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We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

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We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  3 ladybugs on 4/26/2010, 10:44 am

My husband built our 3 four foot square boxes over the weekend. We had 8 cubic feet of compost, 8 cubic feet of vermiculite, and 3.8 compressed cubic feet of peat moss. Yet our boxes are not full to the top. Did anyone else have this problem? Do we need to make more mix? Should we add more compost? We are about 2 inches from the top.Thank you for your help!

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  boffer on 4/26/2010, 10:57 am

glad you\'re here to the forum. Kudos to you for doing your best to follow Mel's instructions! That is the best way to insure gardening success. Mathematically, a 4x4x6 box will take 8 cf of mix. But, once it is wetted down and compresses a bit, it doesn't fill the box. From my own experience, I suggest using 10cf of mix for that size box. I would just add more mix till you attain the soil level you want. This picture shows a 4x4 box with 10 cf of mix; when wet the soil is still 1/2 inch below the top.



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I ran into the same problem

Post  auntiemommy on 4/26/2010, 11:07 am

When I built my boxes I made slightly more than Mel calls for in his book and my boxes still were not full. I would say to add 20% to whatever he calls for to get them full. Allowing for when it shrinks when wet down and settled. I am making more this week.
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  boffer on 4/26/2010, 11:11 am

Oh yeah, don't worry about having leftover materials-you'll need them for the new boxes you'll want to build next spring! Wink
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  happyfrog on 4/26/2010, 12:01 pm

@boffer wrote:Oh yeah, don't worry about having leftover materials-you'll need them for the new boxes you'll want to build next spring! Wink

or for container planting! you'll never buy potting soil again.

this stuff is WAY WAY WAY better!!!

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  Lavender Debs on 4/26/2010, 12:44 pm

@happyfrog wrote:or for container planting! you'll never buy potting soil again.

this stuff is WAY WAY WAY better!!!
You have an AMEN from the back row!

I put my blueberries and dwarf fruit trees in the "leftover mix.
Every time I am wanting to put something into a pot I mix up a batch in an old dishpan to fill the pot. Any leftovers I dump right into the bag of "potting soil" I keep on the back porch.
I'm starting to feel idgy when I run out of vermiculite.

Deborah ... \o/\o/\o/
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  Shoda on 4/26/2010, 11:07 pm

Thanks for mentioning the shortage. I finished my 3 boxes over the weekend and had to run out to buy more ingredients because I ran out. I already have plans for a new box and was trying to figure out how much to buy this time so I don't have to make extra trips.

I did have to chuckle about the left over Mel's Mix though. I had a few CF left of Mel's Mix after my last box. I put it aside thinking I would use it for the next box. However, the kids took it to fill 2 topsie turvies and then they used the rest to mix into their new flower bed that they are building just outside the vegetable garden.

I am sure prices for the ingredients vary a lot around the country. I wish I could have found the vermiculite cheaper then I did but when I calculated the cost for Mel's Mix was about $6.50 per SF.
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  martha on 4/27/2010, 3:08 pm

It is expensive, but only the first time!
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  silverbug on 4/27/2010, 8:14 pm

Wow, I give you all so much credit for sticking so strictly to the mix. I saw how low my boxes were, and figured I couldn't have possibly guessed right on my compost/vermiculite quantities, and simply went out and got enough additional compost to fill up the boxes. We'll see what sort of experiment I end up with. LOL

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines...

Post  ander217 on 4/27/2010, 8:36 pm

We had this same problem. Not only that, the mix keeps going lower and lower in the boxes. Has anyone had that problem?

We made our mix exactly to specs, using coarse vemiculite, peat moss, and a mixture of composted cow manure, mushroom compost, cotton burr compost, and something just called "compost". We filled three new boxes over the weekend and planted them. They were filled to the brim with Mel's Mix. We got a 2 1/2" rain, and when I checked today, some of the mix is at least three inches below the top.

Our first box was 4' x 4' x 1', and our mix was a little below the top rim when we planted. Now the mix is about 4" below the edge, and the plants next to the east and west edges are not growing as well, I assume because they are being shaded.

We soaked the filled boxes well before planting. I can't figure out why our mix keeps compacting.

Any ideas? I don't see anything I can do this year now that the boxes are already planted, but I'd like to know why the mix keeps compacting lower and lower. We stapled weed barrier to the bottom and the boxes are set on the ground on top of more weed barrier or newspapers or cardboard.
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  happyfrog on 4/27/2010, 9:05 pm

my soil level drops a bit, too BUT what i do is GENEROUSLY add compost when i plant next crop - so a good 'cottage cheese ' container ful is put in each square (2 quart container) and that seems to work for me.

also, i 'fluff' up the entire square when i add more compost so the whole thing is kind of mounded higher than the other squares before i plant a new plant/seed. i dig down to the bottom and down each edge of teh square/string to get all the soil blended anew.

it seems to be working for me.

maybe something similar could work for you? i figured if mel uses straight compost in third world countries then i could use 'extra' compost when replanting.

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  happyfrog on 4/27/2010, 9:07 pm

oh and mel himself came to my house during the ohio symposium and told me my compost replanting method was definitely acceptable. Smile (i keep a trash can with lid filled with a good compost blend of at least 5 sources near my garden, so it's very easy to add more compost at a moment's notice.)

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  3 ladybugs on 4/28/2010, 7:05 am

My husband added more Mel's Mix last night and now they are looking better. Now if it just wasn't cold outside, then I could do some planting. It is suppose to be better starting Friday. So I will have to start this weekend.

Thank you for everyone's help!

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Adding more compost

Post  ander217 on 4/28/2010, 9:00 am

Happy Frog, thanks so much for the advice. I'll build up each grid individually with more compost this growing season when I replant, and "refluff" as you suggested. I like your idea of the garbage can of compost near the garden, too. I'll also follow Boffer's advice (at least I think it was Boffer) and "overfill" the boxes next year. Perhaps the particular brands of peat and compost we purchased are more susceptible to compacting than others.

Thanks for posting the thread, 3 Ladybugs.
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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  aspiegardner on 4/29/2010, 7:46 am

2nd year at this and getting ready to plant soon. The boxes look like the mix shrunk a lot over the winter.

do I just add more compost or do I need to do more of mel's exact mix. I want to make sure things grow this year and still not sure if they had enough vermiculite last year.

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

Post  donnainzone5 on 4/29/2010, 11:14 am

Fluffing up last year's Mel's Mix with a trowel will help restore some of its volume. I'd suggest using pure compost for the rest.

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Re: We followed Mel's guidelines but our boxes are not full

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