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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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Advice on my blend  Toplef10Advice on my blend  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.

Advice on my blend  I22gcj10Advice on my blend  14dhcg10

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Advice on my blend

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Post  corine 4/20/2024, 9:28 pm

Hi all, excited to join. Wish I’d found this group before I blended my mix! I just finished setting up two beds and used the following composts. I’m worried now that it may not be a good mix. I tried hard to get five different kinds but didn’t pay attention to additional peat in the composts I bought. I bought high quality composts from a local feed store with the exception of one mushroom compost from a local nursery. I’d love reassurance on my choices —  or suggestions on anything I should do to amend if there’s too much peat/filler now. 

For a 4x4x.5 bed and a 4x6x.5 bed I used one 3.2 cubic foot package of peat moss, plus 7 cubic feet coarse vermiculite, 3 cubic feet EB Stone planting compost (Ingredients: Composted Wood Shavings, Redwood Compost, Composted Chicken Manure, Fir Bark, Bat Guano, Kelp Meal and Alfalfa Meal ) around 1 cubic foot chicken manure, 1 cubic foot worm castings, 1 sea and land, and 1 mushroom compost. Here are the brands pictured. Thanks so much for any help/putting me at ease!


Last edited by corine on 4/20/2024, 9:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
corine
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Post  corine 4/20/2024, 9:34 pm

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Post  sanderson 4/21/2024, 1:39 am

Corine, After looking up and analyzing the different composts, I think you did good on the composts!  I don't see any with peat moss or coir.  At the end of this reply, I attached the link to a running thread on composts as they are mentioned by members.  You can see that SeaCoast is already on the list.  A different E B Stone compost is also on the list.  

Please make sure that ALL of the Mel's Mix is really wet throughout.  No big clumps of peat moss, no dry pockets.  You can't over-water the MM you put into the bed.  It drains well and within a day or two will be perfect for planting and sowing.  Too dry of MM throughout the bed is the number one or two problem newbies have.  The other is using soil amendment instead of real compost.  You only used 3 cubic feet of soil amendment with 4 cubic feet of real composts, so it's not as bad as some have done.  [When I first started in 2013, I only used soil amendment for all of the compost and spent 2 years correcting my mistake] Embarassed  Embarassed

All manures count as 1 manure.  You are okay the first year, but for the next 2 years I would only use non-manure compost to help keep the phosphate levels down.  Hopefully you can get E B Stone Organic Compost at the same store.  That is what I would mix in for the next two years.
   
SeaCoast Compost  Advice on my blend  2705  Contains 25% cow manure
Earthworm Castings   Advice on my blend  2705   Limit to 5-10% of total composts
Stutzman  Advice on my blend  2705   It says it's composted chicken manure so I am guessing it is okay.  The NPK numbers are in the range of composted material.

Mountain Magic is confusing.  It states harvested mushroom medium, which normally would be good, but then it mentions adding screened pine and fir.  ??  Did they take good mushroom compost and add raw wood fines?  Or were they composted as growing medium for mushrooms? If the Mountain Magic has noticeable wood, the worm castings would have helped with the nutrition lost by the wood.
https://www.murdochs.com/products/garden-center/soil/mountain-magic-natural-mushroom-compost/

E B Stone Planting Compost is actually a soil conditioner that is used in dirt gardens.  Did it have quite a bit of noticeable wood? https://www.ebstone.org/product/planting-compost/

Instead of using the Planting Compost in the future, I recommend E B Stone's compost that I rate as A- only because another company makes an A grade compost that costs ~$22/cu ft!  I recommend E B Stone Organic Compost as a non-manure compost to amend the Mel's Mix next year.
https://www.ebstone.org/product/organic-compost/

http://stutzman-environmental.com/fert-supgreen.php
https://redefiningcompost.com/our-compost/
https://www.murdochs.com/products/garden-center/soil/mountain-magic-natural-mushroom-compost/

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t21089p50-recommended-store-bought-compost-photos-of-composts

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Post  corine 4/21/2024, 12:23 pm

Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your detailed response and for checking out each ingredient!!
The planting compost is what I’m most worried about too. Would it help or hurt at this stage to add a cubic foot of organic plant-based compost or even to top dress with it after I plant?

I really appreciate the advice to hydrate the mix too! I watered the bed after each 2 inch layer and will go water today as well and double check that the peat isn’t clumped. I won’t be planting until next weekend at the earliest (I’m in the Pacific Northwest where we don’t plant til after Mother’s Day as a general rule). Do I need to water the beds again before planting or just as the mix is settling?

Thank you again so much!
corine
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Post  sanderson 4/21/2024, 4:32 pm

Good question about adding more non-manure real compost.  How high are the beds?  How deep is the watered in MM?  Is there enough head room to add more and still be able to add a layer of mulch if needed? I literally stick something like a chop stick into the MM to check for height.  I measure that length with a plastic ruler or tape measure.  You may find that it's down to 5.5" after all the watering.  In that case, yes, I would. It doesn't have to be perfecting mixed in, or all the way down to the bottom. For the number of squares you have (40), that would be <2 bags mixed in to bring it to 6".  (a cubic foot covers 6 squares 2" deep, or 12 squares 1" deep, or 24 squares 1/2" deep).

Can you get the E B Stone Organic Compost?  It's cheaper than worm castings and doesn't have manure. Oh, compost doesn't necessarily have to be certified organic.  It's nice, but not mandatory.

If you will be buying ready compost, you may find that screening may be needed to get the wood (and bottle caps, straw, rocks, etc.) out of it.  This is another gardener's screen she made with 1/4" hardware cloth on a wood frame.  

Advice on my blend  Compo100

These are mine in 2 sizes: Advice on my blend  Compo101

And for small batch, I use this over a 5-gallon bucket. A gold miner's 1/4" sifting pan.  Advice on my blend  Compo102

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Post  corine 4/22/2024, 7:37 pm

Hugely helpful!! Thank you. I went ahead and added two bags of cedar grove compost, entirely plant based and on the list you shared (and local to me here). The EB Stone would have been my preference but no one seems to have it this season!
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Post  sanderson 4/23/2024, 12:11 am

Did you measure the depth of MM after watering well? It's been years since I have had to make any and I was wondering if you did the math for how much of each ingredient you needed for your beds, and then after all watered, it wasn't quite 6" high. This is a complaint I have seen before. We are editing the fourth Edition and wondering about this problem. Thank you

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Post  corine 4/23/2024, 12:36 am

I did notice it wasn’t high enough! I measured the ingredients exactly and it was a couple inches too short after watering in. I was actually wondering about that. I didn’t measure exactly how many inches it was below 6 inches. I haven’t planted yet and I’m happy to measure tomorrow, knowing that I added 2 cubic feet of additional compost.
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Post  sanderson 4/23/2024, 5:25 am

This seems to be common. We are having vigorous conversations to make this next book more informative.

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Post  donnainzone5 4/24/2024, 12:13 pm

Corine,

I totally agree with Sigrid that you did a really good job sourcing your composts!

One of my stand-bys is Cedar Grove.  I live in Bend, and I periodically make the rounds of several local garden centers and a grow store.  I do make some of my own compost.  

I do hope you'll post pictures of your growing SFG!  I'm sure you'll be successful.
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