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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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Soil Additives Toplef10Soil Additives 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.

Soil Additives I22gcj10Soil Additives 14dhcg10

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Post  Chuck d'Argy Mon Aug 30, 2021 11:21 am

What's my opinion on soil additives, meaning stuff like ashes for more alkaline or bone meal for potatoes, as opposed to 10 10 10 or whatever fertilizers? I seem to recall that Mel wasn't really wild about these things thinking MM was good enough. Yet here at the end of my growing season, despite using as diverse a combination of different things for my compost, about 3 or 4 different composts mixed together, my acid loving plants, especially potatoes (my first crop of those ever) did well in my containers, but Spinach, beets, and alkaline liking stuff not so much.

In retrospect, I didn't feed them every few weeks either.  Quite frankly, I got off to a late start, and was playing catch up all year.

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Post  OhioGardener Mon Aug 30, 2021 12:08 pm

I use not use fertilizer or other additives, other than rock dust which just remineralizes the soil. Good quality compost provides all of the nutrients plant should need. When transplanting things like tomatoes or peppers, I tend to throw a handful of bone meal in the hole before setting in the plant just to give the young plant a boost, but they don't need anything other than topping off with a compost mulch after that.

One thing to keep in mind is that MM is not immediately a rich nutrient source for plants, it needs time to be broken down by the microbes to make the nutrients plant-available. Depending upon the composts used, this could take up to a year to be fully accomplished. Adding synthetic fertilizers slows down or eliminates the microbial life from doing its job. If you follow the SFG guidelines, you will have a very productive garden without the addition of synthetic fertilizers.

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Post  sanderson Mon Aug 30, 2021 4:54 pm

Chuck, Beets and spinach are cool weather crops, so this may be the time to start them.

As a SFG Certified Instructor, I am a SFG purist and do not add anything to the formula. It takes time for the compost in the Mel's Mix to break down through the action of microbes and roots. Each time you replenish the blended compost, you are actually providing future nutrients.

Regarding the pH, MM is basically neutral and works for 99% of produce. Acid loving blueberries are an example of an exception. Each plant has its "perfect" pH, but MM is good enough to have a healthy garden.

As you stated, you got a late start. I predict that you will be more confident in MM as you garden on. Learning what to plant, when, is something you will also learn. Your local Master Gardeners, Ag Commission, or university, should have guidelines for planting.


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Post  Chuck d'Argy Mon Aug 30, 2021 7:23 pm

Thanks for you prompt responses!!

If I ever read anywhere about the need for some composts needing additional time to "cure", I dont recall. I thought that was the point of composting. But ok.

What about worms, do they add anything?

How often do you stone dust?
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Post  sanderson Tue Aug 31, 2021 3:20 am

Chuck,  No, you didn't miss reading about compost taking time to "cure."  Even new Mel's Mix will support the plants.  It's just that it takes time for the whole 2" worth of compost per 6" of Mel's Mix to be broken down.  Screening store bought and even home made composts to screen out larger pieces helps in that the smaller the particles, the more surface area for the microbes and roots to go to town.

Worms produce castings which are very rich.  The castings are not compost, but may be counted as a compost for the purpose of making Mel's Mix.  Limit the total volume to 5-10% of the composts.  You can add a few earth worms to each box and save money.

There are 2 books I recommend.  The first, "Teaming with Microbes", by Lowenfels & Lewis, explores the wonderful micro-life in healthy soils.  The second, "Teaming with Nutrients," by Jeff Lowenfels explores the roles and sources of nutrients. The third book of the series, "Teaming with Fungi," is more important for permanent plants such as trees and bushes, though you may get hooked on the first two books and want to read it.
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