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Fertilizing Mel's Mix? - Page 3 Toplef10Fertilizing Mel's Mix? - Page 3 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.

Fertilizing Mel's Mix? - Page 3 I22gcj10Fertilizing Mel's Mix? - Page 3 14dhcg10

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Fertilizing Mel's Mix?

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Kelejan
John W
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trolleydriver
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Marc Iverson
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Turan
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Fertilizing Mel's Mix? - Page 3 Empty Re: Fertilizing Mel's Mix?

Post  camprn 2/23/2016, 8:10 pm

Mels mix does indeed need recharging as the season progresses and passes. I think that fertilizing is only part of the problem, as you pointed out Sanderson. Compost is the way to get and retain the bulk and tilth. Good compost isn't always easy to find, but there are bulk compost producers all over. 
I also agree with boffer that marketing messages can be deceiving and that the shrewd garden shopper must be aware of this. This is where research and learning about soil and plant science is important 

It is best to feed the soil. If that is healthy, the plants generally will be healthy. The gardener must be aware of the waning fertility of the garden soil, or MM. The only true way to know the fertility of the growing medium is to have laboratory analysis and amend the growing medium accordingly. In a crisis, when the plants are showing stress or nutrient deficiency, the gardner needs to take action and feed the plants.

But things may not always be as they seem.

For example, many folks know that Blossom end rot in tomatoes is often a result of calcium deficiency. The plant is just not getting enough Ca. Just throwing powdered milk or epsom salt or match heads may, or may not fix the problem. Perhaps it is a watering issue. Perhaps the problem is the Ca is in the soil but unavailable because of poor pH the plant cannot take it up

 My point here is that nothing operates in a vacuum, there are many variables. Research and education are a good first step to not be hoodwinked by the fertilizer marketers and seller.
To my mind gardening is a skill, and skill requires knowledge, keen observation, and practice.
There is no silver bullet. There are band-aids. There are real solutions. I just need to learn what they are and when to use them.

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Post  sanderson 2/24/2016, 2:55 pm

+1

What I am amazed at is how Mel developed his method and it is truly great. Adding Quality compost keeps the level up and feeds the organisms and plants that live in the Mix. What Boffer is facing is how to keep the level up with reduced mobility. My turn soon.

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Post  OhioGardener 1/8/2019, 11:38 am

sanderson wrote:+1

What Boffer is facing is how to keep the level up with reduced mobility.  My turn soon.

Yep, we all face that reduced mobility issue as we age - being in the mid-70's tends to slow me down a bit - but the raised beds that I have which are 1.5' tall have mitigated the condition considerably.

One subject of interest to me is how many find it necessary(?) to add organic fertilizer to their beds vs just using compost?  I have been an organic gardener my entire life, from before being an "organic gardener" was cool (to paraphrase a country song, "I was country when country wasn't cool"), and have never found a need to purchase organic fertilizers.  Soil tests always showed aged manure, compost, and rock dust (sometimes with gypsum and/or lime) kept the soil levels very healthy. Ad, the practice of cutting off plants at the ground and letting the roots decompose, along with composting the tops of the plants and returning them to the soil, keeps the OM level respectable.

That said, back before changing over to raised beds and no-till gardening, one of my favorite books on organic gardening was Steve Solomon's book, "Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times", in which he detailed a Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF) that was easy to make out of natural sources. I replicated that COF a number of times when starting a new garden, and it was always very productive. But, one the garden soil was built up and sufficient compost was added, it because unnecessary. The same was true when moving to raised beds, and the soil was custom created with all the nutrients it needed.  This, of course, ignores my current experiment of adding charged Biochar to the rest of the raised beds....  Very Happy

I recently found this article on the Grow Great Vegetables site, with an updated COF recipe by Steve Solomon that is even more interesting: A Great Organic Fertilizer Mix

Back to the original question - how many find it necessary to add fertilizer vs using compost, rock dust, etc., to maintain a healthy soil in their raised beds?

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Post  Turan 1/8/2019, 2:49 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
Back to the original question - how many find it necessary to add fertilizer vs using compost, rock dust, etc., to maintain a healthy soil in their raised beds?

First off, compost and organic fertilizer are part of a spectrum so it is never either or.

Do you wish to limit fertilizer to mean only stuff you buy in bags with brand names, or does chicken coop cleaning count?  Or is fertilizer materials that have not been infiltrated with fungi etc, like those chicken coop cleanings (chicken manure and feathers is a listed ingredient in some organic fertilizers). What about lawn clippings, if I layer them as a much am I not fertilizing?  Or is fertilizer something containing nutrients for plant growth that we add to the soil to facilitate plant growth?  In that latter case compost, grass clippings, chicken coop cleanings are all fertilizers.

As to the fertilizing regime in my garden.  I pile stuff from the barn and chicken coop where I will plant corn and or squash. It usually heats up once and is raked/turned something and is ready to go by seeding time for those warm season crops. Broccoli and cabbage get a light sprinkle of Garden tone at planting and then a deep mulch of old hay. This year I think I will add some sulphur for high Ph to where I plant carrots, eggplants, and tomatoes.  Tomatoes get some blood meal at planting and a deep mulch later. The corn is in a different bed each year, so that big compost addition moves around the garden.  THe squash berm's compost left overs tend to get spread where ever I think needs them.

I wonder what practice boffer has come too.

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Post  Dan in Ct 1/9/2019, 8:25 am

Just to clarify and as defined, fertilizers have a guaranteed minimal amount of the listed plant nutrient. If a bag of fertilizer is pulled and analyzed and doesn't meet the minimum amount fines follow, per bag. So chemical fertilizers have more than the amount of NPK listed on the bag. The reason for the low numbers on organic fertilizers is because of this. Compost because they can vary widely when analyzed is listed as a soil amendment and can't make claims to be a fertilizer even though we all know that well made compost is not only teeming with plant available nutrients but is alive with the needed microbiology. I don't know if they even have a standard test for compost yet but they are getting close. I know Cornell has recently came out with their own and several soil labs have their tests. So it should be soon.

Turan, just so I know and to clarify, you are adding sulfur to lower the pH because where you want to plant the carrots, eggplant and tomatoes is too high at the present time. I add a scoop of compost into my transplant holes, add earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) to the buckets before I mulch with maple leaves. Little known fact, 4 out of 5 earthworms prefer maple leaves.

OhioGardener, when I am bucketing up I add a cup of either Gardentone or Tomatotone, along with a cup of Dolimitic lime to my mix. I do my mix in a 10 cf wheelbarrow and am usually mixing enough for 6+ buckets, so what I add is minimal and shows a lack of faith. I do add a tablespoon of the 'Tone' at bud break and fruit set with the solanaceous plants. I also use weed teas in my fertilizing schedule. I snip off weeds at ground level and they get added to a barrel filled with rainwater. Many weeds are nutrient miners and can tell you much about your soil and others I use as trap plants. Lambsquarter is an excellent trap weed as you can tell what insect pests are out and about, plus it is edible.
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Post  Turan 1/9/2019, 11:09 am

Dan in Ct wrote:Turan, just so I know and to clarify, you are adding sulfur to lower the pH because where you want to plant the carrots, eggplant and tomatoes is too high at the present time. I add a scoop of compost into my transplant holes, add earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris) to the buckets before I mulch with maple leaves. Little known fact, 4 out of 5 earthworms prefer maple leaves.

Yup. I learned a year ago that eggplant especially likes a lower pH than is normal for my area. Lowering the pH in its bed seemed to result in an actual harvest, but it was not a well set up trial, no control group. My water is from a well and is alkaline, so you can imagine that the soil/ rocks/ geology of my area tends that way. Rather than treat the whole garden last year I just did those beds with plants that like a slightly lower pH. We will see how this works as crops rotate through the beds.

I wish I had maple leaves to test your earth worm assertion!

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Post  Dan in Ct 1/10/2019, 5:11 pm

Turan, I watched an eOrganic webinar yesterday on water management which is part of a series covering soil health and one of the featured farms was in Montana and I think they get a total yearly rainfall of 11". What a difference there can be from one region to another! Here the soil is usually acidic and we get over 40" of yearly rainfall. I harvest rainwater in barrels and usually have on hand 250-300 gallons of rainwater. Factoid of the day, rainwater is acidic with a pH of 5.6 but you don't have acid rain until it hits below 5.2 pH. I was also amazed by the different regional rules/laws concerning rainwater harvesting. Until a few years ago, homeowners in Colorado could not collect rainwater. They had a Sky to The Pacific Ocean rule/law. Here they foster rainwater collecting as they can't process the sewage fast enough during some torrential downpours/storms.

My dad, a Canadian farm boy from New Brunswick, would taste the soil. If sweet in the fall, yards of cow manure would come in the spring but would get a taste retest in the spring before ordering. If sour in the fall the garden was limed with a taste retest in the spring. My dad being Canadian, I never knew if he was just trying to get me to eat dirt and the whole charade was an elaborate joke. I have heard that children raised by wolves are more civilized than those raised by Canadian parents. Having been raised only by Canadian parents I will never know if this is true but I have been embarrassed in public on many occasions by my seven younger siblings. You don't actually eat dirt but use the tip of the tongue, still too close for me but this could be the year when nobody is looking I give my mix the taste test.

I am supplying a link that shows the relationship of most plant nutrients and the soil pH. The one thing to remember is as you build the fertility of your mix and up the Cation Exchange Capacity with Soil Organic Matter which just means your mix has a greater ability to hold on to nutrients making more available for the plants, the pH range for optimum availability increases. Earthworm activity neutralizes soil pH.

https://planetpermaculture.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/ph-chart-showing-nutrient-availability/

Any mulch that keeps the soil moister will benefit earthworms. Set up an experiment with a slow drip over mulch in a shady corner of the garden bed with a few spent coffee grounds and either pulverized eggshells or tablespoon or two of lime underneath and see if you don't get more earthworms. Then take time to identify the species. Many can identify the robin that eats the earthworm but few can tell the species of the earthworm which to me is knowing only half the story.
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Post  sanderson 1/11/2019, 3:17 am

Dan in Ct wrote:. . . I have heard that children raised by wolves are more civilized than those raised by Canadian parents. Having been raised only by Canadian parents I will never know if this is true
Razz

I am supplying a link that shows the relationship of most plant nutrients and the soil pH. The one thing to remember is as you build the fertility of your mix and up the Cation Exchange Capacity with Soil Organic Matter which just means your mix has a greater ability to hold on to nutrients making more available for the plants, the pH range for optimum availability increases. Earthworm activity neutralizes soil pH.

https://planetpermaculture.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/ph-chart-showing-nutrient-availability/
Nice chart. Mel's Mix is + / - neutral.

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