Question about Square Foot Garden...

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I got a great question in my comments about my new square foot beds.

Zippy wrote:

Hi Rachel, and thanks for your site! Good to see other Austin bloggers out
there working with square foot gardens! I had a question on my blog from a
fellow Austin gardener about using the Hill Country Garden soil in an SFG.
I remembered that I had come across your site last spring when I was
researching using SFGs in Central Texas, and how you talked about using the
Hill Country rose soil in your raised beds, and now I see you're doing the
SFG with the HC Garden Soil and compost. I referred her/him to your site,
but thought I'd ask you myself: why did you decide not to do the
traditional Mel's mix of compost, vermiculite and peat moss, and how is the
Hill Country Garden soil working out for you? I used Lady Bug Revitilizer
compost, perlite and peat moss in my two SFGs last spring, but if the HC
Garden soil + compost works well, that would be a heck of a lot easier than
mixing up stuff for the new SFGs I will be planting this spring.

So in case anyone else is curious about why I'm using Hill Country Garden Soil in my beds instead of Mel's mix of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss, here's my answer:

Hi Zippy! Great questions.

Last year, when we made our first raised beds, we chose Hill Country rose soil on the advice of one of the guys at the Natural Gardener.  He suggested it because it was slightly acidic, which can be helpful in our alkaline soils.  Over time, the alkaline will leach in, but having slightly acidic soil is a bit of a buffer.  I hadn't read the "All New" Square Foot Gardening book at that point (though I had read the original book), so I didn't know about Bartholomew's transition to raised beds or his soil mixture.  Our first raised beds weren't technically  square-foot gardens because there weren't any grid, but let's just say that when we started building the new raised beds for our first  front yard SFG, we knew what needed to be done.

Before we got started on our new gardens, we attended a seminar at the Natural Gardener called Prosperity Gardening - which was basically all about square-foot gardening.  John Dromgoole is apparently working with Mel Bartholomew on an even better soil blend, so they have several square foot test beds set up to try out different soil combinations.  They've found that most of their soils (which are all blends of decomposed granite, compost, and topsoil in varying combinations) work just as well as Mel's mix - as does the bed of straight compost.  If you haven't been out to Oak Hill to see their SFG's, you really should go if you get the chance - they're quite inspirational!

In general, I've tried to avoid peat moss, one of the main components of Mel's mix, from a sustainability standpoint.  I'd read that the harvest of peat moss was unsustainable, though my quick google search just now indicates that the jury might still be out on that one.  In any case, it's trucked in from Canada, and if there's anything my Canadian husband and I know for sure from our many months of long-distance dating, Canada is a long way from Austin!

So far, I've been very pleased with the Hill Country Garden Soil, and I've been pleased with the Rose Magic in the back yard beds, as well.  There was no real thought behind our switch - just another employee recommendation.


Hi Rachel,
I've been pretty happy with the rose soil for large containers, but haven't tried the Hill Country Soil Mix, thinking it was for making beds for native plants rather than shrubs or vegetables.

Do you think John Dromgoole's term "Prosperity Garden" will catch on? It's more logical than Victory Garden, but there's a kind of nostalgic zing to the old name, isn't there? Good luck with yours!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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