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For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based? Toplef10For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based? 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.

For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based? I22gcj10For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based? 14dhcg10

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For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based?

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For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based? Empty For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based?

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/7/2022, 12:34 am

I'm nearly ready to start buying the ingredients for my MM.  (exciting!!)  For the compost third, I'm looking at the following:
- 40% vermicast
- 27% Zoo Doo
- 32% organic plant-based composttable {mso-displayed-decimal-separator:"\."; mso-displayed-thousand-separator:"\,";}tr {mso-height-source:auto;}col {mso-width-source:auto;}br {mso-data-placement:same-cell;}td {padding-top:1px; padding-right:1px; padding-left:1px; mso-ignore:padding; color:black; font-size:10.0pt; font-weight:400; font-style:normal; text-decoration:none; font-family:Geneva, sans-serif; mso-font-charset:1; mso-number-format:General; text-align:general; vertical-align:bottom; border:none; mso-background-source:auto; mso-pattern:auto; mso-protection:locked visible; white-space:nowrap; mso-rotate:0;}

I'm deliberately going low on the Zoo Doo since I don't want more than about 25% manure-based.  But then I had a sudden thought: I was thinking the vermicast was plant-based, but it does come out the back end of an animal!

So: does it count as manure-based or plant-based compost? 
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Post  sanderson 11/7/2022, 3:14 am

Worm castings (Vermicast) are an honorary "compost", neither plant-based nor farm manure-based compost. They are very rich, and expensive, and should be limited to 5-10% of the compost blend.

The ZooDoo is mixed with bark.
the compost is mixed with aged bark fines and packed into bags ready for use
I wonder how "aged" they are and for what percentage they account?? Are they just a cheap filler?

What about this plant-based compost in addition to the more expensive Living Earth compost? This could substitute for the reduction in vermicast. ?? https://www.kings.co.nz/advice-and-articles/the-kings-organic-compost-story

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/7/2022, 3:20 pm

sanderson wrote:Worm castings (Vermicast) are an honorary "compost", neither plant-based nor farm manure-based compost.  They are very rich, and expensive, and should be limited to 5-10% of the compost blend.

Oh, how interesting!  Neither one nor the other.

The ZooDoo is mixed with bark.  
the compost is mixed with aged bark fines and packed into bags ready for use
 I wonder how "aged" they are and for what percentage they account??  Are they just a cheap filler?

Oops, I thought I'd fully researched this product, but that slipped right past me Embarassed   Better ring and ask...

What about this plant-based compost in addition to the more expensive Living Earth compost?  This could substitute for the reduction in vermicast.  ??  https://www.kings.co.nz/advice-and-articles/the-kings-organic-compost-story

Yes, I was wondering about that, but the price difference led me to think I'd better go for the Living Earth one, esp since it's only $10 more.  Trouble is, my quantities are such (only filling a single 4 x 4 x 11 bed) that I really only need one or the other.

My mix could also have ~15% leaf mould (which I've been producing by accident for years).  I thought I'd read that it doesn't have much nutrients so I didn't add it to the list in my OP, but then I saw somewhere here that it does count as a source.  So, that will compensate for some of the removed vermicast.

I was also considering an organic sheep pellets product (which are surprisingly expensive given how many sheep we have in this country!!!) which says you can add around existing plants so I figured it would be OK, but then the Zoo Doo takes care of the manure-based proportion anyway.
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For MM, does vermicast count as manure-based? Empty Zoo Doo aged bark fines

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/7/2022, 11:09 pm

OK, just got off the phone with the Zoo Doo guy, who tried to talk my ear off!!!

It's 40% composted manure and 60% potting mix "starter" (for want of a better word) from a local nursery.  By "starter" I mean no pumice, peat etc in it.  The bark has been well aged so it won't compete for nitrogen, however I'm guessing I will have to screen it.  Is 1/4" really necessary?  That's really small!

Since this is only 40% manure it seems I'll need two bags of it and that'll give me roughly 20% manure-based in my MM compost.  The bark fines I guess can count towards the plant-based proportion?  And if screened, of course the amount will reduce which is actually a good thing because two bags will put my compost volume slightly above 1/3 of the MM.
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/7/2022, 11:48 pm

...goodness, I never seem to run out of questions at the moment!! Embarassed 

Just reading a bit more about the Living Earth Organic Compost, the page says "Do not plant directly into compost. It MUST be mixed with existing soil." -- does this mean I can't use it in my MM?  Or will mixing it with the other ingredients make it OK?  Current plan is it will be 27% of my compost third.


Very sorry about all this...
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Post  OhioGardener 11/8/2022, 7:31 am

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:Just reading a bit more about the Living Earth Organic Compost, the page says "Do not plant directly into compost. It MUST be mixed with existing soil." -- does this mean I can't use it in my MM? 

That, basically, means nothing.  It basically says you must grow plant in soil, not compost. Nothing could be further from the truth. MM has no soil in it, unless one considers that all compost eventually turns into "soil". If anyone followed those instructions, they would not be able to grow in MM.

I think what they are suggesting is that a person should not just put their compost on top of in ground garden soil, and then plant in it. Again, though, if it is quality compost this is not an issue. Charles Dowding's No Dig garden is nothing but compost on top of the native soil, and he grows a large market garden this way.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/8/2022, 2:43 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:Just reading a bit more about the Living Earth Organic Compost, the page says "Do not plant directly into compost. It MUST be mixed with existing soil." -- does this mean I can't use it in my MM? 

That, basically, means nothing.  It basically says you must grow plant in soil, not compost. Nothing could be further from the truth. MM has no soil in it, unless one considers that all compost eventually turns into "soil". If anyone followed those instructions, they would not be able to grow in MM.

I think what they are suggesting is that a person should not just put their compost on top of in ground garden soil, and then plant in it. Again, though, if it is quality compost this is not an issue. Charles Dowding's No Dig garden is nothing but compost on top of the native soil, and he grows a large market garden this way.

Thanks, OG -- still waiting to hear back from them so I'll ask about their process too.  That will hopefully give me some way of judging it.
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Post  sanderson 11/9/2022, 12:47 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:
What about this plant-based compost in addition to the more expensive Living Earth compost?  This could substitute for the reduction in vermicast.  ??  https://www.kings.co.nz/advice-and-articles/the-kings-organic-compost-story

Yes, I was wondering about that, but the price difference led me to think I'd better go for the Living Earth one, esp since it's only $10 more.  Trouble is, my quantities are such (only filling a single 4 x 4 x 11 bed) that I really only need one or the other.
You will be adding more blended compost each time you plant, so EXTRA is what you want.  Buy both.  As far as "more expensive means better compost" is not necessarily true.  

My mix could also have ~15% leaf mould (which I've been producing by accident for years).  I thought I'd read that it doesn't have much nutrients so I didn't add it to the list in my OP, but then I saw somewhere here that it does count as a source.  So, that will compensate for some of the removed vermicast.
leaf mold is good

I was also considering an organic sheep pellets product (which are surprisingly expensive given how many sheep we have in this country!!!) which says you can add around existing plants so I figured it would be OK, but then the Zoo Doo takes care of the manure-based proportion anyway.
It is recommended to use "composted" manures and not fresh manures.  Sheep may be a "cool" manure, meaning it won't burn plants like a "hot" manure such as fresh chicken manure, but you still want material that is composted.

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Post  sanderson 11/9/2022, 12:56 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:OK, just got off the phone with the Zoo Doo guy, who tried to talk my ear off!!!

It's 40% composted manure and 60% potting mix "starter" (for want of a better word) from a local nursery.  By "starter" I mean no pumice, peat etc in it.  The bark has been well aged so it won't compete for nitrogen, however I'm guessing I will have to screen it.  Is 1/4" really necessary?  That's really small!
If something won't pass through a 1/4" screen, it probably is material that hasn't finished composting.  Or, it could be something that was added to the finished compost.  Such as bark fines.  ??  Anything that is "60% potting mix starter" is probably not for Mel's Mix.  Why pay for extra, and probably cheap, stuff that is not part of the Mel's Mix formula?


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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/9/2022, 7:49 pm

OhioGardener wrote:
KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:Just reading a bit more about the Living Earth Organic Compost, the page says "Do not plant directly into compost. It MUST be mixed with existing soil." -- does this mean I can't use it in my MM? 

That, basically, means nothing.  It basically says you must grow plant in soil, not compost. Nothing could be further from the truth. MM has no soil in it, unless one considers that all compost eventually turns into "soil". If anyone followed those instructions, they would not be able to grow in MM.

I think what they are suggesting is that a person should not just put their compost on top of in ground garden soil, and then plant in it. Again, though, if it is quality compost this is not an issue. Charles Dowding's No Dig garden is nothing but compost on top of the native soil, and he grows a large market garden this way.
Sorry OG, I wasn't clear with my question.  I was referring to a concern about burning the plants.  I've been checking candidate composts to see if they talk about being able to plant directly into it and the emphasis in "MUST be mixed with existing soil" had me worried.

As a complete newbie to all things compost I don't feel remotely qualified to judge the quality of it! Embarassed  (if I could even see inside the bag before buying, which I doubt they'll let me do)

I've seen some material on No Dig and I can totally understand that he's not taking any risks of this sort because he uses his own compost, so he knows its history, age, ingredients, etc.  It's a little different for those of us who aren't yet producing our own Smile
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/9/2022, 9:03 pm

OK.  Huge thanks to sanderson, OG and all the others who have supported me through the adventure of finding my MM!  I've lost count of all the stuff I've learned from you folks and can't express my gratitude adequately.
thanks  thanks   thanks

However, I've got to the point where I really have to get on with filling my beds.  I prefer to do things properly the first time, but I feel rather like I'm in a game of whack-a-mole where I never can get to the right ingredients for my compost third.  I've seen enough accounts of others' challenges getting their MM together to know that I'm not alone and that presumably most people start their SFG with a non-optimal mix.  That's what I'm going to do, too.

I'm not intending to plant as intensively this summer as ANSFG advises, so if the nutrients are a bit low then hopefully it won't matter so much.  Next summer, as I fill my second bed (assuming all goes well with this first one!) I'll have homemade compost (we hope!) and the process should be much easier.

Again, thank you so-so-so much everyone for your patience and advice!!!!!
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Post  OhioGardener 11/10/2022, 7:25 am

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Post  sanderson 11/10/2022, 2:12 pm

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