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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 4 I22gcj10Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 14dhcg10

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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

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Post  hkovach 1/4/2012, 10:37 am

UnderTheBlackWalnut wrote:Hi...many posters say that 40 lbs is equal to somewhere around .75 cu ft. But that's just a guide for purchase. When they go to mix it, many folks then use a 5 gallon bucket to mix equal parts of compost. A 5 gallon bucket should be about 1 cu ft.

Thank you UTBW - thats just the kind of info I'm looking for...love the bucket tip also!
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Post  Windsor.Parker 1/4/2012, 12:31 pm

camprn wrote::cheers:Hooray! you have only one more to get!
Yeah!! Thanks camprn,
Since our castings are so dear and not ready yet, we'll find a replacement for #5 and only use the first castings in "priority squares"!
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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 Empty Horticultural Vermiculite?

Post  daryl.weaver 1/10/2012, 3:47 pm

My local garden center carries a product that is labeled "horticultural vermiculite." Is that what I'm looking for. Can somebody tell me what "coarse" looks like?...Sand? Gravel? Cooked Grits? Dippin' Dots™? Marble? Baseball? (OK....we can rule out baseball, but you get the point.)
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Post  boffer 1/10/2012, 4:15 pm

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Post  walshevak 1/10/2012, 7:14 pm

plantoid wrote:
tegaan wrote:I am a renter and cannot have my own compost pile. As I am new I did not know to look at the compost first, I just bought bags. So can I just add more compost to the mix?



kari

Karie ,
Would you be allowed an extra unobtrusive lidded big garbage can preferably heavy duty plastic and be able to use that as a lidded composter with holes in it ?

You can take it with you when you move on as well .

I have 2 of these going as it was my first method of composting. This fall I had enough in one can to add small flowerpot full to the squares in 2 beds where I planted garlic. I had some left over 5 blend compost that I used to top dress some plants that held on through the summer and needed extra nutrients. The other can should be ready by spring.

Kay

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Post  Cincinnati 1/10/2012, 10:33 pm

I am a renter and cannot have my own compost pile. As I am new I did not know to look at the compost first, I just bought bags. So can I just add more compost to the mix?

kari


Kari.

I agree with the recommendations of others regarding composting in a drum, or garbage can. If you feel it is too much effort for a renter, purchasing 5 kinds of compost is an option.

Another option: If you have a friend who has their own property, perhaps they will let you create a compost pile there. Off-location is obviously more of a hassle.

A better and more viable option I am looking into is worm composting. You can purchase or make a "worm factory"-type system. Two pounds of worms can make 28-30 lbs/month of compost. This seems slow, but if you purchase enough compost to get started, the worm factory can keep up with your demands for re-planting plus adding additional beds. If you keep the factory going, you will have plenty stockpiled by the next season.

If you have the financial means, and the landlord will permit, you can purchase a drum compost unit like the Mantis ComposT-Twin. It's a bit costly. The problem as a renter may be finding the right raw materials to create compost. You might approach a supermarket, fresh produce market, etc and as them to throw all their bad fruits and veggies into a separate can. (You may have to provide the can). Be sure to pick them up exactly when they want it removed.
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Post  janezee 1/13/2012, 4:55 am

[quote="Windsor.Parker] Does each ingredient in a bagged compost "blend" count as one of the 5 types needed?[/quote]

Yes.
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Post  janezee 1/13/2012, 5:01 am

Windsor.Parker wrote:
Since our castings are so dear and not ready yet, we'll find a replacement for #5 and only use the first castings in "priority squares"!

Your municipal compost and the Natural Choice compost should have more than enough different blends in it to take care of things. Most mushroom composts have both chicken manure and feather meal and/or yet another. You're fine!

j
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Post  Windsor.Parker 1/13/2012, 3:17 pm

janezee wrote:
Windsor.Parker wrote:
Since our castings are so dear and not ready yet, we'll find a replacement for #5 and only use the first castings in "priority squares"!

Your municipal compost and the Natural Choice compost should have more than enough different blends in it to take care of things. Most mushroom composts have both chicken manure and feather meal and/or yet another. You're fine!

j
Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 109486 j,
This will be our 5th yr gardening, and our 1st using ANSFG!
(We tried 1'x1' grids at the very start,
https://plus.google.com/photos/115428464725051336936/albums/5695532427625694017?authkey=CLmrr-vby7LmAQ
but BH felt "too restricted".(She swore by her grandfather's "something growing everywhere" approach.)
Thanks to ANSFG, she promises to NOT plant ALL the seeds in a pkg ALL the time! Very Happy

Anyway, back on topic:
Forgot to mention we usually have a couple of "compost bins/piles" going year-round.
Plus, BH's "Worm Factory" and some of her worms which I gave a new home (plastic tub) are producing nicely.
We should have enough for this year! Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 53366
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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 Empty Help.

Post  MBC 1/28/2012, 2:13 pm

Help, please: Last summer I filled a raised bed with a mixture of steer manure, "garden soil", "potting soil", and some topsoil. I want to make Mel's mix with this...would I keep one-third of this (and add a variety of compost) and add one-third vermiculite and one-third peat moss? I have lettuce growing in it now (California) and it is doing well, though I notice after a few months, the "soil" has kind of hardened up and it holds maybe too much moisture. Thanks for any thoughts.
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Post  Furbalsmom 1/28/2012, 3:25 pm

Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 654548 MBC

Glad you joined us. It is great that you currently have lettuce growing in your raised bed. I really enjoy having fresh produce available from my SFG bed.
MBC wrote:Last summer I filled a raised bed with a mixture of steer manure, "garden soil", "potting soil", and some topsoil. I want to make Mel's mix with this

I hope you had a chance to read the beginning of this thread, I know it is long, but boy is it informative.

Mel's Mix contains NO SOIL. It is created with 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 blended (from at least 5 types)compost. So, no you really don't want to mix in any of the current contents of your raised bed when creating your Mel's Mix.

Mel's Mix can be put over top of your existing soil, and many of us use a weed barrier of some type to keep weeds from your existing soil from growing into your loose and nutrient rich Mel's Mix. One of the major advantages of Mel's Mix is that it stays loose and friable and it drains well, while still absorbing enough moisture to keep your plants happy.

You could either dig out the top six inches of the raised bed, cover with weed barrier and then refill it with Mel's Mix, or you could add an addtional 6 inch deep frame over your existing bed, cover with a weed barrier and then fill with the Mel's Mix.

I hope you feel free to continue asking questions.

Please check into your regional forum, you can check this thread REGIONS << CLICK HERE, to determine which region would best fit your location.

Here's wishing you a very successful growing season.
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Post  Chopper 1/28/2012, 4:15 pm

MBC wrote:Help, please: Last summer I filled a raised bed with a mixture of steer manure, "garden soil", "potting soil", and some topsoil. I want to make Mel's mix with this...would I keep one-third of this (and add a variety of compost) and add one-third vermiculite and one-third peat moss? I have lettuce growing in it now (California) and it is doing well, though I notice after a few months, the "soil" has kind of hardened up and it holds maybe too much moisture. Thanks for any thoughts.

Welcome. And trust me we are trying to save you from yourself. LOL Just as with building you have the 'measure twice, cut once' rule the way to do it right the first time with SFG is to make sure your 'soil' is exactly what it should be. It is the foundation of your SFG and without it you will be fighting an uphill battle.

From the FAQ of the website:

WHAT IS MEL'S MIX?

Mel's Mix is the most important, productive, essential, necessary, critical, major subject and is the backbone of the Square Foot Gardening method! You'll never have to go through all the hard work, expense, and time-consuming, back-breaking labor of improving your garden soil every spring like we used to. Your Mel's Mix never has to be replaced and you don't have to do a thing except plant your seeds.

The Simple Formula is this:

1/3 Blended Compost
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Coarse Vermiculte
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Post  1airdoc 1/28/2012, 7:18 pm

"Garden soil" is often a bagged product sold at big box stores that is primarily wood chip mulch. It is not true "soil," and as a compost it is a big nitrogen sink (sucks up the nitrogen from the other compost(s) as the wood decomposes). I didn't realize that and used a small amount as one of my composts when I built my SFG and MM last year, and my MM was nitrogen-deficient.
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Post  MBC 1/28/2012, 7:51 pm

Thanks for your replies!

I just looked at the bag of my "garden soil" and found out that it is all compost, from bat and worm droppings to decomposed forest material and all inbetween...good news.

I feel confident in removing 2/3rds of this and mixing in the vermiculite and peat moss.

The topsoil I mentioned is from a bag, not full of weeds from the yard.

Has anyone ever placed their SFG on top of concrete? I do not want to use our limited yard for the vegetable garden when we have a large, unused and unuseful concrete slab where I cannot plant. It seems to be working, and, of course, there are no weeds coming up!

Very excited...we are two months from our last frost date! Time to plant some things.
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Post  Furbalsmom 1/28/2012, 8:32 pm

MBC
If you want to grow on top of concrete, please consider that you will need to have the beds raised above the concrete to allow for drainage. In this case, your boxes will need to have bottoms with drainage holes and then supported on at least the four corners and in the center. Perhaps on bricks. Usually one 1/4 inch drainage hole per square foot and one hole in each corner is sufficient for drainage of Mel's Mix.

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Post  plantoid 1/29/2012, 7:23 am

MBC , you could grow direct on the concrete using a waterproof membrane on the concrete to stop the concrete drawing off moisture from the beds.
You might even get away with only using deep frames instead of the tray idea. Any excess water will seep out from under the bottom edges & off the membrane .

If it's really suny & hot where you are you might have to take acount of the reflected sun's heat off the concrete as well. For concrtete can act like a massive mirror in this scenario.
It can either be advantageous or detrimental according what your growing & how big a volume of the bed you use. Small volume beds will tend to dry out very quickly .

Depending on how deep you want your beds and how deep your pockets are , perhaps even using hollow concrete blocks to make the walls of the beds & using the hollows as well to grow small buttonhole flowers or a few raddish etc.
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Post  darin2 1/31/2012, 4:59 pm

My question on the topic of compost is how many cubic feet is in a 40lb bag of compost. I can find little if any measurement comparison. Everything seems to be by the pound when dealing with compost, and not cubic feet. Someone posted that a 40lb bag equals 2 cubic feet, but I haven't seen that anywhere else. Any help on this would be appreciated.
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Post  floyd1440 1/31/2012, 5:10 pm

darin2



http://forum.onlineconversion.com/showthread.php?t=1188



Hope this helps as it depends on the material
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Post  plantoid 1/31/2012, 5:53 pm

darin2
I ended up modifying a standard packing carton so the internals were 12 x 12 x 12 inches . I then opened up a bag of compost on the concrete , forked it over to loosen it up then filled the carboard box with it . For me this loosened volume just happened to level fill a galvanised steel bucket I have .

I did this because Mel's Mix is by volume not weight and it is made up for use in its light uncompressed volume. Though you don't have to be watchmaker precision precise , just near enough is OK

If your handy and can get it why not make a simple plywood volume box for the future or adapt / cut down a plastic tub to take a measured cubic foot of uncompacted Vermiculite , peat or for commercially made five way compost.
Once your beds are made up ,hang onto the tub as I reckon you'll need it for your additional inital bed fillings.
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Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut 1/31/2012, 6:24 pm

darin2

For the purposes of purchase, many people figure a 40 lb bag to be about .75 cu ft. This is only for the purposes of purchase because indeed, different compost has different volume. It just gets you in the ballpark so you know roughly how many bags of compost you need.

What a lot of people in the US do is similar to Plantoid's method, only they use a 5 gallon bucket and don't worry too much about cu ft. Fill your bucket once with compost #1 and dump in a location you can mix (I use a tarp). Fill it once with compost #2 and add to your bucket of compost #1 you dumped. Continue adding one bucket each of compost #3, #4 and #5. Mix your five bucketfuls together and you now have a pile of 5-way blended compost.

Since your pile is about five bucketfuls, add five bucketfuls of vermiculite to your pile and mix, and five bucketfuls of FLUFFED peat moss and mix. Smile Repeat to make your next batch. Smile

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Post  wncsohn 1/31/2012, 7:32 pm

UnderTheBlackWalnut wrote:darin2

For the purposes of purchase, many people figure a 40 lb bag to be about .75 cu ft. This is only for the purposes of purchase because indeed, different compost has different volume. It just gets you in the ballpark so you know roughly how many bags of compost you need.

What a lot of people in the US do is similar to Plantoid's method, only they use a 5 gallon bucket and don't worry too much about cu ft. Fill your bucket once with compost #1 and dump in a location you can mix (I use a tarp). Fill it once with compost #2 and add to your bucket of compost #1 you dumped. Continue adding one bucket each of compost #3, #4 and #5. Mix your five bucketfuls together and you now have a pile of 5-way blended compost.

Since your pile is about five bucketfuls, add five bucketfuls of vermiculite to your pile and mix, and five bucketfuls of FLUFFED peat moss and mix. Smile Repeat to make your next batch. Smile




Wow, that makes it sound so much simpler! LOL TY for that post because we are doing so many beds that it's a bit mind boggeling to try and figure out "exactly" how to measure out the compost.

eta: however, I was also using the 2 cf per bag idea and this means I'm going to have to buy 2x as much compost! However, that IS one of the less expensive components of MM so I guess it's not too bad!
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Post  Furbalsmom 2/1/2012, 3:45 pm

Embarassed darin

Weight conversion to cubic feet is really not possible because the amount of moisture in the compost is not standard, however, one of our members measured the volume of a 40 lb bag of compost and found it to be approximately 0.75 cubic feet.



ETA: sorry I did not see that UnderTheBlackWalnut had already provided this info.


Last edited by Furbalsmom on 2/1/2012, 3:47 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : did not read the whole post)
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Post  yolos 2/25/2012, 10:20 pm

I did a test 4 x 4 this past fall to see if the SFG method and Mel's Mix actually worked. As you all are aware, it works great. So now I am ready to expand and I have one last question.

Peat Moss - After reading a great number of threads, I understand that a compressed bale has to be fluffed up before measuring it for the 1/3 measurement. I also know from experience that it must be thoroughly watered/saturated before or while mixing Mel's Mix. When I made my test 4 x 4 this past fall, I made sure it was saturated before I mixed it in the Mel's Mix. But I cannot remember whether I measured it before or after I saturated the peat moss. Therefore, my only question is, are we supposed to measure the peat moss before or after you have watered it.
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Post  Furbalsmom 2/25/2012, 11:14 pm

Measure the peat moss BEFORE watering.



How did it work for you watering the peat before mixing it with the compost and vermiculite?

My personal experience was dry ingredients were easier to mix than wet ingredients. Then as each two inches of Mels Mix was put into the SFG bed, it was well watered before the next two inches of Mel's Mix was added.
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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone? - Page 4 Empty Re: Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

Post  walshevak 2/25/2012, 11:20 pm

Furbalsmom wrote:Measure the peat moss BEFORE watering.



How did it work for you watering the peat before mixing it with the compost and vermiculite?

My personal experience was dry ingredients were easier to mix than wet ingredients. Then as each two inches of Mels Mix was put into the SFG bed, it was well watered before the next two inches of Mel's Mix was added.

+1 Water is heavy. Measure and mix dry.

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walshevak

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