Square Foot Gardening Adventure: Garden Soil vs Mel’s Mix


I checked out the All New Square Foot Gardening book by Mel Bartholomew and I loved it. What a wonderful resource for novice gardeners like myself. The only sticking point about his system is the cost of the Mel’s Mix “soil.”

1/3 vermiculite
1/3 peat moss
1/3 compost

When I called to price this at our local organic, and absolutely wonderful nursery, The Natural Gardener, they said they have a premixed mel’s mix bag for $25 a bag, and I would need 4 bags for a 6 inch depth bed, so $100 for soil. (Cough, cough) If we eventually upgraded to 12 inch beds down the line, or added a bed, it would then cost us twice that. Wow. Then they mentioned that they did a season long study of their planting beds with mel’s mix  in one square foot garden and their top notch hill country garden soil in another bed and saw NO noticeable difference in results. You can bag your own soil there, on site for $3 a bag. So that’s what we did.

Now, I am relatively sure your local nursery will also have soil available for a fraction of the cost of mel’s mix. Or, you may decide the cost is worth it, but that is the decision we made for our little garden and our pocketbook. Of course, we will keep you posted on how things are looking in the garden as they grow. But, somehow I assume if anything does go wrong, it most likely will be user error, not Hill Country Garden Soil. Ah, the joys of being new at something.

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