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Mel's Mix in containers, 4 years later, WWYD?

12 years ago

Hi everyone,

I'm having a moment of "What Would Gardenweb Do?" WWGD?

I'm feeling conflicted on what to do with some older Mel's Mix that I've been using in my above-ground raised planter boxes for the last few years. These are fairly large, 2 foot deep, 4' wide doug fir planter boxes I built with plywood bottoms on wheels. (So I can roll them around my concrete patio.)

Mel's book says you *can* use the mix in containers. So I did, long before I ever really got the hang of the Al's 511 mix. (I actually do use the 511 on my citrus and potted ornamentals.)

Some may be surprised to hear this, but I have had enormous success over the years using Mel's Mix in these containers, growing lots of tomatoes, peppers, and beans especially. (Squash and melons, not so much.)

I do realize that the nutrients inherent in the compost are being washed away on a regular basis, so I do regularly fertilize with EB Stone/Dr. Earth powdered ferts and a few times a growing season I use a weak liquid 3-3-3 organic. The boxes are loaded with worms all year round.

Each year I've mixed back in a fresh layer of compost... mainly a bagged wood-based compost with added chicken manures. Like a "Bumper Crop" or "Harvest Surpreme". So each year I add a couple bags of fairly coarse compost, and the rest of the mels mix is peat and perlite which, at least according to Mel, don't break down.

So it may not be the 5-1-1, but it has provided us with a lot of home-grown, good tasting veggies. Which was my goal. I may not win any prizes at the state fair, and I might grow much more in a gritty mix with Miracle Grow, but that wasn't my objective.

Anyway, I realize this is directly contradictory to the prevailing theory over on the container forum. There is a great big disconnect between those that say you can grow in compost in a container, and those that say you can't.

So, my dliemma is this... I know, theoretically, that this planting mix has gotten older and more condensed, even though Mel says that Peat and Vermiculite don't compress. If I just trust what I read in Mel's book, I would add more compost and go about my way and never look back.

But I know *too* much... LOL

I can just hear Al telling me in my inner obi-wan voice to toss this and create some gritty mix, but I can't afford to and I don't believe (based on past success) that I actually NEED to throw it all out.

I would LIKE to try to add more compost and/or composted wood material to this mix and continue growing with it, espeically after such a huge cash outlay on the peat and vermiculite.

But I am wondering, after 4 years, can I continue to amend the Mix (when used in a container). Or is it truly depleted and un-usable?

SNIBB... you still here? Has Mel ever used his mix in a container after 3-4 years? What would Mel say, or you say, at this point?

Any words of encouragement, or words of advice?

Remember, I really do appreciate all your help here. (Almost) Everything I ever learned about Gardening I got on Gardenweb. :-)

Thanks, everyone!

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