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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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Too Much Peat Moss

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Post  rchristopher71 5/20/2016, 11:43 am

Oh no, I have twice as much Peat Moss as I should.  I mixed my Peat Moss, Compost and Vermiculite; added it to my boxes; and have put my grids in place.  Now I went back to the book and see the little mention about 3 cubic feet of compressed peat moss equaling 6 feet of uncompressed mass!

So my mix is 50% Peat Moss, 25% Vermiculite and 25% Compost!  (Don't Tell My Wife!!!)

What do I do?  Can my garden thrive in this mixture?  Are there nutrients or additives I can add on top to make up the difference?  

Please tell me I don't need to tear off my grids, pull out the mix, remix to the right proportions, put the new mix back in the boxes and build new grids?
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Post  trolleydriver 5/20/2016, 11:57 am

How did you measure your peat moss, vermiculite and compost when creating your Mel's Mix?

I always use a 5 gallon pail to make sure I measure out equal amounts of each ingredient. So I take a pail full of peat moss out of the bag making sure that it gets fluffed up in the process. Then I take a pail full of vermiculite and a pail full of compost. (NOTE: I may take 3 or more pails of peat moss, 3 or more of vermiculite and 3 or more of compost before starting to mix them together). 

If you just dumped a 3 cu ft bag of compressed peat moss and mixed it together with 3 cu ft of vermiculite and 3 cu ft of compost then I can see your problem.

If it was me I would take the MM out of the box and add more vermiculite and compost to it to make the portions equal. Of course that means you will end up with too much MM but perhaps you can use it elsewhere.

Hopefully, others here may have easier solutions for you than having to take everything apart.
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 5/20/2016, 12:23 pm

I did the exact same thing when making my first boxes and it will not flourish with that mixture.  It took me quite a while to figure out what I had done wrong.  The other mistake I had made was thinking 5 different bags of compost with different things listed equaled 5 different types of compost *deep sigh!*  So my compost even had peat moss in it and too much wood products.

I would recommend that you immediately correct the problem or you will pretty much lose the season.  If you can't fix all the boxes at least correct one or two that you can and get them planted.  Figuring out how to make that correction to get the right balance starting from where you are is tough.  Maybe a mathematician/engineer type will come along with a suggestion.

I just pulled my plants that weren't growing and in each square added an extra measure of vermiculite and now home made compost to fill.  I tweaked them for a couple of years until the soil was flourishing.  Sooooo much easier to do it right from the first time  Embarassed

The last two table tops I made are 4 x 8's and we mixed the MM up perfectly and WHAT A DIFFERENCE!  The plant basically exploded in growth. 

Good luck!
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Post  Windmere 5/20/2016, 12:32 pm

I'm afraid I have to agree with trolleydriver.  One thing I do when I make MM is to have an Ames wheelbarrow full of pre-fluffed peat moss.  I pretty much dedicate that wheelbarrow to peat moss for making MM... it takes me so much effort to fluff that I want to have it quickly available in bulk.

One note of caution with peat moss:  In years past, I've noticed that white flies LOVE peat moss.  For a while I thought the merchants I was buying from were selling me contaminated peat moss.  No, when left uncovered, I noticed the flies immediately began coming.  I have solved that problem by tightly covering it with a tarp and keeping it in the garage ready for future use.
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Post  trolleydriver 5/20/2016, 12:45 pm

audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:...  The other mistake I had made was thinking 5 different bags of compost with different things listed equaled 5 different types of compost *deep sigh!*  So my compost even had peat moss in it and too much wood products.
I noticed this year that some of my purchased compost had peat moss in it as well.  So I reduced the amount of peat moss I used and increased the amount of compost to compensate. It's always better to err on the side of more compost.
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Post  Windmere 5/20/2016, 12:50 pm

trolleydriver wrote:
audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:...  The other mistake I had made was thinking 5 different bags of compost with different things listed equaled 5 different types of compost *deep sigh!*  So my compost even had peat moss in it and too much wood products.
I noticed this year that some of my purchased compost had peat moss in it as well.  So I reduced the amount of peat moss I used and increased the amount of compost to compensate. It's always better to err on the side of more compost.
Over the years, I've found that Black Kow can be a big offender when it comes to also containing bark, etc.  Other years, it's perfect and silky.  It's never consistent for me.  Dealing with that can be a pain.  For me, my test is squeezing my mix in my hands.  If the soil stays together yet easily crumbles, that a way for me to "eyeball" it.
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Post  landarch 5/20/2016, 1:59 pm

If your are a type A personality, yes, you would take out all the mix, and add additional vermiculite and compost (in amounts equal to the overage of peat)...then refill the box.

If you are like me, I would remove maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the existing mix, then mix equal parts of compost and vermiculte in really well until the box is topped off.  And I would error slightly towards more compost...then keep organic fertilizer handy.
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Post  camprn 5/20/2016, 2:04 pm

rchristopher71 wrote:

So my mix is 50% Peat Moss, 25% Vermiculite and 25% Compost!  (Don't Tell My Wife!!!)

What do I do?  Can my garden thrive in this mixture?  Are there nutrients or additives I can add on top to make up the difference?  

Please tell me I don't need to tear off my grids, pull out the mix, remix to the right proportions, put the new mix back in the boxes and build new grids?

TO answer your question,

NO, your garden will not thrive with that mix.

NO, throwing additives and such will not improve the fertility of your mix so...


YES you need to take off the grid.

YES shovel out about half the mix.

ADD compost mixture into the box and stir it up. Add compost until the mixture comes to the top of the box.

NO, at this point you do not have to worry excessively about the 1/3s rule.

YES, it is advised to read all the directions before beginning a project. Wink

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Post  trolleydriver 5/20/2016, 2:11 pm

landarch wrote:If your are a type A personality, yes, you would take out all the mix, and add additional vermiculite and compost (in amounts equal to the overage of peat)...then refill the box.
Guess that makes me a Type A ... if it's worth doing then it's worth doing right ... but that's just me.

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Post  Windmere 5/20/2016, 2:16 pm

I have to admit I am also Type-A.  This method sort of lends itself to being a Type-A enabler.

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Post  Scorpio Rising 5/20/2016, 11:29 pm

I would do what Landarch said, remove about 1/2, yeah, you will have to remove the grids. And add in equal parts compost (good combo stuff from several sources; poo of cow, chicken, straight up compost--read the label!) and vermiculite. Too much peat for one would lack serious quantities of nutrients, and for another, almost repels water and can work against you.

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Post  sanderson 5/21/2016, 4:02 am

Christopher,  Welcome to the Forum from California glad you\'re here , and from another SFG gardener who also made a big mistake making Mel's Mix for the first boxes!  I agree with everyone else to remove about 1/2 of the Mix and add more compost, maybe some vermiculite, but that is a secondary concern.  Add different composts, not soil amendments, no Kellogg's.  Aged horse manure, bagged chicken or cow manure, veggie based compost from Whole Foods or Home Depot (Ecoscraps Compost), kelp meal, mushroom compost, worm castings, etc.  What compost(s) did you use to make the original Mix?  If you are going to take the beds half way apart, this is the time to tweak anything else.  We are here to help (and make more work for you). Very Happy

Footnote: It will be worth it to correct things now. And start making your own compost for future use. I have a small city back yard but there was one little spot for a 3' x 3' x 3' compost cage. And I mean literally one spot.

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Post  bigdogrock 5/21/2016, 10:13 am

Hey Christopher, most of us have been there before with mistakes. I know how you feel. I agree with taking half out. Save what you take out and make more MM (Mel's Mix) later when you make another garden. I know it seems like a lot of work and if you are trying to conserve money it is a pain as well. But don't give up, do what you have to do to make the MM right for this. You will feel very good when it starts to produce. I wish I had taken some pics of a few of my catastrophes, it would probably make you look at your mistake and say to yourself, "Wow, I'm glad I didn't do that." (I lost ALL of my MM out of two 4 X 8 beds in one rain storm!) The weather can move in fast here.
    I hope to read how you have done well this year, and don't forget that this site likes pics! BTW, I will not tell your wife Smile .
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Post  lagjeg 5/14/2017, 8:05 pm

I am so glad I read this post. I was about to do the same thing, but thought I would look it up just in case. I didn't think about the peat moss being compacted....

So, now that I am going to have a lot of peat moss left over, along with some compost since I'm trying to buy 5 different kinds for just 3 cu ft... If I store this in my garage will it still be good next season when we make a second box??
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Post  Mikesgardn 5/14/2017, 8:44 pm

I made the same mistake 10 years ago.  I remember how the color of the mix looked light brown instead of a dark brown.  I resorted to using Miracle Gro the first year.  I did not fill my boxes to the top of the border.  So after that first year, I added enough compost to fill my boxes to the tippy top, and that worked out well.  I also think there is some wiggle room to the 1/3 rule.
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Post  BeetlesPerSqFt 5/15/2017, 6:46 am

lagjeg wrote:I am so glad I read this post. I was about to do the same thing, but thought I would look it up just in case. I didn't think about the peat moss being compacted....

So, now that I am going to have a lot of peat moss left over, along with some compost since I'm trying to buy 5 different kinds for just 3 cu ft... If I store this in my garage will it still be good next season when we make a second box??
The peat moss stores completely fine. The compost itself will be fine, but can harbor a few sow/pill bugs and millipedes and such if it's damp. But if those are normally in your garage on occasion and their presence doesn't bother you, then it's not a problem.
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