what type of soil mixture to use in square foot boxes......

kawaiineko_gardener(5a)July 3, 2009

I currently have both books on square foot gardening check out at the moment.

The first book tells how to make the perfect soil mixture

for the square foot boxes, and tells how many boxes it will fill.

The 2nd book, which is the more recent and revised addition entitled "All New Square Foot gardening" advocates the use of "Mel's Mix" which he says is the perfect and ideal soil mixture to use in the square foot boxes. You make it by combining 1/3 each of peat moss, 1/3 of coarse vermiculite, and 1/3 of compost; he also says if you're using the prebagged variety of compost (like you find at hardware stores), you should use several different kinds. I don't have time to make my own compost or I would. As far as

his suggestion of buying a variety of commercial composts this isn't a feasible option for me, because I'm on a very tight budget with gardening.

I went to a local hardware store where I live and I was given the suggestion to mix loam with peat moss and

cow manure based fertilizer (which can also be used as compost, according to the description on the bag).

Now I realize that to an extent square foot gardening is

similar to container gardening. However despite the fact that square foot gardening is similar to square foot gardening in some aspects and vise versa, square foot gardening and container gardening are not the same thing.

I have heard numerous times to not use loam and/or topsoil

in container gardening because it's not suitable for container gardening. My question is this; is square foot gardening similar enough to container gardening that I should avoid using the loam mixed with peat moss and the cow based fertilizer, or could I get away with using my mixture of loam, peat moss, and cow manure based fertilizer as my mixture for my square foot boxes without it having

any negative or detrimental affects on what is being grown in the square foot boxes?

My other option is to use Miracle gro potting mix

as the soil medium for my square foot boxes. I'm trying to avoid this route, because as stated before I am on a tight budget. I would like to use the soil mixture of loam, peat moss, and cow manure based fertilizer mixed together as this will help me cut costs.

Essentially what I need help with is figuring out a decent substitute soil mixture for my square foot boxes that IS NOT Mel's Mix that I can use without it being detrimental to the plants being grown in the box.

I plan to use one 4' x 4' box and maybe three 1' x 1' boxes

for root crops. I would use one 1' x 1' box for carrots, one 1' x 1' box for turnips, and a 3rd 1' x 1' box for

icicle radishes which are white radishes. These boxes would be 9" or 12" in height since I know that

the recommendation for root crops is the soil depth needs to be deeper for them to grow well; the reason for this is cause they're root crops.

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Dan Staley

If you search this forum, there are numerous threads where we discuss nutrient deficiencies in first-year mixes.

No loam. No garden soil. No fill dirt. Read the directions. Follow directions. Then add supplemental fert to the mix, preferably a low N fert, as a 4-5-5 or similar.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 9:55PM
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1st year mixes are what they are, you can plant directly into cow manure, but is that the best option? Prob not. If you are on a budget, then cow manure is prob the cheapest. I've gotten 40lb bags for less than $2. Make that your base, add in some peat, and maybe another type of compost. Use that this year, while you start a home compost. As you add more each year, your mix will get better and better.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 8:43AM
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You'll probably find the most expensive part of Mel's mix to be not the manure, but rather the vermiculite. At our local Lowe's, there are at least two types of compost that are very reasonably priced (less than $3 per bag): cow manure and generic "organic compost." I used those initially, and later added in some mushroom compost (also less than $3 at Lowe's) and turkey compost (from an independent nursery; more expensive than the other composts, but not as expensive as vermiculite).

In some cities you may be able to get free compost that is made from lawn clippings, etc.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 12:58AM
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I also could not afford (nor find) vermiculite the first year and I used 50% peat moss and 50% various composts and humus. It's worked well for me, and I am sure when I have my own compost it will be better. I finally located some vermiculite and have started adding a little here and there, but I still can't bear to pour 1 $30 bag in a 4x4 square.
Start your own compost pile now so you have it in a few months. You will need to fertilize also.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 1:08AM
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I used a pro mix soil from our local co-op. It took two 25 lb. bags to fill a 4x8 box. Cost about $50, which is more than I wanted to spend, but I don't have to fertilize and the soil is good for years. I thought it was worth the money. Hope I'm right! :o)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 6:34PM
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I am growing Katahdin potatoes in an 18" square plastic container that is at least 12" deep. Got it at Lowes. I plugged the feet with squares of strofoam and drilled some extra drainage holes. I planted several sprouted eyes in the bottom and kept adding soil. The plants look great and have flowered. I used the same Mel's mix that I made for my sfg blocks.
garden addict

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 7:03PM
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