Hmmmm...odd issue with my raised bed mix....thoughts? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 03-06-2010, 11:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am using Mel's mix in raised beds. I have 1.5 beds where I mixed it myself...1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 spaghum peat. Then I have 1.5 beds with premixed Mel's (I guess it's licensed from him or something...his pic is on the bag LOL) plus my deep bed also has the premixed Mel's.

The problem? When I water, the surface gets wet and everything just beneath it stays dry. The water then puddles in certain spots and runs down through, and runs off, leaving most of the bed dry. This does not happen as significantly in the areas with my homemade mix but it is a HUGE issue with the area with Mel's mix I bought pre-bagged.

I also have this same mix in some of my container plants and am having the same issue...it pools on the surface and then only runs through in spots.

I think this is why I can't get the seeds I planted early last week to sprout. Radishes should have sprouted by now I think...a couple rogue seeds in the beds that will get properly wet--thanks to my 3yo LOL--have sprouted and have cute little leaves already.

Is there anything I can do other than amending it with more compost (it's already planted with transplants and seeds)? It's so dry here that we're not going to do well as it heats up if I can't get the darned mix wet! I'm so frustrated--between what I mixed myself and the 12 bags of premixed I've bought, this is turning out to be a huge waste of $$!

And I knew better too--just got sucked into the Mel's mix idea last year and felt like I need to finish what I started. I had a nagging feeling the whole time (and people have told me too, some of you here!) that the Me's mix isn't necessary and compost would be a way better way to go. Well, you can say "I told you so" cause you were right...I bought into the commercialism I guess!

I also was planning on getting my SFG certification and wanted to do my beds by the book.

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#2 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 12:02 AM
 
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How are you watering?

I'm noticing with my seedlings that if I water too quickly, the water just flows off the potting soil or germination mix (as applicable). This is worse when the cells slope. If I water slower, then the water has the chance to soak in.

The books I've read seem to suggest soaker hoses, but I'm really a beginner at gardening.

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#3 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 12:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm using the shower setting with a fairly low flow of water (enough to not disturb the soil too much). I've tried dampening it and going back several times after a few minutes, hoping it will start to soak in...but it's just basically running through certain spots and leaving everything else fluffy-dry. I also tried being more forceful with it (not near the seeds) and still couldn't make it soak in.

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#4 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 12:53 AM
 
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Sounds like your problem is the peat. Once it is dry it is so hard to rehydrate. People I know who have had success with it have hydrated it in batches before mixing into the blend. Here in TX, we skip it completely and use coir because the heat is just too much.

Since it's already in your beds, I would suggest overwatering with your sprayer actually on the surface until you get some good rain. When you hand water, make sure you water the entire bed, not just your planted areas, to keep the peat from drying out again.

When you replant, just add straight compost. Overtime you'll adjust the ratio enough to where the peat won't be so much of a problem.

Rachel. Devoted wife and joyful mama to Beatrice June(2/25/08) and Leona Agnes (8/10/10).
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#5 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 11:57 AM
 
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A book I have suggests putting pieces of plastic pipe or hose with lots of small holes in it down into the soil and watering through that. It's a cheaper sort of soaker hose. You could even put vertical pipes going into horizontal pipes if you want, the point being to get the soil watered down where the plants roots should be growing. Since you live in such a dry area I would spend some time trying to figure out a good watering system so you aren't wasting water.
The book I have is called "growing food in small spaces" I think, but there might be a more comprehensive book out there with more ideas.
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#6 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 12:14 PM
 
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i got to thinking about this again this morning and i agree with plantmama -- a soaker system would be really smart!

you can make your own or just rotate one inexpensive soaker hose through each bed until you've got them saturated.

Rachel. Devoted wife and joyful mama to Beatrice June(2/25/08) and Leona Agnes (8/10/10).
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#7 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 03:39 PM
 
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I have had similar problems with potting soil that was bagged for too long - once it dries out it is really hard to get it moist again. I have read that it helps if you add a little soap to the water, maybe you could look in to that since your soil is already planted. I've never tried this, but another thing that comes to mind is putting some towels or rags over the top of the soil and then repeatedly wetting those. That might give the water some time to wick into the soil instead of running through. HTH

  Happy wife to N and mommy to R (9/2008) and belly.gifnumber two (5 or 6/2011).  blogging.jpg about my garden.
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#8 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 05:53 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks mamas! It sounds like you're all on track--it must be the peat. Ugh, I can't wait until I can reduce how much peat I've got in there! LOL

We just had a HUGE downpour so I'm hoping that maybe it will have rained enough that the peat will be rehydrated. I'm going to go out in a bit and poke around and see. I think I'll try a soaker hose or that homemade soaker system since I'm afraid to "overwater" too much in our yard because when I do, it all accumulates along the foundation because the yard slopes toward the house (and this is intentional...it's a new house and it slopes to direct the water toward the side yards and street but some gets trapped against the back of the house).

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#9 of 17 Old 03-07-2010, 08:28 PM
 
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When you first put in a batch of Mel's mix -- I assume it's the same if you buy his pre-mixed stuff -- you're supposed to do a big pre-wetting before ever planting. A real, thorough soaking.

The idea is supposed to be that the vermiculite and the peat absorb water so it holds water better than regular potting soil, and doesn't dry out as quickly, so it needs to GET that water first.

It does resist the water at first, you really need to thoroughly drown the stuff. I made my own mix last year... I watered it until it was waterlogged, then a few minutes later checked it, and it was only barely damp heh... It takes a LOT of water to "prime" it. It also compacted quite a bit in the process, and I ended up having to add more to each box.

After that, though, it was fine, no problems. Watered easily, held moisture nicely.

Heather, mom to Caileigh 12/06 and aspie ADHD prodigy David 05/98 :intact lact
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#10 of 17 Old 03-08-2010, 05:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I must not have waterlogged it enough when I first put it down. What I did was enough for the stuff I mixed myself, but the premixed that I bought? I watered it the same length of time and thought that'd be good, but I never dug around to check.

After our downpour today, only the top half an inch was even damp. I have no idea how I'm going to get it moistened now that it has plants in it. I thoroughly flooded the bed over and over this afternoon with no luck.

If the soaker stuff doesn't work I don't know what I'll do!

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#11 of 17 Old 03-11-2010, 03:31 PM
 
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We had this same problem a few years ago and what we did to fix it was 2 things:
1. we mixed in 1/4-1/2 sand for drainage
2. made sure our beds were level

The sand made a huge difference in the amount of water we use. We do water daily in the heat of the summer (zone 8) but only small amounts are needed as it drains rapidly but holds under the bed in the native dirt which is where the roots end up.

Nicole
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#12 of 17 Old 03-12-2010, 12:18 PM
 
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I bet the soaker hose or a drip irrigation system would work great. I think the pipe idea is good but how much time do you have to keep refilling them? I think your expensive mix of stuff is going to need a LOT of water to get going. I wonder too if it will be worth it in the long run of an entire season of food growing if you scooped out the seedlings you have in there already and really worked on your soil. As a pp said, you'll likely end up with quite a bit of settling and want to fill in anyway. The annoyance of getting the beds properly prepared now will likely really pay off and be totally worth it.

Erin sharing life with a burly husband and two rad boys 7/06 & 5/09 : : Zone 9-ish
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#13 of 17 Old 03-12-2010, 02:05 PM
 
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I was just thinking you could also put your hose end really low so it just drips and let it really soak an area before moving it!

Erin sharing life with a burly husband and two rad boys 7/06 & 5/09 : : Zone 9-ish
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#14 of 17 Old 03-13-2010, 03:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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As much as I don't like the idea I think I might have to pull up the plants gently and work in something...maybe more compost and then the sand like suggested. It has settled quite a bit so I think I'll buy several bags of compost and add those. Dave Owens recommends lava sand but I don't thinkl I can get that without driving 30 miles and I'd rather not LOL....would play sand work??? The sand in our sand table got dirty so I could recycle that!

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#15 of 17 Old 03-14-2010, 12:39 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shellie View Post
I'm using the shower setting with a fairly low flow of water (enough to not disturb the soil too much). I've tried dampening it and going back several times after a few minutes, hoping it will start to soak in...but it's just basically running through certain spots and leaving everything else fluffy-dry. I also tried being more forceful with it (not near the seeds) and still couldn't make it soak in.
I'd like to point out that Mel specifically says to water your plants by hand, with a cup.
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#16 of 17 Old 03-15-2010, 03:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I know, he does. But when I do, it just runs straight down and out the bottom of my beds. I'm wondering if I should have put plastic under them?

Of course the beds that use my own 1/1/1 mix according to Mel's advice are fine. It's the premix that's an issue and I think as others have suggested, the peat in it was just super, super dry.

Also realized that my nursery is still selling off the last of the 2009 Mel's Mix...the 2010 just became available and the bag states it has 10 kinds of compost rather than 5. So these bags were stored somewhere through our very dry summer/fall/winter.

We did buy several bags of a really good compost and I'm going to amend the "bad" beds this week, as much as I can without disrupting the plants too much. Most of the small seedlings I should be able to take out and put back in...but the radishes have finally sprouted (took 10 days) and I'll just have to work around those.

Shellie
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#17 of 17 Old 03-16-2010, 02:11 PM
 
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You can use any type sand. Play sand should be fine.

Nicole
traditional food eating, AP momma, homesteading, crafty, infertility survivor mom ttc #2,
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