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making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

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making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Feistywidget on Wed 2 Nov 2011 - 16:33

First off, I tried posting this in the SFG forum of this site. Unfortunately the person who replied to my thread said this should be posted in non-SFG. As a result, I really didn't get my questions answered. So here it is...

Below is the recipe I use for container gardening; it's the 'soil' I'd use in square foot gardening boxes too.

I
know with any sort of container gardening, trying to use regular
soil/dirt doesn't work; it's just too heavy and compacts too much. I've
also tried to use regular soil in container gardening, and it was a
total disaster, so I know first hand from past experience.

2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors - provided in some fertilizers)

Most
gardening guides I know when it comes to instructions on growing any
sort of veggie/fruit, ESP. heavy feeders (any sort of squash,
cucumbers, any type of melon) advocate the use of using manure and/or
compost. I'm wondering if I could mix compost/manure into the soilless
mix recipe listed above, or would it make it too heavy and compact?

I've
also been debating adding some normal sand into the soil recipe above.
By sand, I'm NOT referring to sandy soil that has no nutrients at all,
and is horrible for gardening/growing anything in. Nor am I talking
about sandy soil.

I'd just like to add sand, because I'm trying
to mimic loam. I know loam has some sand in it. The type of sand I'd
use is just normal, run-of-the-mill sand.

I'd also like to add
it because based on research I've done about instructions with growing
anything edible (fruits, veggies, etc.) it recommends the use of
'sandy, loamy soil'. I also know that there are certain things that
just grow better in a sandy loam soil, such as spinach, melons, and
squash.

Would the two additions of manure and sand to my soil
mixture, be a good idea or a bad idea? Basically would it increase
yields or just wreak havoc on plants, and the modified soil mixture I
have in mind (same recipe as above, just with sand and compost mixed
in) not be suitable for container gardening.

If it's recommended
to add sand and manure/compost, how much of each should I add. Please
specify the measurement! (that is how many cups/quarts/gallons) etc.
per batch I should use.

The reason I ask to specify how much to
use per batch, is that is the way I make my soil mixture is in batches.
The above recipe makes about 30 gallons of soil mixture per batch.

Feistywidget

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  camprn on Wed 2 Nov 2011 - 17:04

I would have to say that no to sand or any dirt. If you want to make Mel's Mix I would consider the composted pine bark as one element of the 5 way compost blend recommended by Mel. Additions of other types of compost to make the blend could be composted manure, horse, cow, poultry... each of these would be considered types of compost. I see you live in Michigan, if you could get a hold of some fish type compost that would be a fabulous addition. Of course home made compost is also always a good ingredient. The perlite is fine, as is the peat/sphagnum.

As to the other additions, this would be known as extras and not part of a Mel's Mix as described in the All New Square Foot Gardening book. Gypsum is good, as is the lime, which would balance some of the acid of the peat. I cannot speak to the micro nutrient powder nor the CRF as I don't know what those are.

Perhaps an experiment is in order... Mix up some Mel's Mix by the original recipe and separately mix up your own blend of soil less mix... it would be interesting to see the results.

Have you had a chance to read the All New Square Foot Garden book yet? It is really worth the read. What a Face

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clarification on Mel's mix

Post  Feistywidget on Sat 5 Nov 2011 - 15:47

I'm a little confused by what you said about the five way soil mixture. Does that mean there are 5 different 'recipes' in his book with the soil mixture; or 5 variations that are based off his original soil mixture?

Regarding your question about not knowing what CRF is, it stands for controlled released fertilizer. It's a dry inorganic fertilizer; I use Osmocote. I was wondering if I could add the Osmocote to Mel's mix if I use it, or would this be over fertilizing? If you could add the Osmocote to Mel's Mix, how much per batch? Please specify in measurement and the amount (cups, gallons, etc.)

When you say the 5-way variation that is described in the New SFG are you referring to compost, or his soil mixture?

His basic mixture is a 1/3 part EACH of vermiculite, peat moss, and compost. If I were to use his soil mixture, I was thinking of adding dolomite lime to it; would this mess it up, would you advise against this, or would it be okay? If it's okay to add the dolomite lime, how much per batch with Mel's mix? Please specify this information in measurement (cups, gallons, etc.) and the amount.

With my soil mixture, I just wanted to add compost to the basic recipe, however would it make it too compact and heavy, and would it drain poorly because of the addition of the compost?

If I can add compost to my basic soil recipe, then how much would you recommend adding per large batch? One large batch makes 30-33 gallons; the measurements given below are the measurements for a large batch of soil with my mixture.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Chopper on Sat 5 Nov 2011 - 17:01

I think the recipe is on the web page too. Is there some reason you are not using Mel's Mix? Why reinvent the wheel?

! part compost (from 5 sources)
1 part vermiculite
1 part peat

It is light and very friable and filled with nutrients. I do not understand your question and I do not think this is really useful for this forum. It is like asking nudists what their favorite fashion is. Who cares.

And in answer to 'are there 5 different recipes', the answer is no. There is one recipe and that includes a blend of five composts. You really owe it to yourself to get the book from your local library and take a peek. You will be blown over with the elegance and simplicity of the method.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  littlejo on Sat 5 Nov 2011 - 19:13

I'm not sure what pine bark fines is? Very similar to peat moss?
I would not use the perlite for it has a lot of flouride in it. It would be ok if your water has no floride in it. Also, have you ever put a pot with perlite in it out in the rain? Perlite floats in water. It would end up with the perlite on top of the bed after a couple hard rains.
The lime takes about a year to make any change to the ph. Gypsum is quicker but you need neither unless your plants need these additives.
Compost or aged manure is good-use as much as you can, at least a third of your mix
micro nutrients/CRF-not needed if you use good compost.
Sand-well, if it isn't going to do any thing for the garden then I wouldn't use it.
I am trying to grow some veggies that are organic(they all were this year!!) I would not use osmocote for it is a man made fertilizer which is not organic, at least the 1 I used was not.
Have you used this mixture before? in pots?
Do you know how much this mix costs?
How much yearly maintenence do you forsee?

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Cincinnati on Sat 5 Nov 2011 - 19:50

@Feistywidget wrote:...Below is the recipe I use for container gardening; it's the 'soil' I'd use in square foot gardening boxes too.
...
2-3 cu ft pine bark fines
5 gallons peat
5 gallons perlite
2 cups dolomitic (garden) lime (or gypsum in some cases)
2 cups CRF (if preferred)
1/2 cup micro-nutrient powder (or other source of the minors - provided in some fertilizers)

I've also been debating adding some normal sand into the soil recipe above.
...
Would the two additions of manure and sand to my soil
mixture, be a good idea or a bad idea?
...
The above recipe makes about 30 gallons of soil mixture per batch.

Feisty,

I am not quick to tell someone to read the book. I generally assume that anyone here has read the book — after all this is a Square Foot Gardening Forum. You are certainly thinking of possibilities, but I would recommend keeping it simple and trying the SQFT method before making too many changes.

I did not read the first book. My understanding in the early days of the SQFT method, Mel did mix in local soil. I know some people think this is a better choice, but Mel's New Revised book says 1/3 Peat moss, 1/3 Coarse Vermiculite, and 1/3 complete compost.

Adding Dolomite, fertilizer, or Micro-Nutrients blindly may be detrimental to you. For example, don't add dolomite if you are not deficient in Magnesium. I would discourage additives unless you had a soil analysis to be sure you are not creating an out-of-balance "soil".

Too much of an additive is often worse than not enough. It's easier to add it later than it is to remove it. I only mixed additives into mine after a lab analysis.

If pine bark fines means composted pine bark, then you are using only one type of compost instead of 5 types recommended. Also, you are adding 15-22+ gallons of compost to only 5 gal of peat and 5 gal of perlite. This means your soil is over 66% (20-22 gal out of 30) compost instead of 33%.

Create a new batch and mix your new soil in correct 1:1:1 proportions. For the compost — if you are not making it yourself — buy 5 different types of compost made from 5 different sources. Mix these together well and use that blend of 5 composts as your compost for the MM.

The ideal MM has a lot of the same properties as loamy soil. You will not need to add sand. When mixed in 1:1:1 proportions, it will be loose, friable, and will drain well.

As far as Manure: Manure can be added as one of your types of compost if it is composted (ie rotted).

The beauty of the SQFT method lies in its simplicity. I recommend you try it the way it was designed. Make changes only if needed.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Chopper on Sun 6 Nov 2011 - 11:28

@Feistywidget wrote:First off, I tried posting this in the SFG forum of this site. Unfortunately the person who replied to my thread said this should be posted in non-SFG. As a result, I really didn't get my questions answered. So here it is....

Just as an FYI, this is an SFG specific site that due to the broadness of the subject will occasionally deal with peripheral things. It looks like you want a general gardening site. There are plenty of good ones out there and I would suggest you do a search. We like to be inclusive, but adherence to SFG is central to getting the most out of this site.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Squat_Johnson on Mon 7 Nov 2011 - 13:49

FYI, I believe this is in the proper place. it is in the Forum's category: Non-SFG Gardening discussion

I used to be a row gardener, and can identify. I didn't jump on the Forum overnight. I lurked around and read a lot first. This is a good place to ease people into the SFG technique... From the description...

Announcement:
Off-topic forum purpose


@boffer wrote:This off-topic forum has been created as a result of overwhelming support by members. It's purpose is to provide a place for topics that don't fit into defined SFG forums. Remember that the SFG forum is a family friendly forum-always has been, always will be. Please respect that.

While I am here, I will say that I made mistakes when I started making raised beds. I had already read the book, but was trying to take shortcuts.

I mixed in 1/5 of my existing soil. Mistake
I used only one compost. Mistake
It worked, just not optimal.

I wish I had adhered to straight mel's mix, and just had a smaller garden. It really works.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Feistywidget on Mon 7 Nov 2011 - 15:31

There was a reason I asked about the lime, and it's because of a quote somebody made earlier in the thread. They said that it wouldn't hurt to add lime to the Mel's Mix; at least I'm assuming that's what they were referring to with the addition of the lime.

Since you can add up to 5 different kinds of compost, could I count the dry fertilizer as one of those composts or not? Whenever I've used the fertilizer in my other soil mixture, it has done wonders for the plants. That's why I'm wondering if I could add it to the Mel's Mix. Is the 5 composts be considered a part one of the ingredients on the list of "mel's mix".

In regards to the book, the New SFG, they don't have it my library, the only way I'd be able to get the latest version is by putting it on hold. Nor can I afford to buy it.

Here is the quote in regards to the lime....

Gypsum is good, as is the lime, which would balance some of the acid of
the peat. I cannot speak to the micro nutrient powder nor the CRF as I
don't know what those are.

Regarding the 'you should go to a general gardening site'. Been there, tried that. Whenever I ask questions, they treat me like I'm stupid and start judging me and condemning me for asking questions about stuff I don't understand.

They assume that the questions I'm asking are 'basic questions about gardening' that everybody should know about because they have years of experience with gardening. Well I'm sorry, but not everybody has that kind of experience; not everybody is a 'master gardener' and the only way you get help with something you don't understand is by asking somebody who has more experience and HAS done it before. Instead of them just answering my questions and helping me I get this arrogant and condescending attitude.

The questions are either flat out ignored or I'm ridiculed, ousted, and treated extremely badly. Either that or they make a slew of assumptions and/or throw accusations in my face.

Feistywidget

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Goosegirl on Mon 7 Nov 2011 - 17:08

@Feistywidget wrote:

Here is the quote in regards to the lime....

Gypsum is good, as is the lime, which would balance some of the acid of
the peat. I cannot speak to the micro nutrient powder nor the CRF as I
don't know what those are.

there, tried that. Whenever I ask questions, they treat me like I'm stupid and start judging me and condemning me for asking questions about stuff I don't understand.

Feisty:

The gypsum and lime will add calcium and help balance acidity, but if you have your basic mix of 1/3 good blend of compost, 1/3 peat, and 1/3 vermiculite, you will not need the extra calcium, acidity balance, or the dry fertilizer powder you mentioned as well. The vermiculite and peat give you the moisture retention and looseness in the soil you need and the compost gives you all the nutrients your plants need. That is why it is important to get as many different types of compost as you can for your mix. Unless it is your own homemade compost that has LOTS of different ingredients (fruit & veggie scraps, leaves, grass clippings, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves/bags, etc.) you need to have the 5 different composts. Horse poo will only have specific nutrients, cow poo will only have specific ingredients, and the nutrients in horse poo and cow poo will not be the same. Then, if you have mushroom compost, that will only have the nutrients left over from the mushroom industry. Same with crab or lobster compost. Each kind of compost will have its own wonderful set of nutrients for your garden, but none on its own will be complete - which is why people have to resort to fertilizers. BUT, when you can get at least 5 different composts (more is even better happy2 ) you end up with a great mix with an abundance of nutrients so that you don't need to add fertilizer.
GG

PS - I know what you mean about some forums. I was on one for a type of pet that I used to have and MY GOODNESS! I never knew people could be SO rude, inflammatory, and downright nasty if your opinion differed from theirs! It has been a delight to be involved with this forum - kind, warm, and willing to help (and a bit silly now and then, as we all need Very Happy )

PPS - If you can put it on hold at your library, DO IT! It is an easy read and you learn SO much!

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Furbalsmom on Mon 7 Nov 2011 - 17:20

@Feistywidget wrote:Since you can add up to 5 different kinds of compost, could I count the dry fertilizer as one of those composts or not? Whenever I've used the fertilizer in my other soil mixture, it has done wonders for the plants. That's why I'm wondering if I could add it to the Mel's Mix. Is the 5 composts be considered a part one of the ingredients on the list of "mel's mix".

The three ingredients in Mel's Mix are Vermiculite, Peat Moss, and a blend of at least Five types of Compost. Fertilizer is not a component of Mel's Mix. If you are able to create a good blend of five quality composts, there is no nutrient deficiency in your mix, and there is no need to add fertilizers.

I would suggest you read the following post, which gives you a lot of information on how to create Mel's Mix. I know it is a pretty long read, but this was created to help our members produce the perfect growing medium.

Click on this link > HOW STRONG IS YOUR BACKBONE

In regards to the book, the New SFG, they don't have it my library, the only way I'd be able to get the latest version is by putting it on hold. Nor can I afford to buy it.

Because the ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING BOOK is so important to understanding the concept and learning the method, take the time and request that the library hold the book for you. Another option may be to check in used book stores, or even places like GoodWill, which may carry donated books for a very low price. I also urge you to be sure you get the ALL NEW SFG book, which was published around 2006. The prior editions, while full of great information, do not include the newer simplified method of SFG.

I currently have three 4 X 4 Table Top SFGs with straight Mel's Mix. I also use Mel's Mix in containers, but I find it more expensive as most containers are deeper than the six inches required in a standard SFG bed.



ETA: Just saw Goosegirl's post and find we had similar thoughts.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  southern gardener on Mon 7 Nov 2011 - 22:13

The book is for sale on amazon for $11.42, NEW! You can't beat that price. I'd say figure a way to come up with the money and read the book. It would probably be less expensive than the supplements! cheers

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  janezee on Mon 7 Nov 2011 - 22:48

I just bought the book on Alibris.com for $3.50 plus $3.99 for shipping.
bounce
j

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The five composts and what they really are.

Post  plantoid on Fri 16 Dec 2011 - 7:34

Like some I'm fairly new in the latest 2006 edition idea of SFG & I've used the old soil based method for a long time. I'm changing over to the new method ... slowly for several new & existing 36 inch high & deep raised beds .

Here is my take on things
The compost mixture resulting from combining the minimum of five differing sources of manures or vegetable matter manures etc. is really the fertilizer for the soilless growth medium .

As the five mixed composts break down from bacterial , fungal and insect /worm action from fibres into smaller fibres & nutrient forms , they produce a sort of fine jelly in tiny microscopic globules which is what the plants feed from via their capillary roots .. it is called humus & will now contain almost every sort of plant food that your plants need .

If you keep the compost heap covered , occasionally aireated & fairly damp the break down occurs quicker as heat builds up , it's far more effective than a dry heap ,the humus quality & quantity will also be high .

Watch out for mushroom composts ..it usually is straw based horse muck , cow muck as a slurry and straw or wood pulp based chicken or turkey muck with gypsum added as an activator to make it heat up and decay to a state good for fungi growth ... too much mushroom compost on permanantly sited plants will usually lead to chlorosis ( too much lime ) and the plants will suffer showing yellowing leaves . The same applies if you over use it in your mix year after year.

It is good to use some mushroom compost in the five way mix for there is also likely to be a small element of fine sieved earth in mushroom compost from the 2 inch deep or so of " cappings " .
It would have been sterile when initally laid on the compost .. it's where the mushrooms actually grow through , this can contain all sorts of micro quantities of additional nutrients that get carried in the air/ rain or as wind blown dusts

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on Fri 16 Dec 2011 - 8:36

I notice Fiesty hasn't posted in awhile. I hope he/she is still lurking around. I hate to see someone feel mistreated and unaccepted. I would like to add that reading back through most of the thread, I think the SFG crew did an amazingly polite, knowledgeable, an patient job with Fiesty. Really a bang-up job, forum peeps!

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

Post  Kelejan on Fri 16 Dec 2011 - 11:45

@janezee wrote:I just bought the book on Alibris.com for $3.50 plus $3.99 for shipping.
bounce
j


I looked it up, janezee, and I think that maybe it is the 1981 edition. I could not find any other information apart from the illustrated cover which is the 1981 edition.

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Re: making modifications to 'soil' mixture.

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