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Advice on old mel's mix please

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Post  TLAT1270 on 4/19/2020, 11:40 pm

I found this forum and sfg around 11 years ago. My husband built boxes and we sourced the components for mel's mix. We grew in it for several years adding our own compost yearly to top it off. Fast forward to now. It has been several years since we have grew anything in our boxes except for some green viney weed that has covered the whole garden area. Life just got in the way. We are in the process of builing new corrugated metal and wood boxes that are 2ft deep,( mel's mix will be just 6 inches) and will also be building 3-4 ft diameter round corrugated metal beds for single crops like potatoes, garlic, onions and strawberries. I have all my new ingredients ( coarse vermiculite, peat moss, 4 bagged composts , aged chicken litter from a commercial chicken grow house,and worm castings)for mel's mix waiting for the boxes. 

I really don't want to throw out the old soil so we have been screening the soil through 1/4 inch hardware cloth to screen out any roots. It is a very nice crumbly soil full of earthworms. It has had several years of leaves decaying right on top also. We have our 3 bin compost bin full of compost that will be ready by the time we need to amend this old mix.   I am prepared to add a lot of compost to add the nutrients but Do you think I should add more vermiculite? Our old beds 144 squares...

I am in Kentucky. Zone 6
New beds will be 6- 12x4 = 288 sqft
plus round beds

Thank you 
Terri
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Post  sanderson on 4/20/2020, 4:58 am

Terri, What to do with old Mel's Mix? That is something I have debated. I have read that Mix that is 10 years old should be placed in the flower beds and new Mix made for the raised beds.

My original Mix, that was made by the recipe, was 6 years old and and seemed kind of fine and soggy, like the peat moss was composting along with the compost, and the vermiculite breaking into smaller pieces. Just my impression. I decided to try adding 1" of coarse vermiculite to see if it would get fluffier, and it seemed to work.

My thought, and it's just a thought, is to go ahead and use the screened Mix and add an inch of coarse vermiculite, along with 2" of compost. Mix thoroughly.

I'll be interested to see what other folks with older real Mel's Mix think.

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Post  plantoid on 4/20/2020, 7:10 am

The vermiculite was to aireate the growth medium over the years it breaks down into a fine powder that still attracts water. 

My understanding of Mel's words is  , it was only used as the initial growth medium mix to hold air & water till you had you beds and replenishment of lusefull composted materials  going well .   So if you feel flush with cash  in the bank or under your mattress you can use new vermiculite .

 I have used new vermiculite in a couple of beds to see what effect it had in 8 yr old beds .  It is OK but not as good as the stuff below for stuff below is free and has a long term rotting away action that feeds the beds .  Vermiculite does not feed the bed it is inert .


I have been adding & mixing 2yr old well composted hedge trimmings and fine shredded branches & woody fibres (composted up in tied off trash sacks )  to a  working compost heap and after another year have been using that as the feed to the already made beds . It has really lightened the growth medium and still allows lots of steady moisture content . 

Over the years this input of fibrous compost will see the beds having  many different types of material at differing stages of rotting away to provide many different plants with the nutrients they need at the right time for their stages of growth .

Deep down in my 36 inch deep raised beds ( some have a foot of sand  as a base layer ) a dense pan of still quite porous partly depleted Mel's mix exists .

I've   dug down to bring some of this pan material  back into circulation in a couple of beds . It dries out in to greyish crumbly lumps  that break down with the action of the frosts , rain & wind but can be crumbled by hand if needed .  It alters the lightness of the bed making the workable soil a little heavier which I found was good for my tall fava beans , brussels sprouts and sweet corn , for new MM  was a tad too soft/light to anchor them in windy weather . It also helped prevent wind rock of the bigger cabbages .
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Post  OhioGardener on 4/20/2020, 8:32 am

@sanderson wrote:My thought, and it's just a thought, is to go ahead and use the screened Mix and add an inch of coarse vermiculite, along with 2" of compost.  Mix thoroughly.

I'll be interested to see what other folks with older real Mel's Mix think.

Terri, I agree with Sanderson's thought.  I don't have any Mel's Mix that is over 10 years old, but I do have some garden beds that are decades old and have become about 90% compost over the many years of continually adding more compost to the top of the beds. And, those beds are very, very productive so I have no reason to change the soil in those beds.  If it were me, I would amend the old soil with peat, vermiculite, and compost and use it. But, that's just me....

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Post  TLAT1270 on 4/21/2020, 2:24 am

Thank you all for your responses. I will definately be trying to make this soil the best I can for my beds. Hopefully this route will help me to fill extra beds that I didnt count on when buying the ingredients for mels mix.
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Post  Mikesgardn on 4/21/2020, 11:35 am

I have two separate gardens, one is 12 years old, and the other is 8 years old.  I just add enough compost in the Spring to bring the surface back up to the top of the border, and then mix it all up a bit.   They are still very productive, so I don't intend to dispose of the mix yet.
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