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Post  jerzyjen on 1/30/2011, 1:42 pm

Question for you good gardening folks...

I want to make my new boxes out of 10" tall boards (for aestetics), so I want to put a filler on the bottom 4", so I don't have to waste precious Mel's Mix. I am thinking of just putting down straw, then add the weed block, then Mel's Mix. I actually already did this to my strawberry boxes, but they are really small. If this is a bad idea, I don't want to repeat my mistake on the rest of the garden. I've got straw & sandy native soil already on hand, but the straw would definately be less labor intensive for me. Just wondering if there were any drawbacks, or if there was a better solution out there.

Suggestions welcomed Smile
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Post  miinva on 1/30/2011, 1:44 pm

I don't think straw will cause any problems, but it will break down. Using sandy native soil would last longer, I would think, and since it's sandy it wouldn't affect the draining of your Mel's Mix. I know it's more work on the front end of things, but I think you'll be pulling your dirt out and redoing it next year if you use the straw.
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Post  camprn on 1/30/2011, 2:22 pm

@jerzyjen wrote:Question for you good gardening folks...

I want to make my new boxes out of 10" tall boards (for aestetics), so I want to put a filler on the bottom 4" so I don't have to waste precious Mel's Mix. I am thinking of just putting down straw, then add the weed block, then Mel's Mix. I've got straw & sandy native soil already on hand, but the straw would definately be less labor intensive for me. Just wondering if there were any drawbacks, or if there was a better solution out there.

Suggestions welcomed Smile
If it were me, I would scrape off any plants or dig up grass where the box was going to go , omit the weed barrier, place the straw, water it, tamp it in then put in a good 7 inches of Mel's mix.
I would omit the weed barrier as when the straw decomposes, there will be a gap, but next year you can just mix the decomposed straw and added compost together. Also, with 10 inches of planting mix there's not a great likely hood of anything growing from the native dirt below. Just my $0.02. Good Luck! Very Happy
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Post  Old Hippie on 1/30/2011, 3:25 pm

I would put the weed barrier down first and then put the straw on top. The reason I would put the weed barrier down first is because of the
grass in our areas that sends out runners EVERYWHERE and then come
shooting up where you don't expect it. Straw is great in compost so it will gradually break down and just be another type of compost in your MM, I think. The sandy soil might be an issue because of possible weed seeds in it. If you have time to compost the straw and the sandy soil, add some rotting kitchen or yard waste and a bag of the cheapest dog food you can find for some quick nitrogen boost and turn it every two or three days, keeping it moist. You should get some heat from that and have a fast batch of compost in about two or three weeks. That is what I would put in the bottom and then the MM on top. You may find it settles as it continues to decompose but in the fall you can add more of your own compost and peat moss to the mix to top it up.

I know SFG says you don't NEED a system that deep, but I am like you and like the looks of the deeper boxes and it also gives me more leeway for where I put my carrots, beets, etc. that need a deeper planting bed.

Not sure if that is totally correct or not, but that is what I would do. Best of luck.

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Post  jerzyjen on 1/30/2011, 3:35 pm

Good suggestions keep em comin!

I should clarify that this sand pile has been behind my shed for 4 years (when the house was built) and never seems to sprout any weeds from it (it may be sand from Mars? lol). I"m putting down my new beds over areas that have either had my old beds, or mulch layers down for the past 3 years. All that being said, I still like to play it safe with weed barrier, some of the weeds in my yard are virulent (my butterfly garden last year was completely overwhelmed by an infestation of STICKERBURRS! don't get me started Evil or Very Mad

I think the sound of just having they straw become part of the mix over time.....hmmmmmm
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Post  jumiclads on 1/30/2011, 3:45 pm

I agree with Old Hippie, The straw would need composting first because when the wheat is harvested so are other weed plants and their seeds may be in the straw. These would then grow through the MM which is not what you want. If you leave a bale of straw out in the rain it will grow weeds on it.

As Camprn says 10" may be enough to stop weeds coming up but I would also put weed barrier down first just to be safe because it is a big job to put right once it is in place with plants growing if the weeds start to come through.

The other filler you could use is wood shavings or chippings, what do other forum members think about those? Which types of wood that are suitable?

I will be making my boxes 20" deep to save my back so will be interested to see some replies.
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Post  Old Hippie on 1/30/2011, 3:59 pm

Wood shavings and wood chips might work too. I would give those a try too although they rob the soil of nitrogen as they continue decomposing so it is important to give extra nitrogen boosts of fertilizer to the plants throughout the growing season. Also, make sure you are just using wood shavings that do not have any toxins in them. We have mainly birch, pine and spruce here so those are the types that I use in my compost. I avoid treated woods, walnut and any of the more tropical woods that my husband may use in his wood shop because they can have chemicals in them that can affect plant growth. I save the cedar chips for in the pathways.

Mick, to save on the amount of soil mix or MM that you need, why not make raised boxes on legs. See "table top" gardening. There are several people on here who have done that. No point in wasting precious soil mix if you don't have to. I know I am going to have to start looking at that in the near future.

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Post  jumiclads on 1/30/2011, 4:06 pm

@Old Hippie wrote:Wood shavings and wood chips might work too. I would give those a try too although they rob the soil of nitrogen as they continue decomposing so it is important to give extra nitrogen boosts of fertilizer to the plants throughout the growing season.

Would this still apply with the shavings being underneath and seperate from MM.
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Post  camprn on 1/30/2011, 4:11 pm

if I was to choose wood chips for bottom filler, I would use some of that pelletized fertilizer right on the wood chips before pouring in the Mel's Mix.
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Post  Old Hippie on 1/30/2011, 4:42 pm

@camprn wrote:if I was to choose wood chips for bottom filler, I would use some of that pelletized fertilizer right on the wood chips before pouring in the Mel's Mix.

Oh, great idea!

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