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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 Toplef10Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 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.

Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 I22gcj10Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 14dhcg10

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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

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Post  Lavender Debs 6/23/2011, 9:04 am

@mijejo wrote:Let us say that we have the perfect MM with all required amounts of compost, peat, and vermiculite. As time goes on, we will garden, harvest, and reseed/replant our squares. Following Mel's advice, we will add a trowel of our own compost to each square with each iteration. Over time, I assume our beds will become more concentrated with compost, and the peat and vermiculite will be diluted. The 1:1:1 ratio will be skewed. Am I missing something here?

I am not out and out disagreeing with camp when I say that you are missing something. You have year 1 correct.

When you put together your SFG you provided a home for your plants. The physical box is like a kennel or barn, the hard structure for your plants. The Peat gives them "bedding" to wrap their roots into. without the bedding they would not be able to stand on their own. The peat does not dramatically disappear with use (not counting what clings to the roots when you compost spent plants). The Vermiculite keeps the bedding from turning into the clump of compressed peat that you started with when you opened the bag. It also holds water and helps prevent the box from getting too dry as well as preventing the elements of the mix from becoming water resistant (like a potted plant that the water just runs off of if the soil dries out.) The compost is the feed. It keeps the soil micro life health. Compost is not like the vermiculite or peat in that it is used by the plant as food and must be replaced. If you bring home a kitten you give it a bed, dishes and kitten chow. You are not diluting the bed and dishes by adding more kitten chow. It is the same idea with peat, virmiculite and compost.

When you first build your box you are at 1:1:1. The next year you may be at 1:1:2/3 because the compost has been eaten (used) by the plants. You are not putting the ratio out of balance by adding compost. You are actually bringing it back up to where it should be.

Deborah...hope that made some kind of sense.
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Post  Kelejan 6/23/2011, 9:56 am

Very good explanation, Debs. Thank you!
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Post  mijejo 6/23/2011, 10:37 am

The kitten analogy clarifies it for me. Thanks!
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Post  staf74 6/23/2011, 11:44 pm

That's a simply astounding post Dizzie !!!! Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 774407

NO SKIMPING on the compost.....ya HEAR ??

There have been a few posters who are honest in their feelings that Mel's Mix has let them down. On occasion, we have looked at pics of tired weak plants and been able to visually see a weak looking MM, especially one that has lots of wood chips / pine bark etc floating on the top. This is a dead giveaway that one of those sources was loaded with a cheap filler.

Sometimes all it takes is a quick phone call to the number listed on the bag, even if it says manure, right there in the garden aisle. Don't rely on Mr. Helpful but sadly clueless at local Big Box store to know the ingredients of a product from an outside manufacturer.

Dizzy, you have nailed it.... Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 73140
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Post  AprilakaCCIL 7/3/2011, 10:25 am

I'm kinda tired b/c i worked last night so forgive my question, but here goes.

What is consider to be a cheap filler? I see it mentioned up above, but maybe I just don't really understand.

I'll be mixing my stuff this upcoming week for my SFG, and if there's something such as the cheap filler that's going to cause me grief...
I'd like to know what that is so I don't use it by chance.

Thank You flower
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Post  Furbalsmom 7/3/2011, 4:34 pm

April,

What I consider a cheap filler is anything that is not really compost. Check the list of ingredients on each bag.
That could include peat moss, sand, topsoil, sawdust and wood chips. (I am sure there are other things the manufacturers can add that do not improve the nutrition of the product)

Another thing to look for is items that are not fully composted. Anything that is still recognizeable is not fully composted. Things like pieces of straw, wood chips and tiny branches of evergreen have been found in some of my bags of compost. Some you can sift out if you see the compost does not look like fine black dirt. Others have reported some strange stuff too, like pieces of plastic, horseshoes, nails and even animal parts.

I do not mention this to scare you, just to make you aware of what to look for.
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Post  AprilakaCCIL 7/4/2011, 5:33 pm

I believe I do understand what your saying now. Thank you for the further explanation. flower
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Post  floyd1440 7/4/2011, 7:09 pm

Excellent post!! I am new to SFG and find this info very helpful. Unfortunately I purchased the medium vermiculite instead of the course so I will exchange it before putting it in my new garden.

My question is how to improve my soil going forward as I put a mix of 2/3 top soil and 1/3 compost. Should I shovel the soil out or continue to add Mel's mix in the future.

Thanks
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Post  boffer 7/4/2011, 10:51 pm

That would be great if you can exchange. Those of us who have tried both, much prefer the coarse.

Mel's Mix is actually a soil-less growing medium. When you introduce soil into the mix, you'll have to contend with the same issues that row gardeners have been dealing with since forever.

When vermiculite and peat moss aren't readily available, Mel recommends growing in straight 5 way compost.
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Post  floyd1440 7/7/2011, 7:32 pm

My next question is what do with the soil I put in the garden this spring. I built the gardens 1 foot deep so what if I took 6'' out and then put in Mel's Mix. I read in his book you only need 6" so perhaps I could dig out some and top the garden off with Mel's mix.

Any thoughts?

Floyd
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Post  FarmerValerie 7/9/2011, 11:55 am

That should work just fine!
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Post  floyd1440 7/11/2011, 6:26 pm

@FarmerValerie wrote:That should work just fine!


Then I will make the change this fall after finish growing this season

Thanks

Floyd
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Post  tegaan 7/12/2011, 1:54 am

Can you just use worm castings instead of the 5 different composts?

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Post  teamhillbilly 7/22/2011, 3:27 pm

where can one buy Mel's mix?
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Post  middlemamma 7/22/2011, 4:24 pm

@tegaan wrote:Can you just use worm castings instead of the 5 different composts?

kari

To have true Mel'ls Mix worm castings would only be considered one source or type of compost, you would still need 4 others.
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Post  middlemamma 7/22/2011, 4:25 pm

@teamhillbilly wrote:where can one buy Mel's mix?

There are a few places nationwide that carry a ready made Mel's Mix but it's use has reported very mixed results in gardens.

The best Mel's Mix you can get is what you can make yourself. It's isn't any cheaper really to buy the pre mixed bagged variety.
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Post  tegaan 7/22/2011, 5:09 pm

So when you add compost back in after harvesting does it have to be a 5 mix or can it be worm castings?

Kari
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Post  boffer 7/22/2011, 5:30 pm

When you're on the forum homepage, run your cursor over the scallops on the left edge of your monitor. Reading items 1. and 2. should give you a better understanding of the importance of five composts in your Mels' Mix.
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Post  jersh 7/22/2011, 6:11 pm

I have another MM question... I spent the day procuring all the necessary ingredients to fill my first SFG, hopefully will get to it tomorrow... Anywho, I was able to find Black Kow, Black Hen, Black Velvet (mushroom compost) and worm castings. For my 5th variety I was planning to get some horse manure compost from a local farm, however they're flaking on me, they prefer to sell their compost by the truck load (only $20 for 1 tractor bucket full into the back of a truck) however I only need about two 5-gallon buckets full, and they still want to charge me $20 for it...

Sooooo I went to Home Depot and was looking around for another alternative... They have a compost product that is 50% cow manure and 50% other composted items (it said it's a mix of grass clippings, leaves, forest matter, other organic materials). It says nothing about having peat moss as filler. I'm thinking I might be able to use this instead of the Black Kow and count it for two types of compost? What do you all think?
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Post  camprn 7/22/2011, 6:25 pm

I think you should get the truck full of manure because it's really really hard to stop at just one box of SFG. But in regards to the last compost you listed, I would say yes, it's a good number 5 and you are good to go with your mix! Well done on reading the label. Congratulations!!! and Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 2 396615to the SFG forum.
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Post  AprilakaCCIL 7/22/2011, 6:40 pm

Go with the truck load...That's a great deal!!!
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Post  boffer 7/22/2011, 6:45 pm

+1 on the truck load. But I would get the Black Kow and the mixture. The more the variety, the better!
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Post  jersh 7/22/2011, 10:27 pm

Thank you all for the replies... I wish I could get the truck-load, but unfortunately I do not have a truck.... I don't think my company would like me filling the back of my company car (Saturn Vue crossover-type SUV) with the composted manure. I've already tried hauling Bahaia sod in the back of it and that was an utter disaster. Looks like I'll just pick up a few more bags of the stuff at HD and that to the mix with the rest of the stuff that I have.
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Post  walshevak 7/23/2011, 8:05 am

@jersh wrote:Thank you all for the replies... I wish I could get the truck-load, but unfortunately I do not have a truck.... I don't think my company would like me filling the back of my company car (Saturn Vue crossover-type SUV) with the composted manure. I've already tried hauling Bahaia sod in the back of it and that was an utter disaster. Looks like I'll just pick up a few more bags of the stuff at HD and that to the mix with the rest of the stuff that I have.

You have almost the same mix I have and it is working great. I don't have the worm castings, but plan to add that when I start replanting.

Kay broadcasting from Vienna

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Post  shannon1 7/24/2011, 2:07 am

Glad you decided to get a truck load. You will be glad you did.Very Happy
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