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The Upstart Garden

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The Upstart Garden

Post  upstartgardener on 6/17/2011, 12:31 am

Hello Again Everyone,
Boy this gardening endeavor is a pleasure but intimidating at the same time. I am concerned about my Mel's Mix, some of my plants seem like they are responding to the "mix" and other plants like my cucumbers are gasping. They are loosing color and turning white all along their edges, yet I do see new growth in the center. Most of my plants seem like they are drained of vibrant color, like the life force is being sucked right out of them. I am worried that it is the Mel's Mix. I am concerned that Mel's Mix lacks enough nutrition. From my research, peat nor vermiculite has any nutritional value for plants and so that leaves the compost. I have been so concerned that I top dressed my gardens with more compost, Gardentone, and mulched with layers of newspaper that I try to keep damp.
Help all of you experts out there.

Oh, and I followed the Mel's Mix recipe: 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3 of all ingredients...peat moss, vermiculite, and quality compost.

I am in garden distress. Thanks for any suggestions.

For more details on my adventure you can visit my blog:

http://theupstartgarden.wordpress.com/

upstartgardener

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  squaredeal on 6/17/2011, 12:59 am

Hi,
There have been lots of discussions about Mel's Mix, and if you put that into the search box you can see past discussions on the mix and specifically about the multiple composts you need to create the rich nutrient environment. However, your problem maybe due to cucumber beetles. I am starting to see some patchy yellow leaves. Sigh. This same question was posted on Yahoo http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110613062751AAjnGrX

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  shannon1 on 6/17/2011, 2:37 am

It is key to use compost from 5 different sources. Cow, chix, horse, earthworm and mushroom for example.When 5 different sources of compost are not used it is realy hard to have a great mix in fact it would hesitate to even call it Mel's Mix, unless you make your own compost that is. Were you able to do that? If not your garden may indeed be lacking something. Try boosting your ailing plants with fish emulsion, black strap molasses, epsom salt, or powdered milk.
If you do top dress with more compost and I think that's a good idea use a different type than you have already used.

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  dizzygardener on 6/17/2011, 8:34 am



So very glad to have ya!

I'm sorry to hear about your Mel's Mix woes. The one consider is whether or not your issues are insect or disease related. The fact that some of your things are doing great while others are struggling leads me to wonder if you have something else going on.

Do you have pictures of your poorly plants? If you post them we might be able to help you identify any disease/insect issues.

The one thing I can tell you for sure is that the issue is not the Mel's Mix formula. It is tried and true. Just look at some of the gorgeous gardens we have here.

When you get a chance read through this thread: http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7451-mel-s-mix-how-strong-is-your-backbone . It is all about making the perfect Mel's Mix.

When folks run into problems with the mix it is usually one of 3 things:
  1. The mix is out of proportion. It should be 1/3 each peat, vermiculite, and 5-way compost.
  2. There is too much peat in the mix. The compressed bales need to be fluffed before they are mixed in. They also need the be moistened a bit. A compressed bale of peat is actually twice the volume listed on the bag when fluffed.
  3. There is an issue with the compost. Either they didn't use a 5 way compost or some of the compost they used was no good.


If your issue is really a nutrient issue topdressing was a good first step. There are a couple other quick things you can try. Give your plants a boost with an organic fertilizer. If you can find them, worm castings make a great "tea" that you can use to fertilizer your garden (Worm tea). Fish emulsion is a good one for nitrogen deficiencies. There is also Bone meal (phosphorous rich with high levels of nitrogen too), Seaweed/kelp fertilizer (potassium and other minor nutrients), and blood meal (nitrogen rich). Just follow the directions on the bag/bottle and you should see improvements very quickly.

In the long term, add a trowel full of rich compost/manure to each square when you replant it.

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The Upstart Garden: Soil Troubles

Post  upstartgardener on 6/17/2011, 11:09 am

I attempted to post a reply but it went into drafts and I do not know how to retrieve it on this forum. I do not see a tab or location for drafts anywhere.

I do not think I have a bug problem. I am having problems with all plants except for the bush beans, lettuces and tomatoes.
Some leaves are yellow, some withered with white edges, some have spots that looked burned. The corn, peppers, basil, zinnias and especially the cucumbers are just a mess. I tried to post photos but the uploader did not post. I will put them on my Wordpress site as soon as I get a chance today.



I cannot seem to bypass the weird photo uploader on this forum. I am a Mac user and it does not seem to cooperate with my system. I try to upload, I select the file, I use the correct size, and select "Host it" and the loader just goes back into a loop with an advertisement for a free uploader that doesn't upload anything. When I try again I get a pop-up that states no photo selected.

So I am having garden and technical issues.

I believe firmly, that the problems with my plants is a lack of adequate nutrition, short of digging all of the plants up and replacing Mel's Mix, what can I do to save these gardens that I have invested time and money in?

I believe you all when you say you have had great results with Mel's Mix, but I can not say the same. I get that the peat fluffs up and I probably have too much peat to the other ratios because of this.

The compost that I used is called Wholly Cow, which is a blend of peat and animal manure. It does not list the breakdown and this must be my problem.

However, I was not able to find any commercial product that listed 5 ingredients, short of making compost yourself, which I am in the process of, where do you find such a purchasable compost that has 5 ingredients?

I do not mean any disrespect to successful Mel's Mixers but why couldn't a person fill their squares with Miracle Grow or some other planting medium from the beginning and be assured that the ratio is correct?

It is really depressing to have this kind of failure that represents a monetary loss for me when I have so little to spare.


Thanks for all of your replies and help.

upstartgardener

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Re: The Upstart Garden: Soil Troubles

Post  upstartgardener on 6/17/2011, 11:28 am

This is a PS to my own post.

Problem is pretty much identified.
I just read the excellent post on Mel's Mix, How Strong is Your Backbone.

I realize that it is my inadequate compost and too much peat. Armed with this knowledge, what can I do to save my gardens?

Thank you. No

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  dizzygardener on 6/17/2011, 1:18 pm

I'm glad you found the reason for your problems. Now you just have to fix them.

As I mentioned above, in the short term you'll want to supplement with an organic fertilizer (use according to the instructions). In the long run, you'll want to mix up some good 5 way compost and add it to your squares when you replant them or at the end of the growing season. You should add a trowel or two per square.

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  Denese on 6/17/2011, 2:02 pm

You can make your own organic fertilizer. In Mel's original SFG book he has a formula for a basic, all-purpose fertilizer as follows:

1 part Blood Meal
2 parts Bone Meal
3 parts Wood Ashes
4 parts composted leaf mold

He recommended to use 4 cups of this mixture when you prepared your 4x4 beds. It obviously worked well, cause my plants flourished. As a side dressing, he recommended you dilute it by 50 percent by mixing it with equal portions of compost or sand. I usually mixed it with compost. This works out to 1/4 cup of the diluted fertilizer per square for side dressing.

Hope this helps. Very Happy

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  boffer on 6/17/2011, 3:06 pm

@upstartgardener wrote:I do not mean any disrespect to successful Mel's Mixers but why couldn't a person fill their squares with Miracle Grow or some other planting medium from the beginning and be assured that the ratio is correct?


Mel's dream is to teach everyone in the world how to feed themselves by growing their own food. Most people don't have access to off the shelf fertilyzers or chemically made growing mediums, nor the money to purchase them. SFG is a natural, green method of gardening that utilizes compostable products indiginous to a locale.

It's unfortunate that quality composts have become so difficult to find. But in the long run, developing a composting system that fits one's environment and abiliities is the best and cheapest solution for a lifetime of gardening.

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  FarmerValerie on 6/17/2011, 3:44 pm

@boffer wrote:It's unfortunate that quality composts have become so difficult to find. But in the long run, developing a composting system that fits one's environment and abiliities is the best and cheapest solution for a lifetime of gardening.

What he said!!!

Lord knows quantity of compost is on every street corner, TV station, and radio station these days, but as for quality, only in my back yard!!!

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 6/17/2011, 4:27 pm

Just wanting to jump in and say welcome aboard. As you are finding, we have some talented and knowledgeable gardeners here, especially when regarding SFG. I'm glad you found it wasn't the MM, but the composition of the MM that was causing the problem. And, I'm glad you are working towards a solution.

Hope we see more of you once things get normalized.

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  Chopper on 6/17/2011, 4:37 pm

@upstartgardener wrote:
I do not mean any disrespect to successful Mel's Mixers but why couldn't a person fill their squares with Miracle Grow or some other planting medium from the beginning and be assured that the ratio is correct?

Another reason is that the MM is wonderfully absorbent and LIGHT. Believe me if you used Miracle Grow it would not have the same texture and that matters.

That said, the first year, and especially if you cannot find a good variety of compost, it is no sin to add some blood and bone meal to the mix and even fish emulsion when watering. It is frustrating, I know.

When I started I misunderstood about the compost and did not even attempt to get a variety. I did add a few organic things for feed later and it did not take much. But the MM TEXTURE is my favorite part. It makes everything easier and I have not used anything else that compares.

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photos

Post  littlejo on 6/17/2011, 5:07 pm

Welcome and good luck. here is the info getting photos uploaded. Jo

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t129-how-to-post-a-picture-located-on-your-computer

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  shannon1 on 6/18/2011, 2:56 am

@upstartgardener wrote:This is a PS to my own post.

Problem is pretty much identified.
I just read the excellent post on Mel's Mix, How Strong is Your Backbone.

I realize that it is my inadequate compost and too much peat. Armed with this knowledge, what can I do to save my gardens?

Thank you. No
Sounds like you So what can you do? As the mix settles (it will) you can add more compost just a different kind like black hen or earth worm castings for example, or even a mix of 5 that you mix up yourself. Of course the best way would be to start over, but most people can not do that. Every time you harvest a square add 2 scoops compost and a little vermiculite. Since you know it is a little peaty that should help balance it out. It won't be MM exactly, it will be your own.
So many of us had problems at the start because we misunderstood the instructions. My own trouble was useing the wrong grade of vermiculite, due to a very limited budget I could not empty it out and start fresh. I added corse vermiculite and more compost to the box and things are doing just fine. Just chalk it up as a lesson in SFG and you will know what to do when you build and fill your next box.

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  shannon1 on 6/19/2011, 2:33 am

@boffer wrote:
@upstartgardener wrote:I do not mean any disrespect to successful Mel's Mixers but why couldn't a person fill their squares with Miracle Grow or some other planting medium from the beginning and be assured that the ratio is correct?


Mel's dream is to teach everyone in the world how to feed themselves by growing their own food. Most people don't have access to off the shelf fertilyzers or chemically made growing mediums, nor the money to purchase them. SFG is a natural, green method of gardening that utilizes compostable products indiginous to a locale.

It's unfortunate that quality composts have become so difficult to find. But in the long run, developing a composting system that fits one's environment and abiliities is the best and cheapest solution for a lifetime of gardening.
If like me you can't compost in the regular way put "worm tube for SFG" in the search box. that is the solution I will be using. Wink

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  Furbalsmom on 6/20/2011, 5:01 pm

Upstartgardener said: I attempted to post a reply but it went into drafts and I do not know how to retrieve it on this forum. I do not see a tab or location for drafts anywhere.

To find your drafts, click on the profile button at the top of this page
Then, click on drafts
Any drafts will be available to view or modify.

Hope this helps

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Re: The Upstart Garden

Post  extremesoccermom on 6/21/2011, 10:36 am

I also had trouble last year with my new MM. I used 5 different kinds of compost but they were commercial brands. This year I added my own compost to the mix and I could not be happier everything is growing great. Of course I have not only composted all our grass and leaves but all kitchen scraps and we added chicken, rabbit, and worm castings to the mix this year so I am very excited about next years additions.
Earlier this year I noticed the broccoli was not doing great and lower leaves were yellow. I took the rabbit droppings and scattered through the garden which resulted in amazing results. We are currently considering adding a meat rabbit hutch to our sustainable household.

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Re: The Upstart Garden

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