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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Newbie Mistake???

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Post  DornCounty 3/18/2013, 8:42 pm

Well I made the Mels mix according to his book.

I did that prior to checking these forums. IT states on here to fluff pete bales. I did not do that prior to mixing. I did everything else by the book. Am I in trouble?

When I try to water my boxes they do not take water very well. The top 1/2 to inch takes water but the rest doesn't soak. Do I just need to work the water in so to speak? I've read that pete needs to get wet the first time before it really holds water. Also how do I know vermiculite is holding the water it should? I really don't want to water all the time.

My calculations for total volume came out right and I was not short of material at the end.
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Post  Tris 3/18/2013, 10:05 pm

Vermiculite shouldn't hold water as far as I knew, but I've read you have to seriously soak the beds to get the peet to absorb.
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Post  littlejo 3/18/2013, 10:35 pm

Well, I'm not an expert here, but 'if' the peat you bought was 'compressed' then it will measure as twice as much when fluffed. 3cu. ft bale compressed should measure 6 cu. ft. If this is what you've done, if you will list what you put in, I'm sure someone will tell you how to fix it.

Vermiculite does hold water but I guess it depends on the size how much it holds. I think that it's use, for me anyway, is it makes the MM so fluffy,easy to work with.

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Post  Triciasgarden 3/18/2013, 10:59 pm

I hate to tell you this but if the peat moss was not fluffed before you measured and mixed it, you have too much peat in your mix. There will not be enough nutrition for your plants to grow properly. What I would suggest is add 1/3 more vermiculite and 1/3 more compost. If you bed is already full, can you take half of the mix out and mix half of the new vermiculite and compost with each batch. I would just hate for you to plant your whole bed and your plants be stunted. That would be frustrating. Just know you are not the first one to do this and its good you realized it before you planted.

To get your peat moss all the way wet, get your hose going and stick it down into the bed, moving it around. You may have to stick your hand in there and check for dry spots and mix it up as you water. Once it all absorbs the moisture the first time, you won't have to do this again.
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Post  camprn 3/19/2013, 6:08 am

Tris wrote:Vermiculite shouldn't hold water as far as I knew, but I've read you have to seriously soak the beds to get the peet to absorb.
Vermiculite does indeed hold moisture and nutrients.
http://www.ehow.com/about_5387409_vermiculite-vs-perlite.html

DornCounty wrote:Well I made the Mels mix according to his book.

I did that prior to checking these forums. IT states on here to fluff pete bales. I did not do that prior to mixing. I did everything else by the book. Am I in trouble?

When I try to water my boxes they do not take water very well. The top 1/2 to inch takes water but the rest doesn't soak. Do I just need to work the water in so to speak? I've read that pete needs to get wet the first time before it really holds water. Also how do I know vermiculite is holding the water it should? I really don't want to water all the time.

My calculations for total volume came out right and I was not short of material at the end.

Dorn, when you made your Mel's mix, did you break apart the peat until there was no more lumps before mixing? If you did you should be fine.
Don't worry about the vermiculite action it will take care of itself.
If the plants start showing signs of nutrient deficiency (stunted growth, discoloration) top dress the garden bed with compost. When you water, the nutrients will percolate down into the bed to the roots.


Watering: The first watering always takes a while. Some folks have taken to adding the MM a bit at a time to the box then watering in layers. Get it good and soaking, plant your seeds or plants then put a mulch on top of the surface. The mulch will help with moisture retention.

Most likely you will have to water each day unless it rains because the plants will need the water. Sometimes I can get away with watering every other day, but I take my cues from the garden. If the plants are wilting, they are most likely thirsty. If the Mel's mix feels dry when you stick your finger all the way down into the mix, you will need to water.

Another piece of advice. Don't water above the plants and give them a shower, apply water at ground level.

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Post  DornCounty 3/19/2013, 10:44 am

thanks guys.. I did break it appart prior to mixing.. there were no lumps. But I used the volume amount on the bale for "measuring".

I calculated all the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 ratios by my bed size and all of it came out right in then end as far as volume. Ididn't have any extra. Is there a way of looking at the mix and telling if there is too much pete? or not enough compost?

Also will the water eventually soak in easily when I pour it on. Now it's almost like oil and water. The water just sits on top of the bed. I intend to work the water in the first time, but it would be terrible if it was like that every time.
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Post  cheyannarach 3/19/2013, 12:47 pm

Watering it the first time is hard but just like Tricia said stick your hose into it and mix it up with you hands to work the water in. If I were you (I think you may have too much peat) I would give it a heavy top dressing of your blended composts. It will not always be like that to water just don't let your beds dry out! Good luck and happy gardening!
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Post  walshevak 3/19/2013, 11:50 pm

But I used the volume amount on the bale for "measuring".

You have double the amount of peat in your mix and will have a hard time keeping the bed wet and also be missing the needed nutrients. A 3.8 cu ft bale of compressed peat will mix with 8 cu ft of vermiculite and 8 cu ft of blended composts. (you will be a bit short on peat using this measurement, but it is a good ratio to fix what you already have. I'd rather be short of peat than compost) If you have not planted, then you need to take the mix out of the bed(s) and correct your ratios. If you have already planted, then the only recourse you have is to add compost as a top dressing and probably rely on feedings this growing season. Then you can remake your mix next fall by adding extra vermiculite and compost. You will need another bed as well (ah shucks. I just made an excuse to expand my garden. Well golly gee!!!!!! Very Happy )

And if you check into some of the posts from 2010, you'll find posts of others who did the same as you.

Kay


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Post  mtottle 3/20/2013, 12:07 am

The ratio issue aside, it could've also been an old bale of peat.. Dried out peat is a bit hydrophobic.. It literally repels water unless you add something to break the surface tension. When potting soil is mixed they use a commercial 'wetting agent' to wet the peat, but Dawn dishwashing detergent works the same way. You really don't need much, maybe a teaspoon or two in a gallon of water. Mix it well and pour slowly into the mix, working it with your hands until you don't see anymore dry areas. Once it has been able to wet down, you shouldn't have any more problems with it. You can use this to 'refresh' dried out commercial mixes too.
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Post  cheyannarach 3/20/2013, 6:18 pm

I didn't kow that about the Dawn dishsoap, I might have to give it a try, it won't hurt the plants will it?
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Post  camprn 3/20/2013, 6:24 pm

If it was my garden and I thought I didn't have enough compost and I had not yet planted I would simply add compost to the bed and mix it in well.
Good luck and keep us posted.

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Post  mtottle 3/20/2013, 7:53 pm

cheyannarach wrote:I didn't kow that about the Dawn dishsoap, I might have to give it a try, it won't hurt the plants will it?

Not in this dilute of a concentration. I've never had an issue with flower or vegetable plants myself.. Besides, that's what they use to clean up the animals after oil spills, so it can't be that bad for the environment.. Very Happy
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Post  cheyannarach 3/20/2013, 8:38 pm

Awesome thanks!
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Post  Windmere 3/21/2013, 10:22 am

mtottle wrote:
cheyannarach wrote:I didn't kow that about the Dawn dishsoap, I might have to give it a try, it won't hurt the plants will it?

Not in this dilute of a concentration. I've never had an issue with flower or vegetable plants myself.. Besides, that's what they use to clean up the animals after oil spills, so it can't be that bad for the environment.. Very Happy

I have some Dr. Bronner's 18-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castille Soap (made with organic oils). I bought this soap to mix with Neem oil as a natural pesticide. I'm wondering if this soap might be ideal for the dried peat hydrophobic problem?

thinking
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Post  yolos 3/21/2013, 10:25 am

Windmere wrote:I have some Dr. Bronner's 18-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castille Soap (made with organic oils). I bought this soap to mix with Neem oil as a natural pesticide. I'm wondering if this soap might be ideal for the dried peat hydrophobic problem?

thinking
Where did you purchase your Dr. Bronner's Soap ??
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Post  Windmere 3/21/2013, 10:34 am

Amazon has everything. I could not find better prices elsewhere, even at the Dr. Bronner's website.
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Post  mtottle 3/21/2013, 12:01 pm

Technically any soap product should work. You may need a little more of the organic stuff (maybe a tablespoon per gallon) because it doesn't have sulfates in it, but by all means give it a try.
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Post  CapeCoddess 3/21/2013, 4:25 pm

Windmere wrote:
I have some Dr. Bronner's 18-1 Hemp Peppermint Pure Castille Soap (made with organic oils). I bought this soap to mix with Neem oil as a natural pesticide. I'm wondering if this soap might be ideal for the dried peat hydrophobic problem?

thinking

And the peppermint may have the added benefit of repelling pests?

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Post  Windmere 3/21/2013, 4:48 pm

You are exactly right CapeCoddess. I really should have posted the link to where I found the information about the neem oil/peppermint soap pairing. It is from an article called, "10 Homemade Organic Pesticides." The article was run by the Global Healing Center. I focused on the Neem Oil and Peppermint Soap combination, but there are other natural pesticides that I plan to try as well.

Here's the link:

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/organic-pesticides/

It seemed possible that the peppermint soap would help with the hydrophobic aspect of dried peat. It might require more of it than Dawn, but it could be worth a try.

study
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Post  jazzycat 3/21/2013, 10:08 pm

Dr Bronner's also makes a eucalyptus soap, and eucalyptus is a natural pesticide as well. Dr. Bronner's rocks. I love the soap, but I also LOVE the company. They have very high ethical standards. I've been using their products for decades. Very Happy (psst, you can also make natural, nontoxic, household cleaning products using their soap.)

yolos I don't know where you live, but here in Savannah you can get it at the grocery store (Krogers). Most health stores will also have it.
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Post  yolos 3/21/2013, 10:33 pm

Thanks windmere and jazzycat. I live 25 miles south of atlanta and there are kroger stores all over the place. I will check one out and if I can't find any I will try amazon. Is this a hand soap or some kind of specialty soap and would you find it with other hand soap?
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Post  Windmere 3/21/2013, 10:48 pm

Yolos, I was happy to hear from jazzycat that Kroger carries Dr. Bonner's soaps. I hope to hear from jazzycat about where in the store it might be. I am guessing near Simple Truth products or in the natural cleaners section (Ecos laundry detergent, etc.).
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Post  camprn 3/22/2013, 11:38 am

I can buy Dr. Bronner's liquid soap in the grocery store in the aisle with all the bathing shampoos, body soaps and detergents.

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Post  jazzycat 3/22/2013, 8:19 pm

It's in the health food section. The Kroger stores here all have large health food sections where the "natural" and organic foods are, and also natural cleaning products and personal products, like toothpaste. The Dr. Bronner soaps come in various sizes of (recycled) plastic containers (it's a liquid soap) but it does also come in a bar soap. I prefer the liquid, but that's just my personal preference. I think it lasts longer and it's more value for your dollar. Personally, I buy the Tea Tree and the Lavender soaps. My lover prefers the Peppermint. A little goes a long way. I usually buy the larger containers and then dilute some into a smaller bottle. It lasts forever that way.
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