fresh is ok, it will not burn your plants, composted forestry product, composted food waste products.

Please do not add soil, sand or potting soil/mix to your Mel's Mix. You also do not want to mix your regular garden soil with the Mel's Mix. The recipe for Mel's Mix was perfected for drainage, moisture retention and nutrition for your plants based on using 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, and 1/3 blended compost with at least 5 different types. We try to use equal parts of each of the 5 composts.

You will find that most of us strive for the best ingredients in our Mel's Mix. Mel says we should not skimp when preparing Mel's Mix. It is the backbone of your SFG.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  ccy333 on 5/6/2011, 10:40 pm

I have got my bed made and mixture in place. My bed is 6'x4'. I did not put down a weed barrier between the loosened soil and mixture. I also made a couple of other 2.5'x1.5' areas by a fence to possibly grow vine vegetables.

I ended up using 4.4cuft of vermiculite. A compressed 2.2cuft of Peat Moss (which I am hoping is ~4cuft uncompressed) and a mixture of Cotton Burr/Manure/Black Cow/Mushroom composts. Not ideal but it is done.Im going to be out of town/busty for the next week so I won't be able to plant for a week if I dont get things in tomorrow morning. I have some plants that I bought and were given to me that I will be putting in. I have various Tomatos, Peppers, Onions, Cucumbers, Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Squash, Lettuce. I will be spending the rest of the evening planning the plots and deciding what else I may want to consider. I have thought about carrots, green beans, and potato. I already have a large herb garden so I would really like to stick to vegetables.

I want to thank everyone for all the help. I found out about SFG and found this forum on Wednesday and have it all put together and ready to plant today thanks to all the resources and help that you have given me. Please feel free to add any additional information that you think would help me out.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  Miss M on 5/7/2011, 2:01 am

Congratulations on getting your garden going! cheers

You may need to add a bit of fish emulsion or compost tea now and then, or side-dress your plants with worm castings, that sort of thing, since you had only 3 composts. The purpose of having 5 is that they balance out each other's deficiencies, and lessen the negative impact of a compost that may not have been finished composting. So watch your plants. They may do just fine, but if you notice they are sluggish or having problems, you may need to give them a boost.

There have been quite a few on here who have posted that they used only 2 or 3 composts, and they are having trouble getting things to grow because their mix is deficient in nutrients. So that's why you just need to keep an eye out to see if your plants need a little help. Very Happy

Looking forward to seeing pictures! bounce

Oh wait -- it looks like you got a 4th compost in there. That's good. Hopefully, it will be well-rounded enough so that you won't have any trouble.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  ccy333 on 5/10/2011, 3:29 pm

I located another compost today. They called it "redbud Compost". They told me it is a mixture of horse manure, vegetable compost, grass, and alfalfa. it is $6 for 40lbs. They also had a mixture of humus and alfalfa compost. Should I add this as well?

I wasn't able to get my plants in this weekend but will be planting the next two days. I have been adding water and mixing my soil a couple of different times. I really wish I would have added water to the peat and vermiculite while mixing. I am having to add water and then let it set and go back to break up the clumps. I almost have this process complete. I will also be adding a small amount of 12-12-12 garden starter fertilizer when adding in the final source of compost.

A couple more questions...
1) I have found a few different garden planning software and apps. Is there one that anyone would recommend over another? I have a 6'x4' box with the long span running East/West. It will be getting full sun with very little (if any) shade. I am planning on planting tomatos, peppers, onions, cucumbers, squash, watermelon, and lettuce. I also may plant some potatos and carrots. Any tips on where these should go in the plot? I have the materials to build a trellis from conduit and netting, so I will need to factor that in when deciding location.

2) is it necessary to use boards to separate my sqft? I have seen photos of both string and 1" boards to do this.


Any other suggestions or things that I need to think about before jumping off the deep end?

Thanks for all of the help thus far.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  Furbalsmom on 5/10/2011, 3:47 pm

ccy

That redbud compost sounds like a really good addition to your compost blend.

Humus is kind of hard to recommed/not recommend because most often the definition of humus is that it does not contain any nutrients, it is more to loosen the soil. The alfalfa is a great source of nitrogen.

As far as the orientation of your box, the length running east west sounds ideal. That way one six foot length will be on your north side, a great location for any plants that need to be trellised like pole beans, cucumbers, squash, melons and tomatoes.
I am not great with companion planting, but in general, Peppers will do well close to (in front of) your tomatoes.
Onions are not good neighbors for beans and peas.

As far as grids, Mel recommends wooden strips or slats from mini blinds as they make a permanent and rigid grid to define your squares.

I have both wooden grids and nylon string to designate my grids.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  sfg4uKim on 5/10/2011, 4:53 pm

ccy333

Have you had the chance to read the All New SFG book? It gives you very specific reasons for the use of the different materials. If you don't have the book, try looking for it in the library. Very Happy

Probably the ONLY 2 "non-negotiables" with the SFG method are . . . the grid and the Mel's Mix. Remember though that the recipe for Mel's Mix is for the OPTIMAL balance of water retention, friability and nutrition.

People (and NO, I'm NOT singling you out LOL) can do whatever they WANT/CHOOSE to do in their gardens (we are NOT garden Nazis) Smile However, if they DON'T follow Mel's instructions, and are not satisfied with the results, they tend to blame Square Foot Gardening and NOT the fact that they didn't follow what was written in the book. Mel has put DECADES of research into this system and has probably tried EVERYTHING imaginable.

I applaude you for coming to the Forum and asking questions. Please let us know how it goes.

Kim

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  stripesmom on 5/11/2011, 9:59 am

Garden Nazi's, oh that's a good one, lol.

I used weed eater string to mark off my square feet. I held it down with u shaped fasteners that you nail in-first I nailed them in a little ways and then tied the string to it and nailed it in tight. I thought this was clever, but a word of warning. When the temperature changes the string changes. When it's hot, it's tight, when it cools off, it gets all loose. I saw a guy on youtube had used wire. I think that would cut some plants if you got a violent storm. I'm going to eventually change it to blind slats when I have every thing else done.

When I mixed my soil, I put all the compost on a tarp and pulled that back and forth to mix it up. Then I mixed my MM in a wheel barrel. I took a 5 gallon bucket, filled it with peat moss (which I broke up before filling), filled again with compost, then with vermiculite. I used a rake to start mixing, but eventually used my gloved hands. As I turned it over, I broke up as much of the compost/peat as I could. The MM turned out to be nicely mixed in the end. It took me all day to fill three boxes by myself though. I'm not the fastest mixer in the world though and I took a lot of breaks.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  ccy333 on 5/11/2011, 12:40 pm

Hello again,

I added two bags of the "Redbud Compost" and one bag of the Hum-more. This is what was in the hu-more:


Nature's
Prescription


is composed of composted manure and alfalfa hay and available in
the Western US. This product is finely screened for a variety
of uses and


is a Complete Organic Fertilizer. Humalfa™ products provide
13
necessary nutrients for healthy plant growth, rich in
Humus, Humic Acid, and Triacontanol (a natural growth stimulate).
Natures Prescription™ transforms tired soil, in various ways into an
efficient nutrient full and water retaining environment.



That brings me to at least 5 types of compost along with the Vermiculite and Peat Moss. I MADE IT!! Thanks for all of the help and encouragement.



I have ordered the all new SqFt gardening book. Should be in the mail in the next couple of days. I have a lot of pants that are really needing to get in the ground. Should I wait until I read the book to plant or go ahead and plant them soon?


Should I add any sort of starter fertilizer at this point?


I will certainly be using a grid system. I just wasn't sure if the boards were necessary of if string would suffice. I could probably do the boards if needed.


I will be trying to settle on the exact planting locations of each of my plants and the placement of a trellis. I have the materials to make a conduit trellis, but still need to do a little research on the netting/string.


Any other things that I need to consider at this point?


Thanks again for all the help. You all are very knowledgeable and helpful.

I will be looking into the

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  stripesmom on 5/11/2011, 12:56 pm

This is the netting I bought as I couldn't find it locally.

http://www.amazon.com/Dalen-Gardeneer-30-Foot-Trellis-TP-30C/dp/B000BZ8FXS/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1305132782&sr=1-1

You shouldn't need any starter fertilizer. See how your plants do first. You know, too much of a good thing.

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Re: Growing Medium

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 5/11/2011, 2:34 pm

Hi! The book gives a LOT of excellent advice about your plants - how many per square, etc. From what I've read here, think also about when plants will mature, what requires more shade and what will shade out sun-loving plants if not placed correctly.

Mel advocates wood lathe for grids, but the only requirement I'm aware of is that there ARE grids. Several posters use string, rope, or twine.

The book says that trellis be placed on the north side of the box so as to not shade the plants which are in your box. Although, I've seen some posters in super hot climates actually purposefully put their trellis up to shade their plants. Smile Just be aware that when filled with foliage it will shade your garden if it's between the sun and your garden.

The more experienced forum members are AWESOME about giving feedback on your planting plan, if you have one. Here are a couple of resources they've posted for planning: http://www.gardeners.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-Gardeners-Site/default/Page-KGPJS#clearbed
This site talks about what plants are "friendly" with each other:
http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html#ALFALFA:
There is also a mobile phone app which is free called "Garden Squared" which allows you to do some basic planning as well.
PS I found trellis netting at my local big box hardware store's garden center on the rack with the tomato ties, etc. Happy Planting! okay

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garden planning app

Post  oxmyx1 on 5/12/2011, 7:29 pm

Hi - I'm new here as well. Thought you'd like to know there's a wonderful planner app on the Mother Earth News website.

http://gardenplanner.motherearthnews.com/gardenplanner/gardenplanner.html

It's free for 30 days - then it's $25 a year or $40 for 2 years. I know, I know - where are the free ones? I haven't looked. I'm a MEN subscriber which is why I know about this one. I will start using it soon for a community farm here in the area. I'll post somewhere on the forum how well it works once I learn how to use it.


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Square Foot Gardening vs. ALL NEW Square Foot Gardening.

Post  WardinWake on 5/12/2011, 8:20 pm

Howdy 333:

So glad to have you as a new member on the Square Foot Gardening Forum. In reading your questions I get the feeling that you have a copy of the original "Square Foot Gardening" book. Several years ago Mel rewrote the SFG book and the new book is called "ALL NEW Square Foot Gardening". If you do not have a copy of the ALL NEW book it can be found in most bookstores, many big box hardware/gardening centers and of course here at our very own SFG bookstore. You may also find the book in your local library.

My wife and I have been gardening the SFG way for 3 full seasons and began teaching the class on, this the best way to garden ever invented this side of the original Garden of Eden, and always keep copies of the ALL NEW book at hand. One for use in the garden, one for use in the home and a box of 15 or so in the truck - just in case we talk to someone who does not have their own copy or for the classes we teach. So you think we are sold on this way of gardening? You Betcha!

In the ALL NEW book Mel made many improvements to the already great gardening system. These improvements included,

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


God Bless, Ward and Mary Barnes
Wake, VA

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Re: Growing Medium

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