Ask a Question forum: container mix

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Name: Dana Kiess
Castle Rock, CO
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kiessfamil
Apr 11, 2015 7:40 PM CST
We are starting with a raised garden this year and would like to know your thoughts on Mel's Mix for soil. It seems like an easy, all-inclusive solution, but being newbies we aren't sure what to use.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
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drdawg
Apr 11, 2015 8:15 PM CST
Welcome, kiessfamil. I have never heard of Mel's mix so I can't help you there. I am sure there will be others on ATP with experience with that mix.

At a minimum, you need to post your location so that it shows in the upper right-hand corner of your posts.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
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chelle
Apr 11, 2015 8:28 PM CST
Welcome! to ATP.

Mel's Mix would be fine, I think, but more expensive than might actually be required. Compost is the most important factor.
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Name: Jennifer
48036 MI (Zone 6b)
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jvdubb
Apr 12, 2015 5:33 AM CST
Welcome! Welcome!
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Apr 12, 2015 7:07 AM CST
Mel's Mix was created for Square Foot Gardening and if you can afford it, it's a good way to go. This is a light mix that won't get compacted in the beds; if your compost was 'cooked' hot enough there will be very few weed seeds; and the mix drains well so the roots won't get waterlogged.

You can buy the expensive bag mix or create your own:
one part vermiculite
one part peat moss
one part compost...the compost should be made of a variety of plant material to assure more balanced nutrients.

The biggest expense is the first season when buying the vermiculite and peat moss. Next season you just have to add compost to bring the 'soil' up to the correct height - and you can make the compost yourself for free.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Apr 12, 2015 7:14 AM CST
Forgive me; I forgot to add my Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! to kiessfamil
(Blame it on lack of coffee. *Blush* )
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Apr 12, 2015 8:20 AM CST
Greene, would that mix drain very well? In my eyes I appears that everything there is water-retentive. You'll have to set me straight on that. http://garden.org/ideas/view/drdawg/2187/

drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Forum moderator Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Dog Lover Cottage Gardener
Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Identifier Organic Gardener Keeps Horses Hummingbirder Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle
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chelle
Apr 12, 2015 9:37 AM CST
drdawg said:Greene, would that mix drain very well? In my eyes I appears that everything there is water-retentive. You'll have to set me straight on that. http://garden.org/ideas/view/drdawg/2187/



I would think that the possibility of over-watering might be fairly high, especially if there's an automatic watering system (one pre-set for lawn and shrubs) in the area.

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Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Apr 12, 2015 11:57 AM CST
It might depend upon the climate where keissfamil lives. In a dry, arid climate a moisture-retentive mix is fantastic. But in an area with humid weather and high rainfall it could be deadly for the plants, for sure. I always cringe when I see people taking home "moisture control" potting soil in Florida. Just hope they're going to grow something that likes its feet wet.

It also depends a bit on the soil underneath the raised bed, doesn't it? If it's sandy or rocky, the bed will drain fine, but a clay base would be a problem.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Apr 12, 2015 2:26 PM CST
The first thing I asked for was location. I don't think we have heard back on that. I wasn't referring to the raised garden, only what I consider a very water-retentive formula. We need a lot more information including location, water system, depth of the raised bed, what the base is under that garden, and perhaps even what he/she plans to grow. Right now, we know none of those things.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Apr 12, 2015 3:25 PM CST
drdawg, since you never heard of Mel's Mix I wonder why you are questioning my answer. Whistling

Mel's Mix was created by Mel Bartholomew, 'inventor' of Square Foot Gardening; many first-time gardeners are confused and don't know where to begin so Mel created a plan that works for many thousands of people. More recently his "Mel's Mix" is available to purchase so folks won't have to hunt for the various ingredients. Sure, it's expensive, but as I said, beginners have to start somewhere and Mel provided a good blueprint for success.

When I started my very first raised bed garden I was double-digging and amending soil like a crazy person; I only wish there had been another option back in the day. I would have gladly paid through the nose for bags of Mel's Mix. Rolling on the floor laughing All I had to go by was the Victory Garden television program and the companion book.

chelle, since we don't yet know anything about the original poster other than the fact that he/she/they has a new raised bed, I am not sure where the "an automatic watering system (one pre-set for lawn and shrubs) in the area" comes into the equation. Confused Blinking

Everyone has to start somewhere. I was taking the limited information and question supplied by the original poster and giving my best answer. I only hope that he/she/they is not frightened off by the negativity. It would be a shame to send a new member off-site, but just in case it's needed, here is the link to the Official Square Foot Gardening Forum where the folks happen to like Mel's Mix. Thumbs up
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/


Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Apr 12, 2015 8:14 PM CST
My goodness, Greene. I don't know a thing about Mel's Mix. I am sure it is just wonderful. I was responding, not about that particular mix but about the formula you gave for a "created" one. I just thought it was water-retentive. Forgive me, if I am in error. Perhaps it is a well-draining mix. The main thing is that we all need a lot more information from the original poster to really give applicable advice.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Apr 12, 2015 8:57 PM CST
drdawg said: "I have never heard of Mel's mix so I can't help you there. I am sure there will be others on ATP with experience with that mix."

I am trying to stay on topic of the poster's question.
The original question was about our thoughts about Mel's Mix; I gave my answer because I know about the mix, have experience with the mix, and with the method.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Dana Kiess
Castle Rock, CO
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kiessfamil
Apr 13, 2015 7:22 AM CST
I am in Castle Rock, Colorado, which is on the front range. It is very dry here.

Thank you for the warm welcome and your suggestions.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Apr 13, 2015 7:44 AM CST
Thanks for posting Dana and thanks for adding the location. That is most helpful. You could certainly use a well-draining yet moisture retentive garden soil. I am almost opposite here in Mississippi. Wet winters with an average yearly rainfall of 70 inches. Our relative humidity seldom gets below 50%. Sticking tongue out
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Apr 13, 2015 9:46 AM CST
Although I can not afford to buy the Mel's Mix in bags and must mix my own, here are several reviews from people who have used the bagged mix. Most of the people who gave opinions included their approximate location, gender and age which I find helpful when judging reviews. Overall the bagged mix received and 89% positive rating.
http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/203272590/unbranded-1-5-cu...
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Apr 17, 2015 11:22 AM CST
Hi Dana, and welcome to ATP! I hope you like it here.

I haven't tried Mel's Mix because I'm cheap, cheap, cheap.

My way of making ANY commercial mix cheaper is to mix it with screened pine bark. I found a cheap source of CLEAN bark at Lowes, where they called it "bark nuggets" - I think it was just $4 for 2 cubic feet.

(Many bags of "bark mulch" are dirty, wet and have too much powder and fine fibers. I no longer buy any "mulch" (a.k.a. log-yard trash) from Home Depot, only Lowes.)

I screen it and use the biggest pieces as intended, as mulch. If you don't need coarse mulch, you can run a lawn mower over the big chunks and turn them into small shreds.

The finest stuff (powder, dust and fibers) is too water-retentive for me, so I "throw that away" by mixing it with heavy clay soil in raised beds. There, it helps more than it hurts.

I'm much too cheap to fill a raised bed with "store-bought" soilless mixes. I amend my clay with bark, compost and coarse sand or grit. Probably compost is the most important ingredient, but the clay needs a LOT of help, and that much compost is expensive.

My belief is that almost any native soil can be amended and made into excellent soil, as long as you can add a few inches of compost every year, or twice each year. Where I am, drainage and aeration have to be improved a LOT.

The intermediate stuff (1/16" to 3/16" or 1.5 mm to 4 mm) can be mixed with commercial mixes to make them go farther, cheaper.

If the mix you bought was too heavy and held too much water for you, and not enough air, add coarser bark shreds, like 4-5 mm.

If the mix was too "light" and did not hold enough water, add smaller bark fines, like 1-3 mm.

Careful people worry that bark that had no composting at all absorbs a little N from the soil as it decomposes (slower than wood).

I haven't noticed that, but my clay soil benefits so much from being opened up with chunky bark and organic matter that any N deficit is invisible. Also, I use a little chemical fertilizer on my new beds, and beds that did not get enough compost, so the N deficit, if any, is masked.

Good luck, and see you around the forums!

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