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Hello from Alameda, CA Toplef10Hello from Alameda, CA 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.

Hello from Alameda, CA I22gcj10Hello from Alameda, CA 14dhcg10

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Hello from Alameda, CA

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Hello from Alameda, CA Empty Hello from Alameda, CA

Post  theDefeatedTech 7/29/2022, 6:39 pm

Hi everyone.  I started really getting gardening when the pandemic hit after a lifetime of killing tomato plants repeatedly.  I've learned so much in that time and attempted SFG last summer but saw moderate success because I was going mainly off Google searches and missing a lot of the details.  I'm reading the book now though and making corrections!
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Post  Scorpio Rising 7/30/2022, 5:53 pm

So glad you found us!  I highly recommend Mel’s book—it’s a game changer.  I have a medium sized raised bed situation—I have a 4x4, a cold frame that is also 4x4, a TSC 48” fire ring, and my south annex which is containers.  Big ones.  That is where I grow my tomatoes.  

Tell us more about your garden, dreams, and anything else!!!glad you\'re here
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Post  sanderson 7/31/2022, 1:43 pm

Hi, Tech, Welcome to the Forum! glad you\'re here  I'm in Fresno and have been using the method since 2013.  Reading the book will greatly help you.  If you have any questions after reading it, just ask.

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Post  theDefeatedTech 8/2/2022, 1:43 pm

Thanks!  Yeah I made two major mistakes on my Mel's mix.  1. I didn't count for expansion of peat moss so now I'm peat heavy and the top tends to crust over a lot and I have some roll off when watering.  2. I used a local compost that I later found out was composted from local city green bins.   Hello from Alameda, CA 1f62b 

So now I'm trying to correct the issue with adding compost and COARSE vermiculite (another mistake I made) to even out the ratio.  The soil has settled so I have some extra space. For the Mel's Mix this is what I have or is on the way:

1. Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend Organic Lobster Compost
2. Buildasoil Colorado Pinto Bean Compost
3. Oly Mountain Fish Compost
4. Malibu Compost Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost
5. Vermicompost from my friend's backyard
6??. I have an all-organic mushroom compost I got locally here in Alameda.  I've heard these are sterilized before mushrooms are grown with it so there isn't much microbiology.  Then the mushrooms take a lot of the nutrients.  So I'm not sure if this is helpful.  But there is a lot of organic matter and lots of mycelium and it has great texture.  What I did is add some used coffee grounds I've been saving and also watered in some Mikrobs inoculant.  Then I threw some red wigglers in to see if they can eat through the mushroom substrate and the coffee grounds.  Is it worth it?  I already have 5 so this would be a sixth.  But given my previous failure I want to make sure I get as diverse compost as possible.
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Post  sanderson 8/3/2022, 11:31 pm

theDefeatedTech wrote:Thanks!  Yeah I made two major mistakes on my Mel's mix.  1. I didn't count for expansion of peat moss so now I'm peat heavy and the top tends to crust over a lot and I have some roll off when watering.  2. I used a local compost that I later found out was composted from local city green bins.   Hello from Alameda, CA 1f62b 
Sometimes, one can luck out and the local green waste compost is good.

So now I'm trying to correct the issue with adding compost and COARSE vermiculite (another mistake I made) to even out the ratio.
Good.

The soil has settled so I have some extra space. For the Mel's Mix this is what I have or is on the way:

1. Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend Organic Lobster Compost
2. Buildasoil Colorado Pinto Bean Compost
3. Oly Mountain Fish Compost
4. Malibu Compost Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost
Which of these were you able to source locally here in CA?  I have had a heck of a hard time finding any more than 3 real composts.  #2, 3 and 4 are good.  Coast of Maine, #1, often has a fair amount of peat moss which will throw off the 3-way ratio in Mel's Mix.

5. Vermicompost from my friend's backyard
Always good.  Worm castings are not a compost and yet it can be used as one of the composts in the blend.  Because it's rich, and expensive for the volume, limit it to 5-10% of the total composts.[/quote]

6??. I have an all-organic mushroom compost I got locally here in Alameda.  I've heard these are sterilized before mushrooms are grown with it so there isn't much microbiology.  Then the mushrooms take a lot of the nutrients.  So I'm not sure if this is helpful.  But there is a lot of organic matter and lots of mycelium and it has great texture.
It would have been fine to use as is.  Organic matter with great texture sound perfect. (as long as they didn't add peat moss at time of packaging.)

What I did is add some used coffee grounds I've been saving and also watered in some Mikrobs inoculant.  Then I threw some red wigglers in to see if they can eat through the mushroom substrate and the coffee grounds.  Is it worth it?  I already have 5 so this would be a sixth.  But given my previous failure I want to make sure I get as diverse compost as possible.
You will need to let it compost, or worm age it, for a while to break down the coffee grounds.

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Post  theDefeatedTech 8/6/2022, 2:53 pm

sanderson wrote:
The soil has settled so I have some extra space. For the Mel's Mix this is what I have or is on the way:

1. Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend Organic Lobster Compost
2. Buildasoil Colorado Pinto Bean Compost
3. Oly Mountain Fish Compost
4. Malibu Compost Bu’s Blend Biodynamic Compost
Which of these were you able to source locally here in CA?  I have had a heck of a hard time finding any more than 3 real composts.  #2, 3 and 4 are good.  Coast of Maine, #1, often has a fair amount of peat moss which will throw off the 3-way ratio in Mel's Mix.

Yeah I had a hell of a time trying to get 5 types of compost without paying an arm and a leg for shipping.  For 2, 3, and 4, all were ordered from Buildasoil.com.  The price was marked up a bit but with free shipping it was still cheaper than buying individually straight from the sources and paying their shipping costs.  For #1, Esbenshade's Garden Center here in California offers it but with shipping it is still a bit pricy.  Then I found Bed Bath and Beyond website selling it via Esbenshade's Garden Center, also a bit marked up but with free shipping.  I was trying to avoid compost with peat moss added but when you look on their website and read their composting methods, I had to have it.

I was also originally considering these manures for 1 of the 5 types but ultimately decided against them:
  • Fishnure - Way too expensive everywhere I looked
  • Stutzman's Sup'R Green Organic Chicken Manure - Multiple reviews say it smells bad which to me says it's not finished composting
  • Peaceful Valley Dairy Cow Manure Compost - I actually would have went with this one but since the other blends I was considering had some dairy cow manure in them already and I had the options for mushroom compost and the worm castings I decided against it.


Ultimately all these bags were still expensive.  But with all my research they were the cheapest options available to me out of the composts that I thought were the best quality.  So I felt like these were the best/only options I had.
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Post  theDefeatedTech 8/6/2022, 3:05 pm

Scorpio Rising wrote:Tell us more about your garden, dreams, and anything else!!!glad you\'re here

Thank you!  I've only been gardening for 3 seasons now.  I'm one of those pandemic gardeners but I immediately became obsessed.  I started out with MiracleGro soil and chemical fertilizers.  Then I researched and learned about organic growing, then about regenerative agriculture, then about not only organic but sustainable also.  Then SFG!

So I am very much a beginner but I do geek out and spend hours reading up on anything gardening related.  I defer to the veterans on here but I offer whatever I have learned so far to anyone.  I'm big into organic, sustainable, regenerative practices, and the sourcing and methods of how these companies produce the products we use.  Hopefully I can help at least a few people here and there.
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Post  sanderson 8/6/2022, 5:31 pm

You caught on early in the game that composts with peat moss filler are to be avoided. Those "products" are usually the most expensive even though they contain the cheapest part of Mel's Mix, fluffed peat moss!! Rip off.

I suggest that you don't worry about getting 5 composts at this time in post pandemic. It's better to have 3 or 4 quality composts of different industry by-products than to grab a 5th one just because of the magic number 5. Since you have found a Pacific ocean fish compost (Oly Mountain Fish Compost) you can forgo the Atlantic lobster quoddy with its shipping cost if you want.

Bu's Blend (cow manure) - I wish I could find it in Fresno or the Roseville/Rocklin area, where my kiddies live. You would think with the number of "specialty crop" growers in CA that it would be easy to source.

The pinto bean compost sounds so interesting.

Is the mushroom compost from straw and manure? Or a saw dust type used for oyster mushrooms? What is the name of the grower?

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Post  theDefeatedTech 8/7/2022, 6:42 pm

sanderson wrote:Is the mushroom compost from straw and manure?  Or a saw dust type used for oyster mushrooms?  What is the name of the grower?

It's just some guy in my town that posted his used substrate on Facebook.  I asked him where he sourced the substrate, and he said he uses soy and oak pellets from mushroommediaonline.com and milo grain from Concord feed and grain.  Those are the only ingredients he uses.  He also confirmed he does an all organic process.  I totally lucked out to have someone 5 minutes away with good SMS for free.  And he keeps growing so hopefully I have a continuous supply for a while.
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/7/2022, 9:19 pm

Sounds like you are doing a great job.  My first try at the New method was wayyyy too much peat, all the compost I got at a local big box had peat already in it.  

I use worm castings as a compost, but it is pricy so don’t use it equal parts.  I do compost my own kitchen and safe garden wate—but yesterday got attacked by a cloud of stinging badness when I went to stir…WINTER! 

I also supplement with blood and bone meal, on occasion if I have a deficiency.  I do really like the chicken poo from TSC.  

What do you like to grow and eat?
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Post  theDefeatedTech 8/8/2022, 11:33 am

Yeah I still have some Down To Earth fertilizers from before I started SFG and it has helped me get through my failures with the Mel's Mix lol.

I keep trying with tomatoes.  I keep having moderate success at best.  One of these days I'll figure it out.  Other than that I do a lot of greens.  I have found that mustard greens grow like crazy here and without many issues and they reseed easily.  I always have mustard volunteers popping up.  Right now I have cherry tomatoes and San Marzano tomatoes, 5 basil plants, french sorrel and red veined sorrel (one of my absolute favorites), a bunch of green onions that a grew from supermarket scraps, rainbow chard that is now past its 2nd spring and keeps going even though it is ravaged by leaf miners that I cannot get rid of, parsley, and a cucumber volunteer, and purple yardlong beans that I recently put in.

I also have a small raised container I made from scrap wood that has thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary that has been super useful for me.  It is so amazing to be able to run outside and snip some fresh herbs when I need them while I am cooking.

What I am bad at?  Germinating seeds.  I'm horrible at it.  If I sow 30 seeds maybe 1 or 2 will germinate.  I have tried so many different things.  I have even wasted a whole seed pack of purple orach and not germinated a single one.  I don't mind spending the money for seedlings but I want to try some veggies that I don't see around here locally.  I have taken other people's advice, watched a ton of Youtube videos....  I just suck at it.
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Post  OhioGardener 8/8/2022, 12:08 pm

theDefeatedTech wrote:What I am bad at?  Germinating seeds.  I'm horrible at it.  If I sow 30 seeds maybe 1 or 2 will germinate.  I have tried so many different things.  I have even wasted a whole seed pack of purple orach and not germinated a single one.  I don't mind spending the money for seedlings but I want to try some veggies that I don't see around here locally.  I have taken other people's advice, watched a ton of Youtube videos....  I just suck at it.

Quite often the biggest problem people have with starting seeds is planting them too deep, or letting the seeds dry out before they can germinate. For smaller seeds, like lettuce, they barely need covering, while bigger seeds, like beans, need to be about an inch deep.

What I have found works best for me with starting seeds is to not cover them with soil, but cover them with medium vermiculite (I use Harry's Vermiculite from Home Depot).  Soil tends to dry and harden so that the seeds have a difficult time pushing through it. I make the indent for the seed, place the seed in the indent, then cover with medium vermiculite. I use a spray bottle to thoroughly moisten the vermiculite with water, and continue to keep the vermiculite moist until the seeds germinate. I normally get a very high germination rate that way.  BTW, some seeds that are very hard, such as beets and swiss chard, I will soak in warm water overnight before planting in order to soften the shell and speed germination.

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Post  theDefeatedTech 8/8/2022, 3:09 pm

Interesting!  I have not heard of that trick with vermiculite.  I am guilty of planting too deep for sure.  I hear a good measure is to plant as deep as the seed is big, but that has not helped me lol.  I will try that vermiculite trick.  Thank you!!!
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Post  OhioGardener 8/8/2022, 4:18 pm

An interesting light-hearted article on the very subject....

Most Common Seed-Starting Mistakes

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Post  JAM23 8/9/2022, 9:18 am

I am very guilty of falling prey to the first seed starting mistake in this article OG. Try as I might, I just can't seem to stop myself. But, I am really trying to get better at it. LOL
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