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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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HELP!  Need to revitalize Square Foot Garden Toplef10HELP!  Need to revitalize Square Foot Garden 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.

HELP!  Need to revitalize Square Foot Garden I22gcj10HELP!  Need to revitalize Square Foot Garden 14dhcg10

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HELP! Need to revitalize Square Foot Garden

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OhioGardener
vanclan
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Post  vanclan 3/9/2021, 2:27 pm

Set up my SQF garden in 2010.  Made Mel's Mix exactly as indicated and followed guidelines in the book.  Absolutely amazing results for a few years.  Each year I would add a bit more Mel's mix and sometimes some extra compost.  Last couple of years results have been much less  Unless it is an established plant (my kale and collards overwintered and took off as usual)  New plants (and or seeds)  just don't seem to have much oomph...  Have also used a bit of liquid fish fertilizer as desperation set in.  Want to have better results this year.  What should I do?  (I've loaned my book out and can't retrieve it right now)
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Post  OhioGardener 3/9/2021, 6:55 pm

Hi, VanClan, and welcome to the fourms! Glad to see you here. Sounds like your plants are suffering from an inadequate source of nutrients. The normal "refresh" process is to add more compost rather than more MM. Continually adding MM will lead to a heavy presence of peat & vermiculite, which provides no plant nutrient. I would probably remove the top 2 or 3 inches of the current soil, and replace it with a blend of rich compost. The new compost should be a mixture of at least a couple type of composted manure, such as chicken or cow, along with things like mushroom compost or cottonseed meal compost.

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Post  vanclan 3/9/2021, 7:07 pm

That would be really easy to do...as I probably have enough space to simply add the compost on top.  I have home made compost and can easily buy sheep and cow composted manure.  I think I have some worm compost to add to the mix.  Do I simply put it on top or mix it in with the existing "soil" in the garden?  Unfortunately, there are weeds in the existing "soil" but even the weeds weren't doing very well!
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Post  OhioGardener 3/9/2021, 7:26 pm

My preference would be to pull as many weeds as possible and then just put the new compost on top and plant into it - disturb the weed seeds in the existing soil as little as possible. Others would recommend working the new compost into to the top few inches of the existing soil. So, it is mostly what you would be more comfortable with.  I have practiced no-till gardening for a number of years with excellent results.

The composts you mention, including the home made, would excellent choices, too!  If you can mix worm castings for about 10% of the total new compost, you would have a very rich mixture that the plants will love.

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Post  vanclan 3/10/2021, 10:15 am

I think I like the idea of pulling any evident weeds and putting it on top.  I've tried the mixing in with less than stellar results.  (however this time I'll be adding more compost than before.) Unfortunately the home made compost won't be weed free, although I don't knowingly put weeds into the compost pile.

 I'm also thinking to try and start some new collard/kale plants and pull the old ones.  They have performed well for two or three seasons, but I don't know whether I want to risk pushing them for another season.

So appreciate your help and advice.  I don't know anyone else in the area using SFG so your advice is a gold mine.  Any other tips are always appreciated.


Last edited by vanclan on 3/10/2021, 10:17 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added info)
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Post  OhioGardener 3/10/2021, 1:22 pm

I wouldn't worry too much about weed seeds in the home made compost. If the composting process got hot enough, it would have killed a lot of the seeds. Even if it did not get hot enough to kill the seeds, one of the benefits of planting in compost is that it is very easy to pull out young weed seedlings when they sprout, and soon the bed will be weed free. One of the reasons I don't till or dig into the soil is because that leaves buried weed seeds buried where they can't germinate.

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Post  sanderson 3/14/2021, 10:16 pm

vanclan wrote:Set up my SQF garden in 2010.  Made Mel's Mix exactly as indicated and followed guidelines in the book.  Absolutely amazing results for a few years.  Each year I would add a bit more Mel's mix and sometimes some extra compost.  Last couple of years results have been much less  Unless it is an established plant (my kale and collards overwintered and took off as usual)  New plants (and or seeds)  just don't seem to have much oomph...  Have also used a bit of liquid fish fertilizer as desperation set in.  Want to have better results this year.  What should I do?  (I've loaned my book out and can't retrieve it right now)
Hi Vanclan,  Welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here  The only thing you have to add each planting season is more blended compost.  Making Mel's Mix is just for the initial start-up. It is the compost that provides the nutrients for the plants. Vermiculite and peat moss do not have nutrients and they don't get used up, only the composts get used up each season.

I hope this helps.

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Post  Chuck d'Argy 6/11/2021, 2:51 pm

I just read in the 3rd edition SFG book, that the life expectancy of Mel's Mix is up to 10 years. Then you need to "...mix a new batch to refill the boxes." In my book it's on page 169, chap 9 Maintaining Your Square Foot Garden. I just read that about 15 minutes ago.
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Post  sanderson 6/12/2021, 3:31 am

Chuck, Yes, the book does state that MM lasts about 10 years.

I would hate the idea of having to toss the MM and make a new batch at 74 years old. This is my theory alone: The peat moss breaks down in the aerobic environment of Mel's Mix, and the coarse vermiculite is broken into smaller pieces, therefore compacting from 2" (assuming 6" of original MM) to say 1" of vermiculite. That leaves theoretically 5" of composting material and 1" of vermiculite. My MM was starting to get heavy, like wet fine coffee grounds. Two years ago, I mixed in 1" of coarse vermiculite and it felt more like the original MM. This fall or next spring, I will mix in 1" of fluffed peat moss to make it fluffier again. Just me.

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Post  Chuck d'Argy 6/12/2021, 4:28 pm

I understand. At a mere 71 years old, I am creating a whole new garden in our house qe just moved into a year ago. So far I have mixed 5 cubic feet of Uline coarse vermiculite with of course, 5 feet of compost and peet moss. Getting ready to do another batch of probably the same size. Warning!!! Insider trading hint, buy Ibuprophen stock. Hehehe
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Post  sanderson 6/12/2021, 4:47 pm

Chuck d'Argy wrote:. . . Warning!!!  Insider trading hint, buy Ibuprophen stock. Hehehe
rofl

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Post  ralitaco 6/12/2021, 9:32 pm

Vanclan and Chuck,
Welcome to the forum from Coastal North Carolina!!

You will get nothing but great advice and knowledge from the likes of Sanderson and Ohio Gardner and sooo many others.
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Post  jimmy cee 6/12/2021, 10:20 pm

If you are able to make compost tea, do it. However it best be compost that is well done with many proper items. The tea will  revitalize like you would never have dreamed possible.

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Post  ralitaco 6/13/2021, 10:32 am

jimmy cee wrote:If you are able to make compost tea, do it. However it best be compost that is well done with many proper items. The tea will  revitalize like you would never have dreamed possible.

Captain Compost, what is that set up? Do you make your own compost tea or do you buy a "starter" pack?
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