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Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?  Toplef10Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?  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.

Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?  I22gcj10Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?  14dhcg10

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Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?

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Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?  Empty Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?

Post  Nomin 4/24/2021, 6:29 pm

Let me start with a little bit of the background.  I'm new to gardening and of course SFG. Last fall, I bought and built two 4 ft x 12 ft raised beds, each of which is divided into three 4 ft x 4 ft sections. The sections are 11 inches deep except for the middle one, which is 14 inches.  Also, I removed the lawn inside so that the actual depths are 14 to 17 inches.  Then, last fall, I put shredded fallen leaves in there.  Also, I have been adding kitchen waste and a little bit of native soil in there in hope of making compost.  Now, the loose mix of the shredded leaves, food waste, and a little bit of soil occupies about half the depth.

Then, recently someone introduced SFG to me, and I am excited about trying it myself.  So, a change in my plan.  Now, I ordered materials to make 24 sq. ft. of Mel's Mix to start with, which should cover one of the beds, i.e., three 4ft x 4ft squares with a 6-inch depth.  

My questions are the following:
1) Can I pour Mel's Mix directly over to the half-cooked compost (loose leave mix)? Or,
2) Should I put some kind of barrier on top of the existing leave mix first and then pour Mel'x Mix on top of it? Or,
3) Should I remove the loose leave mix entirely, put a barrier, and then pour Mel'x Mix on to?

I am hoping that 1) is acceptable but wonder if Mel's Mix would eventually be mixed with what's underneath, which may or may not be a good thing.  I would appreciate it if anyone can give their thoughts on this.  Thank you in advance.
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Post  OhioGardener 4/24/2021, 7:20 pm

Welcome to the forum, Nomin!  Yes, you should easily be able to just put the Mel's Mix on top of the compost/soil mixture already in the beds. The base of the compost/soil will be solid enough that you will not need to worry about the MM blending down into it.  As the original compost/soil and MM are further broken down by microbial activity, you will need to add more compost to the top of the beds, but the MM will remain in the beds.

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Post  Nomin 4/24/2021, 7:59 pm

Hi OhioGardener,

Thank you for your quick response.  That is the answer that I was hoping for.  Then, I don't have to move soils around, which I would rather avoid at this age. Very Happy

I'm really glad that our local nursery lady mentioned SFG to me and excited about trying SFG.

Thanks again for taking your time to respond to me.
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Post  AtlantaMarie 4/25/2021, 9:26 am

Hi Nomin.  Welcome also from Atlanta, GA!

I agree with OG, so have some fun!  We like photos, btw....   Laughing
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Post  Nomin 5/10/2021, 5:42 pm

Can I add Mel's Mix directly over loose soil?  20210510
[Background] Here is a picture of my raised garden beds that I assembled last fall. I added shredded fallen leaves in there last winter and covered them with cardboard and then black plastic bags after some rainfalls.  I also added some vegetable peels, etc. occasionally, but during winter everything was frozen.  As a result, not much composting has occurred.  In early spring, I added and mixed some native soil from under decomposing logs, which I believe relatively weed-free, in hope of accelerating composting of the leaves.

When I walk on the quasi-soil, it is still somewhat bouncy and doesn't get compacted much, i.e., leaves are not completely composted while they are soft and moistened.  By the way, I see a lot of earthworm activities there, which I like.  

[Question 1 re: soft and bouncy base layer]
I wonder if MM could have issues when installed on top of the quasi-soil that may not provide a solid flat platform.  It is soft and not quite settled (density is not consistent), so I wonder if MM might shift and create uneven depths.  

[Question 2 re: weeds]
Since no landscape fabric is installed, would I be taking a risk of possibly allowing weeds to grow?  Perhaps, should I consider installing landscape fabric over the quasi-soil?  

[Question 3 re: lawn care chemicals, herbicide, etc.]
Last week, I saw a lawn care man spraying fertilizer/herbicide mix right around the raised garden beds even though I had told them not to.  But, it's too late.  Do I need to worry about chemicals possibly spreading into under the boxes?  Or, could the root of some vegetables spread outside the box and get exposed to the chemicals? Would it be safer to install landscape fabric to keep roots inside the box frame?  Or, am I worrying about it too much?

Thank you.
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Post  Missed-Em 5/11/2021, 11:04 am

Just my opinion but yes you are worying too much.  Weeds, put cardboard down, settling - it will anyway, just add compost as needed,  spray -  what little may sift  in I wouldn't worry about.  Fill, plant, and foremost enjoy!
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Post  jimmy cee 5/11/2021, 11:27 pm

" My questions are the following:
1) Can I pour Mel's Mix directly over to the half-cooked compost (loose leave mix)? "

Just understand one little item. That material in your beds is not half cooked.
It is just rotting away. In time worms and bacteria will complete it.
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Post  Scorpio Rising 5/12/2021, 5:07 pm

Hello!  I use open bottom boxes on purpose--some veggies have deep taproots and end up into the native soil.  My legacy boxes were super deep, and I filled them with leaves from my perennial bed raked out un-composted, and then MM--did great!  They did de-compress/deflate some, but I knew it was just making great "dirt"!  

I think that is a great plan--and Welcome!
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Post  Nomin 5/13/2021, 3:03 pm

Hi Scorpio Rising,

Thank you for your advice.  

I just wonder how you have been maintaining your garden bed especially after what's underneath is decomposed and compressed.   Do you just add compost and mix it with MM (the top layer) as the SFG book suggests?  Or, do you add MM on top so that you can regain some height/depth that you have lost?

Thanks,
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Post  sanderson 5/13/2021, 7:21 pm

Nomin, Welcome to SFG!!

1. You can top off the existing fill material with 6-7" of Mel's Mix.

2. You will be covering weed seeds with 6-7" of Mel's Mix, so there is a really good chance any weed seeds in the bottom part will never sprout.

3. If the chemicals were sprayed around the outside of the bed, there is a low chance that anything was harmed. Once the plants are growing, zero herbicides are important as they can affect the growing plants.

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Post  donnainzone5 5/13/2021, 8:28 pm

Nomin,

Just add compost, either homemade or blended. to maintain the usual level of Mel's Mix.  Because plants use up the compost portion of the MM, you generally will need to add 2" of compost,

Add a trowel-full or two and blend it into your existing Mix, and you're good to go.
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Post  Nomin 5/13/2021, 9:10 pm

Hi sanderson,

Thanks for the information.  Now I feel more confident about what I am planning to do.  I would rather not remove what's already in there and do it all over again.  After all, what I like about SFG is the idea that you do less work and enjoy/harvest more. Smile 

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Post  Kjay450 5/1/2022, 8:10 pm

Has anyone tried mel’s mix in a non raised bed. Thinking about digging 6” of soil out of established garden rows and using Mel’s mix and 2in edging on top to save on cost of wood and materials.

Cheapest way I have found to do raised beds is with concrete half blocks. Cheeper than any wood product and last forever about 1.50/LF
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Post  sanderson 5/2/2022, 1:23 am

The problem is that without a frame/bed you can't keep the dirt out of the Mel's Mix or the MM out of the dirt.  If you level out the garden area, you can set down frames (2" x 8" boards or 8" cinder blocks) and fill with Mel's Mix.

Your current idea of digging out 6", filling with MM and adding a 2" high frame subjects the MM to the conditions of the dirt, which would be bad during rainy spells.  That's one reason the beds are above the grade of the dirt.

When costs are in the way, we recommend starting small and adding beds/MM/grids as funds are available.

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Post  goodtogrow 5/2/2022, 1:34 am

We have some half whiskey barrels that we've used for growing tomatoes in, and this year we're planing on using MM, but only for the top 6", and leaving the older soil below that.  Is that a bad idea, then?
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Post  sanderson 5/2/2022, 11:46 am

GTG, Yes you can top off the barrel with 6" of Mel's Mix.

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Post  goodtogrow 5/2/2022, 3:11 pm

Ok, thank you.
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