Soil and Compost forum: What are some affordable soil recipes?

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California, San Joaquin valley (Zone 9b)
RenaeC
Aug 18, 2017 8:07 AM CST
I know some people have said get perlite and some have said go with mulch. I'm not sure what to save up for
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Aug 19, 2017 6:27 PM CST
Renae - are you looking for a potting soil mix or garden soil mix?
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
California, San Joaquin valley (Zone 9b)
RenaeC
Aug 20, 2017 2:12 AM CST
A mix for my raised bed
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Aug 20, 2017 6:49 AM CST
I listen to "You Bet Your Garden" podcasts a lot. Raised bed gardening is strongly recommended there and the recipe given is 1/3 yard waste or aged mushroom compost (not mulch), 1/3 good top soil and 1/3 perlite. Mulch (I use shredded fall leaves) should only be used on the top of your bed, not mixed in. You can make your own yard waste compost to reduce costs.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
California, San Joaquin valley (Zone 9b)
RenaeC
Aug 20, 2017 10:59 AM CST
Thanks for the recipe, cindy :)
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Aug 20, 2017 11:57 AM CST
You're welcome! Good luck!
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb

Aceparadis
Feb 15, 2018 5:35 AM CST
YouTube growing your greens, john kohler has tons of videos on this.

If money isn't an issue look at subcools supersoil mix, it's designed for cannibis but if you see the results it produces, one can't argue the guy is onto something.

I would provide direct links but I'm a new member and prohibited from doing so.
California, San Joaquin valley (Zone 9b)
RenaeC
Feb 15, 2018 7:51 PM CST
It's alright I know who you're talking about. Some of his videos are a bit lengthy, so i can only watch them sometimes.

Welcome! to the NGA!
North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Feb 15, 2018 11:02 PM CST
Somehow I don't think 1/3 perlite sounds so great for a raised bed. Maybe for making a potting mix, but a raised bed?

Definitely lots of compost.
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
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TomatoTango
Feb 21, 2018 1:03 PM CST
I do about 1/3 horse manure, 2/3 worm castings, peatmoss, compost, and top soil. Then I add like 1 bag of perlite, maybe 3 CF total. This is in an 8x4 or 10x4 raised bed at 12" depth. I have great soil with earthworms in every handful. More perlite or vermiculite would be taking up space imo and it's not exactly cheap either. Horse manure on the other hand is like $10 for a truckload off craigslist.
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Feb 26, 2018 7:12 AM CST
I started using "Mel's Mix" (http://www.mysquarefootgarden....) last fall. I have lettuce, spinach, onions, cabbage and Brussel sprouts growing in it in two cold frames right now, and they seem to be doing very well. Mel's Mix is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost (from as many sources as you can get your hands on.)

For my seeds this year, I am going to make my own mix from a Penn State Extension article I read during the winter.
2 gallons peat moss
2 gallons vermiculite
4 TBSP dolomite lime
2 tsp slow release organic fertilizer

to this I am adding Organic Mycorrhizal Fungi (15 species) Endo & Ecto Mycorrhizae Inoculant Powder Concentrate (https://www.amazon.com/gp/prod...)
MoonShadows Farm - Good Eats & Treats from the Pocono Mountains
[Last edited by MoonShadows - Feb 26, 2018 7:13 AM (+)]
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Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
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TomatoTango
Feb 26, 2018 8:26 AM CST
I started out with Mel's mix and his gardening methods several years ago and had some bad experiences. He recommends stapling shadecloth to the bottom of raised beds, which completely divorces your plants from deep roots and the natural environment. Furthermore, the mix that he recommends wasn't nearly nutrient dense enough for medium to large plants.

His methods are easy and simple for beginners but in the long run they will cause you many problems. 1/3 perlite or vermiculite is an awful lot of styrofoam taking up space that would almost certainly be better utilized by manure or more compost (it's expensive too!). And I'm talking from experience and previous plant failures.
[Last edited by TomatoTango - Feb 26, 2018 8:27 AM (+)]
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Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Feb 28, 2018 4:08 AM CST
Thanks for the input. These raised beds (raised cold frames) are raised up off the floor on cinder blocks in my greenhouse, so they are already removed from the "natural" environment. I have also supplemented the mix with dolomite lime, a slow release organic fertilizer and Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculant....maybe I should have mentioned this in my last post.

I already had a lot of peat moss and vermiculite, which is a mineral, not styrofoam. (I buy it in a 4' cubic bag for only $25...one bag is more than enough for an 18 square foot, 12" deep cold frame), and the compost came from my compost pile so I know exactly what is in it. (I never buy soil or compost from a store. That stuff is expensive garbage for the most part.) What bad experiences did you have? I will keep a close eye on it.

This is a pic of the cold frames just after I filled them with the mix.

Thumb of 2018-02-28/MoonShadows/fab95c

MoonShadows Farm - Good Eats & Treats from the Pocono Mountains
[Last edited by MoonShadows - Feb 28, 2018 4:13 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1649600 (13)
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
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TomatoTango
Feb 28, 2018 9:02 AM CST
Perlite is basically styrofoam, not vermiculite. Using Mel's mix I had most big plants become deformed, stunted, and show deficiencies of just about every sort. My tomatoes would grow 2' high and produce like 4 fruits. As soon as I cut the shadecloth out from under beds and started adding a larger variety of ingredients like manure and rock powders, everything began doing much better. Now my tomatoes grow well over my head and produce 10 times as much.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Composter Garden Photography Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Region: Alabama
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Seedfork
Feb 28, 2018 11:29 AM CST
Perlilte and Styrofoam are similar but not the same. I do use perlite but have never used Styrofoam.
http://www.schundler.com/polys...
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
Image
TomatoTango
Mar 7, 2018 4:06 PM CST
Seedfork said:Perlilte and Styrofoam are similar but not the same. I do use perlite but have never used Styrofoam.
http://www.schundler.com/polys...


I was mostly saying it's not much better. Sure, perlite has a few minerals and holds water better. I would never actually use styrofoam, my point was that to fill a bed with 1/3 perlite is a waste of space and money.

And since the topic was "affordable" it's even more relevant. I snagged 100 lbs. of rice hulls a few days ago for $12 at my local garden center. Cheaper, comparable to perlite, and it doesn't come from a mine so it's more eco-friendly.

Mel's methods set up beginning gardeners for frustration and failure. That's what my main issue is with. A plant that wants deep roots and big nutrients, like a watermelon for example, will fail with Mel's methods. My soil is around 1/8th perlite/vermiculite/rice hulls and it does great.
[Last edited by TomatoTango - Mar 7, 2018 4:11 PM (+)]
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Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
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MoonShadows
Mar 8, 2018 1:56 PM CST
Of course, you would have to know what plants to use Mel's Mix for...it is not for every plant. If you know that, there is no frustration and failure. Like me, I am using it in my winter greenhouse for lettuce, spinach and scallions, and they are doing fine.
MoonShadows Farm - Good Eats & Treats from the Pocono Mountains
Name: Jason
Oregon (Zone 8b)
Image
TomatoTango
Mar 9, 2018 9:09 AM CST
MoonShadows said:Of course, you would have to know what plants to use Mel's Mix for...it is not for every plant. If you know that, there is no frustration and failure. Like me, I am using it in my winter greenhouse for lettuce, spinach and scallions, and they are doing fine.


Mel doesn't differentiate in his book, and he just laughs off lots of conventional gardening methods because he acts like he knows better. He definitely recommends melons, tomatoes, and other heavy feeders be put into his "mix." I am literally staring at that section in his square foot gardening book right now. I can show you pictures if you'd like? Mel's methods are just plain awful if you're trying to grow anything other than a single head of lettuce.
Name: Jim
Stroudsburg, PA (Zone 6b)
Greenhouse Region: Pennsylvania
Image
MoonShadows
Mar 10, 2018 12:48 AM CST
Mel's not the only one who acts like he knows better. Glare You seem very invested into swaying me away from Mel's Mix. I realize you had a bad experience with Mel's Mix for whatever reason(s), but many people use it and like it....me being one of them. I use it as my base and supplement it with dolomite lime, a slow release organic fertilizer and Mycorrhizae Inoculant Powder . That, with the 1/3 of my own compost is plenty to grow whatever I want in my containers and my greenhouse with good results.
MoonShadows Farm - Good Eats & Treats from the Pocono Mountains
[Last edited by MoonShadows - Mar 10, 2018 1:08 AM (+)]
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North Central TX (Zone 8a)
Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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tx_flower_child
Mar 17, 2018 11:28 AM CST
@RenaeC -- So what did you decide to do? I noticed that you originally posted this question not quite a year ago.


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