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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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adding compost in an older sqft garden

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littlesapphire
glenn
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Post  glenn 5/8/2012, 10:55 am

this year, when adding compost to my older 2 sqft gardens, I found them pretty "root bound" and difficult to till. I have planted tomatoes in them the last 2 years.

I have also used earthboxes and when the season is done they are so rootbound I have to remove the old mat'l and replace the planting mix each year. (I compost the old roots and mat'l).

Should I have to remove the planting mix and replace it in the sqft gardens or is there another way of working these gardens? the sqft books say "just add more compost each season"...????

Thanks,

glenn
glenn
glenn

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Join date : 2012-05-08
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Post  littlesapphire 5/8/2012, 1:05 pm

Every spring, I need to go through my garden with my hands and a little hand trowel or hand rake and rake out the old roots. Every plant you plant in your SFG is going to leave behind some roots. But also something I noticed is that I have a TON more roots in the part of my garden that's near a big tree. The one that's next to my house is SO much easier to work. So maybe what's going on with your garden (along with part of mine) is that trees or shrubs are sending roots up into your garden and therefore making it hard to work.

I honestly don't have any solutions other than getting your hands dirty and pulling those roots out Smile
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Post  quiltbea 5/8/2012, 1:36 pm

I pull out the roots and all when I clean out my gardens in the fall so in the spring, they are free of deep roots. I can then just rake on about 2" of new compost in the beds. If I miss a root from the fall before, its usually dried and shriveled and already composting in the bed so very easy to remove to toss in the compost pile.
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Post  boffer 5/8/2012, 1:51 pm

Welcome to the forum! Row gardeners would just till in the roots and let them compost in the dirt. You could do that too in a SFG box.

Once a year, whenever a box is empty of plants, I take the grid off and fluff up the MM and then add MM to bring the level to the top of the box. I enjoy running my hands through relatively clean MM so I prefer to remove the large root bunches and throw them into the compost pile. (I fluff for me! I don't have a clue if it's beneficial to growing plants.)

I find brassicas to be the worst stealers of MM, especially when the roots are damp. When an entire box is brassicas, they'll steal more than half of the MM in the box. If I pull the plants and let the roots dry out, I can recover most of the MM. Depending on my planting schedule, I either lay the plants on top of the MM to dry if I don't need the box right away, or I'll refill the box with fresh MM, and let the roots dry elsewhere.
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Post  camprn 5/8/2012, 2:02 pm

@glenn wrote:this year, when adding compost to my older 2 sqft gardens, I found them pretty "root bound" and difficult to till. I have planted tomatoes in them the last 2 years.

I have also used earthboxes and when the season is done they are so rootbound I have to remove the old mat'l and replace the planting mix each year. (I compost the old roots and mat'l).

Should I have to remove the planting mix and replace it in the sqft gardens or is there another way of working these gardens? the sqft books say "just add more compost each season"...????

Thanks,

glenn
What kind of roots are binding up in the Mel's mix? Are you sure it was the tomato roots? did you use weed barrier on the bottom of your boxes?
What is mat'l?

I usually remove the plants and roots in the autumn and add compost at that time, fluffing it up in the spring just before reapplying the grid and planting.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Post  glenn 5/8/2012, 2:20 pm

[quote="camprn"][quote="glenn"]this year, when adding compost to my older 2 sqft gardens, I found them pretty "root bound" and difficult to till. I have planted tomatoes in them the last 2 years.

I have also used earthboxes and when the season is done they are so rootbound I have to remove the old mat'l and replace the planting mix each year. (I compost the old roots and mat'l).

Should I have to remove the planting mix and replace it in the sqft gardens or is there another way of working these gardens? the sqft books say "just add more compost each season"...????

Thanks,

glenn ]
What kind of roots are binding up in the Mel's mix? I REALLY DON'T KNOW. Are you sure it was the tomato roots? NO , BUT I HAVE SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP ME WITH THAT. did you use weed barrier on the bottom of your boxes? YES DOUBLED .
What is mat'l? MATERIAL..IN THE EARTHBOXES, (WHICH HAVE BEEN FANTASTIC) I USE ONLY PROMIX TYPE AS SUGGESTED BY THE EB FOLKS. IN THE SQFT GARDENS IT'S MELS MIX, PEAT, COMPOST, AND VERMICULITE , WHICH I DO FIND DRAINS TOO WELL SOMETIMES, CAUSING ME TO HAVE TO WATER TOO MUCH.

I usually remove the plants and roots in the autumn and add compost at that time, fluffing it up in the spring just before reapplying the grid and planting.[THIS SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD PROCEDURE I'LL DO THAT NEXT YEAR. I APPRECIATE YOUR REPLY, I MAY EMPTY THE GARDEN OUT ON A TARP AND SEE IF ROOTS ARE COMING THROUGH OR IF IT'S ROOTS LEFT OVER FROM LAST YEARS PLANTING. THEN REPLACE THE BARRIER IF NECESSARY.]
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Post  camprn 5/8/2012, 6:26 pm

Hi Glenn, I know your pain. ( I seem to be saying this a lot lately Very Happy ). This year I had to excavate all my beds that were sitting on the ground an remove a lot of tree root hairs that had infiltrated into the Mel's mix. I too removed all the mix onto a tarp and removed the roots, lay down cardboard and put weed barrier down. The I used the old mix and stirred it up with new mix. It was a hassle, but it is going to be worth it.
Good luck with your project! What a Face

____________________________

43 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-weeks-until-frost

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t1306-other-gardening-books



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Post  glenn 5/9/2012, 6:43 am

@camprn wrote:Hi Glenn, I know your pain. ( I seem to be saying this a lot lately Very Happy ). This year I had to excavate all my beds that were sitting on the ground an remove a lot of tree root hairs that had infiltrated into the Mel's mix. I too removed all the mix onto a tarp and removed the roots, lay down cardboard and put weed barrier down. The I used the old mix and stirred it up with new mix. It was a hassle, but it is going to be worth it.
Good luck with your project! What a Face

Maybe it's a NH thing as I live in E. Jackson? I think that cardboard thing might help alot...wish I had worked the 2 old gardens prior to building/filling the 2 new ones...oh well just something more to do...

have you tried the earthboxes? thanks again , glenn
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Post  camprn 5/9/2012, 6:52 am

Nope I have not used earthboxes.

____________________________

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Post  acara 5/9/2012, 8:25 am

I get the root-binding too, particularly with toms.

I excavate the box each season, use a cheap plastic tub & make a slurry out of the MM with water. Then I stir in the make-up compost with a stick. Finallly, I put a piece of galvanized screen over the box (cheap 4-mesh/.025 hardware cloth from the box stores) and pour the slurry back into the box.

The screen usually catches all the roots & debris (and volunteers that I may have missed), remixes the MM and evenly distributes it back into the box.

Excavating the box also gives me a chance to visually inspect the bottom layer of weedblock and see if it needs to be augmented/replaced.
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