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Saving Mel's Mix

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Saving Mel's Mix

Post  busygirl on 6/13/2011, 7:02 am

I have noticed a couple of posts lately about "stinky" MM that has bacteria or fungus from poor drainage. I don't remember anyone answering the question of what to do with the mix. It is very easy to dry it out and sterilize it so that you can use it again. For the folks who were using containers, get a large foil roasting pan, fill it with MM and put it in the oven at 200 degrees. Depending on how wet it is, it could take 2-3 hours, stirring two or three times until it is dry and regains its earthy smell.

If you have a whole box full, the oven method would be a little time consuming, so I would suggest either a cold frame (clear glass would be best) or covering the box with plastic for a week or so to bring the soil temp up to kill anything in it. If you have a compost thermometer, you can monitor the temp with that.

Just a couple of suggestions...
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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  Tbites on 6/13/2011, 8:25 am

I don't know if you're referring to the denitrifying bacteria from waterlogged soil, but what I read on it said it cannot survive where oxygen is present. I just layed mine out on a tarp to dry in the sun (wasn't sure if the oven method would kill any good bacteria)... I've since reused it to pot another tomato... seems okay so far but it's only been 2 weeks I think. we'll see.

When you say kill anything in it... does that include good bacteria ? If so, does the good bacteria grow back ?

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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 5:03 pm

Waterlogged???.... Mel says "you can't, I repeat, you can't overwater Mel's Mix"

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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/13/2011, 6:14 pm

Velvet Elvis, the waterlogged Mel's Mix was caused by the wet mix not being able to drain because it was surrounded by non pourous fabric or a container with no drainage holes.
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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  Tbites on 6/13/2011, 6:21 pm

Elvis, you are right, Mel says you cannot overwater Mel's Mix. FurbalsMom explanation was clearer.... I should've added a specific disclaimer to my previous post and I don't even know if that's the posts the original poster was referring to.

I'm still curious about the oven technique for sterilizing soils... not necessarily Mel's Mix... 1) Wouldn't it kill beneficial bacteria ? 2) Wouldn't it stink up my oven/kitchen ?

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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  martha on 6/13/2011, 6:45 pm

Velvet Elvis, go to the head of the class for reading comprehension and retention!

One question about cooking the MM - I have read about cooking garden dirt to kill weed seeds, and this has always been accompanied by a warning that it stinks! Is that the case with MM?
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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  Velvet Elvis on 6/13/2011, 7:00 pm

@Furbalsmom wrote:Velvet Elvis, the waterlogged Mel's Mix was caused by the wet mix not being able to drain because it was surrounded by non pourous fabric or a container with no drainage holes.

OK. I assumed everybody uses the weed fabric as instructed.

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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  busygirl on 6/13/2011, 8:11 pm

@martha wrote:Velvet Elvis, go to the head of the class for reading comprehension and retention!

One question about cooking the MM - I have read about cooking garden dirt to kill weed seeds, and this has always been accompanied by a warning that it stinks! Is that the case with MM?

It only smells for the first 30 minutes or so, until the yucky (yep, it is a technical term) stuff dries up. The rest of the time it smells like "good" soil or MM (that is a judgment call, I don't mind it). However you feel about the smell, it does NOT linger after you are finished, and the oven doesn't smell the next time you use it or anything like that.

Sterilization kills everything, good and bad, but a couple of scoops of compost when you re-use the mix would give the good stuff a jump start on repopulating your box.

I have done this often with regular potting soil prior to my initiation into SFG this year. Apparently one of my batches of "leftover" MM was too damp when I put it into the vermiculite bag for storage this spring, and when I went to use it later, it had formed mold throughout. I cooked it right up (no comments from the two teenagers in the house, so it couldn't have smelled too terrible) then put it in containers for extra transplants that wouldn't fit in my boxes, and it is working great. I didn't even add extra compost to re-start the good bacteria and stuff.

I guess you could try it outside on the grill if you were worried about the smell in the house? Don't know what the temperature control would be like, though.
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Re: Saving Mel's Mix

Post  martha on 6/13/2011, 10:52 pm

Hey, to me barn smells are an aroma, not a stench, so since you are the first person from whom I have heard first hand information about cooking dirt, I'm going to believe that it isn't bad. Regular MM certainly does not stink - even if it doesn't smell as good as a sweaty horse! Razz
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