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Fw: Pro Mix and Sermon on the Mound

I think the price of a 5.5 cubic foot bag of pro mix is about $25. I am sure pro
mix would improve almost any soil although I have never used it in this way. It
is a bit expensive. I only use Pro-mix for potted plants and seedlings.

I use 4 or 5 year old wood chips which I have by the ton from my tree care
business. The price is right, free. I use several tons a year on my ornamental
garden area which is about 2 acres in size. This is a project that I started in
1995 when I moved to my present location.

I suggest you seek  sources of free or cheap organic materials. If you have the
room and time many tree care companies are looking for a place to get rid of
their wood chips. Try to get leaves from municipalities for free. About 10 years
ago I got 50 dump truck loads of leaves that had been through a vacuum system
and were ground into small pieces. I plowed these 50 dump truck loads into the
ground over the winter and planted a one acre vegetable garden. They were
decomposed by April after only being turned in for 4 or 5 months. This is called
"sheet composting". Look for new or old stable manure, grass clippings, etc. Any
source of organic material will break down given enough time. It is possible to
make compost in 14 days with a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 30 to 1. This is
called the "indore" method and was developed years ago. You will have to turn
your compost 4 or 5 times in a 14 day period for it to break down this fast. It
is labor intensive but I used to make tons of compost by hand this way.

These days I just let wood chips sit for 3 or 4 years and they break down on
their own. I do turn them every year or so with a Bobcat front end loader. This
is mostly to control weeds that grow on my piles. I am careful to pick up 4 or 5
inches of topsoil when I do this turning. This picks up microbes from the soil
and mixes them in with the wood chips. This inoculates my piles and
decomposition takes less time.

Almost any source of organic material is useful. Fresh wood chips used as a
mulch will also over time greatly improve your soil. I do not till in my
decomposed wood chips. I put a 5 or 6 inch layer on the surface and make a small
well when I plant trees or hostas. I am careful not to pile mulch against tree
trunks or to pile more than an inch a year over established hostas. I am careful
not to use much mulch around new tissue culture liners. They are small and can
get lost easily. My unimproved soil is sandy and well drained with a ph of 5.5.

Everyone has their own techniques for soil improvement. I have been through many
phases in the past 20 years from the strictly organic growing of vegetables with
no chemical fertilizers to my present day practice of large amounts of organic
material along with chemical fertilizer put down in the spring and foliar
applications of 20-20-20 along with fish and seaweed 4 or 5 times per season.

After my sermon on soil improvement I want to leave you with a quote that I
believe is true.

"The best fertilizer in the garden are the footsteps of the gardener"
(I don't remember the source)

There is a lesson to be learned from all of the discussion on planting
techniques for soil grown Vs. container grown hostas.  That lesson is: Hostas
will grow almost no matter how you care for them. I am sure there are all kinds
of soil improvement techniques that will work for hostas too. So don't be too
shocked when the next hosta grower does things completely different than I do.
It's the watching and caring that makes the biggest difference in how plants
grow, and how people grow too.

Dan Nelson
Bridgeville DE
zone 7
-----Original Message-----
From: RonnieEA@aol.com <RonnieEA@aol.com>
To: sussextreeinc@ce.net <sussextreeinc@ce.net>
Date: Wednesday, February 10, 1999 10:38 PM
Subject: Re: Pro Mix

In a message dated 2/10/99 1:51:22 PM Eastern Standard Time,
sussextreeinc@ce.net writes:

<< Pro Mix BX is a commercial potting soil sold in 5.5 cubic foot bags. I
it is 1/3 peat, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 vermiculite. This is a large heavy bag.
Maybe 60 lbs.
Dan, I have used peat in copious amounts for years in my gardens,  (not hosta
gardens since I am relatively new at hostas) but I do not recall seeing pro
mix at the garden shops I frequent.  Is it expensive, and do you use it the
same way you'd use peat, by mixing it into the existing soil to lighten the
ground and try to prevent the ground from compacting?

Please excuse my ignorance on this matter but I've been thinking about mixing
some perlite into my gardens.
Thanks   -   Ronnie

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