I started my first raised bed garden this year after reading the book square foot gardening. I used the formula of Mel's mix which is One third vermiculite, one third compost, and one third Pete Moss. I've found that it has done very well for my winter vegetables. The soil stays moist and the plants seem to be growing very well in it.
But as I stated, this is my first rodeo and so I do not have anything to compare it to. What are your thoughts on this soil mixture?
I know that the author of this book is very gospel on this mixture, but I am sure that there are lots of opinions on it. I used a mixture of five different commercial bought composts, as he said to do in the book if you were not able to make your own. As of now I think I have a enough of my own compost going to mix up a new batch. I used primarily dried leaves as the carbon element in this compost I have made. I have a question though as I have read that leaf compost does hold a lot of water. I'm wondering if it is still necessary to add vermiculite. What are your thoughts on this?
Thank you for reading my post and I look forward to reading your opinions
Attached is my first raised bed Garden in the middle of January
It seems that 2/3 of their mix is relatively inert materials which don't provide nutrition for plants. If you're able to produce your own leaf mold, you will have the absorbent qualities and much more in the way of nutrients.
Never buy vermiculite that is old stock or that has been salvaged from somewhere. I'm in the demolition business. About 50% of the vermiculite I encounter contains asbestos.
Leaf mold replaces vermiculite and peat moss in that mix very good.
I'm talking pure leaf mold.
1/3 of compost and 2/3 of leaf mold is perfect with some addition such as vermicompost, lime, inoculated biochar, some dried crushed plants (nettles, comfrey...) and you are good to go!
Heck, i used only homemade compost in raised beds on top of existing soil and it worked wonders.
Welcome to the madhouse Stephen
I think there are many ways of getting good results in a garden. Some are faster, some more expensive, some less friendly to Nature, and on and on.
Around here there is a very strong tendency toward tryng to work as much as possible with materials that are on the site and as little as possible with materials that have loads of embodied energy.
Vermiculite and peat are both pretty high in embodied energy and neither is really renewable in a present tense sense of the word (peat is organic material and renewable, but like mature forests, it takes a long time in human terms).
You can accomplish amazing things with home made compost. Leaf mold, also home made and if you have deciduous trees incredibly easy to produce, does wonders. Vermicompost can do great things for your plants.
All of these do one thing that is more important than anything else - they bring microbial life into your soil, establishing the soil food web that is the fundamental basis for growing healthy plants.
Location: Western Washington
posted 5 years ago
Char is well worth looking into. Just don't let it take over your life. Unless of course you're into that sort of thing.
The one thing to watch for with dark soils is that they heat up really really well. I have seen carrots steam in the ground in areas which are compacted to the point where the water table in unacceptable. I wouldn't normally be concerned with deep tilth and you have already been using a dark mix, but if your box gets protracted full sunlight it is something you may need to watch.
Soil color defiantly affects heat transfer and retention
I love Mel's mix for containers. I use coconut coir instead of peat when I can because I think it is more renewable, but will use peat if I need to make a batch of mix.
There are cheaper options for larger beds. But the mix is simple for a beginner.
The key is the compost, he stresses multiple sources. I think I used 7 different kinds of compost plus 3 different batches of my own last time.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi.
"Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
posted 5 years ago
I would like to thank all of you for your kind advice and input. Your input is most appreciated. The concept of energy intensive ingredients is very enlightening. The main reason for my garden is to Grow food where I can control what goes into it and always have food on hand.
Even with the little arugula and carrots that I have grown so far, it is so nice to be able to just cut it out of the yard.
I have started my own compost and hope to wrap my head around the idea of the soil food web. It is a new concept to me, but it has a real "horse sense" about it.
This is a great forum to learn and I appreciate those who are willing to teach.