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Post  Sunsanvil on 5/7/2019, 11:28 am

We're in I think our 8th year of SFG and every spring we've added between 20-40 litres of mix to each 4x4 bed. The level always seems to drop an inch or so, despite my fluffing it up every spring (because we get a lot of snow and ice accumulation). I figure that by the time a decade is up we'll have replaced the whole thing. LOL.

Where is the soil going? Do plant really pull that much mass out of it?
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/7/2019, 12:02 pm

@Sunsanvil wrote:Where is the soil going? Do plant really pull that much mass out of it?

Second question first: Yes.

The first question: The soil that you feed so well, so it can feed the plants, is using the soil to produce the fruits and vegetables that you are eating.  So, "where is the soil going", you are eating it!  Very Happy    In addition to the soil that is being "used" by the plants, organic material in the soil is decomposing, which causes the depth of the soil to decrease a little.  My raised beds have a very high organic material content, and they typically drop by 2" to 3" a year. I continually add compost and mulch to make up for this, and periodically refresh the Coir and Vermiculite to offset the "pure compost" that would develop -- the more pure compost I add, the faster the soil level will drop.

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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/7/2019, 8:18 pm

I don’t know about your experience, but I pull quite a bit up inadvertently with cleaning out last years stuff; roots just hold onto the mix...I always have to up-bulk and compost, etc every year....I use vermiculite, and various composts....
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Post  OhioGardener on 5/8/2019, 8:46 am

Good point, SR!  That is why I don't pull plants (other than beets, carrots, radishes) out of the soil, but just cut them off at soil level and let the roots decompose to feed the next crops.

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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/8/2019, 9:21 pm

@OhioGardener wrote:Good point, SR!  That is why I don't pull plants (other than beets, carrots, radishes) out of the soil, but just cut them off at soil level and let the roots decompose to feed the next crops.
I have tried that...they just don’t incorporate like I would like....need to get a plan...in fact, i did that in my 4x4...nothing incorporated.
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Post  ralitaco on 5/8/2019, 11:46 pm

I don't have my SFG book handy, but I recall something about adding compost every time you replant.
I also recall the book says to only add compost because the vermiculite and peat don't break down.

I'm sure others will chime in and tell us if this is correct.
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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/9/2019, 9:25 pm

Yeah...I suffer from deflation...I just deal.  Vermiculite, composts.  I just add every year.  Fluff it up.  My beds are open to the ground...
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Post  sanderson on 5/14/2019, 3:58 am

This is a subject I've been considering for a year or so. Twice a year, I add sufficient compost to raise the level back up to the starting point. Usually 1- 1 1/2" both spring and fall. I roughly turn over sections with a hand spade and the other hand so the new compost and the old lower material are somewhat blended. I don't worry about fungal populations with growing veggies as I do with perennial trees and bushes and lawns.

The lower material that is partially brought up to the surface when I amend, is quite fine and organic and one time, a little anaerobic. Now, these are tabletop beds with holes and leaking seams. Only 8-9" of rain each year. There are worms that would partially contribute to some of the finer and finer texture. I tried to analyze by ingredients.

1. Peat moss. It is created in an anaerobic environment. We add it to the Mel's Mix, which is an aerobic environment, especially with the coarse vermiculite providing air pockets. Does it slowly start to break down with a moist aerobic environment? I'm assuming some of the volume reduction is due to decomposing peat moss, increasing as the years go by.

2. Composts. My compost is rather chunky. It's safe to add to the beds but I don't expect it to contribute to the nutrients for months as the microbes slowly break it down, releases the nutrients for the plants. So, what I add in the spring will really be contributing by Fall. What I add in the fall will be contributing by Spring. So, I can't fault the compost.

3. Coarse Vermiculite. Coarse is recommended and I totally agree. Over the years, pulling out large plants, and turning in some of the chunky compost, I'm assuming some is broken down. So, broken down vermiculite will compact. Fill a cup with 1" rock, a second with pea gravel and a third with sand. Add water to the top of each. Pour off / strain the water out of each cup. There will be more water from the rock cup, less water from the pea gravel and very little from the sand. The water represents the air space around each piece of vermiculite. The space will be filled with compost, peat moss fibers, worms, mini-arthropods and microbes, water and air.

Conclusion: So, this year I am adding an inch of new coarse vermiculite to each bed, except the 2 new ones. (There's enough head room in my beds above the 6-7" of Mel's Mix to do this and top with chopped up mulch.) This fall I will add enough compost to restore the shrunken level. Next spring I will mix in some fluffed peat moss. Time will tell.


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Post  OhioGardener on 5/14/2019, 9:20 am

Good dissertation, Sanderson!  The Road Trip was good for you, eh?  Smile 

I periodically refresh both the vermiculite and the coir to the beds - just continually adding compost ends up with a single-source soil.

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Post  Scorpio Rising on 5/14/2019, 9:37 pm

I personally add vermiculite and compost every year to each bed...also add earthworm compost and my kitchen stuff (mostly coffee).  Every year.

There is deflation!  I like carrots!  A lot.... Disapearing soil? 370856013
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Post  sanderson on 5/15/2019, 1:39 am

Definitely, the road trip was good for me. Just wait until I post the photos of the big river. Wink

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Post  countrynaturals on 5/15/2019, 12:17 pm

Great article in the May newsletter that fits right in with this topic.

Do You Have To Replace Mel's Mix?
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Post  sanderson on 5/16/2019, 1:15 am

Yes, I read that. I've even discussed with Laura and Kim. I add more than a trowel of compost each time I plant. Does it go way down because of the temperate climate where I can grow year around? The active microbes and worms? I'm trying (experimenting) with adding new coarse vermiculite this spring and new fluffed peat moss this fall or next spring.

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Post  plantoid on 5/17/2019, 5:49 am

Hiding behind the sofa with my tin hat on  Laughing 

Since 2009 when I joined the site I've been keen to trial & test things  I only used  MM in my beds there is no mother earth soil in them at all . All beds are on time clock managed misting sprays so they never dry out . They are also 36 inches deep set over a hole in the concrete foundations  so there will always be drainage out of the beds to stop them going anaerobic & sour .

  I too have suffered the ever diminishing coir problem even though I have been using five year old well composted woody hedge cuttings mixed with home made  domestic product composts as part of my home made browns & greens . .

As soon as I have used up all current five 80 litre bales of compressed processed coir that I have  I'm going to try a different tactic. ( I've been adding 10 to 12 bales per year to my 220 sq feet of beds as well as my home made composts  . Using it mainly as the previous years spend compost from the 12 x 50 litre  tubs in the glass house where I grow tomatoes , capsicum, chilli , aubergenes  cucumbers etc. & from another outside flower 12 tubs & six hanging baskets that are renewed ever 3 years . 

Soon I'm going to be trying adding some sphagnum moss peat to my beds instead of using the chopped processed coir . The peat has been preserved anaerobically  in the peat bog and does not rot away as readily as the processed coir . It will help hold the nutrients & liquid humus mould growths from the compost till the fine hair roots of the plants need them .

 The price of  peat  bales  is slightly more than that of the coir but  to me it is not what's cheapest  it what is going to work effectively . 

 The peat is from sustainable sources  too , so I'm not worrying or concerned about any save the planet stuff about it .


 Re the vermiculite  a lot of it has indeed broken down in to tiny parts you cannot se but these still attract moisture .
At 18 inches down in the beds they have migrated down in a sort of sand-less slightly hard putty which readily lets excess water pass through . I've dug through this in several beds and brought  the pan to the top of the beds where it breaks down with the action of the weather  . If you rub it through your hands it does not have the scratchiness of normal soil that has sand particles in it  & it is very drying to the skin like leaf mould .  Having my home made still woody composts still breaking down over he years in the beds  should  solve any likely perceived problems of it compacting too much .
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Post  sanderson on 5/18/2019, 4:04 am

Glad you came out from behind the sofa. You can take the tin hat off now. Very Happy

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