My puny compost pile would not begin to serve even one square, so I went in search of retail compost. I was supposed to collect different kinds, for a rich mix of minerals and whatever. All I could find was mushroom compost and cow manure. The Home Depot had the mushroom compost and everyone has cow manure. I figured maybe all those cows were eating different stuff (unlikely, but I choose rationalization over paralysis) so I bought four different brands of cow manure.
Each was slightly different in character, so maybe it will all be ok. Most of the manure was labeled "manure-compost" and it wasn't very smelly at all. It was friable and mixed easily with the vermiculite and peat moss. However, when we were at Mr. Mulch buying a zillion cubic feet of his cheapest mulch, I noticed that he also carries cow manure. I added some to our order. Mr. Mulch delivers, so when we returned from music class last Monday we were greeted by a listing tower at the top of the driveway. The mulch is delivered on a pallet stacked about seven feet high. The manure was flung on top of that--in sacks, yay--and it was a real treat getting it down. But this was really just sacks of shit. Slimy, stinky cow poop.
To mix the growing medium by the book involved dumping it on a tarp and jiggling it around. It's too windy around here for that to work, plus I don't have an adult helper to assist in tarp-jiggling. So I used an old metal trashcan: add two buckets of vermiculite, two of peat moss, one each of two kinds of compost, tape the lid down, and roll it around for a while. Dump and repeat. Mr. Mulch's manure refused to cooperate. It emerged from the can as one great encrusted lump, so I set Victoria to work hacking at it with her little plastic garden fork. And she did! Now that frame looks like a big litterbox that needs emptying.