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Compressed peat moss - made a mistake in putting together our Mel's Mix

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Post  iiiigardener on 5/16/2013, 10:23 am

When my husband put together our Mel's Mix for our six 4 x 4's this spring, he didn't "uncompress" our peat moss and used the compressed volume to consider it a third of the total mix. I understand now that we should have fluffed the peat moss and considered that volume rather than what we did. Some of our veggies are doing okay (notably the shallots, garlic, herbs, peas, and tomatoes.) Other items, such as carrots, beans, beets, spinach, swiss chard, peppers, eggplants and others are not doing well at all.

Is there a way to save our mix for our next season? Do we take the mix out and start again or add and take stuff away from what we now have in the beds?

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Post  ETNRedClay on 5/16/2013, 10:29 am

I actually did this in my second bed -- not the first one, which just makes me a dumba%% apparently. What I did was take out 1/2 the volume and added back composts.

Took the half I removed and added back composts in the third bed.

Where Peat and V. are not available, Mel recommends straight compost, and in my flower garden experience, compost cures all ills (of soil). So that's what I did. Fourth bed was mixed right. And I'm watching like a hawk to see what happens to the half compost beds. Thus far they are just the same as the pure mix beds.

Interesting to see what others say.
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Post  iiiigardener on 5/17/2013, 9:51 am

Thanks, ETNRedClay.

This is what I thought of, too. I have a couple more beds to add this fall before space runs out in our backyard. I wasn't sure if moving half out and adding compost would be sufficient. Did you add extra vermiculite or just leave that component at half?

Does anyone else have another suggestion for those of us who went wrong on MM?
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Post  landarch on 5/17/2013, 10:22 am

I would set some of your mix aside for later use, and work in additional vermiculite and compost in your current spaces...error towards more compost than vermiculite.

Your other option is to work in some compost around your existing plants and attempt to save your seedlings...maybe apply some organic fertilizer. It's a tough call on investing more time in something that may not work vs. starting over again and maybe missing the proper window of time to seed certain veggies.
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Post  iiiigardener on 5/17/2013, 12:06 pm

That is an idea - especially as we have six beds and are only adding four more.

One bed sent up seedlings that then completely died back - seemingly from root rot. That was our first clue that something was off. It would make sense as the peat moss is holding in too much liquid. The tomatoes are doing okay so adding compost around them sounds like a good idea. I keep checking the moisture with a gauge and only one bed (with peas in it that are five feet tall) show signs of drying. The rest of the beds are always moist. It has rained once this week and once last week, so I haven't watered in three weeks. This is Texas and the temps are mid-80's to 90.
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Post  Pox on 8/18/2013, 10:14 am

Has anyone figured out how much 3 CF of compressed PM is once it's "fluffed"?
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Post  camprn on 8/18/2013, 10:30 am

@Pox wrote:Has anyone figured out how much 3 CF of compressed PM is once it's "fluffed"?
There are some back threads about this, but it is about just less than double. I recommend, instead of going by the number on the label, fluff the sphagnum peat and then measure it in a small bucket when measuring out the ingredients for Mel's mix.

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Post  plantoid on 8/18/2013, 5:08 pm

You'll only get a guessimate , so I suggest you make allowances by adding more to the equation .
 it depends on how wet it was when it was compressed and how big the fibres are.

 Any PM that's been fluffed up & is left over will always be useful later in your SFG crusades so long as you store it dry  .
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Post  toledobend on 8/19/2013, 3:21 am

@Pox wrote:Has anyone figured out how much 3 CF of compressed PM is once it's "fluffed"?
I have found that a 2.2 cu ft block of peat moss has always fluffed out to almost exactly 4 cu ft
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Post  Pox on 8/19/2013, 9:10 am

Thanks everyone.  I guess my first batch has too much PM, but I can correct.  I'll go with the bucket trick going forward.  Thanks!
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Post  iiiigardener on 8/19/2013, 9:44 am

Hi, I started this topic way back. We had six beds that had too much peat moss due to using compressed moss instead of fluffed. We were able to correct three beds by spreading the soil into new beds and adding more compost and vermiculite. I still have three beds that need correcting. My local organic gardening store (after tsking about the peat moss) suggested that we use the excess Mel's Mix to top dress our shrubs in the front of the house. This would give us the room in the boxes to correct the soil. Does this sound like a good idea? I'm not enamored of my front shrubs and will probably want to change them in the next year as they were builder's specials that are pretty ugly; however, I don't want to out and out kill them.

Thanks!
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Post  Pox on 8/19/2013, 10:56 am

I'm going to correct somewhat in that manner.  My beds are 8" deep.  I've only mixed up and filled one bed.  I'm going to spread what I already mixed into the other beds for the first 2 inches.  Then mix the rest correctly (now that I am well educated thanks to everyone's help!) and fill the remaining 6 inches on all the beds.
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Post  iiiigardener on 8/19/2013, 11:21 am

Be sure that you account for the extra peat moss when you spread the original around. As we had doubled the peat moss, we put half in each of two beds and then added only the extra compost and vermiculite to bring the ratio into balance. If you merely drop it at the bottom, you will still have too much and the bottom of your beds will hold too much water.

We are planting for fall and the corrected soil has made a huge difference in how my newly planted veggies are growing.
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Post  Pox on 8/19/2013, 11:23 am

Good point, and did not think of those consequences.  Thanks.
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Post  sanderson on 8/19/2013, 4:58 pm

Pox, I recommend NOT filling the beds to 8 inches. Max of 7" as you will need mulch during the hot months.

iiii, I wouldn't waste MM as a top dressing. Can you store the extra? Who knows, you may want more beds or container gardening.

So, your first MM had 2 parts peat moss to 1 part vermiculite to 1 part compost. Correct? So take 4 gallons of your MM and add one gallon of vermiculite and 1 part of compost, mix well.

Or am I missing something?
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Post  iiiigardener on 8/19/2013, 5:11 pm

Unfortunately, no place to store the extras and no room for more beds. I might try some extra potted plants. If any remains, I'll use it for top dressing as the nursery suggested. Thanks for the suggestion

Sounds like the math is right. We did it in cubic feet directly in the beds plus topped off with extra compost.
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Post  Pox on 8/20/2013, 9:04 am

@sanderson wrote:Pox,  I recommend NOT filling the beds to 8 inches.  Max of 7" as you will need mulch during the hot months.
At the risk of getting off thread, what are most of you using for mulch?

Here in Miami, we have ready availability of eucalyptus and melaleuca (the latter being a terrible invasive species here in the everglades).  Both are essentially wood chips and don't break down very easily.  Whether they carry bugs/pests I have no idea.
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Post  camprn on 8/20/2013, 9:09 am

I prefer shredded bark mulch or a nice thick layer of homemade compost.

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Post  sanderson on 8/20/2013, 12:45 pm

To help us stay on topic, here's a link to a mulch topic this summer.  

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t15684-mulch-for-hot-weather?highlight=mulch
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