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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  ddemeo on 4/1/2013, 8:42 am

I'm wishing I had seen this before I went around shopping for compost! At least I haven't started mixing yet.

For compost I have the following so far:
2 bags Just Natural mushroom compost
1 bag composted cow manure
1 bag lobster compost
1 bag worm castings
4 bags ecoscraps (on order...hopefully will arrive this week!)

All bags are approximately the same size.

I just got a compost bin too, so going forward I'll make my own for trowels full. Now that I've read through this thread, though, I may pick up another bag or two of compost so it's truly diverse. I've seen bat guano, chickity doo doo, quoddy blend, and a few others I wasn't sure were okay to use until I read through this.

Question: Is it safe to assume that the compost mix doesn't have to be an exact ratio? In other words, if I had 5 different kinds, does it have to be 1:1:1:1:1? Or is 2:1:1:1:4 acceptable? I am aware that once my compost is mixed, I'll want that to be 1:1:1 with the peat moss and vermiculite. I'm just wondering about the compost itself. Suggestions??

Thanks!
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  camprn on 4/20/2014, 7:43 am

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  CapeCoddess on 4/20/2014, 7:52 am

oh no! Is it that time already? I've been ignoring it hoping it will flop over by itself... Rolling Eyes 
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Minerals

Post  MitchHardy on 4/25/2015, 9:10 pm

Since compost is bulky, it doesn't pay to move it long distances. Most of the compost/manure a gardener can either make or buy comes from a limited geographic locale, and there aren't many places in the world that don't have either a deficiency or an excess of one or more of the minerals needed for optimal plant growth. (Oddly enough, such excess or deficiency is likely to be present in the gardener's own soil......)

All the compost you can pile on won't correct this problem, which is why we need to...

ADD MINERALS to our mix (after testing).

And this is most especially critical with the cations. Soil health, and therefore plant health, depends on proper amounts and a proper balance of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium to maintain the cation exchange capacity of the soil.

Think bone char, azomite , granite meal, greensand, etc., etc., &etc. Compost is wonderful, but it's not a panacea for all nutrient problems. And then there is the issue of soil structure. Try adding gypsum to your soil and see what happens.

Best,

Mitch
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  ralitaco on 4/25/2015, 10:05 pm

@MitchHardy wrote:...All the compost you can pile on won't correct this problem, which is why we need to...

ADD MINERALS to our mix (after testing).

...Soil health, and therefore plant health, depends on proper amounts and a proper balance of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and sodium to maintain the cation exchange capacity of the soil.

...Compost is wonderful, but it's not a panacea for all nutrient problems.
I am no expert on compost nor gardening in general but with that said, just like everything else in the world, there is no real "one size fits all" solution for anything, and nowadays I see ads saying "one size fits MOST" And I think that's what SFG is aiming to do.

I believe the reason that Mel's Mix uses a blended compost is to get a wide variety of the nutrients needed to grow the widest assortment of veggies and/or flowers with the least amount of extra minerals and such. Also, SFG opens the door to give a wide variety of people in various situations and circumstances a reliable, successful gardening experience.

I am sure there are some SFG'ers that will not add anything other than their compost, but I know I have read on other threads folks getting their soil tested. And getting it tested should be a pre-requesite before amending the soil. 

Another benefit is that even if you have to amend the soil, you can use a lot less in a much better controlled environment. AND you can tailor an individual box's nutrients for certain crops.

Regardless of whether or not you need to add some minerals to make up for deficiencies, the SFG method is by far easier for me to do AND understand. As an example, I am reading a Veggie Gardening "holy book" and that author is talking about having to roto-till the ground, digging down to the sub soil, using long tine pitchforks to aerate the soil, etc. If I had to do ALL that to plant some tomatoes, Forget about it...I wouldn't do it. Now if all I have to do is get my MM tested and add some potassium or calcium to one 4x4 box of loose soil...That I can do and will gladly do.
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  BeckieSueDalton on 6/28/2015, 1:48 pm

Thank you so very much for this tutorial post.  

We're tight on funds, so this first year I'll have to use the garden soil fixings we'd already purchased (Miracle Gro for veggies/flowers, worm castings, mushroom compost, and some coconut coir that the big box gardening guy recommended).  The pre-bagged Mel's Mix isn't offered at any of our local stores - at least that I can find via websites and phone calls - so having your compost list as a guide is going to be critical for me to be able to do this right.

I've just made my very first boxes - three 2x4 ones - and your post with the wonderful breakdown on composted materials helps me know what I can pick up for us a little at a time each month to be ready for next year.

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  donnainzone5 on 6/28/2015, 2:06 pm

Because your beautiful boxes have bottoms, you'll need to drill one hole (at least 1/4") in each corner, plus one in the center of each square foot, for drainage.  Some people choose to drill more holes than that. 

It also helps to elevate the beds a bit (on bricks or the like) to facilitate drainage.

You may wish to start making your own compost for future use.  Please use the "search" function here to find a great deal of how-to information.  

And since you couldn't start out with Mel's Mix, you may very well have to fertilize organically, or preferably, use a small amount of a blend of five different composts, to provide sufficient nutrients to your plants.

Many of us choose not to use Miracle Gro, by the way.  It's said that its mineral salts accumulate, ultimately interfering with plants' ability to grow.
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  sanderson on 6/28/2015, 2:40 pm

Becky Sue,  Beautiful boxes!  All of my boxes are only 2' deep and I love them.  The largest is 2' x 8'.  Yes, you do have to drill holes as Donna stated.  I finally landed on 3/4" holes.  The 1/4" were too easy to get plugged and 1" seemed too big.  Use any scrap 2x4 (waste from a construction site?) at both ends and in the middle to get them off the ground.  Every 2 feet of underneath support.  Or, 3 rows of cheap common bricks end to end.

Coir will work in place of fluffed peat moss.  I personally would add bagged chicken or cow manure (screened to remove wood chips, bottle caps and rocks Very Happy ) to your mix.  Having at least one manure source seems to be good.  They are usually less than $2 a bag.  The Miracle Gro for veggies/flowers is not for container use, but that said, what ever else you can add to the mix will help.  The Miracle Grow fertilizer in the product is stated to last 3 months so be ready to top dress with mixed composts or organic "fertilizer" this first year.

Just so you know you are not alone, my first year I used Kellogg (red stripped bag) for the compost part.  Embarassed Everything came up and looked so pretty and then stopped growing.  I spent the rest of that first summer adding bagged manure, ordering worm castings and kelp meal and building my first compost pile!  I even used Miracle Grow fertilizer at half strength twice.

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  Marc Iverson on 6/28/2015, 3:23 pm

Looks great Becky!

Be sure to soak your coir a time or two in case it's the kind that has lots of salt in it.
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  plantoid on 6/28/2015, 6:03 pm

This year I have finally stopped making new ANSFG beds as I have more than enough for our needs .

For the last three years of filling and topping them up I've  used nothing but compressed coir blocks , ( instead of peat ) which weigh about 10 pounds each.
Two blocks take around  70 litres of water (  20 us gallons ?) to rehydrate enough for my beds . Adding vermiculite later as and where needed , directly on the beds in thin layers as I fill /top up the bed

To get the water take up going in the coir  . I put the water in the big wheel barrow , add 1/2 a teaspoon of simple non anti bacterial dish washing up liquid to the wheel barrow & swish it around to mix it without a lot of suds then I add the blocks . Aout five hours later all the water has been soaked up and the coir is standing 10 inches or more taller than the wheel barrow sides often over flowing onto the concrete work slab . More often than not I've left it all inthe barrow overnight as  this gives a much better absorbancy state overall.

Occasionally I've included  a gallon of a very weak solution of tomato growth enhancer to the re-hydration water volume if I want to put transplants in right away .

A few times I've added  four or more heaped shovels of my homemade compost to the soaped soaking  water before adding the coir blocks to get as many nutrients into the coir as possible .

Towards the last half of the barrow's load I mix everything up in the barrow so that nothing is too rich .
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  BeckieSueDalton on 6/28/2015, 7:34 pm

Thanks for the advice on this, everyone. Smile

I already have a bottle of their liquid fertilizer, so I'll dress with that every week or so to help the plants this year.

I need to go ahead and get my popcorn seedlings into their new home, but if it's only $2 or so, I'll see if I can't get my daughter to make a quick Lowes run with me tomorrow to pick up a bag of manure.

And I have an old trashcan that I've started tossing compost things in.  It's not a perfect solution, but at least things can start decomposing while I get what I need to do the three-tote Wriggler Hilton.
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  Razed Bed on 6/29/2015, 8:17 am

Becky, if you have a nice-sized yard that has not been sprayed with chemicals, you can have a lot of compost in a hurry if you rake up your grass clippings after the yard has been cut and put it into a pile.

Check out this video that shows how easy it is.  I do this all the time, but I substitute healthier choices for the ones used in the video.

For Beer, I substitute Nutritional Yeast flakes that I buy in bulk from the local health food store

For Cola, I substitute Succanat or Unsulphured Molasses, depending on what's in the pantry

For Ammonia, I substitute Alfalfa Meal that I also buy in bulk.

Here is the link to the video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDPAbkUUT-o

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  sanderson on 6/29/2015, 12:49 pm

@BeckieSueDalton wrote:I already have a bottle of their liquid fertilizer, so I'll dress with that every week or so to help the plants this year.
Half strength.

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  camprn on 6/30/2015, 10:59 am

Be careful to not over fertilize. Good luck.

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  sanderson on 8/19/2016, 1:46 pm

BUMP

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/5/2017, 6:24 pm

This is a great read for all new (and old) members Smile

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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  ralitaco on 3/6/2017, 1:46 am

@RoOsTeR wrote:This is a great read for all new (and old) members Smile
Agreed. I learned a bunch reading through this entire thread
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Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  AtlantaTerry on 7/15/2017, 12:02 am

I bought some bags of private label "compost" from a large independent garden center a couple years ago. OMG! It was AWFUL!  affraid

It was sloppy black liquid dye, sand and pine bark. I took it back for a refund and complained to the State of Georgia Agricultural Department.
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