My Mix (Modified Mel’s Mix)

I’ve had some questions and confusion about Mel’s Mix vs. my suggestion for Modified Mel’s Mix (My Mix) vs. other garden soil options. I’ve decided to write specifically about each choice.

Go here to read about Mel’s Mix.

My Mix

This is the mix I use–on my site I’ve often referred to it as “modified Mel’s Mix.”

  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 2 parts compost (as many kinds as you can find)

As with Mel’s Mix, avoid steer manure–it’s high in salt.

I have found that My Mix has enough peat moss and vermiculite to make the soil light and fluffy, and it helps retain water. Since compost is often the least expensive ingredient, this mix is more cost-effective than traditional Mel’s Mix.

Mix As You Go Method

This is how I prefer to mix it. Pour in a bag or two of compost, add an equal amount of vermiculite and peat moss, then mix with a rake or pitch fork. Repeat. I find that in the end, I end up using my hands and arms, and needing a shower. Smelly, but highly effective.

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28 Responses

  1. Emily says:

    Read more here, if you have really good compost, you may not need to fertilize. I like to anyway, and find my plants have done better.

  2. vernon Evans says:

    Sir, where does to fertilizer come in ? need to know how much

  3. Emily says:

    Give it a try, and let me know how it works!

  4. Julie says:

    Thanks. What is your opinion on filling the bottom 4″ with straight bulk mushroom compost, and putting the “real stuff”… 1/3 of each Mel’s Mix on the top 6 inches?

  5. Emily says:

    Julie–I think your ratio is just fine. Vermiculite is expensive, add as much as you can (up to 1/3) and call it good. I would go with bulk because it’s too overwhelming not to! I would consider the bulk compost to have 3 types in it, horse, chicken, and mushroom. For good measure, do maybe 2 yards of this, and another half yard of bags from different sources. That would be only about 14 bags, which is much more reasonable. I know folks who garden with the “premium compost” and swear by it, and others who refuse to use it to grow food. I have no opinion. :)

    As far as types to buy in bags, just avoid steer compost. Anything else will do. It’s a bit expensive to set up the first year, but after that it’s really affordable. I add about 2-3 cubic feet compost or mix per 4′x4′x12″ bed every year. It really fills it to the top and resupplies the nutrients needed.

  6. Julie says:

    Thank you so much for your website, it has helped me a ton. This will be my first season with SFG. I was going to try the modified mix and go a little heavier on the compost than the stated 1/3, but not by much (trying to save a bit on cost where it won’t hurt).
    I have 3 beds that are 4′ x 10′ and 10 inches deep. I also have 2 beds that are 4′ x 8′ and 8 inches deep. I’ll also have 10 or so 5 gallon buckets. I need to fill them all! According to my math, I will be using 47 cubic feet of peat, 47 cubic feet of vermiculite, and 68 cubic feet of compost. In your opinion, does this ratio sound ok??? Or is it better for the veggies to just do 1/3 x’s 3 all the way around?
    I have already spent $350 on the vermiculite alone (they were $30 for a 4cf bag). Could I sub in perlite for the vermiculite if I need more? They had perlite for $20 for a 4cf bag. I know the peat is cheap, so I’m not too concerned there. The compost has me puzzled though! I know I am supposed to use 5 different kinds of compost. Do I really need to buy 68 cubic feet of compost in BAGS? That’s a lot of bags!!!
    A local nursery here sells mushroom compost for 35$ per yard…I need 2.5 yards of compost if I stick to the previous calculations. They said it consists of mushroom, horse/chicken manure, peat, and hay. They also sell a “premium compost” that is lawn/leaf clippings mixed with waste from the sanitation dept (yuck, but hey… if it works).
    So, how would you fill my beds for growing veggies? Could I use some bulk and some bags? Or do I really need to use all bags? Can I have some rec’s for types of bagged compost?
    Thank you SO much for your help!

  7. Emily says:

    You can try anything–the key to the Mix is to include peat moss, vermiculite, and as many types of compost as possible. The other thing to consider is the source of the compost–locally I can buy from the sewer treatment plant. Good for plants, questionable for veggies.

  8. plantman says:

    Can I use Pro-Mix BX and add some compost to it in my garden bed? We use it for interior landscaping and the plants do great in it and it is cheaper than mixing Mel’s mix.

  9. Licelle says:

    Hi Emily,
    Love your site. Very informative :-). I really suck at Math :-( Question is for a 4 x 4 box 10 inch depth, would you be able to formulate a breakdown as to how many bags of vermiculite, peat moss and compost would that take to fill this box? Thank you so much!

  10. Emily says:

    Reuse it every year, just add compost to fill the bed.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Maybe this has been asked and answered and I just don’t see it, but… Once you make your beds, using Mel’s mix, or your mix,– can you reuse the same ‘soil’, the following year, or do you need to remove and make another batch?

  12. Emily says:

    Peat moss and vermiculite don’t really add a lot of nutrients. You need to fertilize, either organic or chemical. Look for something low in nitrogen.

  13. Anton N says:

    I tried the modified Mel’s Mix (along w 2 other family members in different states). And we all find that the veggies are extremely leafy and tall w/no fruit to bare.
    We believe that there may be too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorous. We all mixed a total ratio of 2:2:4 (cu. ft.)
    I think I may add the remaining 2cu ft peet moss and 2 cu ft vermiculite this weekend.
    I hope my garden is not too far gone!

    Any advice?
    Thanks!!!

  14. Emily says:

    I buy mine at Home Depot (N’Rich) and IFA (local ag cooperative).

  15. Shannon says:

    Great information!
    Just wondering, where do you find compost? All I saw at Lowes was the Nutrimulch (turkey droppings), and I read here that isn’t the best because of bugs. So, where is the best place to get bags of compost, and what am I looking for in a good compost? Don’t know much about compost.

    Thanks!

  16. Kim says:

    It’s 6” Emily. Thanks for the help!

  17. Emily says:

    Kim–how tall is your bed? For a 4×4 that is 6″, you would need 2 cubic feet. For 12″, 4 cubic feet.

  18. Kim says:

    I figured it would be more expensive. I will buy it in a larger bag online. I guess I was mainly wanting to know how much of the vermiculite do I mix into the 4×4 bed along with the compost and peat moss?

    Thanks!
    Kim

  19. Emily says:

    Kim–it will be so expensive to buy it that way. Did you check this post about vermiculite? It might be better to buy in bulk online. 1 cubic foot=30 quarts.

  20. Kim says:

    Hi Emily,
    I am doing your version of “Mel’s Mix” and am wondering how many 8 dry quart bags of Vermiculite that I will need to fill a 4×4 raised bed. I can only find the small bags where I live.

    Thanks for your help!

    Kim Boggs

  21. Sarrah says:

    OMG! You just helped me out tons! Cant tell you how grateful I am! I thought I needed 6 yards for both beds! Thank goodness I dont. Math is not one of my best subjects. :P

  22. Emily says:

    4′x16′=64 square feet x1/2′=32 cubic feet. You need to fill two gardens, so that means 64 cubic feet. If you buy ingredients by the bag, make sure it adds up to 64 cubic feet.

    There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard, so you need 2 1/2 cubic yards to fill both your beds. I just found a fantastic product called N’Rich by Kellogg. It’s carried at the Home Depot. It has rice hulls in it, which act like vermiculite. So you could combine this with bales of peat moss, maybe add one or two other composts, and be done.

    If you’re going to do this, I would say do 1 part peat to 2 parts compost. That means 21 cubic feet of peat moss (probably four 3-cubic foot bales, compressed. When you open them they expand to more like 5 cubic feet) and 45 cubic feet of compost. I would buy twelve 3-cubic foot bags of N’Rich (36 cubic feet) and then get about ten 1-cubic foot bags of one or two kinds of compost as available at your store. Maybe mushroom, chicken, turkey, etc. Stay away from steer (loaded with the salt they feed the steer to fatten them up.)

    I hope this helps.

  23. Sarrah says:

    I’m building 2 4x16x6 inch deep garden beds. I’m not sure how much soil I need when I did the math I needed 3yards for just one bed. Did I do the math right? also how do I split them into parts? I cant buy in bulk seeing as theres none who sells in bulk around here. So Im gonna have to buy bags. Know about how much itll cost to buy the soil like that?

  24. Megan says:

    thank you emily! i got 2 parts mushroom compost, 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat moss. my bed is 4 foot by 4 foot and is framed by bricko blocks (to save money even though its ugly). Bricko blocks are 12 inches deep, but i also had wet cardboard and old leaves in there getting all nice and yucky. i put the mix on top of that. i did not stamp it down, i just left it all fluffy. what depth of mix do you recommend while its all fluffy–i know it will prolly settle?

  25. Emily says:

    This is considered “soil” very much like a potting mix. What it does not contain is dirt.

  26. Megan says:

    so…no “soil” at all? like no potting mix? i feel stupid for asking but do these components make up “soil”?

  27. Jerry Alexander says:

    I`m using Dr Earth Veggi,and Herb soil as a compost in Mel`s Mix .I also add a %25 Worm Poop to Soil ratio..having very good results.Has anyone else tried this?

  28. I just bought a premade mix from Millers LLC in Hyrum Utah (you can google them – they supply garden centers all over the intermountain west) and they did several tests to get a better pH and balanced nutrients in a clean and organic mix. I haven’t planted anything yet (it snowed yesterday) but it’s nice and fluffy and if you live nearby their plant you can pick it up in bulk. It cost me $80 for 1 cubic yard and was more than enough for my 10×3 foot 10 inch deep bed. They even scrubbed the bucket clean before scooping it and placing it in our truck. Does that sound like an okay price? This is the first time I’ve done square foot gardening although I’ve got two row gardens out back (we have high winds and need the harder soil for the plants that could blow away otherwise). I like that it was easy. I’ll keep you posted if it grows anything.