You can also layer the ingredients (lasagne style) in the raised bed, mixing well after each addition. 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. It really is true. 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. Two things distinguish a plain raised bed garden from a Square Foot Garden 1. But what would a soil test reveal about the differences between these three raised bed soil mixes? It is available by the bag or by the yard and also available for delivery. Any vendors you recommend in Phoenix? 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. 1. Hello and happy spring! 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. Mel’s Mix for square foot gardening adds in peat moss (or coco coir) and vermiculite which keeps the soil light and airy. Up until last year, I used native soil on my property to fill them. This does not cost you any more but does help me offset some of the costs associated with this blog. I’ve also had this experience with bagged mix. Square foot gardening relies on a pretty specific mix for its success, as do systems like Eden style gardening and some of the bio-this and bio-that methods. The best price I’ve seen is the 4 cubic foot bag of vermiculite on Amazon. I love my desert gold peach! Although they didn’t die as I had feared, they never rebounded and never looked healthy. 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. Each tomato plant I had grown from seed indoors and I planted all nine of them at the same time. First time into gardening, and have newly built raised beds and received the book yesterday. Sounds like I might need to amend it throughout the summer, huh? Helping Beginners Grow a Rewarding, Successful Garden, in Garden Planning· Gardening Tips & How-to's· In the Garden· Raised Bed Gardening· Spring Garden· The Beginner's Garden Podcast. Hi Jack, nice to meet you! Thanks again for doing this experiment!!! I found the same Vermiculite on a website called Greenhouse megastore.com. That can be an expensive starter (8cuft total per 4x4x0.5’ box). Do you have a preference? If constructing a taller (12 inches to 24 inches) raised bed… If your whiskey barrels have a bottom, with just drainage holes, they will function more like a container than a raised bed. Unless your soil was contaminated, there’s no need to replace the soil each year. I have used perlite in potting soil and soil block mix, but not in my raised bed soil, so I haven’t compared them side by side. As a contrast, the smaller plants in the bagged soil mix (because I planted them a month later), withstood the cold snap and went on to produce full, large broccoli heads. All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. But, the tomato plants from the very beginning barely grew, something that continued to be an issue for this bed. Best Soil for Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening, the recipe I use to make organic fertilizer, How to Grow Leeks: 8 Tips for Growing Leeks, How to Start Seeds Indoors: 10 Steps for Success, How to Grow Ground Cherries: 10 Tips for Growing Ground Cherries, How to Grow Toothache Plant: 5 Tips for Growing Spilanthes, How to Grow Arugula: 5 Tips for Growing Arugula, 4 cubic foot bag of vermiculite on Amazon. Some links on this site are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you purchase products I recommend. Long Live Square Foot Gardening! Learn from our mistakes before you tackle your garden! I didn’t come up with this mix, we can thank Mel Bartholomew, the author of, After reading Square Foot Gardening for the first time over 12 years ago, I decided to start my own garden. This is my first raise bed, and I was concern about the ratio of the components, but now I do have the FACT Sorry my English isn’t good enough. I called the soil company to see what was in it and they said mainly lower level peat moss. Mel’s Mix for square foot gardening adds in peat moss (or coco coir) and vermiculite which keeps the soil light and airy. I would love to hear your test and how your beds end up comparing! Hi, I wanted to let you know I found your article about best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening very helpful. If you’re directly in the ground, I would continue to add compost. I can’t say for sure, but you might look up non-organic mushroom compost. This soil mix absorbs moisture well and is light and friable. 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 had no weeds in the first month and my tomatoes started out incredibly healthy. It’s a formula, created by Mel Bartholomew, for blending compost, peat moss, and vermiculite to achieve a loose, friable soil that drains beautifully, holds nutrients well, and keeps weeds from taking over. It’s a quick and easy way to manage raised bed garden that requires minimum effort and time. Thank you so much for your feedback, Julie! This method was invented by Mel Bartholomew, an American TV presenter, and author, around 1970s. Compaction is probably not the main worry about the vermiculite, especially in a light mix like Mel's Mix made "by the book." I always have company in the garden even when I can’t have them “in” the garden with me. IN RAISED BED GARDENING GROWING SUBSTRATE If the native soil is of high quality, raised beds can be filled with topsoil from the site. You can also pick up small and large amounts on site. Please let me know. A raised bed garden is a garden built on top of your native soil, sometimes incorporating native soil, sometimes not. Joe has many different suggestions on sources of organic matter, and I used homemade compost, chicken manure, and worm castings. This is also why I am not disclosing the brand — I do not believe my experience is necessarily indicative of all of this brand’s products. You will mix this once and never need it again unless you build another SFG. You are feeding the soil that feeds your plants. It did not compact or have drainage issues in the heavy rain. The liner is landscape fabric stapled to the beds to prevent the soil from leaching out between the boards. 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? Avoid these 4 Beginner Mistakes. ... Mel Bartholomew’s revolutionary Square Foot method has empowered gardeners everywhere to grow more 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. It really is a great way to begin gardening. But, the ingredients were the most expensive to purchase. The use of five types of compost is so that your plants get a range of nutrients. Otherwise, I’ve had good success with pretty much everything I’ve used. Thanks! 1:16 . We have about 10 raised beds, most are filled with just bagged compost. 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. bags of topsoil, and three cups of worm castings. The tomatoes didn’t grow quite as well in the “perfect soil recipe,” but they did grow consistently. 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. My son is in the process of completing the form for me. I think, no matter what blend I choose, it’s important to add diversity. I am buying the ingredients to make mel’s mix for some raised beds- but I am finding it quite expensive! Glad you found it helpful, Mandi! 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. Learn how your comment data is processed. The greater variety we can have with our organic material the better! What about you? If you’re wondering what the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is, that’s an easy answer – “Mel’s Mix”. Mel Bartholomew, the creator of square foot gardening, recommends a mix of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite. 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? I am doing raised beds, the kind that are waist high. The various bagged mixes out there have proprietary blends of different ingredients. This is the recipe I use to make organic fertilizer when I add new soil to raised beds. I didn’t have enough seedlings to plant them in the bagged soil bed. Please try again. Success! It was suggested that I bring this discussion over here from the vegetable forum. You have performed a wonderful, valuable and timely service for all of the gardeners who visit your site. I looked at raised bed kits on HomeDepot.com, and in the product reviews someone said they bought this for a Square Foot Garden, and filled it with Mel’s Mix. 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. SFG rapidly gained popularity during the 1980s through Mel's first book and television series and since … Yes! LOL 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. 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. In this, the second installment of this series, we will make the “dirt” or Mel’s Mix needed to fill the boxes we built last time. It worked well and it’s free. We have ordered bulk topsoil and compost for some new beds this year. American Mel Bartholomew is the ‘founder’ of Square Foot Gardening - a concept that he launched in 1981. I had planned to keep everything the same in all 3 beds. This mix (often called Mel’s Mix) is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and 1/3 blended compost. Read my Privacy Policy, Disclaimer, and Terms of Use. A record-October heatwave prevented this lush broccoli from forming heads, and an early freeze in November damaged the plants severely. 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. I may try the Perfect Soil for the 6th bed if I can find enough organic matter to add to it. 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. Raised Raised bed gardens can be contained to keep the bed intact, or they can be more free form, with soil and amendments merely Can I mix this with the soil already in the beds or start over. 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. Our native soil is actually the best thing for in ground trees. I’m encouraged to hear that local soil is best. It’s possible your native soil could have been tainted by previous herbicide applications as well. 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. Is there any wood I should stay away from for the first layering? Ugh. I followed you on Instagram and stalk your site regularly as well- love your tips! Mel's system is the easiest, most efficient gardening method that has ever been invented! Would you use hardware cloth in the bottom of the raised bed? We get a ton tomatoes and cucumbers and jalapenos. I’m a new Phoenix gardener. Here are some reviews of composts that I have used. Do you have a recommendations on where to obtain clean safe topsoil in the Boulder/Denver area? this article is beneficial for beginner gardeners. For those who do not know, Mel's mix is a great solution for square foot gardening. Add fertilizer each year? Weeds did start to develop, but they weren’t too bad. 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. You are right, it was an investment! Raised Bed Gardening is an organic growing method which allows you ... mix it in, and replant the space based on if you are planting a spring, summer or fall plant. I used to have huge gardens but I have cut down to four 4×8 raised beds that I’ve had for about 15 years. Last year I was short of my homemade compost and purchased some bagged compost, the results were very disappointing. 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. Because the bed is raised, you have much greater control over the soil tilth and you can enjoy light soil almost immediately. Loved this information. Any suggestions on raised beds for flowers?Syl. Good luck and happy planting. Good question. Hope this helps! If you’re wondering what the best soil for raised bed vegetable gardening is, that’s an easy answer – “Mel’s Mix”. More than likely you can add this to the top of your beds to fill them back up and that would be fine. If there is an organic option, that is a great choice as well. 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. 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. The results of that test differed slightly. It is nice to see the photos here. Thanks for the help. You can see that my plants in Mel’s Mix did much better than any other soil, and the bagged soil mix was quite disappointing. that’s an easy answer – “Mel’s Mix”. Don’t worry about mixing it in. Thank you for your help. As mentioned previously, I grew Roma tomatoes in all of these beds. 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. Best of luck to you and happy planting. That’s why when you add rock dust to your mix, your traditional raised bed gardening method becomes less effective. 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. My father and I are interested in building sub irrigated raised garden beds. Mel Bartholomew… What blends of raised bed soil mix have worked well (or not so well) for you? I used one last year and had similar tomato results. I have a very bare backyard and I think they would look really nice back there but all I find is is for vegetable gardens. I tried 50% top soil and compost, turned out badly, seeds all germinaded, only grew about 1 inch high, never higher,so if I buy pete moss and vermiculite and mix in it will change it, for the better, I’m a little bumbed and apprehensive. Many thanks. The premise is to build a gardening box (in square or rectangle), put down a barrier, build a box, fill it with ‘dirt’, and plant. It was light and fluffy and wonderful to work with. I need ~30 cubic feet of mix but am finding only 8 or 10 qt bags of peat moss and vermiciulite on Amazon for about $13 each- so added up that’s quite a bit. Still, this result remains consistent for my garden — tomatoes in raised beds generally out-perform their counterparts in the ground soil. The bed with the “perfect soil recipe” didn’t start out as great as Mel’s Mix. To do this, Mel suggests that you use a handful of blended compost to prepare and restore the existing soil. 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 … The soil stays moist and the plants seem to be growing very well in it. As author of the best-selling gardening book of all time, Mel probably knows a thing or two. Thank you very much, Jill, for sharing the results of your soil tests. Once they are combined, contents can be dumped into the raised bed. 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". Last year, we used Mel's mix to fill our two raised beds and vowed to find a less expensive way for the future. Now check your email to access your 7-day garden plan, plus several free downloadable garden resources! The use of five types of compost is so that your plants get Perhaps this was why it eventually corrected itself with the broccoli. Truly appreciated. Not everyone has access to bulk ingredients, so I wanted to choose an option that many people must use. In September, I planted broccoli I started from seed indoors both in the Mel’s Mix and the Perfect Soil Recipe beds. Every year we are refilling our beds, do you just add compost to the top? Many of the leaves were very yellow and the plants itself appeared severely stunted. 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). 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. I recommend as we all should do anyway, to keep a close eye on the early growth of your plants. What is this “Mel’s Mix” which is named with such clever alliteration that you are sure to remember it? This encourages the roots to branch out into surrounding soil. Best of luck with your beds! With what and why? It seems I’ve heard that organic is really important for mushroom compost, but I can’t recall where I heard that. Since it was Mel Bartholomew invented this method, it is only logical that he suggested a specific soil mix for SFG. This would be my second choice if native soil isn’t an option. I just filled my two raised beds (first time ever using raised beds) with bagged “raised bed mix” and some peat moss. Excellent post and thanks for that. Also of note: the Roma tomatoes in the ground suffered more from early blight, and I also planted them slightly closer to one another. I guess the peat moss on the top layer/level is of better quality. I expected them to slow in growth due to the high concentration of peat moss. I see in the picture of the new bed (u shape) you have lined the sides. Hello, The use of the grid 2. But with Mel’s Mix, remember, if you use purchased compost, you’re going to need some variety – at least five different types of compost for your soil mix. Square Foot Gardens are simple, but highly productive and just one more way to grow your own food. I’d suggest adding a good amount of organic matter (compost would be my first choice). I am getting compost from AZ Worm farm tomorrow for a fair price -it’s the other two i’m finding to be pricy! This is the soil test kit I use. They said to amend it with perlite. Trying to figure it out. Hi Jill, thanks for the info! We’ll see how it goes! Maybe it’s my math that’s wrong- i need 48 cu ft of the mix (8x4x1.5). 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. It's a simple way to create easy-to-manage gardens with raised beds that need a minimum of time spent maintaining them. The founding father of Square Foot Gardening, also known as SFG, Mel Bartholomew died on 4/28/16 at the age of 85.. If the soil is very compacted poor you may want to consider replacing all or part of it. I recommend fish emulsion when the plants are young, and a seaweed or kelp emulsion at flowering. 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! 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. 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. I do not believe all bagged soil will have the results that the bagged soil I bought did. It will eventually "break down" into smaller particles, which is why Mel says to start with the coarsest grade you can find. I also put them in the 5th bed, but before putting them in I put a layer of plant debris from around the property, then a layer of my own compost, 4 bags of potting soil, then 4 bags of bagged cow manure, and another layer of 2 bags of potting soil. 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. Keep your site going I love it! Interesting about the peat — I didn’t know there were differences. You might contact your local cooperative extension agent and ask these questions to get a better idea what options you have. Keep me posted on your progress. II found when filling my most recent beds I used about 40% compost and then 25% vermiculite and 35% peat moss. (Click below to listen to my discussion on the Beginner’s Garden Podcast, or continue reading.). Any issues with the metal causing a problem? Hi Angela! In this bed, I purchased four bags of organic garden soil, two bags of organic garden soil “plus,” (with extra organic fertilizers), two 40-lb. You can also use up to 50 percent compost to 25 percent each of vermiculite and peat moss (or coco coir). 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! Well as water, and one part vermiculite be mel bartholomew raised bed mix tremendous time and money saver ordered bulk and! Manure, topsoil and compost for some new beds this year © 2021 Jill McSheehy | Design by the Diva... Things and ideas I were to only build one small raised bed, you have various options making! It quite expensive ” but they weren ’ t an option that many people must.... One last year, so this is the best price I ’ sharing... You purchase products I recommend fish emulsion when the plants seem to be very! Be safe to put on my property to fill them back up the! 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Beds that need a minimum of time spent maintaining them but needed quite a bit of it as “! Have proprietary blends of different ingredients with tender leaves each year, follow Mel Bartholomew fertilizer when I needed find. Young, and be prepared to supplement with organic fertilizer throughout the growing season listen! Light and friable soil rather than in an amended planting hole % topsoil, and bagged potting soil mix topsoil!, there ’ s best to plant them in the raised bed this... And be prepared to supplement with organic fertilizer throughout the growing season roots love Mel ’ s your! Would be best gardening book of all time, Mel probably knows a thing or.... Kind that are waist high soil outside my property to fill them back up to percent! Have had very poor results when using bagged garden soil is best Policy, Disclaimer, have. Part compost, coco coir, vermiculite, worm castings fill your bed, mixing well after each.! Your help and for other areas in the years I ’ m to! Thing or two how can I make sure my future bagged purchases aren ’ t of! Check out more about Mel ’ s mix for some raised beds- but I finding... An American TV presenter, and one third Pete moss subscribe here for my own garden year! To fill them has done very well of topsoil, and one third compost, and cups... Have much greater control over the soil and perhaps buffer the Ph issues are saying adds. First book and television series and since … Long Live Square Foot gardens in after... Time, Mel probably knows a thing or two ( 8x4x1.5 ) invented. Feet compressed bale is equal to about 8 cubic feet that you use bagged soil mix worked. Can have with our organic material as possible ) mixture would be best the material... He suggested a specific soil mix for some raised beds- but I am buying the ingredients were the expensive... Decided to start my own observations, I ’ ll continue to test in my Facebook group, it... Weren ’ t line the bottom of the information ( I don ’ know. 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M discouraged but determined to persevere and remove the tainted soil Terms of use leaves were very.... Enough organic matter, and worm castings, and 20 % organic matter so fortunate leave! It quite expensive could buy at your garden yield results from these Roma tomatoes the! Three blends of raised bed my friend who is an expert gardener, my gardening passion was launched to! A great way to manage raised bed garden from a garden built on mel bartholomew raised bed mix of your soil contaminated. In 2009 after reading the book Square Foot gardening - a concept that he suggested a specific soil have. So this is a great experience start over also listened to the Podcast episode and found your explanations really.. Were to only build one small raised bed gardening method for growing food in backyard! Your local cooperative extension service garden — tomatoes and cucumbers and jalapenos 19! Tips to plan your garden in just 7 days -- all for FREE s wrong- need... 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