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newbie compost ?'s Toplef10newbie compost ?'s 1zd3ho10

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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Post  babru 4/22/2014, 12:34 pm

I am going to be using the packaged Mel's mix in my square foot garden, and don't plan on making my own compost. When it comes time to replant in a sq.ft. space can I add more of the Mel's mix in place of adding compost? If that won't work, I found Armstrong Gardens carries EB Stone Organics planting compost in 1.5 Cubic Ft bags .It contains composted wood shavings, redwood, composted chicken manure, mushroom compost, fir bark, bat guano, kelp and alfalfa meal. Will that be okay to use? Or, do I need to mix my own 5 ingredent compost. I will appreciate any and all suggestions. Thank You, Barbara
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Post  sanderson 4/22/2014, 1:29 pm

Babru,  Welcome to the Forum!   glad you\'re here   You are really going to keep things simple!   Very Happy  Most of us seem to get the composting bug which is a whole different gardening activity.  Do you have a copy of All New Square Foot Gardening, 1st or 2nd Edition, by Mel Bartholomew?  It's a must have.

Once you have filled your beds, watered and determined if you need to add a little more to make it a full 6", you never add more Mel's Mix (MM) again.  There will be shrinkage over the months but that is the compost part being used up.  That's why you only add compost for each planting to bring it back up to 6".   One exception is if you decide to grow something that needs a deeper root area like long carrots or parsnips.  You can add a "top hat" and add MM to bring it up to the height desired.

Here's my personal advice for you.  If you use premade Mel's Mix, you should add some composted animal manure (cow, horse, chicken, etc.) just in case the guy at the mixing controls at the manufacturer fell asleep!  Like 1 part bagged composted manure to 4-5 parts bagged Mel's Mix.

Then, find five sources of compost to blend and add to the squares when replanting.  Worm castings (eBay or Craig's List), composted manure (gardening stores or CL), veggie-based compost (Whole Foods), kelp meal (eBay), mushroom compost, etc.   The are several folks in SoCal that may be able to help you locate various composts.  Please do not use a commercial blend of "compost or garden soil" like Kellogg's.  They usually contain peat moss which will throw the MM 1/3-1/3-1/3 ratios off over time.  They also seemed to have a lot of wood paces that did not fully compost down. You can make up a blend of composts and it will be ready for you to replenish squares all year.  Store in a white food-safe bucket (OSH, Home Depot, etc.) with a lid and set in a cool or shaded area.
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Post  babru 4/22/2014, 2:54 pm

Yes, I have the second edition and in the process of reading it. Thank you for the information. I am now leaning towards making my own Mel's Mix. May try composting also.
Would this be a good mixture for the 5 composts components?
organic chicken manure
organic steer manure
organic bat guano
organic earthworm castings
eco scraps
I can purchase them locally at home depot&armstrong nursery (according to their websites)

thanks again
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Post  Marc Iverson 4/22/2014, 3:17 pm

Four of five of those are components of compost, but not compost themselves. Be sure you only use composted manures.

The rare exceptions -- rabbit and llama poop and I've read some saying goat poop -- don't come into play here, since they're not ones you asked about; the basic rule is that manures get composted. That helps tame their nitrogen so it doesn't burn plants, and helps kill off weed seeds and diseases while giving potential noxious chemicals a little time to break down.

Composting itself often broadens the nutrition profile because it tends to add different materials into the manure, whether bedding straw from the animals, leaves and grass, kitchen scraps, etc. So each of those manures could be the basis of a good compost, but are not ready yet for the garden.
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Post  camprn 4/22/2014, 3:53 pm

Hi Barbara,  glad you\'re here  to the SFG Forum!!

These are great questions!
babru wrote:I am going to be using the packaged Mel's mix in my square foot garden, and don't plan on making my own compost. When it comes time to replant in a sq.ft. space can I add more of the Mel's mix in place of adding compost?
No, you do not add more Mel's Mix, In the book it says to recharge the Mel's mix with compost.

If you are using the premade mix I strongly encourage you to add some quality compost to it before planting. Call it insurance. In the past the pre-made mix has had less than desired measure of quality compost.

babru wrote:If that won't work, I found Armstrong Gardens carries EB Stone Organics planting compost in 1.5 Cubic Ft bags .It contains composted wood shavings, redwood, composted chicken manure, mushroom compost, fir bark, bat guano, kelp and alfalfa meal. Will that be okay to use? Or, do I need to mix my own 5 ingredent compost. I will appreciate any and all suggestions. Thank You, Barbara
this sounds good, unfortunately unless it is spelled out on the label this blend could be 99% wood chips and all the other ingredients making up the last 1%. You may be better off adding another compost blend to it, increasing the potential nutrient level.

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Post  donnainzone5 4/22/2014, 5:50 pm

Actually, this organic compost isn't half-bad--assuming that it doesn't have peat moss added without it being mentioned on the label.

I've used it in the past, although it does NOT suffice for a 5-way compost by itself. However, I think you could use it as one of your five.  

This is one of the very few blended organic composts I'd use in an SFG.  And I speak from experience.  It doesn't have a lot of uncomposted wood.
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Post  AtlantaMarie 4/22/2014, 6:58 pm

Hi Babru!  Welcome!

Just fyi - as a newbie myself, I've come to lean heavily on all of these folks who have answered you so far!

You'll learn a LOT from them and have some good laughs along the way!

 newbie compost ?'s 2636062189   Welcome again!
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Post  brainchasm 4/22/2014, 7:04 pm

To reflect on my first year experience, I will never again use anything that has visible wood pieces in the mix, and I'll try to avoid anything that has wood as an ingredient.

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