Starting my first garden this year, so this is extremely helpful. Thx for your help and for your informative site and podcast. Raised Bed Gardening is an organic growing method which allows you to grow a larger, more plentiful harvest with less cost, in less space, using less water and seeds, and less work than traditional gardens. – Winston Churchill Mel Bartholomew began developing The Square Foot Gardening method relatively late in life, after he retired in the mid-1970’s, from his first career as an engineer. Learn from our mistakes before you tackle your garden! A raised bed is also a good way to grow as you won’t ever step on the bed and create compacted soil, which would then be difficult to plant into. If constructing a taller (12 inches to 24 inches) raised bed… If there is an organic option, that is a great choice as well. Mr. Bartholomew's perfect soil (which he calls "Mel Mix") is made up of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost that is made up of five different types of compost. Plus, I'll send you my "In the Garden E-mail" on Fridays, periodic updates on garden resources relevant to you, and you'll receive access to my entire bank of free garden downloads! How many inches of Mels Mix do you use? 1. But when I needed to find soil outside my property for three new raised beds last season, I decided to conduct an experiment. And the deere didn’t help, some containers we put our native soil, those plants did better, just wondering if some of our dirt would help? Plants are doing great. When deciding which raised bed soil combinations I wanted to test, I chose two common mixes that many gardeners choose, as well as a 100% bagged option for those who can’t purchase ingredients in bulk. This is the soil test kit I use. This is my first year with raised beds. Any vendors you recommend in Phoenix? Now check your email to access your 7-day garden plan, plus several free downloadable garden resources! Jill, simply love your site so informative and leads an old 77 year old long time gardener to try different things and ideas. Instead, the drainage capacity of the peat moss proved helpful in our rainy spring. In my third bed, I chose a blend of bagged soil. If I had obtained topsoil with less clay content, I imagine this blend would have rivaled Mel’s Mix or even surpassed it. I think that Mel’s Mix performed well because our spring was so wet and the peat moss didn’t have a chance to dry out. Better price than Amazon, Hello, I want to make raised garden beds but not for vegetables, I want them for flowers. According to UAF Cooperative Extension Service, add about 3.5 pounds of lime to a 4×8 garden bed … In the case of square foot gardening, Mel’s Mix (the creator) calls for one-third compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. It’s a quick and easy way to manage raised bed garden that requires minimum effort and time. 1:16 . (https://www.facebook.com/groups/beginnersgarden/). I was also wondering how much this mixture makes as far as cubic feet. I called the soil company to see what was in it and they said mainly lower level peat moss. Filed Under: Garden Planning, Gardening Tips & How-to's, In the Garden, Raised Bed Gardening, Spring Garden, The Beginner's Garden Podcast. And yes, we love our chicken tunnels! The soil, which Laura Bartholomew is “probably the most expensive part of starting a square foot garden,” is essential to the garden’s success because it retains moisture, drains well and is rich in nutrients. I have raised garden beds. Hi Jack, nice to meet you! Many thanks. I did a soul rest myself and was pretty disappointed with the results—rather low nutrients. For filling your new boxes, Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening creator, recommends his “Mel’s Mix” soil blend: 1/3 compost + 1/3 coarse vermiculite + 1/3 peat moss (by volume) While paying for dirt may seem counterintuitive, genuine top-quality garden soil is the key to garden growth as well as to cutting down on fertilizers and pesticides. I was also weaned on Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Although Mel’s Mix performed better than I expected, it’s not my choice because of the expense. Please try again. (Click below to listen to my discussion on the Beginner’s Garden Podcast, or continue reading.). The phrase "square foot gardening" was popularized by Mel Bartholomew in a 1981 Rodale Press book and subsequent PBS television series. Hello and happy spring! In All New Square Food Gardening, 3rd Edition, the best-selling gardening book in North America is re-launched and updated for the next generation of gardeners and beyond. That’s why when you add rock dust to your mix, your traditional raised bed gardening method becomes less effective. Hi! Last year, we used Mel's mix to fill our two raised beds and vowed to find a less expensive way for the future. Mel Bartholomew’s mix for the the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is simple: Measure each type by volume (cubic feet), not weight. The liner is landscape fabric stapled to the beds to prevent the soil from leaching out between the boards. First time into gardening, and have newly built raised beds and received the book yesterday. Each of these 4 by 4 square beds was then divided into sixteen one-foot squares, the grid. 1x6, 2x6, or any height). I am new to gardening and I was wondering if I calculate the peat moss as compressed or decompressed when doing 1:1:1 mixture? We have ordered bulk topsoil and compost for some new beds this year. What is this “Mel’s Mix” which is named with such clever alliteration that you are sure to remember it? Adding a balanced organic fertilizer to your soil mixture for raised beds helps give plants the food they need to grow and thrive in your garden. What about you? VIVOHOME. SFG rapidly gained popularity during the 1980s through Mel's first book and television series and since … It consists of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost (using as many sources as possible). Mel Bartholomew was the founder and inventor of the Square Foot Gardening method and the author of All New Square Foot Gardening, the best-selling gardening book in America for a generation.The guide has sold 2.5 million copies since Bartholomew wrote the book in 1981. I do not believe all bagged soil will have the results that the bagged soil I bought did. I guess the peat moss on the top layer/level is of better quality. We just dug out our 6 raised beds that were previously filled with dirt from our property We’re doing it right this time, thanks to your helpful guidance. One other question – I have wood chucks in the yard every now and then . No, I did not use perlite in Mel’s Mix. I would include as many sources of compost and organic material as possible. Instead, as it continued to break down it tied up nitrogen my tomatoes desperately needed. The plants looked stunted and they did not produce any fruit. I didn’t come up with this mix, we can thank Mel Bartholomew, the author of Square Foot Gardening, for simplifying the best soil to use for raised bed vegetable gardening. He hosted a PBS TV show for five years, and then was telecast for three more years on the Learning Channel and Discovery Network. I see in the picture of the new bed (u shape) you have lined the sides. I have my Peat Moss and Vermiculite, the last thing I need to decide on is which bulk compost to buy from our local provider. Square-foot gardening is an easy way to harvest a succession of fresh produce from the smallest of yards and even those with poor soils. The biggest indicator of the success of any raised bed soil mix is the total yield, and this I measured meticulously throughout the garden season. And you can’t beat free! Bartholomew’s square foot gardening method centers around a 4-foot square raised bed, divided into a grid of 16 squares, in which vegetables, herbs and flowers are densely planted. Good question. The passing of a legend, yet his legacy lives on… and keeps on growing. Thank you for your help. Mel’s Mix in Raised Bed #1 Whatever difference I saw between Mel’s Mix and the Perfect Soil Recipe in the early growth of Roma tomatoes disappeared in the fall-planted broccoli. Both beds performed extremely well and produced lush, vibrant broccoli — the largest I’ve ever grown. This method was invented by Mel Bartholomew, an American TV presenter, and author, around 1970s. I ended up buying transplants from a garden center and planting them in the bagged soil bed about a month later. Thanks you so much. Thanks in advance! For your second question, the only wood I know of to possibly cause problems is black walnut (and, of course, any questionably-treated wood like railroad ties). Mel Bartholomew 4.8 out of 5 stars 1,739 Paperback $9.99 In stock on January 4, 2021. On the other hand, soil blends have higher moisture content than that of the compost, making it the heaviest of the three […], […] prefers raised bed mixes or nutrient-rich natural soil mixes for balcony ‘gardens.’ To enhance root development, he […], […] prefers raised bed mixes or nutrient-rich organic soil mixes for balcony ‘gardens.’ To improve root growth, he adds […], Your email address will not be published. Excellent post and thanks for that. What blends of raised bed soil mix have worked well (or not so well) for you? In-ground beds amended with this soil mixture produced stunted zinnias and four-o’clocks from seeds and turned a normal-looking sunflower transplant into something truly, hideously disfigured. The benefits of using Mel’s Mix for raised bed vegetable gardening include: One way to mix up the ingredients for the best soil for raised bed gardening is to combine the ingredients in batches on a tarp. If you’re wondering what the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is, that’s an easy answer – “Mel’s Mix”. I also had more weeds in this soil than in the Mel’s Mix, though that was probably due to the higher percentage of my homemade compost. I hate that you had that experience, Clyde. This soil mix absorbs moisture well and is light and friable. There was an error submitting your subscription. You have performed a wonderful, valuable and timely service for all of the gardeners who visit your site. Then, prepare Mel’s Mix, a growing medium made of equal parts vermiculite, compost and peat moss, to fill the bed. I have heard many reports from gardeners who are very happy with this mix and the rest of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Garden plan. Long Live Square Foot Gardening! I used one last year and had similar tomato results. Mel was the author of THE best-selling gardening book of all time and host of a very popular PBS series—both called "Square Foot Gardening". It depends on what the condition of the soil in the bed is. If you’re directly in the ground, I would continue to add compost. According to Kim Roman, assistant to Mr. Bartholomew, "You’ll need one-foot-wide plywood to make the four by four foot raised bed structure. Best Soil for Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening. This encourages the roots to branch out into surrounding soil. We have just always added more compost to bring the height of the soil back up to the top of the beds, ? All you need is space for a 4’ x 4’ raised bed garden and you can grow an amazing amount of vegetables without a lot of effort. Once they are combined, contents can be dumped into the raised bed. Some links on this site are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase products I recommend. And although I can’t tell you which of my theories is correct — maybe all three played a role — I can tell you, I learned several lessons from this experience with bagged soil. Not new to gardening, just new to this process. Mel Bartholomew… If they don’t seem healthy, they grow slowly, or they have too light of a green color, it might be a good idea to add organic fertilizer like fish emulsion or kelp/seaweed emulsion. I said hmm, what’s that! It consists of one part compost, one part peat, and one part vermiculite. Beginning fall 2020, Arizona Worm Farm (located in Phoenix, Arizona) is selling a “Growing in the Garden Raised Bed Mix” that is premixed and ready to go! Every year we are refilling our beds, do you just add compost to the top? One way to mix up the ingredients for the best soil for raised bed gardening is to, , so I like to mix up extra of Mel’s Mix and store it in a. It isn’t necessary to add additional peat moss and vermiculite to your beds each season, as the peat moss and vermiculite do not break down. 4.8 out of 5 stars ... VIVOHOME Elevated Plastic Raised Garden Bed Planter Kits for Flower Vegetable Grow Brown . My first beds were only 6 inches – it is possible to grow in them. Hope this helps! Thanks, Vickie! The continued practice of adding compost and feeding your soil each season improves the soil and the harvests. To provide an example that we really like, Espoma’s organic mix for raised bed gardens contains the following ingredients on its label: 55%-65% aged forest products, sphagnum peat moss, perlite, limestone, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, feather meal, worm castings, and yucca extract, as well as some mycorrhizal life. Mel Bartholomew’s mix for the the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is simple: 1 part compost – Make your own, or If you live in Arizona the compost from Arizona Worm Farm is great. Written By: Rick Bickling “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill Mel Bartholomew began developing The Square Foot Gardening method relatively late in life, after he retired in the mid-1970’s, from his first career as an engineer. I think, no matter what blend I choose, it’s important to add diversity. Thank you for all your helpful information. Twenty-five years later Bartholomew updated his methods with a new book, All New Square Foot Gardening, which advocates creating a 6-inch-deep frame or … At the end of the season, as the soil level goes down from the decomposition of the compost, add additional compost to bring the soil level back up to the top of the bed. The use of five types of compost is so that your plants get The greater variety we can have with our organic material the better! A soil test can determine the health of your soil. At this point, my only conclusions could be drawn from observing the growth of two crops — tomatoes and broccoli. I followed the advice for how to make Mel’s Mix, which he calls “the most important, productive, essential, necessary, critical” ingredient for square foot gardening success, and it worked! Raised Raised bed gardens can be contained to keep the bed intact, or they can be more free form, with soil and amendments merely I first chose Mel’s Mix from Mel Bartholomew’s book Square Foot Gardening. Once you fill your bed, water the soil very well. Because of this (from my observations), this bed didn’t drain well and seemed to compact after the heavy rains. Required fields are marked *. A raised bed garden is a garden built on top of your native soil, sometimes incorporating native soil, sometimes not. But you should plan on adding about two inches of compost to the top. Trying to figure it out. How you connect them is a matter of preference, you could use nails and string, sticks, old blinds, or simply draw lines in the soil. My son is in the process of completing the form for me. I found the same Vermiculite on a website called Greenhouse megastore.com. While the tomatoes in Mel’s Mix and the “perfect soil recipe” ended up performing well, I can’t say the same about the tomatoes in the bagged soil mix. Here are some reviews of composts that I have used. I just did a short article on my site why raised bed gardening is best for beginners. Like ordering by cubic yards instead of bags. Broccoli can tolerate higher pH than tomatoes can. I followed the advice for how to make Mel’s Mix, which he calls “. It will eventually "break down" into smaller particles, which is why Mel says to start with the coarsest grade you can find. The biggest shock was with the tomatoes in the bagged soil mix. The tomatoes in Mel’s Mix grew vibrantly and were strong with tender leaves. | Your Landscaping Help, How To Develop Meals At Residence (Even In A Tiny House) – Breaking World News, How To Grow Food At Home (Even In A Tiny Apartment) -, How To Grow Food At Home (Even In A Tiny Apartment) – Go Shops2U, 7 Common Mistakes in Raised Bed Gardening, Growing Blueberries? ; it does not get crusted or compacted. In fact, this method was so Still, this result remains consistent for my garden — tomatoes in raised beds generally out-perform their counterparts in the ground soil. It’s available from Amazon and very simple to use. This same soil mix works great for flowers too! But, the tomato plants from the very beginning barely grew, something that continued to be an issue for this bed. Your email address will not be published. If you’re wondering what the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is, that’s an easy answer – “Mel’s Mix”. Last year, I used a bagged company from Maine that’s really respected in New England, but my veggies did terribly. LOL Mr. Bartholomew’s innovation saved water and space by folding traditional rows of vegetables into a raised bed that could fit on porches, patios, decks or roofs. I’m planting a desert gold peach tree and I wasn’t sure how to best prepare my clay and silt rich Tucson Az soil. A record-October heatwave prevented this lush broccoli from forming heads, and an early freeze in November damaged the plants severely. I use a combo of alpaca manure, topsoil and mushroom compost My tomatoes grow to over 6ft. As a scientist I can attest to how awesome this test was! I hope that helps. Prior to the broccoli planting, I sent off soil samples to my local cooperative extension service. Please let me know. Comment document.getElementById("comment").setAttribute( "id", "a9cb11846bae77b8494241160c98d556" );document.getElementById("dc9f99420f").setAttribute( "id", "comment" ); Organic master gardener in Arizona sharing garden inspiration & helpful tips for growing your own garden. Below are the yield results from these Roma tomatoes in each mix, compared with Romas I also planted in my in-ground garden. Mel Bartholomew, the creator of square foot gardening, recommends a mix of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. In one raised bed you may see that you have squares of 16 radishes, squares of 9 beets or squares of 16 carrots and now you can take an empty bed and prepare that for the next set of crops. Thank you, Richard. bags of topsoil, and three cups of worm castings. I haven’t heard of any issues with the metal. is great. In September, I planted broccoli I started from seed indoors both in the Mel’s Mix and the Perfect Soil Recipe beds. If you use bagged, then a mix of several different types is best. Required fields are marked *, I accept the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy if( get_option( 'gdpr_consent_until_display' ) === '1' ){ ?>* for } ?> if( get_option( 'gdpr_consent_until_display' ) === '1' ){ ?> Click to select the duration you give consent until. No matter how much rain we got (and we had a LOT of rain) it never got waterlogged nor had drainage problems. We lost a dear friend last April when Mel Bartholomew, who created the Square Foot Gardening system in 1976, passed away at the age of 84. Twenty-five years later Bartholomew updated his methods with a new book, All New Square Foot Gardening, which advocates creating a 6-inch-deep frame or raised bed … I recommend fish emulsion when the plants are young, and a seaweed or kelp emulsion at flowering. I used Mel’s Mix. I didn’t come up with this mix, we can thank Mel Bartholomew, the author of Square Foot Gardening, for simplifying the best soil to use for raised bed vegetable gardening. I expected them to slow in growth due to the high concentration of peat moss. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. But we did make a few mistakes along the way. Did you know most Square Foot Garden beginners make mistakes on their soil? I expe, Would love to hear your personal experience using, Harvesting broccoli for dinner tonight — in the, It’s such a feeling of accomplishment when one o, https://www.facebook.com/groups/beginnersgarden/, How Much Does a Yard of Mulch Weigh? I used bulk compost (compost I bought from a local landscaping company), worm castings, and chicken manure from my own chickens. What’s not to love about chickens patrolling the perimeter for bugs. It is vermiculite. When you harvest a square mid-season, or at the end of the season when you’re cleaning your beds, you will want to knock off as much of the Mel’s Mix back into the raised bed as possible. We get a ton tomatoes and cucumbers and jalapenos. It did not compact or have drainage issues in the heavy rain. I’ve struggled to put together a good mix of soil for my raised beds. Although I kept constant drip irrigation on the beds during the dry summer, this mix never did compact or dry out as I would have expected. The use of five types of compost is so that your plants get a range of nutrients. As author of the best-selling gardening book of all time, Mel probably knows a thing or two. But as I expand my raised bed gardens, I just can’t justify the cost of Mel’s Mix when the “perfect soil recipe” (with better topsoil) has the potential to perform just as well if not better. The concept of Square Foot Gardening is to use a raised bed filled with a soil blend called Mel’s Mix (1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost from as many sources as you can). After much research I think something I used was contaminated with an herbicide. . Because the bed is raised, you have much greater control over the soil tilth and you can enjoy light soil almost immediately. You will need enough of this material to fill the 4′ x Interesting about the peat — I didn’t know there were differences. These were not healthy at all. After having tested these three blends of raised bed soil mix, what will I do with future beds? It really is true. Glad you found it helpful, Mandi! However, these looked so unhealthy that I started watering them with fish emulsion to try to save them because I feared I would lose them. Developed by Civil Engineer Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening uses a basic 4’ x 4’ raised bed box (with various size and shape configurations possible), Mel’s Mix™ (a soilless mixture that’s optimal for growing), and a grid to guide your planting and spacing. I have never heard of topsoil being contaminated. It's a simple way to create easy-to-manage gardens with raised beds that need a minimum of time spent maintaining them. The square-foot grid makes it easy to plan your garden, lets you see exactly how much can be planted, helps you learn about spacing, and makes it easy to replant and rotate crops. Any issues with the metal causing a problem? Welcome to the blog of Mel Bartholomew, the founder of the Square Foot Gardening method for growing food in your backyard. The founding father of Square Foot Gardening, also known as SFG, Mel Bartholomew died on 4/28/16 at the age of 85.. I believe the Perfect Soil Recipe started slowly because of the amount of rain and because of the high amount of clay in the topsoil I purchased. Best of luck to you and happy planting. Loved this information. As you see above, my first experiment tested the performance of Roma tomatoes in the summer. Not everyone has access to bulk ingredients, so I wanted to choose an option that many people must use. You might contact your local cooperative extension agent and ask these questions to get a better idea what options you have. Mel Bartholomew 1931 – 2016. Ugh. Another video from our first year of square foot gardening. It echos some of what you are saying and adds some additional points. II found when filling my most recent beds I used about 40% compost and then 25% vermiculite and 35% peat moss. That can be an expensive starter (8cuft total per 4x4x0.5’ box). Incredibly healthy I only promote items I personally recommend and think provide to. Third bed, mixing well after each addition, and have newly built raised beds need. Although they didn ’ t an option that many people must use Diva... With Brackets this was probably because the bed is about a month later wrong soil so this a! The correct mixture of compost and organic material as possible by the yard and also for! They did grow consistently, there ’ s mix over weed cloth ” the garden with me not produce fruit. But highly productive and just one to see how it does to bring the height of mix... Have just always added more compost to bring the height of the beds I in!, simply love your site system developed in the raised beds from the smallest yards. 4X4X0.5 ’ box ) used the formula of Mel Bartholomew ’ s not my because... It continued to break down it tied up nitrogen my tomatoes grow to over 6ft heavy rain all the! Growing very well in the soil every year can attest to how awesome this test and how your to., mathematical gardening method using shallow raised beds from the very beginning grew. But, the tomato plants struggled and were strong with tender leaves 8cuft... Would this soil mix to ensure good drainage a simple way to create easy-to-manage gardens with raised beds flowers. The Design Diva | Development by MRM, « 19 easiest vegetables to grow your own tomato!, something that continued to be an issue for this bed, water, and an freeze! I am doing raised beds or start over © 2021 Jill McSheehy | Design by Design! Garden beginners make mistakes on their soil? Syl I didn ’ t have them “ in ” the even! Much, Jill, for sharing the results of your soil as water, a. To how awesome this test was as I had the best after reading the book Square mel bartholomew raised bed mix! Needed quite a bit of it and share the results! build one raised! 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Used a bagged company from Maine that ’ s mix check out more about Mel ’ mix!, 2021 are planting soon, you have my site why raised,! Everything the same time are you growing in raised beds that need a minimum of spent... Gardeners do should plan on adding about two inches of compost to 25 percent each of vermiculite and %... Tape measure, then a mix of several different types is best moisture well and light... And, like Mel ’ s not to love about chickens patrolling the for! Want to mix your own Perfect tomato soil, sometimes not I wanted to let you know Square! Mentioned previously, I barely harvested any heads from this group 1/3 compost ( using as many sources compost! Bed ( u shape ) you have much greater control over the soil each season improves soil. Because I chose the wrong soil so this is extremely helpful are growing in raised beds mel bartholomew raised bed mix adding peat.. 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Form for me as great as Mel ’ s method here I are interested in building irrigated., Clyde same vermiculite on Amazon available by the Design Diva | Development by MRM, « easiest... Gardening method becomes less effective and made TV shows in the Boulder/Denver?! The garden with me 48 cu ft of the new bed ( u shape ) you have than in amended! Initially, my gardening passion was launched close to two decades ago roots... Vibrantly and were strong with tender leaves is this “ Mel ’ s mix the! An expert gardener, my tomato plants struggled and were strong with leaves... A seaweed or kelp emulsion at flowering Mel ’ s my math that ’ important! Mix I tested is known as SFG, Mel suggests that you are saying and adds some additional.. Mel Bartholomew than Amazon, Hello, I planted all nine of them at the same.! Capacity of the leaves were very yellow and the harvests one third moss! Listened to the top layer/level is of better quality, I know SFG says inches. The founder of the mix on hand for filling pots and for your raised bed soil.... Be safe to put together a good mix of soil garden plan, plus several FREE downloadable resources! Results! or two – I have wood chucks in the native soil, sometimes incorporating native soil, incorporating. A depth of 6-8 inches of compost, chicken manure, from,!