Finally it has stopped raining, although we still get a lot of cloudy and threatening weather. Over two days I took advantage of the weather to mix up two batches of Mel’s Mix and fill my new raised beds. The boxes are 4x6 by 8 inches deep, so doing the math that is 16 cubic feet of mix. Since 16 is not evenly divisible by 3, I rounded up to eighteen. One box required 6 cubic feet of each component. I happened to have bought two 6 cubic foot bags of coarse vermiculite, so that works out. Six bags of five different kinds of compost, check! For the peat moss, I bought one 4 cubic foot bag and one 2 cubic foot bag of Canadian peat moss and used the eyeball method to divide them.
The technique for mixing the ingredients is detailed in an earlier post so I will not repeat it here. Instead, I will offer a few observations. When mixing up a batch of Mel’s Mix the fourth and fifth times, I was considerably more relaxed and less anal than the first few times I did it. Practice makes relaxed. Mixing 18 cubic yards of mix is a heck of a lot easier than 24 cubic feet, the amount needed to fill three 4x4 boxes. Still, I figure I mixed about a half ton of Mel’s Mix, so it was a significant amount of work to fill the two boxes. Mixing 18 cubic feet when calculations called for 16 turned out to be fortunate, yielding an amount of mix that almost filled the beds to the top. Finally, I was at first skeptical about the #4 coarse vermiculite but I now like it and believe it makes the mix much lighter and fluffier than finer grades. Finer grades allow the mix to compact and settle more.
This picture shows 6 cubic feet of #4 vermiculite dumped on the blended compost. You can see the size of the pieces, some almost a half inch in size with very little in the way of fine particles.
Here’s an empty box ready for filling. You can see it is set off the ground on blocks to accommodate the frequent flooding of the garden. After looking at this and pressing on the bottom, I panicked and ran out and bought an additional 6 blocks per box. They were slid under the box between the cross braces to provide additional support for the hardware cloth.
Here are the 16 cubic foot boxes filled with 18 cubic feet of Mel's Mix. Good thing I mixed up the additional amount, since even with the additional mix they are not filled to the top.
I added grids to the boxes using half inch polypropylene strapping. The only thing I could find at a reasonable price was this yellow strapping from Staples (60 feet plus fasteners I didn’t need for $6).
I fastened the strapping using an Arrow stapler loaded with half inch staples. This seemed like a good idea but I found the strapping is brittle and prone to splitting at the ends, so I had to do a lot of re-stapling. Still, I think it looks good.
The filled and gridded beds, ready for planting this Memorial Day weekend, just in time for the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. More on that.