I am curious what others use to amend their soil for their square foot gardens each year? I have raised beds and use peat moss, manure, soil and mix it together. What types of compost have people used?
I actually haven't amended my soil -- I just replaced it entirely :-) I use Mel's Mix (1/3 peat; 1/3 vermiculite; 1/3 compost) for my raised beds. For the compost, it's really better (from everything that I've read) to have as many sources as possible because each one is going to be different. I've purchased EarthGro at Lowes and also Black Kow at Home Depot and used these in my raised beds. But for this next year, I'll also be making some of my own with kitchen vegetable scraps, eggs shells, newspapers, coffee grounds, old coffee (hey, if the grounds are good the old coffee left in the pot should be good too, right?), and leaves. So that will give me 3 good sources of compost for 2008.
I've also emailed a local horse farm to see about getting some manure from their stables. I have plenty of oak leaves in my yard that could be layered with the horse manure for some great compost too.
Hope that helps answer your questions. By the way, in my first square foot garden I amended the soil that was already there. Even though I screened the soil and went thru every bit of it handful by handfil, I fought weeds left and right! It was because the seeds were in the soil. So it was a never-ending chore trying to keep the weeds out.
By just completely replacing the soil with Mel's Mix, it's been much less work in keeping the weeks out.
Here is a link that might be useful: Ft2Garden.com
If you build your beds on top of your existing soil, with landscape fabric covering the ground, the weeds should be less of an issue. Then build your mix on top of that. That's what I did, but added 3 inches of gravel over the fabric for better drainage and weed control.
I'm lucky here that we've got a regional composter that uses no less than 5 types of plants for compost and thousands of different source plants, so it's as diverse as you can get. And I can get it in bulk from several sources and if I need more than 5 yards, they'll deliver.
So I agree, it's much easier in the long run to replace or build over your existing soil.
Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden in progress...
Raised Hearth, No Hearth, or Flush Hearth ???
Suggest front yard landscape/garden bed ideas
From Square to Bohemian, help with cookie cutter back yard
How to create natural and organic looking raised beds with lumber?
I get a lot more mileage out of sand. lol My soil is sand. I just add compost to the planting holes. Then keep a deep mulch with leaves and coffee grounds.
Thanks for the responses, I will check out mels mix. My beds are built on top of the soil, held together with brackets. They are lined with a weed barrier fabric the wood is cedar and has held up well even though it is untreated. I've moved them a few times. I have some of my favorite quotes painted on the sides of the beds and brick paths surrounding them. I like the idea of mixing a couple of different types of compost, kind of like mixing different ingredients to make a dish taste better. I like to experiment each year.
i used chicken manure (free from the neighbors), Black Kow, peat, vermiculite, fish compost, home compost. Between my boxes I covered newspaper with two-three inches of pine needles from a nearby tree ( I didn't like the look but they stayed put and by the end of Fall- it had broken down)
This is my second season SQFT gardening and what I've simply done is cover last season's Mel's Mix variation (2/4 composts, 1/4 peat moss, 1/4 Turface MVP Clay-mulched with straw)with a mixture of aged steer manure, worm castings and compost. What I'm thinking is that last season's straw will slowly decompose into lovely organic material and I intend to repeat this process yearly. Would there be a problem with this idea?
darthtrader: The only concern I would have is that with your extended growing season, composing in-place will take a bed out of production for a lot of usable time each year. I'd build a couple of compost bins for your stuff to decompose in and top off your beds from that as it finishes.
Newgardenelf I like the idea of pine needles do you put them on top as a mulch to keep the weeds down or do you mix them in the soil? Sorry I see that it is a mulch in between the boxes. I do wonder how it would be to mix them in the soil? I have a lot of pine needles. Always more questions with gardening there is always something more.
Okay so you replace all the soil in each bed each year? Do you remove your grid (which I nailed in)? What do you do with your "old soil"? This is become expensive and more labor intensive than I planned....
If you are doing actual square foot gardening and using the formula of 1/3 peat, 1/3 coarse vermiculite and 1/3 compost, then you just need to replace the compost after each planting. No need to replace the peat and vermiculite as they last for a long time.