Square Foot Gardening Forum

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.


Search
 
 

Display results as :
 

 


Rechercher Advanced Search

Latest topics
» New England, December 2016
by Scorpio Rising Yesterday at 11:36 pm

» N&C Midwest: December 2016
by Scorpio Rising Yesterday at 11:19 pm

» December 2016 Avatar: Show your Winter Season Colors!
by Scorpio Rising Yesterday at 11:17 pm

» Garlic: Freeze, thaw, and heave
by Scorpio Rising Yesterday at 11:13 pm

» Tomato Tuesday 2016
by AtlantaMarie Yesterday at 8:51 pm

» AtlantaMarie's Garden
by AtlantaMarie Yesterday at 8:46 pm

» Mychorrhizae Fungi
by sanderson Yesterday at 8:30 pm

» SFG not giving the results I expected
by No_Such_Reality Yesterday at 7:21 pm

» New Member
by trolleydriver Yesterday at 4:14 pm

» TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer
by trolleydriver Yesterday at 1:32 pm

» Mid-Atl - Dec 2016 - Seed Catalog ?
by CapeCoddess Yesterday at 12:32 pm

» Live and learn
by jimmy cee Yesterday at 10:56 am

» First season SFG results / lessons learned
by countrynaturals Yesterday at 10:36 am

» CANADIAN REGION: What are you doing December 2016
by Kelejan Yesterday at 9:46 am

» Mid-South: December 2016
by sanderson Yesterday at 3:39 am

» 1st Seed Catalog Arrived :)
by sanderson Yesterday at 3:30 am

» Eat Broccoli Leaves? Brussels Sprouts? Cauliflower?
by sanderson Yesterday at 2:55 am

» Winter's Coming!
by sanderson Yesterday at 2:53 am

» Dry versus fresh spices to infuse vinegar
by sanderson Yesterday at 2:50 am

» 2016 SFG in Brooks, Ga
by sanderson Yesterday at 1:28 am

» Holy snow Batman!
by sanderson 12/2/2016, 5:46 pm

» Senseless Banter...
by MrBooker 12/2/2016, 5:17 pm

» Blanching and Freezing Vegetables
by sanderson 12/2/2016, 4:59 pm

» Your Christmas wish list?
by sanderson 12/2/2016, 4:29 pm

» SFG Adventure of a first time gardener in ND
by sanderson 12/2/2016, 4:14 pm

» Second Year SFG in Canada
by trolleydriver 12/2/2016, 2:59 pm

» Fusion Life Brands Power XL pressure cooker
by CapeCoddess 12/2/2016, 2:39 pm

» Asia Region -Showcase of Gardens - Show Us Yours
by sanderson 12/2/2016, 2:14 pm

» December: What to plant in Northern California and Central Valley areas
by countrynaturals 12/2/2016, 1:13 pm

» Gardening in Central Pennsylvania
by countrynaturals 12/2/2016, 12:52 pm

Google

Search SFG Forum

Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Page 1 of 5 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next

View previous topic View next topic Go down

Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  dizzygardener on 5/24/2011, 12:20 pm

How Strong is Your Backbone?

I know most of you have seen the many topics by folks who have struggling SFGs. Most of you know that more often than not it is a nutrient deficiency. Why is this? The method seems simple enough. 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost. The problem often rests with the compost mix.

So, in an effort to provide the SFG family with a one-stop resource for how to put together as perfect a Mel’s Mix as possible, I offer you this thread. However, before we get into the meat of this discussion I want to talk to you a bit about the All New Square Foot Gardening book (ANSFG).

Do you own a copy of the book? Have you read it at least once? If not, let me encourage you to do so. The only way you can learn everything you need to know about this method is for you to read the book. Surely, this forum is full of lots of helpful hints (some SFG related and some definitely not), but it can’t hold a candle to the real thing. If you are starting out, you need to know just how to do SFG the right way before you start experimenting. Reading the book is the best way to learn how to do SFG the right way.

What I am about to say is based on the ANSFG book. I am heavily relying on Chapter 5 of the book. It is entitled “Mel’s Mix, Essential for Square Foot Gardening Success.” A sub-title puts an even finer point on it, “Don’t Skimp On This.”

This is going to be a long read. I apologize in advance, but there is a lot to cover here. For those of you with short attention spans let me offer you the condensed version:

• Peat moss in compressed bales will fluff to twice its volume. Bear this in mind when you are doing your calculations. Pre-moisten your peat before you mix it into your MM.
• Use coarse grade vermiculite. If you can’t find it ask your local garden supply if they can order it in for you. Medium will work in a pinch, but not as well as the coarse.
• If you don’t have your own source of compost you MUST use a blend of at least 5 kinds of purchased composts that is kinds NOT just manufacturers or brands. READ THE LABELS ON YOUR COMPOST BAGS. I cannot stress this enough. You want your bags of compost to be as pure as possible. Some good ones are cow, horse, and chicken manures; mushroom compost and worm castings. Make sure that the bags are NOT 50%+ peat or mulch. Especially in the case of peat, adding all that filler will throw off your Mel's Mix.

1. Peat Moss

This is probably the easiest part of the system. You can buy it in compressed bales or in bags. The compressed 3 cu.ft. bales are often times the most cost effective. The key here is to remember to fluff your peat moss before you add it to your mix. The compressed bales will double in size when fluffed. That’s 3 cu.ft. to 6 cu.ft. and so on. The other thing to remember about the peat is to moisten it before you add it to the mix. Peat moss can almost repel water when it is dry. If you pre-moisten it, you stand a better chance of getting it well integrated into your mix. Note: Warm water is best for this part of the process.

When Peat Moss causes problems in an SFG it is because there is too much of it. When there is too much peat your SFG will become water-logged, and you can get a crust on the top of your mix. If you have too much peat you are also going to have too little compost, and that nutrient deficiency will cause your SFG to struggle.

Make sure you only use 1/3 peat moss. Some of the commercially available “composts” also contain up to 50% peat. If you are going to use these, adjust your mix accordingly (more on that later).

2. Vermiculite

This part of the mix is really pretty simple. You need 1/3 coarse-grade vermiculite. The most difficulty you’ll face with this part is tracking it down. We have a vermiculite database that can help you with that. Check your local nurseries, garden centers, and hydroponics shops. If they don’t have it in stock they can often times order it in for you.

What if you can’t find coarse vermiculite? Keep trying! Medium will work in a pinch, but it won’t work as well as the coarse stuff. Mel designed his system to use the coarse grade, so do your best to find it.

3. Compost

The best thing you can do is to use your own home grown blended compost. That is the only way you can be sure of what is in it, and be fairly confident that it will contain the nutrients your SFG needs to thrive. There are links at the end of this post that can help you get your own compost pile started.

If you have to buy your compost you must make sure that you get AT LEAST 5 kinds of compost. The word “kinds” is pivotal here. Some folks will say that all you need is 5 sources or brands, but you are rolling the dice if you put your blend together this way. Chances are, you will have a nutrient deficiency if your Mel’s mix is made up of three 3 brands of cow manure plus some mushroom compost and a bag of generic compost blend. Diversity of compost kinds = diversity of nutrient sources.

If you don’t believe me read what Mel said under the subtitle “An Afterthought,” "I want to make doubly sure you got the message of this chapter, so I'd like to summarize the critical facts about compost. You need blended compost made from at least five different ingredients. " "… if you can find at least five of these individual composted materials you can mix them together to make a well-rounded blended compost ingredient for your Mel's Mix." " And if you did your job and got a blended compost made from at least five major ingredients, you will be blessed with the most wonderful garden you could ever imagine." (106)
Also take a look at the first picture on page 91. Here Mel has pulled together that he considers a good Mel’s mix. Note that each bag is different with different ingredients and different manufacturers. This is just one of many possibilities, but use it as a guide as you try to come up with your own Mel’s Mix.

YOU MUST READ THE LABELS! I cannot stress this enough. It is not enough to just pick up the first 5 bags you see and sling them into your cart! You are looking for the purest forms of compost you can find. If the ingredient list states that the bag contains 50%+ peat, mulch, or some other filler then DO NOT BUY IT.

If you are in a pinch and can only find bags of compost with high percentages of fillers you should adjust your 1/3 peat accordingly, and you should screen out any big wood chunks.

It is so critical to have at least 5 different kinds of compost because SFG is intensive gardening, which requires greater concentration of plants nutritional supplies. In row gardening, a plant has lots of space to send out roots to suck up marginal amounts of nutrition. We can't afford to have marginal nutritional content in a SFG. Using 5 kinds of compost ensures that you have abundant and diverse nutrients for your plants. Mel offers an excellent explanation on page 97. We encourage you to read it for yourself.

Here is a list of kinds of compost that will do well in your SFG:

• Cow Manures: This will probably be the easiest to find. Your big box stores usually carry it. Common brands are Black Kow and Moo-Nure. You can also collect manure from a local cattle ranch, but you must be sure to properly age/compost it or it will burn your plants. Most folks report great success with composted cow manure in the SFG.

• Chicken Manures: This one is also pretty easy to find because it is also available in the big box stores. A common brand is Black Hen. When using this manure you must make sure it is fully composted. Chicken manure is very rich in nitrogen (a good thing) but it is also very quick to burn plants if it is not fully composted (too much of a good thing…). Most folks report good results with composted Chicken manure in the SFG.

• Mushroom compost: This is a sort of catch-all term. Mushroom compost is not a bag of composted mushrooms. Instead, it is the composted growing medium used in mushroom cultivation. They only use the stuff once. Mushroom compost can be great stuff, but be sure to read the labels. Some of it is high on filler and low on nutrients.

• Worm castings: This is my favorite compost. I personally recommend that if you can find it you put it in your SFG. Worm castings are incredible high in nutrients and among some of the most consistent of composts in terms of quality. However, worm casting are expensive. A good way to stretch your buck is to use worm castings to make a tea that you then use to water your garden, before adding the used worm castings to your SFG. NOTE: If you use worm tea that does not count as one of your 5 composts. More on worm tea here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0QDpRvey-I .You can create your own worm castings. Here is one way to do it http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1603-worm-tube-for-the-sfg?highlight=worm+tube . You’ll find more links below.

• Horse manure: See cow manure above. Another great addition to your SFG!

• Lobster compost: Lots of folks love this one, but it may be difficult to find unless you are on a coast. It is high in nutrients and a great addition to the SFG.

• Shrimp compost: See Lobster compost above.

• Forestry composts: This is another catch-all category.  You can buy bags of it at some stores. The best forestry composts include forest floor compost. Be sure all ingredients are composted to the consistency of rich black dirt. Any leaves, needles or twigs need to be sifted out.

• Specialty animal manures: This category includes manures such as, bat, duck, goat, rabbit, sheep, bird, etc. These are fantastic manures. If you can find them use them. Like cow manure, most of them need to be well composted before you can use them in the garden. Rabbit compost is especially good and does not need to be composted or aged before you use it in your garden. Bat guano is incredible rich in nutrients, but it must be very VERY well composted or it will burn you plants. There is even something called Zoo-Doo that you can get from some local zoos. Just be sure that the manure used is from herbivores ONLY.

• Food waste composts: Depending on where you are, your local waste management center may offer compost for use in the garden. This stuff is usually pretty inexpensive compared to the bags. Some of it is better than others though. You should ask what the mix is before you buy it. You should also ask them about their process and ask if the compost is “finished” before you buy it. My local compost is excellent. It is actually a blend of more than 5 sources, so it is good enough for me to use as my only compost source (it’s pretty much as good as anything I could make at home). I do still add some worm castings to my beds.

• Yard waste composts: See Food Waste above. Note: This one cannot be used as your sole source. Also note: Yard waste composts would also include your leaf litter from autumn. Yours OR your neighbor's...they'll love you for taking away their leaf rubbish voluntarily. But, don't just rake it up and toss it in; mulch it with your lawn mower. Rake it into a pile and lift the front wheels of the mower off the ground, push into the pile, and set the wheels down onto the pile slowly. Do this over and over and you will pulverize those leaves into a tiny pile. Add THAT to your compost...it will decompose much faster.

As a general note, be careful with purchasing bags of manure. Manure done right should have no odor. If you purchase chicken manure (for example) as compost, it should have no smell and adding it to the rest of the blend should be fine.

Here are some compost blends that are good for SFG:

• "Garden Manure": a mix of at least cow and hen manure, and possibly more

• "Organic Compost": shrimp and seaweed blended compost.

• "Penobscot Blend": salmon, mussels, and blueberries (with peat moss so adjust accordingly).

• "Quoddy Blend": crab, lobster, and aspen bark.

• "Chickity-Doo-Doo": granular chicken manure

• "Whitney Farms Planting Compost": aged and composted softwood bark and forest products, manure, dried poultry waste, feather meal. It should look like black dirt with no recognizable pieces of wood.

Where do I buy compost?

I’d start by making some phone calls to places like a feed and seed store, a farm and tractor store, local nurseries, Wal-mart, Home Dept and Lowe’s, grocery stores, or Aquaponics/hydroponics stores. Ask them what types of composts and manures they have available. Remember you are looking for 5 kinds of compost not just 5 sources.

Also call you local waste management office and ask if they have compost available to the public. Call around to local horse and cattle farms. Ask them if they offer composted manure.

Look on Craig’s List for folks offering composts and manures. Make sure to ask them what is IN it and how they compost it. Go and check it out in person. If it has a harsh odor or looks like anything but the consistency of rich fine dirt leave it there.

Links and Further reading:

Buying Compost: The Good news and the Bad http://www.intervale.org/compost/art/BuyingCompost.htm
This is a reprint of an article in Organic Gardening Magazine. The magazine commissioned a test of 30 bagged composts and reported the sad results.

Wood’s End Report: Analysis of Commercial Bag Compost Products http://www.woodsend.org/pdf-files/survey.pdf
This is the report that goes along with the Organic Gardening Magazine exposé on bagged compost.

Cornell University: A Guide to the Nutrient Value of Organic Materials
http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/ecogardening/guidenutval.html
This is a great web page. If gives you an idea of what nutrient levels to expect from certain composts and manures.

Rodale News: How to Buy Compost
http://www.rodale.com/buying-compost
Good summary article on things to look for when buying compost

List of links related to making your own compost
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t6751-links-to-composting-info

Washington State University: Composting Livestock Manure
http://gardening.wsu.edu/stewardship/compost/manure/manure0.htm

Josh’s Worm Tube link

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1603-worm-tube-for-the-sfg?highlight=worm+tubehttp://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1603-worm-tube-for-the-sfg?highlight=worm+tube

GardenGirlTV Simple compost bin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oUejMTI34Uhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oUejMTI34U

GardenGirlTV Worm Compost Bin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjjuYNilM60&feature=relmfuhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjjuYNilM60&feature=relmfu

Pallet Compost Bin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYUAXfVQFfMhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYUAXfVQFfM

OR

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phj9LmqnwDY&feature=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phj9LmqnwDY&feature=related

Raising Chickens on Deep Litter Bedding system, just add to your pile when you clean it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7U4BbJzUs&feature=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH7U4BbJzUs&feature=related

Worm Tea

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0QDpRvey-Ihttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0QDpRvey-I

Make your own tumbler

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a08WS-wDivIhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a08WS-wDivI

Book recommendations:

Campbell, Stu. Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (Third Edition). 3rd ed. Storey Publishing, LLC, 1998.

Gershuny, Grace, and Deborah L. Martin. The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy Methods for Every Gardener. Revised. Rodale Books, 1992.
McGrath, Mike. Mike McGrath’s Book of Compost. Sterling, 2006.

Noyes, Nick. Easy Composters You Can Build. Storey Publishing, LLC, 1995.

Pleasant, Barbara, and Deborah L. Martin. The Complete Compost Gardening Guide: Banner batches, grow heaps, comforter compost, and other amazing techniques for saving time and money, and ... most flavorful, nutritious vegetables ever. Storey Publishing, LLC, 2008.

dizzygardener

Female Posts : 668
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : WNC 6b

View user profile

Back to top Go down

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

Post  debo on 5/24/2011, 10:16 pm

This was great information. I just wish I had read it before I mixed my Mel's Mix today. I was only able to find 4 different kinds of compost so I was hoping that would be OK. I did see the "Chickity Doo Doo" that you mentioned at a garden center, but it was in the fertilizer section and since it was granules I figured that it wouldn't be considered a compost. So now what do I do? I have cow manure, mushroom compost, worm castings, and a horticultural compost (I think it's made of yard waste.) Is that enough? I already have it mixed in the 1/3 proportions so if I got the "Chickity Doo Doo" and added that, it would throw off the ratio.

debo

Posts : 8
Join date : 2011-04-30
Location : West Michigan

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  dizzygardener on 5/24/2011, 10:23 pm

Chicken manure is considered a fertilizer. It is among the most fertile of the animal manures, but it is definitely still good for SFG.

Adding a trowel full of manure/compost to each square will not throw your mix off enough to matter. You can certainly do that. In fact, Mel recommends that you do this when you replant a square anyway.




dizzygardener

Female Posts : 668
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : WNC 6b

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  walshevak on 5/25/2011, 6:27 am

I agree, a trowel full in each square will actually round out your mix and may prevent some nutrient problems later on. Scratch and mix in as much as you can without distubing existing plant roots.

I mixed up a batch of 5 compost blend, including chicken, and have it sitting in bins in the garage waiting for the time I'll need to replant squares. When I return home in Sep I will move the covered bins to the space under my tabletops for convience. Next year my own compost will be added to the blend.

Kay

____________________________

A WEED IS A FLOWER GROWING IN THE WRONG PLACE
Elizabeth City, NC
Find more about Weather in Elizabeth City, NC
Click for weather forecast

walshevak

Certified SFG Instructor

Female Posts : 4310
Join date : 2010-10-17
Age : 73
Location : wilmington, nc zone 8

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  HPartin on 5/25/2011, 2:53 pm

This is great information. However, I am going to step on Negative Nellie turf. I am new to SFGing and have had a real hard time with Mel's Mix. All my composts say 100% composted..... except for "Bumper Crop" which is just one of 6 of my materials. None of the bags say that there are fillers or peat and yet my Mel's Mix is subpar. I have made 6 boxes: 3 in the spring and 3 for the summer. The first 3 which tested very alkaline and had poor results (I had 4 composts). My last 3 have turned out to be sandy (obviously a filler that wasn't listed on any of the compost bags) and does not hold water as well as the first 3. I used 6 differnent kinds (not brands). I have to water these boxes twice a day, which is a pain. My point being that bagged compost is a huge mystery: you never know what you are getting. It's a roll of the dice. No matter how much variety you have you are still taking a chance that one or more is a bad choice which is very frustrating. There is no universal standard to what is bagged as compost.

I am convinced the ONLY way to go is to use your own compost. You know exactly what is in it. You know there is no clay or sand or peat or animal parts, etc. Of course it takes time to make the perfect blend and that probably doesn't sell books. It's too time consuming for those who are ready to dive in and get gardening. In theory Mel's Mix makes sense and knowing what it consists of is helpful but the compost, when bought, is always going to be a wild card. You may luck out or strike out after following the guidlines perfectly.

Heidi

HPartin

Female Posts : 120
Join date : 2011-02-14
Location : 7b (Angier, NC)

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  dizzygardener on 5/25/2011, 5:22 pm

@HPartin wrote:
I am convinced the ONLY way to go is to use your own compost. You know exactly what is in it. You know there is no clay or sand or peat or animal parts, etc. Of course it takes time to make the perfect blend and that probably doesn't sell books. It's too time consuming for those who are ready to dive in and get gardening. In theory Mel's Mix makes sense and knowing what it consists of is helpful but the compost, when bought, is always going to be a wild card. You may luck out or strike out after following the guidlines perfectly.

Heidi

Then you agree with Mel. He makes it very clear that he thinks we should be using our own compost over the bagged stuff. Bagged compost is a clear last resort where his book is concerned.

Having said that you can use bagged compost/manure and end up with an excellent Mel's Mix. In fact, many of us do and don't suffer any deficiency issues. It all comes down to choice. We have to be diligent about what we put in our mix because there are no real regulations for compost/manure. If you look at my first two links under further reading you will see what I mean. Of the 30 bags of compost they tested most of them had very low nutrient value.

We have to look at it, smell it, make sure it is finished (even if the bag says so) and we have to look for fillers. You can see and feel sand and mulch in the bags. Peat is a little more difficult.

Basically, and this is what I was trying to get across, you can't just go down the aisle the throw any bag of stuff that has the word compost on it in your boxes. You have to do some research, get folks opinions on how well the stuff works, and inspect it for yourself. In the US at least, we all have Cooperative Extension Offices around. You can call them. Most have some information on which composts/manures are good and which are not.

This is the most difficult part of SFG but thankfully we only have to do it once (and again if we expand). Once you've found your mix you are done and can sit back and enjoy the veggies.

dizzygardener

Female Posts : 668
Join date : 2011-01-26
Location : WNC 6b

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Kelejan on 5/25/2011, 9:18 pm

I would think that the best way is to make your own compost from scratch and not use so-called finished compost at all.

It would mean getting the stuff from the animals before anything is done to it, and composting it yourself with the browns and greens.

I know it is hard getting the manure directly, rather messy I would think. When out walking with my dog I always carry a couple of baggies with me and if I see horse or bear or other wild animal droppings then I pick them up and add to my ongoing compost.

If ever I get to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee I must see what I can do. Very Happy

Kelejan

Female Posts : 4488
Join date : 2011-04-24
Age : 81
Location : Castlegar, British Columbia

View user profile http://www.castlegarinkspot.ca

Back to top Go down

Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  sherryeo on 5/25/2011, 9:21 pm

Kelejan,

I don't think they make baggies big enough for elephant poop! Very Happy

sherryeo

Female Posts : 850
Join date : 2011-04-03
Age : 64
Location : Mississippi Gulf Coast Zone 8B

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  FamilyGardening on 5/25/2011, 10:13 pm

our zoo doesnt give the elephant poop away either......they use it in their landscape plants!!......i remember asking them last time what they did to keep everything looking so green and lush....and sure enough.....its the elephant poop! Very Happy

hugs
rose

FamilyGardening

Female Posts : 2424
Join date : 2011-05-10
Location : Western WA

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Kelejan on 5/25/2011, 10:21 pm

I'll have to try something else then.

On second thoughts, sherryeo, even if I get to The Elephant Sanctuary they have started their own veggie gardens so they will use the ele poop for that. It was just a thought. What's the betting they would not let me back into Canada with it?

Rose, I think everyone is catching on now about the usfulness of poop.

Kelejan

Female Posts : 4488
Join date : 2011-04-24
Age : 81
Location : Castlegar, British Columbia

View user profile http://www.castlegarinkspot.ca

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Barkie on 5/26/2011, 5:17 am

@dizzygardener wrote:
@HPartin wrote:
I am convinced the ONLY way to go is to use your own compost. You know exactly what is in it. You know there is no clay or sand or peat or animal parts, etc. Of course it takes time to make the perfect blend and that probably doesn't sell books. It's too time consuming for those who are ready to dive in and get gardening. In theory Mel's Mix makes sense and knowing what it consists of is helpful but the compost, when bought, is always going to be a wild card. You may luck out or strike out after following the guidlines perfectly.

Heidi

Then you agree with Mel. He makes it very clear that he thinks we should be using our own compost over the bagged stuff. Bagged compost is a clear last resort where his book is concerned.


Having said that you can use bagged compost/manure and end up with an excellent Mel's Mix. In fact, many of us do and don't suffer any deficiency issues. It all comes down to choice. We have to be diligent about what we put in our mix because there are no real regulations for compost/manure. If you look at my first two links under further reading you will see what I mean. Of the 30 bags of compost they tested most of them had very low nutrient value.

We have to look at it, smell it, make sure it is finished (even if the bag says so) and we have to look for fillers. You can see and feel sand and mulch in the bags. Peat is a little more difficult.

Basically, and this is what I was trying to get across, you can't just go down the aisle the throw any bag of stuff that has the word compost on it in your boxes. You have to do some research, get folks opinions on how well the stuff works, and inspect it for yourself. In the US at least, we all have Cooperative Extension Offices around. You can call them. Most have some information on which composts/manures are good and which are not.

This is the most difficult part of SFG but thankfully we only have to do it once (and again if we expand). Once you've found your mix you are done and can sit back and enjoy the veggies.


I certainly agree if you have room to make your own compost you can control its quality but I agree also with Heidi that buying in compost has a wild card element to it. Bagged compost may have started out top quality when packed but if bags have tiny holes for 'breathing' and
the bags you buy were stored out in rain for some time there's the risk of some of the water soluble nutrients having been lost. It may not say on the bag to store it
under cover and some retailers do but other's don't. Ditto for buying it in from private hands from an uncovered pile possibly with the added problem of there being pest eggs or larvae in it.


Last edited by Barkie on 5/26/2011, 5:19 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : lost a [/quote])

Barkie

Posts : 306
Join date : 2011-03-25
Location : Wales, Uk. Last frost May

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  westie42 on 6/22/2011, 11:17 am

Very good DizzyGardener this should be required reading for all SFG and a comprehension test given with a score above 90% required before you can proceed.

westie42

Male Posts : 512
Join date : 2011-03-22
Age : 74
Location : West Union, Iowa

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  middlemamma on 6/22/2011, 2:44 pm

@westie42 wrote:Very good DizzyGardener this should be required reading for all SFG and a comprehension test given with a score above 90% required before you can proceed.

No kidding Westie!

middlemamma
 
 

Female Posts : 2260
Join date : 2010-04-25
Age : 38
Location : Post Falls Idaho and LOVING it

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Adding Trowels of Compost After a Harvest

Post  mijejo on 6/23/2011, 8:39 am

Let us say that we have the perfect MM with all required amounts of compost, peat, and vermiculite. As time goes on, we will garden, harvest, and reseed/replant our squares. Following Mel's advice, we will add a trowel of our own compost to each square with each iteration. Over time, I assume our beds will become more concentrated with compost, and the peat and vermiculite will be diluted. The 1:1:1 ratio will be skewed. Am I missing something here?

mijejo

Posts : 156
Join date : 2011-05-25
Location : Cincinnati, Ohio

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  camprn on 6/23/2011, 8:41 am

No,you are not missing anything, but that is the plan; Mel's Mix is just the beginning. Very Happy

camprn

Forum Moderator Certified SFG Teacher

Female Posts : 13983
Join date : 2010-03-06
Age : 54
Location : Keene, NH, USA ~ Zone 5a

View user profile http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-week

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Lavender Debs on 6/23/2011, 9:04 am

@mijejo wrote:Let us say that we have the perfect MM with all required amounts of compost, peat, and vermiculite. As time goes on, we will garden, harvest, and reseed/replant our squares. Following Mel's advice, we will add a trowel of our own compost to each square with each iteration. Over time, I assume our beds will become more concentrated with compost, and the peat and vermiculite will be diluted. The 1:1:1 ratio will be skewed. Am I missing something here?

I am not out and out disagreeing with camp when I say that you are missing something. You have year 1 correct.

When you put together your SFG you provided a home for your plants. The physical box is like a kennel or barn, the hard structure for your plants. The Peat gives them "bedding" to wrap their roots into. without the bedding they would not be able to stand on their own. The peat does not dramatically disappear with use (not counting what clings to the roots when you compost spent plants). The Vermiculite keeps the bedding from turning into the clump of compressed peat that you started with when you opened the bag. It also holds water and helps prevent the box from getting too dry as well as preventing the elements of the mix from becoming water resistant (like a potted plant that the water just runs off of if the soil dries out.) The compost is the feed. It keeps the soil micro life health. Compost is not like the vermiculite or peat in that it is used by the plant as food and must be replaced. If you bring home a kitten you give it a bed, dishes and kitten chow. You are not diluting the bed and dishes by adding more kitten chow. It is the same idea with peat, virmiculite and compost.

When you first build your box you are at 1:1:1. The next year you may be at 1:1:2/3 because the compost has been eaten (used) by the plants. You are not putting the ratio out of balance by adding compost. You are actually bringing it back up to where it should be.

Deborah...hope that made some kind of sense.

Lavender Debs

Posts : 2054
Join date : 2010-03-03
Age : 59
Location : Everett, WA USA

View user profile http://songs-of-coming-rain.blogspot.com/

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Kelejan on 6/23/2011, 9:56 am

Very good explanation, Debs. Thank you!

Kelejan

Female Posts : 4488
Join date : 2011-04-24
Age : 81
Location : Castlegar, British Columbia

View user profile http://www.castlegarinkspot.ca

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  mijejo on 6/23/2011, 10:37 am

The kitten analogy clarifies it for me. Thanks!

mijejo

Posts : 156
Join date : 2011-05-25
Location : Cincinnati, Ohio

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Windsor.Parker on 1/2/2012, 8:45 pm

@dizzygardener wrote:How Strong is Your Backbone?

Here are some compost blends that are good for SFG:

• "Garden Manure": a mix of at least cow and hen manure, and possibly more

• "Organic Compost": shrimp and seaweed blended compost.

• "Penobscot Blend": salmon, mussels, and blueberries (with peat moss so adjust accordingly).

• "Quoddy Blend": crab, lobster, and aspen bark.

• "Chickity-Doo-Doo": granular chicken manure

• "Whitney Farms Planting Compost": aged and composted softwood bark and forest products, manure, dried poultry waste, feather meal. It should look like black dirt with no recognizable pieces of wood.

Does each ingredient in a bagged compost "blend" count as one of the 5 types needed?

Windsor.Parker

Male Posts : 355
Join date : 2011-12-12
Age : 69
Location : Chicago, South Shore, c. 100yds to Lake Michigan, Zone 6a

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  camprn on 1/2/2012, 8:53 pm

@Windsor.Parker wrote:
@dizzygardener wrote:How Strong is Your Backbone?

Here are some compost blends that are good for SFG:

• "Garden Manure": a mix of at least cow and hen manure, and possibly more

• "Organic Compost": shrimp and seaweed blended compost.

• "Penobscot Blend": salmon, mussels, and blueberries (with peat moss so adjust accordingly).

• "Quoddy Blend": crab, lobster, and aspen bark.

• "Chickity-Doo-Doo": granular chicken manure

• "Whitney Farms Planting Compost": aged and composted softwood bark and forest products, manure, dried poultry waste, feather meal. It should look like black dirt with no recognizable pieces of wood.

Does each ingredient in a bagged compost "blend" count as one of the 5 types needed?

Most commercial composts are a blend of ingredients, but be wary, read the label, you may be getting a lot more peat moss than you would expect. Each bag of compost, as listed above is considered a different type.

____________________________

40 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-weeks-until-frost

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


camprn

Forum Moderator Certified SFG Teacher

Female Posts : 13983
Join date : 2010-03-06
Age : 54
Location : Keene, NH, USA ~ Zone 5a

View user profile http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-week

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Windsor.Parker on 1/2/2012, 10:20 pm

Thanks Camprn,
Looks like my MM will be incomplete until I've added some of the worm castings we're harvesting. Meanwhile, would at least 6-7% castings suffice?

Windsor.Parker

Male Posts : 355
Join date : 2011-12-12
Age : 69
Location : Chicago, South Shore, c. 100yds to Lake Michigan, Zone 6a

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  camprn on 1/2/2012, 10:23 pm

@Windsor.Parker wrote:Thanks Camprn,
Looks like my MM will be incomplete until I've added some of the worm castings we're harvesting. Meanwhile, would at least 6-7% castings suffice?
What are the types of compost you have collected so far?

____________________________

40 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-weeks-until-frost

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


camprn

Forum Moderator Certified SFG Teacher

Female Posts : 13983
Join date : 2010-03-06
Age : 54
Location : Keene, NH, USA ~ Zone 5a

View user profile http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-week

Back to top Go down

Please help me calc volume from weight

Post  hkovach on 1/3/2012, 10:32 pm

Hey everyone, I am hoping someone can help me figure out roughly how many cubic feet are covered by the following: 40lb cow manure compost, 40lb chicken manure compost, 40lb mushroom compost & 6lb bag worm castings.

I have googled this to no avail! Even if you used different weight bags i dont mind doing calcs!

hkovach

Posts : 11
Join date : 2011-12-29
Location : Hackberry, LA (Zone 9)

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Worm castings, does a little make a difference

Post  hkovach on 1/3/2012, 10:34 pm

Another question - worm castings are very costly in my area ($18 for 6 lb) so I dont want to buy a large amount. However, I have read how great they are for the garden & was thinking - since MM requires at least 5 types, could I use it as a 6th and blend it with another compost to equal the 1/5th needed?

Any & all feedback is appreciated! Thanks - hk

hkovach

Posts : 11
Join date : 2011-12-29
Location : Hackberry, LA (Zone 9)

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 1/3/2012, 10:47 pm

Hi...many posters say that 40 lbs is equal to somewhere around .75 cu ft. But that's just a guide for purchase. When they go to mix it, many folks then use a 5 gallon bucket to mix equal parts of compost. A 5 gallon bucket should be about 1 cu ft.

UnderTheBlackWalnut

Female Posts : 559
Join date : 2011-04-18
Age : 50
Location : Springfield (central), IL, on the line between 5b and 6a

View user profile

Back to top Go down

Re: Mels Mix - How strong is your backbone?

Post  Sponsored content Today at 3:11 am


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Page 1 of 5 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next

View previous topic View next topic Back to top


 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum