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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  walshevak on 1/10/2012, 7:14 pm

@plantoid wrote:
@tegaan wrote:I am a renter and cannot have my own compost pile. As I am new I did not know to look at the compost first, I just bought bags. So can I just add more compost to the mix?



kari

Karie ,
Would you be allowed an extra unobtrusive lidded big garbage can preferably heavy duty plastic and be able to use that as a lidded composter with holes in it ?

You can take it with you when you move on as well .

I have 2 of these going as it was my first method of composting. This fall I had enough in one can to add small flowerpot full to the squares in 2 beds where I planted garlic. I had some left over 5 blend compost that I used to top dress some plants that held on through the summer and needed extra nutrients. The other can should be ready by spring.

Kay

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

Post  Cincinnati on 1/10/2012, 10:33 pm

I am a renter and cannot have my own compost pile. As I am new I did not know to look at the compost first, I just bought bags. So can I just add more compost to the mix?

kari


Kari.

I agree with the recommendations of others regarding composting in a drum, or garbage can. If you feel it is too much effort for a renter, purchasing 5 kinds of compost is an option.

Another option: If you have a friend who has their own property, perhaps they will let you create a compost pile there. Off-location is obviously more of a hassle.

A better and more viable option I am looking into is worm composting. You can purchase or make a "worm factory"-type system. Two pounds of worms can make 28-30 lbs/month of compost. This seems slow, but if you purchase enough compost to get started, the worm factory can keep up with your demands for re-planting plus adding additional beds. If you keep the factory going, you will have plenty stockpiled by the next season.

If you have the financial means, and the landlord will permit, you can purchase a drum compost unit like the Mantis ComposT-Twin. It's a bit costly. The problem as a renter may be finding the right raw materials to create compost. You might approach a supermarket, fresh produce market, etc and as them to throw all their bad fruits and veggies into a separate can. (You may have to provide the can). Be sure to pick them up exactly when they want it removed.

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Help.

Post  MBC on 1/28/2012, 2:13 pm

Help, please: Last summer I filled a raised bed with a mixture of steer manure, "garden soil", "potting soil", and some topsoil. I want to make Mel's mix with this...would I keep one-third of this (and add a variety of compost) and add one-third vermiculite and one-third peat moss? I have lettuce growing in it now (California) and it is doing well, though I notice after a few months, the "soil" has kind of hardened up and it holds maybe too much moisture. Thanks for any thoughts.

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

Post  Furbalsmom on 1/28/2012, 3:25 pm

MBC

Glad you joined us. It is great that you currently have lettuce growing in your raised bed. I really enjoy having fresh produce available from my SFG bed.
@MBC wrote:Last summer I filled a raised bed with a mixture of steer manure, "garden soil", "potting soil", and some topsoil. I want to make Mel's mix with this

I hope you had a chance to read the beginning of this thread, I know it is long, but boy is it informative.

Mel's Mix contains NO SOIL. It is created with 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 blended (from at least 5 types)compost. So, no you really don't want to mix in any of the current contents of your raised bed when creating your Mel's Mix.

Mel's Mix can be put over top of your existing soil, and many of us use a weed barrier of some type to keep weeds from your existing soil from growing into your loose and nutrient rich Mel's Mix. One of the major advantages of Mel's Mix is that it stays loose and friable and it drains well, while still absorbing enough moisture to keep your plants happy.

You could either dig out the top six inches of the raised bed, cover with weed barrier and then refill it with Mel's Mix, or you could add an addtional 6 inch deep frame over your existing bed, cover with a weed barrier and then fill with the Mel's Mix.

I hope you feel free to continue asking questions.

Please check into your regional forum, you can check this thread REGIONS << CLICK HERE, to determine which region would best fit your location.

Here's wishing you a very successful growing season.

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

Post  Chopper on 1/28/2012, 4:15 pm

@MBC wrote:Help, please: Last summer I filled a raised bed with a mixture of steer manure, "garden soil", "potting soil", and some topsoil. I want to make Mel's mix with this...would I keep one-third of this (and add a variety of compost) and add one-third vermiculite and one-third peat moss? I have lettuce growing in it now (California) and it is doing well, though I notice after a few months, the "soil" has kind of hardened up and it holds maybe too much moisture. Thanks for any thoughts.

Welcome. And trust me we are trying to save you from yourself. LOL Just as with building you have the 'measure twice, cut once' rule the way to do it right the first time with SFG is to make sure your 'soil' is exactly what it should be. It is the foundation of your SFG and without it you will be fighting an uphill battle.

From the FAQ of the website:

WHAT IS MEL'S MIX?

Mel's Mix is the most important, productive, essential, necessary, critical, major subject and is the backbone of the Square Foot Gardening method! You'll never have to go through all the hard work, expense, and time-consuming, back-breaking labor of improving your garden soil every spring like we used to. Your Mel's Mix never has to be replaced and you don't have to do a thing except plant your seeds.

The Simple Formula is this:

1/3 Blended Compost
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Coarse Vermiculte

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

Post  1airdoc on 1/28/2012, 7:18 pm

"Garden soil" is often a bagged product sold at big box stores that is primarily wood chip mulch. It is not true "soil," and as a compost it is a big nitrogen sink (sucks up the nitrogen from the other compost(s) as the wood decomposes). I didn't realize that and used a small amount as one of my composts when I built my SFG and MM last year, and my MM was nitrogen-deficient.

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Re: Help

Post  MBC on 1/28/2012, 7:51 pm

Thanks for your replies!

I just looked at the bag of my "garden soil" and found out that it is all compost, from bat and worm droppings to decomposed forest material and all inbetween...good news.

I feel confident in removing 2/3rds of this and mixing in the vermiculite and peat moss.

The topsoil I mentioned is from a bag, not full of weeds from the yard.

Has anyone ever placed their SFG on top of concrete? I do not want to use our limited yard for the vegetable garden when we have a large, unused and unuseful concrete slab where I cannot plant. It seems to be working, and, of course, there are no weeds coming up!

Very excited...we are two months from our last frost date! Time to plant some things.

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

Post  Furbalsmom on 1/28/2012, 8:32 pm

MBC
If you want to grow on top of concrete, please consider that you will need to have the beds raised above the concrete to allow for drainage. In this case, your boxes will need to have bottoms with drainage holes and then supported on at least the four corners and in the center. Perhaps on bricks. Usually one 1/4 inch drainage hole per square foot and one hole in each corner is sufficient for drainage of Mel's Mix.


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

Post  plantoid on 1/29/2012, 7:23 am

MBC , you could grow direct on the concrete using a waterproof membrane on the concrete to stop the concrete drawing off moisture from the beds.
You might even get away with only using deep frames instead of the tray idea. Any excess water will seep out from under the bottom edges & off the membrane .

If it's really suny & hot where you are you might have to take acount of the reflected sun's heat off the concrete as well. For concrtete can act like a massive mirror in this scenario.
It can either be advantageous or detrimental according what your growing & how big a volume of the bed you use. Small volume beds will tend to dry out very quickly .

Depending on how deep you want your beds and how deep your pockets are , perhaps even using hollow concrete blocks to make the walls of the beds & using the hollows as well to grow small buttonhole flowers or a few raddish etc.

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

Post  darin2 on 1/31/2012, 4:59 pm

My question on the topic of compost is how many cubic feet is in a 40lb bag of compost. I can find little if any measurement comparison. Everything seems to be by the pound when dealing with compost, and not cubic feet. Someone posted that a 40lb bag equals 2 cubic feet, but I haven't seen that anywhere else. Any help on this would be appreciated.

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

Post  floyd1440 on 1/31/2012, 5:10 pm

darin2



http://forum.onlineconversion.com/showthread.php?t=1188



Hope this helps as it depends on the material

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

Post  plantoid on 1/31/2012, 5:53 pm

darin2
I ended up modifying a standard packing carton so the internals were 12 x 12 x 12 inches . I then opened up a bag of compost on the concrete , forked it over to loosen it up then filled the carboard box with it . For me this loosened volume just happened to level fill a galvanised steel bucket I have .

I did this because Mel's Mix is by volume not weight and it is made up for use in its light uncompressed volume. Though you don't have to be watchmaker precision precise , just near enough is OK

If your handy and can get it why not make a simple plywood volume box for the future or adapt / cut down a plastic tub to take a measured cubic foot of uncompacted Vermiculite , peat or for commercially made five way compost.
Once your beds are made up ,hang onto the tub as I reckon you'll need it for your additional inital bed fillings.

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

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 1/31/2012, 6:24 pm

darin2

For the purposes of purchase, many people figure a 40 lb bag to be about .75 cu ft. This is only for the purposes of purchase because indeed, different compost has different volume. It just gets you in the ballpark so you know roughly how many bags of compost you need.

What a lot of people in the US do is similar to Plantoid's method, only they use a 5 gallon bucket and don't worry too much about cu ft. Fill your bucket once with compost #1 and dump in a location you can mix (I use a tarp). Fill it once with compost #2 and add to your bucket of compost #1 you dumped. Continue adding one bucket each of compost #3, #4 and #5. Mix your five bucketfuls together and you now have a pile of 5-way blended compost.

Since your pile is about five bucketfuls, add five bucketfuls of vermiculite to your pile and mix, and five bucketfuls of FLUFFED peat moss and mix. Smile Repeat to make your next batch. Smile


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

Post  wncsohn on 1/31/2012, 7:32 pm

@UnderTheBlackWalnut wrote:darin2

For the purposes of purchase, many people figure a 40 lb bag to be about .75 cu ft. This is only for the purposes of purchase because indeed, different compost has different volume. It just gets you in the ballpark so you know roughly how many bags of compost you need.

What a lot of people in the US do is similar to Plantoid's method, only they use a 5 gallon bucket and don't worry too much about cu ft. Fill your bucket once with compost #1 and dump in a location you can mix (I use a tarp). Fill it once with compost #2 and add to your bucket of compost #1 you dumped. Continue adding one bucket each of compost #3, #4 and #5. Mix your five bucketfuls together and you now have a pile of 5-way blended compost.

Since your pile is about five bucketfuls, add five bucketfuls of vermiculite to your pile and mix, and five bucketfuls of FLUFFED peat moss and mix. Smile Repeat to make your next batch. Smile




Wow, that makes it sound so much simpler! LOL TY for that post because we are doing so many beds that it's a bit mind boggeling to try and figure out "exactly" how to measure out the compost.

eta: however, I was also using the 2 cf per bag idea and this means I'm going to have to buy 2x as much compost! However, that IS one of the less expensive components of MM so I guess it's not too bad!

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

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/1/2012, 3:45 pm

Embarassed darin

Weight conversion to cubic feet is really not possible because the amount of moisture in the compost is not standard, however, one of our members measured the volume of a 40 lb bag of compost and found it to be approximately 0.75 cubic feet.



ETA: sorry I did not see that UnderTheBlackWalnut had already provided this info.


Last edited by Furbalsmom on 2/1/2012, 3:47 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : did not read the whole post)

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

Post  ramarks on 6/8/2012, 9:54 pm

Thanks for this post...it should be in the appendix of the book.

It makes me think that my mix is quite as "Mel's" as it should be. I didn't moisten my peat moss, but I did fluff it so that I added close to equal amounts of vermiculite and compost. And my compost I bought in bulk from a local commercial supplier, so it is probably not the five different kinds.

Whatever...my soil is the envy of my friends. So far my plants are loving it.

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

Post  Momof5Js on 6/25/2012, 3:21 pm

I started my SFG this year and boy did we start big. We have 4 rows of boxes 4x16. Needless to say we had ALOT of MM to mix up. Thankfully my darling hubby was rather patient. I spent one day calling the local stores to find the peat moss, vermiculite and 5 kinds of compost. I'll just say darling hubby was not as patient after we hauled our large flat bed trailer to 4 different stores in town (1 hour away.) But we came home with the goods. I read the ANSFG book several times regarding the MM and I must admit I fretted over it. I finally bought what we could find (everything else was ready, I just needed to fill the boxes.) Here are the mistakes I believe I made. I purchased a cotton burr compost and after reading this post, I realize it still had some recognizable pieces of cotton and twigs in it. OOPS! I am not picking them out of the MM as I "work" in my paradise. I also am not sure if my vermiculite was the right type. It has gold flakes in it. A friend actually commented that I should have "panned for gold" before I planted in it Embarassed Is this an "OK" vermiculite to use? I have had some problems with my beans and my peas. I wonder if my MM is wrong? Any advice would be appreciated.

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

Post  plantoid on 6/25/2012, 6:14 pm

Vermiculite granules do have the gold sheen to them in the right light conditions so no worries on that one

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

Post  Momof5Js on 6/25/2012, 7:27 pm

Thanks! It's good to know at least that part is ok.

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

Post  Cincinnati on 6/25/2012, 9:46 pm

@Momof5Js wrote:...I realize it still had some recognizable pieces of cotton and twigs in it. OOPS! I am not picking them out of the MM as I "work" in my paradise. ...

Don't fret over the MM. The Cotton Compost is only about 6% of your final MM mix. If it is not fully composted, I don't think it will mess up your beds to the point of producing a problem. I'm assuming you found four other composts to mix in with the Cotton Burr Compost.

What problem did you have with your beans and peas?

Just curious. You said you have 4 rows of 4x16 boxes. How many boxes per row?

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

Post  Momof5Js on 6/25/2012, 11:51 pm

@Cincinnati wrote:
@Momof5Js wrote:...I realize it still had some recognizable pieces of cotton and twigs in it. OOPS! I am not picking them out of the MM as I "work" in my paradise. ...

Don't fret over the MM. The Cotton Compost is only about 6% of your final MM mix. If it is not fully composted, I don't think it will mess up your beds to the point of producing a problem. I'm assuming you found four other composts to mix in with the Cotton Burr Compost.

What problem did you have with your beans and peas?

Just curious. You said you have 4 rows of 4x16 boxes. How many boxes per row?

Oops, I noticed I stated that "I am not picking them out. . ." I actually meant to say that I AM picking them out as I come across them.

Yes, I did find 4 other composts (chicken, steer, mushroom and organic.)

Each row has 4 4x4 boxes. One end box is 8" deep and the other 3 are 6". For a grand total of 16 boxes.

I planted Little Marvel Peas (bought from local green house in bulk) in mid April. They came up beautifully and got to be about 6 inches tall. I left on vacation and darling hubby watered while the children and I were gone. Then he decided to join us and enlisted another "waterer." This person forgot on day, but we came home that evening. When we got home, the pea plants were pale, sickly yellow and started wilting from the top down. I thought maybe lack of water. Needless to say most of them died and a few set on some pea pods, but soon died as well. I pulled them and tried again. I know it was late in the season but I just wanted to see what would happen since I would be home to monitor. They are now starting to do the same thing again. Now I could blame the heat. We are dealing with 100 degree and above days.

Now the green beans, I purchased from the same place and also in bulk. Same kinda a story except I planted them later when we got home from vacation. They are growing but getting brown leaves. The leaves get crusty brown, shrivel, wilt and fall off.

I am rather disappointed as we love green beans and peas and I was hoping to put some (and by that I mean at least 60 quarts) up - either can or freeze. Any advice you might be able to give would be greatly appreciated. I have found a couple of other posts here about a similiar problem and it seems to be the nitorgen levels.

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

Post  Cincinnati on 6/26/2012, 12:54 am

@Momof5Js wrote:...

I planted Little Marvel Peas (bought from local green house in bulk) in mid April. They came up beautifully and got to be about 6 inches tall. I left on vacation and darling hubby watered while the children and I were gone. Then he decided to join us and enlisted another "waterer." This person forgot on day, but we came home that evening. When we got home, the pea plants were pale, sickly yellow and started wilting from the top down. I thought maybe lack of water. Needless to say most of them died and a few set on some pea pods, but soon died as well. I pulled them and tried again. I know it was late in the season but I just wanted to see what would happen since I would be home to monitor. They are now starting to do the same thing again. Now I could blame the heat. We are dealing with 100 degree and above days.

Now the green beans, I purchased from the same place and also in bulk. Same kinda a story except I planted them later when we got home from vacation. They are growing but getting brown leaves. The leaves get crusty brown, shrivel, wilt and fall off.

I am rather disappointed as we love green beans and peas and I was hoping to put some (and by that I mean at least 60 quarts) up - either can or freeze. Any advice you might be able to give would be greatly appreciated. I have found a couple of other posts here about a similiar problem and it seems to be the nitorgen levels.

I doubt that missing one day of watering caused so much irreparable harm unless the seedlings were so young that the heat killed them. 100 degree days is pretty intense. Peas are a cool weather crop. They grow much better here in Alabama in the fall than in the spring/early summer. I have tried twice to grow them in the spring, but the weather turned too hot before they could produce well. I planted them in the last week of September last year, and I had peas into January (I had to keep them covered on cold nights and added a couple of 250W bulbs under the plastic on several nights.) But they were delicious. Same with spinach and lettuce.

What else did you grow in the SQFT beds? With so many beds, I assume you had several crops. If they did well, I'd say it was not your MM.

How old was the bulk seed that you bought?

The beans seem to have been hit by a blight or some virus. I had a similar problem with tomato plants last fall. Do you have a local county extension agent with whom you can consult?

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

Post  Momof5Js on 6/26/2012, 3:31 pm

"I doubt that missing one day of watering caused so much irreparable harm unless the seedlings were so young that the heat killed them. 100 degree days is pretty intense. Peas are a cool weather crop. They grow much better here in Alabama in the fall than in the spring/early summer. I have tried twice to grow them in the spring, but the weather turned too hot before they could produce well. I planted them in the last week of September last year, and I had peas into January (I had to keep them covered on cold nights and added a couple of 250W bulbs under the plastic on several nights.) But they were delicious. Same with spinach and lettuce.

What else did you grow in the SQFT beds? With so many beds, I assume you had several crops. If they did well, I'd say it was not your MM.

How old was the bulk seed that you bought?

The beans seem to have been hit by a blight or some virus. I had a similar problem with tomato plants last fall. Do you have a local county extension agent with whom you can consult?"

It was not so hot when we planted and the first "crop" died. The 100 degree temps just started last week and I pulled and replanted by the end of May. I am giving up peas for now, but will try in the fall. Any suggestions for the empty spots? I have a full box of peas. I don't know how old the seeds were. I do know our traditional garden friends have just the sames seeds/supplier and have had exceptional luck. Same with the green beans.

I have 3 boxes of corn (each box planted about 10-14 days apart.) That seems to be going okay. I did not really want all of that corn ready at one time:D

1 box is a 4 tiered strawberry tower, 2 boxes of potatoes, 1 box of onions, 1 box of carrots, 4 squares to broccoli, 4 squares to cabbage, 8 tomato plants, 8 cucumber plants, 4 watermelon, 4 cantalope, 2 honey dew, 2 pumpkin, 7 pepper plants, 12 squares of beets, 6 okra plants, some cilantro, sage and thyme; 1 square with yummy chocolate mint; 1 square in each box has marigolds (heard that was a good thing?) A few flowers here and there. Umm, I think that is all.

I have sent pictures to our county extension agent, and I am waiting to hear back from her.

Thanks for the information and encouragement. I am determiined to make this work to provide for our family of 7. flower

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

Post  Carrot-top on 7/25/2012, 11:28 pm

Excellent post! I really enjoy learning from others so that I don't have to make serious mistakes! Keep up the good work!

Carrot-top

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Location : Deep South Louisiana

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

Post  toledobend on 10/1/2012, 12:49 pm

I filled a new box today, the first with my own compost! My new box is a 4'x4' with 7.25" tall boards. I used the five gallon bucket method to measure my compost. Each bucket hols .67 cu. ft., so I sifted the pile and put the compost in a trash can. I was curious on how the six buckets (4 c. ft.) compared to the 4 cu ft bag of vermiculite and the 2.2 cu ft bag of compressed peat moss. I marked the height of the compost in the trash can. The 4 cu ft bag of vermiculite went a litttle higher than the 4 cu ft of compost. But the uncompressed 2.2 cu ft of compressed peat moss was almost exactly as high as the compost. The Mels Mix calculator seemed to work well because I came out with about 2 cu ft of extra Mel's Mix after I filled the box.

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

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