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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW

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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW Empty First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW

Post  musicallymotivated on 5/11/2012, 10:43 am

Hi all,

Well, back in February I read All New Square Foot Gardening, and once we started getting decent weather last month I started preparing garden boxes in our backyard. We have six 4x4's (two for each adult), and one long 2x12 box for growing raspberries. Everything's in MM.

I planted one 4x4 about a week after Easter with my niece and nephew, who got a big kick out of planting different seeds in every square. And lo and behold - most of those squares have plants in them now! (Of course, I don't remember what we planted anymore lol.)

We'll be planting two more boxes this weekend, and then start planning what we want to grow in summer and fall. Even though I built 6 boxes, I don't want to start out with all 6 totally full and end up getting overwhelmed by it all. (But I bet next year, we'll have something growing in each square in all 6 from mid-April through October.)

So, I have a ton of questions, I'm sure, and some of them I hope to get answered in the forums, and some I'm sure will just come from experience, and from paying attention to what works in our garden and what doesn't.

One question I have is about the constant rainfall we get and how it might affect the contents of the Mel's Mix. I'm currently reading Steve Solomon's Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, and in it he has a section where he says that the years of rainfall in the PNW essentially leach many important nutrients out of our soil.

Now I know in SFG I don't use our native soil - but I'm wondering if the rain might leach out all the nutrients in my Mel's Mix every couple years, and if I should be considering amending the Mix to address this potential problem. Solomon's book seems to imply that this is a problem specific to our region, and doesn't apply anywhere else in the country.

Has anyone been doing SFG up here for enough years to have experience with this and know if I should ever add anything new to the mix other than fresh compost every time I plant something new?

Thanks,
Michael
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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW Empty Re: First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW

Post  gwennifer on 5/11/2012, 11:55 am

Hi Michael and First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW 396615 to the forum! I love it when I see people post on here for the first time, and they've already read the book, built their beds, made their MM (Mel's Mix) and planted! Wow - good for you! I hope you'll share some pictures of your garden.

So my answer to your question is twofold. First: Nope! Therere's nothing else you need to do except add that fresh compost before re-planting each square. Remember, the compost is where our nutrients are coming from. The other two components of MM, the peat moss and vermiculite, are there for moisture retention and keeping the soil friable. So you are replenishing the nutrient source every time you add that trowel of compost.

However, we DO get a lot of rain here - especially in the winter when our gardens aren't being used. Therefore, I recommend covering your beds during the off season, to keep that rain from washing out all the nutrients over the winter. You'll still be adding fresh compost in the spring when re-planting, but surely there will be nutrients there worth retaining through the winter.

Caution: Be careful that you still allow your beds to stay moist if you do cover them. Re-hydrating MM can be difficult!
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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW Empty Re: First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW

Post  musicallymotivated on 5/11/2012, 4:17 pm

Thanks gwennifer. That's kind of what I was thinking, but the thing that set off an alarm in my mind was that Solomon wrote that the rain does such a bang-up job of leaching our soil that it affects even the plants that go into our locally-available compost (whether as plant clippings or steer or chicken manure.)

It kind of freaked me out to read that, but no matter; I'm still going to plant. I'm just curious as to the "true" nutritional content (if that's what you call it) of our compost, and whether or not we should be adding anything extra in the PNW. I think I have 4 different kinds of compost in my MM and I'm fairly certain that the "stuff" in all of them mixed together will be just fine, but I'm *just* obsessive enough that it bugs me not to know for sure.

I even went to a local, well-respected nursery to ask them about soil
and compost, and I don't think they even knew what I was talking about... all they did was to recommend that I read Solomon's book (which is where I got the information that I went in to ask them about to begin with.)

(While I'm on the topic, I wonder how many experienced gardeners - all backyard gardeners, not just SFG-ers - really know if their plants are getting *all* the right nutrients, or if they just do certain things to their soil or what-not because it makes the plants big, or tasty, or what-have-you, or how hung up I really need to be on the matter, anyway. Most likely, as long as it grows, I'll eat it.)

I suspect I'm probably just as well to just plant in MM for a year and eat what grows and compost what doesn't, and just be glad that my family is enjoying garden fresh herbs and veggies. I have to remind myself that I've absorbed an awful lot of information since February but still have no real experience to go with it... it's hard being a beginner. Sad
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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW Empty Re: First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW

Post  Daniel9999 on 5/11/2012, 5:20 pm

You ensure you have all the proper nutrients by blending at least 5 different ( more if you can) composts together.. more if you can.

To doubly make sure I have all the proper nutrients in my compost blend I use what Mel Uses to fortify his commercially available mix.... Worm Castings, Kelp, and Bat Guano.

http://www.squarefootgardening.com/soil-components/mels-mix/

Worm castings and Kelp are excellent sources of the trace minerals your plants needs while Bat Guano supplies the necessary Nitrogen or Phosphorus you will need depending on weather the Bat Guano is from Mexico (high nitrogen) Indonesia/Jamaica (high phosphorus).

Worm Castings, Kelp Meal, and Bat Guano are all counted as "compost" sources even though they are often sold as fertilizers.

Be careful with adding the Bat Guano or Kelp Meal though if you plan on adding them to your garden...Bat Guano is extremely powerful stuff and you only need a tiny amount of the stuff (which is a good thing since it is usually so expensive).

The same is true with Kelp meal you only need a little. To much of either and you could have problems.

It safe to use Worm castings as one of your full compost sources.
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Post  dsfin on 5/12/2012, 1:56 am

Hi Michael ....... Welcome to the forum!!! Looks to be you're off to a very good start!

gwennifer & Daniel9999 covered your question very well. There is another Topic (started by boffer) w/many posts that might be interesting for you to read through too. Especially if you're really curious about what the actual nutrient content is in your mix.

Mel's Mix Lab Analysis Results
https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t8673-mel-s-mix-lab-analysis-results

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Post  walshevak on 5/12/2012, 8:47 am

I am not in your region and all my beds are built, but I still stay on the lookout for composts. I was recently in No. VA and found Coast of Maine Lobster at Wegman's. It had been mention here on the forum as being good for trace minerals so I picked up 2 bags to add to my 5 blend replenishment stash. Alway good to have as many different souces as possible. My compost pile should yield a new blend this year.

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Post  GWN on 5/12/2012, 10:51 am

Bat Guano supplies the necessary Nitrogen or Phosphorus you will need depending on weather the Bat Guano is from Mexico (high nitrogen) Indonesia/Jamaica (high phosphorus).
Daniel 9999
I have just purchased guano, both the high nitrogen and the high phosphorus, and was thinking of adding the high nitrogen to my spinach, basil, Kale, and the high phosphorus to the tomatoes and peppers.
Is that what you do?
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Post  boffer on 5/12/2012, 11:30 am

Musicallymotivated, welcome to the forum. I'm adamant about covering my boxes in the off-season for the reasons you mentioned.

I really enjoyed my first year of gardening because my attitude was: I'm going to stick some seeds in the ground and see what happens. No objectives, expectations, or previous experiences to cause pressure to succeed or create disappointments. It was all new and amazing, and throughout the season I couldn't wait till the next day to see what was going to be different. Some stuff died; most stuff lived. The most important part of year one was that it left me very excited about starting year two.

As you study and ask questions, remember that MM is not soil. It's a new growing medium that few have any experience with. Incorporating the methods of amending soil is usually an effort that only duplicates what the SFG method is already doing. Enjoy your first season!
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Post  Daniel9999 on 5/12/2012, 1:39 pm

@GWN wrote:
Bat Guano supplies the necessary Nitrogen or Phosphorus you will need depending on weather the Bat Guano is from Mexico (high nitrogen) Indonesia/Jamaica (high phosphorus).
Daniel 9999
I have just purchased guano, both the high nitrogen and the high phosphorus, and was thinking of adding the high nitrogen to my spinach, basil, Kale, and the high phosphorus to the tomatoes and peppers.
Is that what you do?

One of the purchased compost I had already had the bat guano and kelp meal in it so I did not have to add them it in separately.

If your whipping up a batch of new mix just it in with to the other sources of compost you plan on using ....If you want to add it to an existing bed mix it in with the compost you normally use to recharge after harvest.
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Post  GWN on 5/12/2012, 4:39 pm

I am always afraid of adding heavy nitrogen to my tomatoes OR peppers, TOO much leaves, not enough fruit.
So I separate the high nitrogen from the high phosphorus
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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW Empty Re: First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW

Post  gwennifer on 5/13/2012, 2:37 am

musicallymotivated, I'm wondering if I'm correctly interpreting your concerns about nutrients. When you talk about this Solomon book saying that even our locally available composts are affected by our leached out soil, for instance, are you then thinking that the composts you're adding to your garden aren't going to have enough nutrients for your veggies to grow?

As in, if the plants that were broken down into compost grew in leached out soil, then how good is that plant based compost? Or if the cows fed on grass grown in leached out soil, than how good is their composted manure?

Are you ultimately concerned that a vegetable itself, grown in that supposedly nutrient-deficient environment, won't provide the nutrition that you think you are ingesting when you consume that vegetable? That's kind of what I'm hearing when I read your posts. I apologize if I'm on the wrong track!

I think you've been given good advice. Relax. Enjoy your garden. Know that if a plant grows and produces, it's because its needs are being met. I think you're off to a great start and I like seeing how your mind works! I'm glad you like to study - I bet you'll be a real asset around here. You said you had a ton of questions... Well? Bring 'em on! Keep us posted on your progress and I do hope you'll share some pictures.
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Post  camprn on 5/13/2012, 7:32 am

+1 what Boffer wrote.
I have found with gardening, as with many other things in life, that I 'do' what I know and often what is advised, add compost and have Faith. I have Faith in the natural order of things, and when given a boost (Mel's Mix) and fair weather, the garden will come along nicely. I have also found it a good thing to not overthink my garden, if all is well...

Good luck with your new garden Music!

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First year gardener, questions about MM in PNW Empty I'm new too - how often water?

Post  Warbler on 5/13/2012, 2:47 pm

And this is my first post on anything ever. I usually just read what every one else has done. Smile I identified with this new user because it is very similar to my current experience. Thanks!

My husband installed a drip system (from Home Depot) on our garden. We have 4 boxes 4 x 4 , with 1/4" soaker hose down the middle of each row of squares so that the 1 foot spaced holes line up with the center of each square. Hope that is clear.

Question - in the PNW we get tons of rain in fall, winter, spring, but then summer is usually quite dry. Highs anywhere from 60s to 80s. How often should I water? The MM is good and wet from last month's rain, and I kept it wet as it quit raining. Now that the drip is up and running, do I need to water daily? Would 1/2 hour in the early a.m. every other day be enough? Or does it need more? I'd rather run every other day, but can run daily if need be. Hat to experiment on my new plants and have them all die!! Mad

Thanks!
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Post  musicallymotivated on 5/13/2012, 2:50 pm

@gwennifer wrote:musicallymotivated, I'm wondering if I'm correctly interpreting your concerns about nutrients. When you talk about this Solomon book saying that even our locally available composts are affected by our leached out soil, for instance, are you then thinking that the composts you're adding to your garden aren't going to have enough nutrients for your veggies to grow?

That's exactly what I'm wondering about. I think the underlying message from everyone's replies is to relax and just allow the first year to unfold as it will... which I'm really trying to do... I just planted a bunch of stuff we bought yesterday at a mother's day plant sale so I'm just gonna water everything and see what happens.

If the results aren't spectacular, then maybe next year I'll try adding some bat guano and stuff like that. I do wonder about the content of the compost - but not enough to stop from planting.

Thank you to everyone who's replied; I now feel encouraged to just keep things going, and I have some great ideas to try out if/when things don't seem to be working.

Michael
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Post  Kelejan on 5/13/2012, 3:11 pm

Eldena Colon wrote:And this is my first post on anything ever. I usually just read what every one else has done. Smile I identified with this new user because it is very similar to my current experience. Thanks!

My husband installed a drip system (from Home Depot) on our garden. We have 4 boxes 4 x 4 , with 1/4" soaker hose down the middle of each row of squares so that the 1 foot spaced holes line up with the center of each square. Hope that is clear.

Question - in the PNW we get tons of rain in fall, winter, spring, but then summer is usually quite dry. Highs anywhere from 60s to 80s. How often should I water? The MM is good and wet from last month's rain, and I kept it wet as it quit raining. Now that the drip is up and running, do I need to water daily? Would 1/2 hour in the early a.m. every other day be enough? Or does it need more? I'd rather run every other day, but can run daily if need be. Hat to experiment on my new plants and have them all die!! Mad

Thanks!

A belated Welcome, Eldena Colon, on your first post. In my limited experience I would think that every other day would be sufficient. Better a heavier soak than two light ones. Keeps the roots searching down for moisture.
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