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Newbie Gardener Needs Your Input

I purchased a prefab raised garden bed measuring 4'x4'x7". The packaging says fill with 8 cu ft soil. Another calculator says 10 cu ft. I've come up with a formula using 6 cu ft soil, 2 cu ft worm castings, 1 cu ft vermiculite and a 4# bag of Dr. Earth Veggie and Herb fertilizer to be used as directed. Now I'm trying to decide what soil to use? Would a fertilized soil be overkill? I plan on using plants not seeds. Should I use a starter fertilizer when transplanting? HELP!

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Lettuce is unbelievable. Have pinched and eaten 6 times already. Broccoli starting to flower below the head.Harvested broccoli and plucked flowers for salad garnish. Anybody have a recipe for leaves? Plan on doing red onions in that space.

To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

Things are looking good

Here is my final growing medium concoction. 4 cu ft top soil, 2 cu ft peat moss, 2 cu ft worm castings, 1 cu ft vermiculite and 2 cups fertilizer. Here is what I planted. 3 tomato plants, 4 pepper, 1 basil, 1 flat leaf parsley, 1 german thyme, red and leaf lettuce, yellow onion sets, 1 cauliflower, 1 broccoli, 1 butternut squash, 1 cabbage and marigolds around the perimeter. I took the precaution of adding an 18" mesh fencing to the inside of the bed held in place by the soil. Also underneath to keep burrowing critters out. Sunday night got down to 32 degrees here in northern Illinois and Monday reached the mid 80's, lol. So I transplanted Monday and after 3 days nothing looks stressed out except the marigolds, go figure. Some animal tried to penetrate the bed but wasn't successful. Thank you guys and gals for your replies. I will print this page out for reference. The next project will be a second crop late summer into fall. peace.

To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

That's a lot

That is a lot of stuff for a 4x4 square :) that one squash plant may take up half of it if it's healthy. Usually they come in a set of two for pollination.

seemed wierd to me also

Used square ft gardening as reference. we'll see, live and learn.

To my Liberal Trolls:
"Really Don't mind if you sit this one out. Your words but a whisper, your deafness a shout. I may make you feel, but I can't make you think."
Ian Anderson 1972

BMWJIM's picture

One of my raised beds are

4'x14'x10". I divided it into thirds. Into those went 9 squash, 9 Iraqi Eggplant, and 9 Artichoke. Thus far the squash and eggplant are fine and producing. I removed 4 Artichoke and will remove 3 more for they grow much larger than I had anticipated (4-6' in diameter). Read up on all that you plant and see what(how much) area they need for maximum performance. I think you may be planting a little much for your bed.

My business partner planted a 4x8x8" raised bed with which I provided 4 tomatoes and two bell pepper plants. He states that the tomato plants are crowding out the peppers. I imagine this to be true for the tomatoes I plant tend to bush out to about 4'. I expect to get between 15-20 pounds per plant like last year.


1976-1982 USMC, Having my hands in the soil keeps me from soiling my hands on useless politicians.

Look at John Collier

here http://www.youtube.com/user/growingyourgreens he has vides about every situation. you should go organic. what i do is buy some organic compost and put a lot and mix it in good at the bottom of the bed. and mix native dirt with it (mostly becuase im cheap). but organic all the way. theres no point to grow your own stuff if you could buy the same quality at the store.

transplant 3-4 days before a full moon

if you are doing a double reach raised bed you can set logs on the bottom no matter the dimensions just make it a rectangular bed reachable to the center.

before you set the hay down lay about half an inch of newspaper (more if you are in a dry environment). Then break up the hay bale and get the bed about thigh high, I personally mix my own compost from horse and straw in 50/50.

I don't add vermiculite, I instead add compost from my worm bin at 50/50 with my piled compost. I create a hole for each plant inside the hay and cut a hole in the newspaper at the bottom.

You may want to add a resting post or trellis, transplant after 4 in the afternoon, and if you have worm juice or compost tea it is good to rinse the roots down after planting but not too wet, I rinse then add some extra compost and hay.

After transplanting remember the plant is weak, all energy must go to the roots, therefore block partial sun after transplanting for atleast a week or two until you see the energy back in the leaves.

I use a bath tub sitting on a stand to grow thousands of worms, I let it drain into a bucket and that is the best fertilizer your plants will ever need. You will want to fill the tub half with horse compost, then hay and vegetable matter and a layer of paper over it all.. no citrus, avocado, sweets or meat, egg shells are good; the more phosphorous the more worm reproduction.

When you get more confident with sowing seed, use (EM-bacteria) Efficient Microorganism/ mixed with seaweed extract... or just EM, and soak the seed in it for 12 hours or more before sowing or germinating in the Germination Unit. EM will stimulate germination better than any thing in the world.

A true flower can not blossom without sunlight and a true man can not live without love.

Nix on Scotts products

It's basically supporting Monsanto. Don't support them! i agree with what this guy says:

People often ask me if Miracle-Gro is organic. My response is usually, “Who cares?”
The majority of Miracle-Gro’s product line is filled with chemicals and synthetics. They do have some product that is organic and certified by OMRI.
Scott’s, the parent company of Miracle-Gro, is in bed with Monsanto and are the exclusive agent of Round-Up.
For me, I don’t care how organic one small part of their product line is because ultimately it is going to a company that I cannot support. I’d rather source my fertilizer and other gardening needs from elsewhere than to get organics from a company that I don’t believe in.
This is what it all comes down to. It’s not just about being organic. It’s about what your money is supporting.
I don’t care how organic their product is. As consumers, we vote with our dollars. When you give your dollar to a company like Scott’s you are supporting what they are doing. Even if you buy their organic product, it’s still going to the same company.


If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison

ACT now! As in aerated

ACT now! As in aerated compost tea. Your mixture is fine. Use any decent store bought potting soil and go easy on any added fertilizer. The potting soil and your worm castings have a good amount of nutrients in them. Search for info on brewing your own compost tea. It`s super cheap and easy and your plants will absolutely thrive! It will keep harmful bugs at bay in your soil and if sprayed once a week on the leaves it will keep them off there too. 100% natural and you can`t over do it. The tea makes all the nutrients in your mix easily available at all times and keeps it "balanced". Do this one thing and success will follow. I encourage all gardeners to look into this and the KISS method meaning "keep it simple stupid"! No offense meant to anyone. lol

4x4x6 sqft gardens

4 x 4 x 6 \ 12 = 8cu feet.
That is what all my boxes are roughly.

They probably say to use use 8cu feet in a 4x4x7 so your soil will just sit down in the box a little bit instead of being filled to the brim.

i use 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 compost.

remember that peatmoss expands... a 2.2cuft bag is more than 2.2 when expanded. the exact measurments i don't know and it varies...

i use a little garden tractor trailer that is roughly 10cuft inside. i measured into 1/3's on the inside and used paint marker to make lines. i start by adding the peat moss up to the first line, breaking it all up so it is expanded, then i add vermiculite and finally the compost or topsoil. then i just use a shovel and mix it. it's light enough with all that vermiculite and peat moss in there.

Edit: Don't use fertilizer if you are using nutrient rich soil\compost. And you add more compost when you pull the old plants and add new ones, just mix in a garden shovel\spade scoop of it.

enjoy your garden! :D

I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

some advice

When transplanting drench the soil with Maxicrop (a seaweed concentrate) which stimulates root growth. You may also consider applying mycorrhizal fungi to the roots before transplanting if you want to go all out. I would also apply EM-1 (friendly microbes) and Humate (humic acid) to promote a living soil. Cover the soil with a mulch such as straw to retain moisture and promote earth worms, in a wet climate keep the mulch away from the stem of the plants. As far as fertilizers I would go with compost and worm casting tea along with Maxicrop.

For everyone who is considering raised bed garden look into a fabric system, here is some info I found online: "In pots or planters, plant roots grow up to the edge and start to circle around the inside of the pot or raised bed, where the plants can become pot-bound, resulting in poor growth and an increased likelihood of disease. Often, the gardener must remove a plant from a pot and prune the roots for healthier growth. In a fabric garden the roots grow to the outside edge of the bed, sense the presence of air, and stop growing on their own. The roots reach to the fullest extent of the garden, but don’t become pot-bound."

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
Thomas Jefferson

Add the fertilizer after the

Add the fertilizer after the plants are established...Give them three months. Most soils have ample nutrients for at least three months of growth before you need to add. A more accurate method is it get a soil tester. I live in the desert and soil PH is more important than nutrients in a plants survival since our soil and water in Nevada is not acidic...these probe devices are relatively cheap.I have to add nitrogen frequently and the best was is COMPOST.As you learn your plants you can also tell by the color of their leaves.

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

You are receiving a lot of good advice. Just don't subject yourself to the paralysis of analysis. Get the s**t going and all will be well. :)

"Setting a good example is a far better way to spread ideals than through force of arms."
Ron Paul

I have some sweet info for you

First, stoked to see you using work castings. They are amazing and under appreciated.

Second, MUSHROOMS (mushroom compost)!! Even more amazing and more under appreciated!

Look up mycorrhizal fungi. This stuff basically bonds to the plants underneath the soil and helps retain moisture and deliver nutrients to the root system.

Get your hands on some mushroom compost. Shameless plug - we sell this stuff to local nurseries and it's great - http://subfarms.com/product/mushroom-compost-20-lbs/

To make our compost we use coconut coir (which we also sell), vermiculite, a little gypsum, and some locally sourced earthworm castings and a couple other natural ingredients. We colonize this stuff with mushrooms and grow them for local restaurants. Then when the mushroom bags are spent - we let them sit in the sun until you have mushroom compost, teaming with beneficial fungi. Some people have even had mushrooms pop up in their garden =)

If anyone wants to place an order with us let me know and I'll set up a coupon code for you awesome DP people.

Also please try to avoid anything owned or associated with monsanto like miracle grow. Support local farms and companies - they are usually a google search away. Most of the time the stuff works better anyway. A lot of the "organic" compost out there is NOT organic.

Here's an awesome 6th grade science project I read this morning that compares mushroom soil to miracle grow etc: http://www.fungi.com/blog/items/future-fungonaut.html

- Grow Mushrooms at Home

i love these posts.

I learn a lot from everyone's input.

If you're going Miracle Grow,

If you're going Miracle Grow, try their Organics line. Just remember they're owned by Monsanto.

Simple Facts and Plain Arguments
A common sense take on politics and current events.


Scotts Miracle-Gro is not

Scotts Miracle-Gro is not owned by Monsanto. Scotts is licensed by Monsanto to market Round-Up to the consumer markets.

New Membership Levels with Greeneville Outfitters - Gear at Cost:

I used: 1:1:.25 Miracle grow

I used:


Miracle grow garden soil, top soil with peat moss, and organic manure.

Regarding fertilizer.

Personally, I wouldn't depend on the contents of that Dr. Earth Veggie & Herb fertilizer, even tho I've read up on it and there's a lot of good stuff in there. In my judgment, it may not be enough.

In your situation, I'd fertilize once a week with (1) liquid seaweed and (2) a good quality liquid fish fertilizer. That'll probably be enough. Best of luck. What are you wanting to grow in your 4 X 4, anyway? That might help us give you better advice. Some crops want more nitrogen and others less.

important point - every plant

important point - every plant and climate have different needs. Soil gets deep =)

- Grow Mushrooms at Home

Here's What I Used

I used the Mel's Mix recommended by the Square Foot Gardening technique which uses raised beds.

1/3 Perlite (Vermiculite Wasn't Available and I probably didn't use a full 1/3 of perlite, more like a 1/4 or maybe slightly less)
1/3 Peat Moss
1/3 Compost/Gardening Soil
I also used 2 bags of cow manure into each of my two raised 8X4X10.5 beds. (This offset the cut back on the perlite in terms of total volume needed to fill the bed).

I would up your perlite/vermiculite amount if you're in a hot area/area that doesn't get tons of rain. The perlite/vermiculite absorbs water and releases it slowly into the garden as it dries out plus keeps the soil aerated. The 1/3 of compost/gardening soil I'm sure would be fine to use worm castings, mushroom compost, etc. You just want nice, rich organic soil in there.

According the SFG, you don't need to really add any fertilizer but simply add rich compost every so often. I have a compost bin that all food scraps and leafy yard debris go into, turn it a couple times a month and keep it slightly moist.

My beds are doing great with only about 4 hours of direct light. I have spinach, leaf lettuce, sugar snap peas, zuchinni/squash, swiss chard, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets and radishes. My tomatoes, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce and zuch/squash may not do that well because of the light hours but I'm putting in two more 8X4X10.5 next year in a spot getting 7 - 8 hours of direct light.

Best of luck and remember to enjoy the garden. I tend to obsess with projects like this so have to stop myself and be proud of my bounty so far from my first garden.

Enjoy! We may be adding chickens next year.

P.S. We have moles here so I put hardware mesh underneath each of my raised beds to keep the little buggers from getting in there and eating my roots. I put this in an area where grass was growing but didn't use any newspapers or landscape cloth to keep the grass from coming through, I think the 10 1/2 inch depth of soild keeps them from coming through but you probably don't need it.

I can vouch for Mel's Mix

I bought the SFG book in January and have built two raised beds out of basic lumber from Home Depot. The 1/3 of each material is the way to go. It is a bit pricey up front but it's 100% worth it. We've had drenching rains that would normally waterlog the ground and disrupt root supplies of plants before, but even with 3 straight days of rain, the soil remains friable and drains extremely well.

After you get started and make the $100 investment in composted soill, vermiculite, and peat moss, start your own compost. It's really easy to do. Any garbage can can be used as a "pile" and will provide plenty of good "fertilizer" when complete and can even be used as mulch in two-three weeks.

Every other ways requires way too much calculation and constant additions of nutrients that can burn your plant in a heart beat. I just recommend staying with compost since it will slowly release nutrients and is in a good balance as it is.

Another thought

I don't know how much room you have, but you really should have at least 2 beds if you plan on planting the same crops every year because you need to rotate your veg patch. You can't plant the same thing year after year in the same bed - too much pest build up. Or then whatever you plant this year you don't plant next year.
You need to look up companion planting and plant accordingly. Different plants need different soil conditions - brassicas and alliums like a more alkaline or limed soil, for instance.
So this year do a tomato, basil, pepper etc (as I suggested below) and next year do the brassicas and alliums or then seriously think about adding another raised bed to your collection. I started with 3 and now have 8. Yup... it's addictive!

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison


Mushroom compost

For me it is all about the

For me it is all about the soil, vermiculite/perlite are used to aerate the soil... coconut coir is good for helping retain moisture... I prefer not to use straight manures (bacteria,etc), but fully composted manures are a fantastic source of nutrition.
http://www.gardensalive.com/ has a lot of good products, but still like to use Miracle-Gro occasionally for the tomatos.

New Membership Levels with Greeneville Outfitters - Gear at Cost:

Great you're starting to grow your own veg

R-H is correct, just regular topsoil will be fine and get a bag of compost to mix in. Sounds like you will be doing square foor gardening and is that why the vermiculite? I really wouldn't bother with it as I've done sq ft gardening without it. You can look up organic compost and read what people say/like - I make my own compost. I also use a fish emulsion. I've found composted leaved work really well as a soil conditioner and I recommend you collect leaves in the fall and compost them over winter for your garden next spring. I know someone who just plants in composted leaves mixed with lime compost and he has an amazing crop every year.
After tilling the soil under where your garden bed will be, put down several layers of newspapers or a sigle layer of flattened carboard boxes and water them/it to start the decomposition process, then put the soil on top. This will act as a weed barrier in case there are seeds in the tilled soil.
Good luck and may you have a bountiful crop!

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
James Madison

Need some basic info

1. Where do you live
2. what are you growing

Personally, I would till the ground it was going on top of - if you dont have a tiller - do it by hand(4 x4 areas is probably too small to till anyways) - you need to just break the soil up - if it is currently grass - just turn the grass over and chop it up with the shovel - no need to remove it. Break the dirt up good either way. The roots of most plants are going well beyond 7inches down. Tomatoes can go several feet down.

Personally- I would just fill it with top soil or - if you know someone with a farm - good composted soil. Fill it right to the top - water it to settle it - and it should be a little below the top of the bed so water doesnt just run off.

Thats it - I think you are way over thinking it. Again - depending on what you are growing. But most vegetables will grow quite fine in plain old top soil.

My mom can grow anything - she puts a stick in the ground and next year she has a bush - she's amazing. She says never use fertilizer - it is like crack for baby plants and they will get dependent on it. I have always followed her advice on that.

Then in the fall - load it with leaves or other organic stuff - turn the dirt and let it get nice and composted for next year.

Crack for baby plants?

I would take issue with your mother's advice. I start lots of things from seed in the house, eg, tomatoes, peppers, cucs, etc. as we have a short growing season. If I didn't give the babies some liquid standard fertilizer such as Schultz or Miracle Gro, they'd do very, very poorly - which has indeed happened.

Of course I understand that maybe your mother was not referring to my particular situation of starting seedlings indoors, but if we are placing plants direct from the nursery into our garden, I can assure you that they have already been doused with liquid fertilizer at the nursery. That's just the way it's done.

I live in CT as the name implies

our season is short and I start everything indoors(except cucumbers and squash). I never use fertilizer - not in the pots not in the garden.

The idea being that the plants wont thrive and become vigorous if they dont have to work for the food(much like us people - we become fat and lazy). They tend not to develop good deep roots and as such dont produce as much or as long - of course that is unless you keep feeding em the crack - hehe.

Hey - lots of people use fertilizer - so it must work - I am just saying that I was taught not to and I get really good results.

Everybody has there own way of doing it.

Now let me put on my best british accent and put my nose up and say - no self respecting gardener buys from the nursery - that is for tourists - LOL!! That an those of us who got sick of waiting for it to get warm and lost a few plants this year with a frost in May. Ooops.

Fertilize or not?

It is hard to argue with your statements, which are correct at least in theory. Perhaps I will try once again to not fertilize the seedlings that I start in the house. What usually happens is the leaves turn purple on the bottom. Sign of P deficiency or that it is too cold in our house, which results in poor P uptake even if it's there in the soil. Our house IS too cold! I've no control over that. So I pour on the Miracle Gro and the purple goes away. Not the most natural solution, I agree. This would explain why my plants take 2 weeks to adjust to the garden soil even after a goodly period of hardening-off. Oh, well.

I know it's wrong, but deep down I tend to snort at folks who buy all their vegetables at the nursery, almost fully grown. 3-ft tall tomato plants with fruit on them, for heaven's sake. Cucs with blossoms! What the hey. Do they consider this to be gardening? I sure don't. It's like adopting an 18-year old.