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Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

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Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  boffer on 8/15/2011, 12:21 pm

For five years I've gardened by the book. It's been MM only. No teas, supplements, additives, fertilizers, emulsions, or extras. It was totally a whim to have my latest batch of MM tested. I was seeking the advice of a plant pathologist (non-soil problem) and decided at the last second as I was heading out the door, that I would get my MM analyzed while I was there. (For those of you in my neck of the woods, our version of the county ag agent is the WSU Extension facility in Puyallup; that's where I went.)

As it turned out, they don't do soil testing, but they did provide a list of certified labs. I sent samples to a local lab in Poulsbo and one to a lab on the east coast. They both had several different test packages to choose from; I chose the ones recommended for home gardens-vegetables where possible .

Lab 1:

pH 6.8
Phosphorus: very high
Potassium: very high
Calcium: very high
Magnesium: very high
Sodium: high
Nitrogen: very high

In summary and suggestions, as written by the QC Manager:

"This sample appears to be more of a compost/vermiculite mix rather than a soil, and the high results back up that observation. The pH is good for vegetable gardens.

The calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen are all about 10x higher than the amounts found in a true soil. The ideal thing to do would be to use this as an amendment and not use more than a one part mix to 9 parts regular soil. This will put the nutrient levels in a safe range.

The organic matter is also very high and will release even more nutrients when broken down by microorganisms."


Lab 2:

(They provided results via PDF and the details can be viewed here.

pH 6.8
Phosphorus: very high
Potassium: very high
Calcium: very high
Magnesium: very high
Nitrogen: medium

Micronutrient Levels: within normal range
Misc. metal content: next to none

In summary and suggestions:

"The only adjustment needed is to apply nitrogen 1/4 pound per 100sf. Possible sources are 1lb. of 30-3-3 type fertilizer or 4lbs. of dried blood.





So there you are: results from two accredited labs that don't agree with each other, nor do they really agree with my assessment of crop growth and harvest.

My summary: I grow everything in MM, and everything is growing as well as it can given my cool weather this year. My corn, a heavy nitrogen feeder, is healthy.

What would you do now that you have numbers, if anything?

My current compost mix is a 6 way, approximately equal amounts:
grass, leaves, mushroom compost, chicken, horse, and cow manures










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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  littlejo on 8/15/2011, 5:06 pm

Boffer, is your mushroom compost bought at the store?



Interesting that they don't have same report. I think your garden does fine, so, I think you've given us a recipe for very good compost. I have chicken, but no cow or horse available. I will see how mine turns out.



I might get mine tested before planting next spring. It's only 10 bucks to test thru Clemson ext. for residents.

Jo

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  camprn on 8/15/2011, 7:01 pm

@littlejo wrote:Boffer, is your mushroom compost bought at the store?



Interesting that they don't have same report. I think your garden does fine, so, I think you've given us a recipe for very good compost. I have chicken, but no cow or horse available. I will see how mine turns out.



I might get mine tested before planting next spring. It's only 10 bucks to test thru Clemson ext. for residents.

Jo
Hey Jo, cow manure is closer than expected? a quick search on Google says you have a few dairy farms nearby Wink Link

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/15/2011, 7:19 pm

The calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen are all about 10x higher than the amounts found in a true soil. The ideal thing to do would be to use this as an amendment and not use more than a one part mix to 9 parts regular soil. This will put the nutrient levels in a safe range.

I will interpret this in case no one speaks "lab" or "nerd" since I'm fluent in both.

Holy flipping crapoli! You have the best possible growing medium for plants. It was also so fluffy that I bet you just pop any weeds out. If you went into business selling this stuff, you would get complaints that it's "too powerful" and would make a LOT more money if you diluted it quite a bit. If anyone deviated from your recipe, they should be taken out back by the woodshed and flogged.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  fiddleman on 8/15/2011, 10:05 pm

@boffer wrote:



My summary: I grow everything in MM, and everything is growing as well as it can given my cool weather this year. My corn, a heavy nitrogen feeder, is healthy.

What would you do now that you have numbers, if anything?


What would I do? Nothing.

Your plants grow well, and they're not lacking anything, really. Obviously, the amount of nutrients aren't burning the plants (why I love compost so much!) with everything the plant could basically want for nutrients, all you need supply are decent temperatures, some sun, and some rain. (Yeah, I know... rain you gots, warm temps and sun... not so much Smile )

Congratulations on a well balanced growing mix, (not soil), and thanks for sharing the numbers- it's interesting to get the information from the tests - they disagree on the nitrogen numbers, and basically say you can use your growing mix as fertilizer!

Powerful stuff...

Mark

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  trukrebew on 8/15/2011, 11:23 pm

[quote="BackyardBirdGardner"]

I will interpret this in case no one speaks "lab" or "nerd" since I'm fluent in both.

Holy flipping crapoli!

At least 50% of it is holy, BBG! rofl


Boffer, Thanks for providing some verifiable scientific data to support Mel's recipe. The dual independent labs were a smart move. Clearly, the QC Manager is not the same thing as a QG Manager (Quality Garden). My personal compost is completely lacking in the stinky stuff, where yours is almost off the charts. way to go

Although there is a bit of room left for a certain Teen Wizard to try to stick his nose in and go for a perfect score. Wink Wink nudge, nudge.

In the meantime, I have to get me some more crapoli.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  Chopper on 8/15/2011, 11:26 pm

@boffer wrote:

Lab 1:

pH 6.8
Phosphorus: very high
Potassium: very high
Calcium: very high
Magnesium: very high
Sodium: high
Nitrogen: very high

In summary and suggestions, as written by the QC Manager:

"This sample appears to be more of a compost/vermiculite mix rather than a soil, and the high results back up that observation. The pH is good for vegetable gardens.

The calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen are all about 10x higher than the amounts found in a true soil. The ideal thing to do would be to use this as an amendment and not use more than a one part mix to 9 parts regular soil. This will put the nutrient levels in a safe range..."


Well, they got the same soil ph and most of the rest of it they seemed to agree on, just different conclusions. I especially am wondering what is "unsafe" about high levels of nutrients that plants need to thrive. I will tell you, it explains why you can do a more intensive form of gardening. Dufusses.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  shannon1 on 8/16/2011, 2:54 am

Dufusses

Thanks Boffer I was going to get my MM tested before I started root crops to make sure the PH was close to neutral (7 for you non-nerds). Now I may just save some of that hard earned cash.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  boffer on 8/16/2011, 3:26 pm

*littlejo, I get mushroom compost by the yard from a local retailer who gets it from the Ostrom Mushroom facility about 20 miles away. It's also available by the bag at better nurseries around here, produced by Whitney Farms.

*trukrebew, I wouldn't doubt that the Teen Wizard has a magic elixir up his sleeve!

So what have I learned? Nothing much. Knowing that my pH is 6.8 or my K is 1171 ppm makes for boring water cooler talk. The numbers are in a usable range just like Mel said they would be. My vegetables have grown just like he said they would. It's still amazing to me sometimes that it really is as simple as using five composts.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  madnicmom on 8/16/2011, 10:45 pm

Well, this pretty much backs up this thread:

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7023-mel-s-mix-pyramid



My dad has said about 3 times this season " wonder what your analysis would be?" Well, I just might have to send my sample off to OSU , who in turn send it to MSU (boo hiss!!!) and send the results to his house! LOL

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  1airdoc on 8/24/2011, 9:48 am

As a result of another post ("disappinted in output"), I took a sample of my MM from the garden to the CoOp last week for analysis. The CoOp sent it to the lab, and the lab refused to run it. They said it was "potting soil mix" and that if I wanted an analysis, I'd have to dig deeper and get some "real soil!"

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  camprn on 8/24/2011, 9:59 am

@1airdoc wrote:As a result of another post ("disappinted in output"), I took a sample of my MM from the garden to the CoOp last week for analysis. The CoOp sent it to the lab, and the lab refused to run it. They said it was "potting soil mix" and that if I wanted an analysis, I'd have to dig deeper and get some "real soil!"
Where are you located? I suggest sending it to the UMass lab in Amherst Ma.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  AprilakaCCIL on 8/24/2011, 11:02 am


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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  boffer on 8/24/2011, 11:08 am

UMass was one of the labs that I used. The standard test. I did not identify my growing medium as MM. It was convenient for me to use the smallest 'If it fits, it ships' boxes from the post office.

It is considered advantageous to utilize a lab close to one's home because they will be familiar with regional soils and appropriate recommendations. I figure it doesn't matter a whit with MM.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  squaredeal on 8/24/2011, 1:17 pm

If anyone is interested, here is a page listing addresses for soil testing, including the UMass site Boffer used. Actually, it may be worth it; our extension service is suggesting it for community gardeners in Marion county, IN because of the high levels of toxic metals present in regular soil.

http://www.ag.purdue.edu/counties/marion/Pages/SoilSamplingTesting.aspx

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  littlejo on 8/24/2011, 7:46 pm

@1airdoc wrote:As a result of another post ("disappinted in output"), I took a sample of my MM from the garden to the CoOp last week for analysis. The CoOp sent it to the lab, and the lab refused to run it. They said it was "potting soil mix" and that if I wanted an analysis, I'd have to dig deeper and get some "real soil!"

Clemson ext. in SC charges $10 for no soil mixes, less if you use dirt. I think that is for residents only, they may not do out of state testing.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  sfg4uKim on 9/3/2011, 4:31 pm

The MD Extension Service lists Regional Soil Test Labs:

Soil Test Labs

I've found that the costs have changed.

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Analysis of my MM

Post  Cincinnati on 9/5/2011, 10:11 am

I bought a soil test kit at Lowes that tests for pH, N, P, & K. It's a rough litmus type test that uses matching colors to a standard. My particular MM was

~6.5 pH
N very high,
P very high,
K high to very high

I thought this was good for gardening, but I wanted numerical values & ranges. So I sent a sample to the Auburn University Soil Test Lab. I'll have results to post mid-week

I discovered this post a few days after sending the sample. I look forward to reporting back As well.

FYI. I use a homemade compost


Last edited by Cincinnati on 9/5/2011, 10:12 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Typo)

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  boffer on 9/5/2011, 12:13 pm

After I got my results back, I dusted off my home soil test kit. I've never been able to get repeatable results, and it's my understanding that the soil sample is just too small to be representative of one's garden soil. Here is the P test; I can't even tell if there is any in there, although both labs said P content was high.



I'm done wasting money on home tests.

The scary part about getting one's mix analyzed is, what if it's out of whack? How would you go about adjusting your compost types/ratios? Sure, in the short run, you could salvage your mix with amendments, but in the long, you'd want the right compost mix so you didn't have to mess with that stuff.

I look forward to seeing your results. It's just so amazingly simple that any five quality composts can create a thriving garden.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  Cincinnati on 9/6/2011, 7:44 am

@boffer wrote:After I got my results back, I dusted off my home soil test kit. I've never been able to get repeatable results, and it's my understanding that the soil sample is just too small to be representative of one's garden soil. Here is the P test; I can't even tell if there is any in there, although both labs said P content was high.



I'm done wasting money on home tests.

The scary part about getting one's mix analyzed is, what if it's out of whack? How would you go about adjusting your compost types/ratios? Sure, in the short run, you could salvage your mix with amendments, but in the long, you'd want the right compost mix so you didn't have to mess with that stuff.

I look forward to seeing your results. It's just so amazingly simple that any five quality composts can create a thriving garden.

I did my tests in reverse. When I ran my home test for Phosphorus, it came up decidedly blue. Every one of my tests returned a defined solid color.

I make my own compost. I mixed a batch of 15 gallons of MM and blended it well, crumbling it up with my hands and mixing it well. That sample was as uniform and representative of the batch as I could make it. I really should have run the test several times and averaged them, but since I was also sending it off for testing, I saw no need to run it so many times.

If my result is deficient, I'll adjust the next batches of compost, and add organic additives to my MM. If not, I'll continue to compost as I have been.

One fair warning: The Soil Test Lab at Auburn University, phoned to tell me that the standard soil test was inadequate for a potting mix such as mine that is so high in organics. I approved the more expensive test which will not only return pH, N, P, K values but also Ca, salts, Mn, Cu, and a few other trace metals.

Therefore, since MM is so high in organics, I don't know if those home test kits are appropriate here. I will know this week.

Yes, it is amazingly simple that any 5 composts can produce a thriving garden. It's so unfortunate that when buying compost it is caveat emptor. I bought 10 bags on sale at Lowes and got what looked like tree bark mulch. I also bought Scotts top soil and got rocks, sticks and everything but dirt. I invested in a tumbling composter to more quickly make that black gold, and so I could control and know what I have in it.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 9/6/2011, 8:37 am

The Soil Test Lab at Auburn University, phoned to tell me that the standard soil test was inadequate for a potting mix such as mine that is so high in organics.

Isn't this part all we need to know? I just don't understand why people spend money for something we already know out of curiosity. Around this forum, we always talk of wasteful environmental practices. Isn't this just wasteful fiscal practice? (Not directed at you, specifically, Cincinnati....directed at hypocrisy as a whole.)

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  sfg4uKim on 9/6/2011, 9:53 am

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:
The Soil Test Lab at Auburn University, phoned to tell me that the standard soil test was inadequate for a potting mix such as mine that is so high in organics.

Isn't this part all we need to know? I just don't understand why people spend money for something we already know out of curiosity. Around this forum, we always talk of wasteful environmental practices. Isn't this just wasteful fiscal practice? (Not directed at you, specifically, Cincinnati....directed at hypocrisy as a whole.)

I agree with this wholeheartedly. In MY case it's a business decision. I want to have the analysis run and put the results on my web site for my customers to know that they are indeed getting the very best.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  boffer on 9/6/2011, 10:28 am

ksroman wrote:I agree with this wholeheartedly. In MY case it's a business decision. I want to have the analysis run and put the results on my web site for my customers to know that they are indeed getting the very best.

Getting your commercial product evaluated will be good for your self confidence.

Would it be to your advantage to follow Mel's lead and not promote numbers? Despite his engineering background, there are no test results in his book. I often wonder about why that is so.

Has anyone purchased the official Mel's Mix that was sold at Lowes this past spring/summer? Are there test result numbers on the bag? Any type of nutritional analysis presented?

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  sfg4uKim on 9/6/2011, 11:12 am

Bof:

The main reason is to QC what we're getting from our two compost vendors . . . to see if we need to "tweak" our proportions or add something else.

Our second reason is to let our customers know WHY our SFG4U Growing Medium (the Foundation's choice of wording as we of course cannot call it Mel's Mix) is worth what they sometimes feel is a high price.

Kim




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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 9/6/2011, 11:50 am

Commercial validation makes a lot of sense. My smart-alek'd comment was aimed more at personal, end-user use. We know it grows stuff well. Why pay money to have a lab tell us what we already know? Again, though, just being my smarty pants self.

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Re: Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results

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