Square Foot Gardening Forum
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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.

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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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Help!  I didn't use MM... Toplef10Help!  I didn't use MM... 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.

Help!  I didn't use MM... I22gcj10Help!  I didn't use MM... 14dhcg10

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Help! I didn't use MM...

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Post  nicoleg1981 4/20/2011, 8:46 pm

I learned about SFG (the real way, with Mel and his Mix) after I built my raised bed. I had asked the people at the garden shop how to fill it and they told me 4 bags of compost (theirs is a lobster seaweed compost, good stuff, I hope), 4 bags of soil mix and 1 bag peat moss. Whne I read about Mel's Mix, I got really worried and bought some vermiculite and added that, but only about 1 bag (1 cu ft.) worth as that was all i could fit...

So, is my garden totally shot? Will I need to use fertilizer? Or just water more often?

Thanks for your help!

-Nicole
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Post  camprn 4/20/2011, 9:38 pm

Oh goodness no your garden has just begun!!! I Looooooooooove that lobstah compost!! When you say one bag of peat moss how big was the bag? How big is your garden? What are the dimensions of your raised bed? Also have you planted anything in the garden yet? Oh and have you had a chance to read the All New Square Foot Gardening book yet? Post your answers and we will be able to help you!
By the way I am only about 1.5 hours northwest of you, in NH.
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Post  myhouseofBOYS 4/20/2011, 9:51 pm

I don't think your proportions are off that much. MM as I understand is supposed to be soiless not because soil is evil but just so there are no unknown variables from region to region then you add fertilzer/nutrients (composts) and water holder-on-to-ers (verm and peat) and fluffer (peat) you seem to have close to 33% compost- then you just need to make sure you have enough water holding properties and some aeration. My un master gardeners opinion seems to think you can certainly work with what you have either watering more and addmending next year or ammending now to slowly get rid of that soil you have.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 4/20/2011, 11:13 pm

Hey there, welcome aboard!

I don't think you are going to suffer much. And, as time goes by you will pick up on where you are deficient and make the appropriate changes, if needed. Don't panic the veggies will tell you what to do.

Post any issues you may see in the forum and the whole world will jump in to help. And, if you can, post some pictures, as those help, too.

Great to have you here. I hope to see you become active as you get acclimated.
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Post  nicoleg1981 4/21/2011, 7:07 am

Thanks all!

Camprn, to answer your question, I am using cinder blocks, 5 X 2 which gave me about 5' X 2.5' of planting space, plus I added mix to the holes of the blocks. I had calculated it to be about 8 cu. ft and all the bags I purchased (peat moss, soil and compost) were all in 1 cu. ft. bags. After it settled, I had some room and that's when I added the vermiculite - I had just then received my copy of the Al New SFG book.

My biggest concerns are the soil I added, which Mel doesn't use at all, and the fact that I oly used one source of compost. Both garden centers near me sell the same kind. I would like to make my own compost but didn't have time to get ramped up before it was time to make the bed. And still need to convince my husband of the virtues of homemade compost - that's an entirely different post.

I have planted all but one square (I made 10 over-sized squares, rectangles, really) and all the cinder block holes as well. Things are sprouting well and transplants look OK, too. Juts not sure how things will be in a few months. I am a complete novice so I wouldn't know when to water more or less unless it were super obvious.

Thanks again everyone! I think it will be OK - I'll keep asking questions if I run into any issues.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 4/21/2011, 8:40 am

Shhhhhhhh, don't let this get out. But, last year, I added TopSoil to my garden (disqualifying it as true SFG) as a filler. I hadn't read the book, only online tips. I hadn't seen the forum. I felt I was doing it right. I didn't "suffer," but didn't know if I got everything from the garden. I still had a banner year, for me.

This year, I'm completely by the book. We moved and I had to construct new beds. I found the book, and the forums in December....for Christmas....lol.

Will garden soil, or topsoil, or MiracleGro potting mix kill your garden's results? No. But, once the nutrients wash out or get used up by the plants, you are left with filler that won't go away....like peat moss and/or sand/rocks. As long as you know this, you can adjust as you go along by adding more compost and/or stripping some of the invaluables out. That takes a LOT more work and isn't really worth it if you can avoid this from the beginning.

MM is truly the perfect mix from start to finish....just adding compost along the way replacing what you've used. Get as close as you can to it. But, realize that if you don't, you can always make adjustments to get there over time. You'll be fine.

(The people that make me cringe are those that blatantly avoid the mix and strike out on their own trying to tweak something they've never used.)
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Post  quiltbea 4/21/2011, 9:21 am

Add more compost as you can get it and go with what you've got for now.

I started in 2009 before knowing anything about MM, having read his first book, so mine was made of garden loam, peat moss, composted cow manure, and some amendments like green sand, limestone, bonemeal, rock phosphate, etc.

There was no way I was removing anything already in the boxes. It would cost me a fortune I didn't have so I just add compost as I have it. You see, adding compost to your beds is an ongoing thing.

You can do the same. Add different composts to your garden beds as you get them. Mix them in a bucket, whether its 2, 3, or 4 different kinds you can find, or even just one new blend, and each time you plant a seedling or a few seeds in a square, mix in a couple scoopsful or trowelsful of the compost to the square before planting. Then in the fall when you remove a plant, toss in a few scoopsful of the compost(s) and mix it in for next year.

Its still Square Foot Gardening.

I even bury deeply handsful of dried leaves I scrunch up between my hands because I know the worms just love leaves to eat and will digest them in my garden.

Don't worry so much and enjoy your garden experience.
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Post  dizzygardener 4/21/2011, 10:34 am

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Glad to have ya!

Mel's mix is amazing stuff and is essential to doing Square Foot Gardening Mel's way, but I too think you will come out ok. You might have to add things here or there through out the season to keep your plants happy, but so long as you listen to what they tell you you should still get a harvest. It is just going to be a bit more work than using just straight Mel's Mix.

As others have suggested, add vermiculite and other types of composts as you can. Since you've already added in the soil, there isn't much you can do about that short of emptying the box and starting over.

When you decide to expand (you will trust me... it's a sickness that affects us all) make sure you do those the right way with 1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 blended compost.

As you can already tell, you've come to the right place to ask questions. We love to help where we can. If you have other question please don't hesitate to ask!

Also, stop by your regional forum. They are great places to get region specific information, ask regional questions, and just meet people who are near you.

Take care and happy gardening!
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Post  camprn 4/21/2011, 11:51 am

I think you will be fine, you have the very basics of Mel's mix put into your garden. I addition to the solutions previously offered I suggest that at this point, because your garden is planted you could, when your plants gate a wee bit larger, topdress with a different type of compost. Over the course of the summer you could do this a few more times with other types of composts. Now all we need is a bit more warmth here in New England!! Please do not hesitate to ask anything. The search feature is very handy and keep close your copy of the All New Square Foot Gardening, you will want to look something up frequently. At least I did. Very Happy
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Post  Miss M 4/21/2011, 5:53 pm

I looked at a bag of Miracle Gro garden soil my uncle had recently, just to see what was in it. It was compost, peat moss, and fertilizer. So it doesn't really have dirt in it, mostly compost and peat moss, which are two of the components of Mel's Mix.

The only problem I can see you having is with the fact that you couldn't find a variety of composts. You may need to use some fertilizer to make up for the deficiencies you may have in nutrients. But you do what you can.

As you prepare for your next SFG (because we all know you will build another one, like they said, it's a disease...), try looking for compost in other places besides stores. Some cities collect yard waste and compost it, and sell it. Some businesses compost their various wastes (like the cotton burr compost I found). Zoos might sell composted manure (you need herbivore doo). Ranches, meat rabbit businesses (rabbit manure can go straight into the garden, unlike other manures), dairy farms, etc. Some have found compost on Craigslist.

Some composts, like mushroom compost, are blends in and of themselves, with several ingredients. Since you don't know how much of each kind is in it, though, it is best not to rely on one blend to count for several composts ("Hey, this has manure, forest waste, and barnyard waste in it -- now I only need two other composts!" Only it may be mostly manure, with very little of the other composts in it.) unless that is truly the only option you have.
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