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Poor SFG :(

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Poor SFG :(

Post  Richard2 on 8/3/2012, 11:47 pm

I'm very disappointed with my efforts at SFG. I tried to follow the book, but feel I must have made a mistake along the way. I had onion, cauliflower and broccoli sets left over after planting in SFG, so planted the extras in containers with last years potting soil. In the case of the cauliflower and broccoli the extra sets went into poor yard dirt.
The onions from the potting soil are 4 times the size of the SFG. We've had 2 6" diameter heads of Cauliflower from the yard soil. The ones in SFG have no fruit. Broccoli from yard soil has been very good, from the SFG, less that the size of your baby finger. Strawberries from potting soil have large nice green leaves...from SFG leaves are half the size, pale green, some reddish. Very low yield of lettuce from SFG, yard soil had great yield, and so it goes...tomatoes are spindly with small sparse leaves, radishes shot up quickly were very small and went to seed. I know the weather here hasn't been great for growing, but crops outside the SFG did ok.
When I mixed the soil, I used steer compost, mushroom, sheep, chicken compost. I bought 7 different kinds from different stores. I used peat and vermiculite. I though I shouldn't have used chicken compost, but I see most everyone is.
I have no idea what the problem is and would appreciate any suggestions or comments.
Is there somewhere in Whatcom Co. I can get my soil tested, or even send it somewhere. I'd like to get this solve for next years growing season. I'd like to double my garden. It's 4X8 now.

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Some pics

Post  Richard2 on 8/4/2012, 12:31 am

Scrawny tomatoes


Onions in SFG, very small and done...


Onions in potting soil,

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  southern gardener on 8/4/2012, 4:16 am

@Richard2 wrote:I'm very disappointed with my efforts at SFG. I tried to follow the book, but feel I must have made a mistake along the way. I had onion, cauliflower and broccoli sets left over after planting in SFG, so planted the extras in containers with last years potting soil. In the case of the cauliflower and broccoli the extra sets went into poor yard dirt.
The onions from the potting soil are 4 times the size of the SFG. We've had 2 6" diameter heads of Cauliflower from the yard soil. The ones in SFG have no fruit. Broccoli from yard soil has been very good, from the SFG, less that the size of your baby finger. Strawberries from potting soil have large nice green leaves...from SFG leaves are half the size, pale green, some reddish. Very low yield of lettuce from SFG, yard soil had great yield, and so it goes...tomatoes are spindly with small sparse leaves, radishes shot up quickly were very small and went to seed. I know the weather here hasn't been great for growing, but crops outside the SFG did ok.
When I mixed the soil, I used steer compost, mushroom, sheep, chicken compost. I bought 7 different kinds from different stores. I used peat and vermiculite. I though I shouldn't have used chicken compost, but I see most everyone is.
I have no idea what the problem is and would appreciate any suggestions or comments.
Is there somewhere in Whatcom Co. I can get my soil tested, or even send it somewhere. I'd like to get this solve for next years growing season. I'd like to double my garden. It's 4X8 now.
Man, I'm sorry, but I truly feel your pain. It seems like getting the compost part correct is very hard for some, me included. There is a post here somewhere telling where to send your soil to be tested, I'll try and find it for you. I hope you can get it right, it's so frustrating to go through all that work and expense for poor results.


Last edited by southern gardener on 8/4/2012, 4:28 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typo)

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  southern gardener on 8/4/2012, 4:27 am

http://www.umass.edu/soiltest/pdf/Soilless%20Greenhouse%20Media%20Sample%20Submission%20Form.pdf

Here is the link someone posted for soil testing. Again, I hope you figure it out!! Good luck

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  jdwheeler42 on 8/4/2012, 5:12 am

I can think of a couple possible issues:

First, everything you listed was manure-based (mushroom compost usually is from horse manure). You may need more undigested plant material in your compost.

Second, some herbicides survive the composting process. Try testing each component compost by trying to germinate watercress in them; it is extremely sensitive to herbicides.

Third, did you water Mel's Mix thoroughly before planting and never let it dry out? Peat moss works great as long as it is moist but can be problematic if it gets dry.

Fourth, some varieties just don't do as well as others in a given situation. My Chioggia beets are huge, my Bull's Blood beets are pathetic.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  jdwheeler42 on 8/4/2012, 5:16 am

One other thing, if you use too much chicken compost, you tend to get lots of lush, green growth with not much fruit. It doesn't sound like that is your problem.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  camprn on 8/4/2012, 7:48 am

The Umass lab has a quick turn around. My suggestion so salvage the current situation is to take your sample then go ahead with a liquid general fertilizer to give the plants a boost. Next season amend heavily with homemade compost. That will help a lot. Do you have a compost bin going yet? The Mel's mix will get you going but the well balanced compost is what is going to feed your plants and keep them vigorous.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  floyd1440 on 8/4/2012, 8:53 am

@Richard2 wrote:I'm very disappointed with my efforts at SFG. I tried to follow the book, but feel I must have made a mistake along the way. I had onion, cauliflower and broccoli sets left over after planting in SFG, so planted the extras in containers with last years potting soil. In the case of the cauliflower and broccoli the extra sets went into poor yard dirt.
The onions from the potting soil are 4 times the size of the SFG. We've had 2 6" diameter heads of Cauliflower from the yard soil. The ones in SFG have no fruit. Broccoli from yard soil has been very good, from the SFG, less that the size of your baby finger. Strawberries from potting soil have large nice green leaves...from SFG leaves are half the size, pale green, some reddish. Very low yield of lettuce from SFG, yard soil had great yield, and so it goes...tomatoes are spindly with small sparse leaves, radishes shot up quickly were very small and went to seed. I know the weather here hasn't been great for growing, but crops outside the SFG did ok.
When I mixed the soil, I used steer compost, mushroom, sheep, chicken compost. I bought 7 different kinds from different stores. I used peat and vermiculite. I though I shouldn't have used chicken compost, but I see most everyone is.
I have no idea what the problem is and would appreciate any suggestions or comments.
Is there somewhere in Whatcom Co. I can get my soil tested, or even send it somewhere. I'd like to get this solve for next years growing season. I'd like to double my garden. It's 4X8 now.

Last year was the first for me and things didn't grow well either; pretty sad actually and was disappointed and frustrated as well. Looking back I set my expectatins too high as the compst blend I put in was not a five compost mix but it was all I could find.
.Now this year I have compost bins and had some compost for my SFG this spring. Still a little doubtful if things would inprove but they did! Is it as good as others on the forum, I doubt it, but I feel I am on the right track and the more home made compost I have the better my SFG will be going forward....

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Thanks

Post  Richard2 on 8/4/2012, 11:45 am

Thanks for the suggestions. My mix was probably 100% compost from animals. Maybe that's the problem.
As far as water, I collected 1,000 gals of rain water over the winter and have been using it. The garden hasn't dried out.
Yes, I started composting, both in a barrel and in a pile. The plan was to start using it next year.
As far as fertilizer goes, I sprinkled just a little 10-10-10 on, but it didn't seem to do anything. I was afraid to put too much on thinking the soil was already to rich. What do you think?

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  camprn on 8/4/2012, 2:19 pm

When did you apply the granular 10-10-10? If I have to use it in the vegetable garden I prefer to use a liquid fertilizer. If I need to I will use the granular in the flowers, but that is an extremely rare event because I try to top dress every garden with homemade compost.

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Granular

Post  Richard2 on 8/4/2012, 4:55 pm

I sprinkled a small amount of granular on about a month ago. What's the advantage of liquid over granular?

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  gwennifer on 8/4/2012, 6:35 pm

This is such a bummer to hear. How disappointing. Well, you obviously have something wrong; the hard part is diagnosing the problem. I'm with camprn on this one - while you're waiting for test results, give your garden a feeding of liquid fertilizer (pull out your test samples first though!). If you're worried about your soil already being too rich, then do a comparison - fertilize some squares and not others (of the same crop) and see if the fertilized ones get better or worse. At this point in the season, what have you got to lose? The advantage of liquid fertilizer is it's immediately accessible to the plants. Putting your granular fertilizer down a month ago should have yielded results by now, unless your sprinkling was simply too light to be effective.

My guess would be a nitrogen deficiency, since when I read through the results of people here that have had their mix tested at a lab, it seems that low nitrogen is kinda common, and plants are stunted and cannot grow without sufficient nitrogen. The odd thing is, when I google how to organically add nitrogen to the garden, the most common answer is with animal composts. That doesn't help you at all! But this one could be useful for you:
"Usually plants that are light in color, spindly or thin stemmed, are growing in soil deficient in nitrogen. Blood meal is a good organic fertilizer to increase nitrogen levels."

If your cauliflowers in the SFG grew to the same size as the ones outside the SFG, then nitrogen isn't the problem for them. They need phosphorous to flower. Bone meal is a good source of phosphorous.

From some recent research I've done, it sounds like potassium racks up pretty quickly in gardens enriched continually with compost, so you shouldn't need to add it.

My garden has also been rather pathetic this year (except for peas!) and I confess I recently took a couple of sample packs of Plant Tone (an organic granular fertilizer made by Espoma, 5-3-3, that I'd received from a local nursery) and applied them to a couple of squares in my garden. I'm not positive I see any difference yet in the beans compared to the square that didn't get any, but there is no denying the remarkable difference in my bell pepper plant. It's much, much happier.

Let us know if you decide to have your mix tested and how the results go. And keep us posted on your salvage efforts with your current crop. Hope it goes well.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  camprn on 8/4/2012, 6:41 pm

Gewnnifer gave some good info.

As to the benefit of liquid vs granular, well, I rarely use it and most often if I do it's liquid. A personal preference. At this LINK the author is discussing liquid and granular fertilizer in relation to golf course turf. But the essential info is valuable.

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Bone meal

Post  Richard2 on 8/4/2012, 8:10 pm

Thanks for all the help and suggestions. I'm off to get some bone meal. Should I also put on a little more 10-10-10?
Is it ok for liquid fertilizer to land on leaves?

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  RoOsTeR on 8/4/2012, 8:59 pm

I would not do both! You can for sure do more damage than good. I would look for something like fish emulsion. Quick and simple and lower N-P-K levels, like 5-1-1 or there abouts. You might even try something like a compost tea.

I would guess your commercial composts contained fillers, like peat. Your peat/compost ratio is probably off if it wasn't compensated for. I think one of the best things you can do is get your own compost going right away so you don't have to worry about these issues. With good compost comes good Mel's Mix which gives you a better chance at success.

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Nitrogen

Post  Richard2 on 8/4/2012, 9:33 pm

OK, thanks. I purchased Whitney Farms Natural Plant Food Concentrate 8-0-0. I followed the mix instructions and watered 1 square each of lettuce, cauliflower, onions and tomato. Couldn't find any bone meal this evening. I sampled the soil and will send it off Mon. No additional fertilizer was added.

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Soil Results

Post  Richard2 on 8/10/2012, 3:22 pm

Some how the program won't let me host the soil results:(, but here they are:
ph...7.3
N (NO3)....0.0
AM (NH4)..0.0
P.............28
K............167

How can this be? No Nitrogen with 7 different composts which included 1 bag of chicken compost? I don't doubt the results, can't understand it.

I do notice a difference in the plants that are still alive being slightly more healthy since I started feeding the nitrogen. I think it's too late for the tomatoes, cucumbers, Cauliflower, broccoli and strawberries, but the lettuce is coming and I have 1 banana pepper set that might survive.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  cautery on 8/10/2012, 5:02 pm

@Richard2 wrote:Some how the program won't let me host the soil results:(, but here they are:
ph...7.3
N (NO3)....0.0
AM (NH4)..0.0
P.............28
K............167

How can this be? No Nitrogen with 7 different composts which included 1 bag of chicken compost? I don't doubt the results, can't understand it.

I do notice a difference in the plants that are still alive being slightly more healthy since I started feeding the nitrogen. I think it's too late for the tomatoes, cucumbers, Cauliflower, broccoli and strawberries, but the lettuce is coming and I have 1 banana pepper set that might survive.

A couple of things, IMHO:

1) That pH seems a bit high for a properly blended Mel's Mix. Ideally you'd want it to be 7.0 or a little less. If the pH test you got was a couple points off to the low side, your pH could be in a range making Nitrogen less available.

2) A ZERO Nitrogen measurement is indicative of something bad wrong with the soil chemistry... pH too high/low (in this case maybe high), no/low microbial activity necessary to make the N available from the composted organics, etc.

3) Relatively high Potassium figure.... kinda weird... indicates a possible pH problem and maybe even a salt problem... Having a salt problem (multiple types), will cause beaucoup problem... High salts are indicated by stunted or yellowing...

Salts ALSO act as a buffer that tend to defeat attempts to correct chemistry imbalances...

I'm going to go back and read your original posts again...

It is possible that some/all of the composts you used were oven dried (kills all microorganisms), or aren't finished composts, etc, etc...

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Salts

Post  Richard2 on 8/10/2012, 5:50 pm

Soluble salts were 1.44 mS/cm. Does that sound high?

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Soil Mix

Post  Richard2 on 8/10/2012, 6:03 pm

I don't dare call this "Mel's Mix". He probably wouldn't want his name associated with it:) I bought all bagged material from the 2 big box stores and some local F&G stores. 7 different bags, mostly each from a different store and as much variety in the source of the compost as I could find...ie: steer, mushroom, chicken, sheep, 1 bag of vegetation, etc and added the peat and vermiculite. I thought I was doing it right:( The tests show otherwise.
The chore now is to get what I've got to a place where it will be good for next year. I don't have any hopes of salvaging much this year. I'd like to do a 2nd 4X8 SFG next year. I'm thinking of moving half of the soil I have into the new one and adding some kind of soil to each one.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  camprn on 8/10/2012, 6:28 pm

@Richard2 wrote:Soluble salts were 1.44 mS/cm. Does that sound high?
This result from a lab? Which lab did you send it to? There should be a reference range printed on the lab sheet, also some sort of indication if it was high or low.

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  Cincinnati on 8/10/2012, 7:47 pm

@Richard2 wrote:...

ph...7.3
N (NO3)....0.0
AM (NH4)..0.0
P.............28
K............167


What are the units of your test results? Are we talking PPM or Lbs/Acre?

AN IMPORTANT DISTINCTION: Your lab is not reporting Nitrogen, but Nitrates and Ammonia. Is your lab reporting potassium (K) or potash (K2O)? likewise — Phosphorous (P) or phosphate (p205)? P&K should be roughly equal by weight (lb/acre) but Phosphate should be 2x Potash.*1.

Phosphorous needs a highly bio-active soil to keep it available for plant uptake. Perhaps your good bio organisms are depleted or dead. Was the compost sterilized?

My local lab also returns corrective suggestions with their test result. However, a standard soil test is not accurate on a mix which is virtually 67% organics. Can you speak with someone at the lab and ask what test method they used and if it yields accurate results with a potting mix?

Finally: Something is definitely wrong in Denmark. It seems it would be hard to totally deplete Nitrogen. A potting mix with a high content of composted manure should be high in Nitrogen and high in bio activity. That's why there are lush green patches of grass in a cow pasture around the rotted dried pies! No measurable Nitrogen causes me to question either the validity of the "soil analysis" or the viability of the compost. I wonder if the compost could be sterilized to the point of being impotent. You may be paying for compost that is essentially a mulch with virtually no N2, potentially no bio life, and little other usable elements.

Do any of the bagged composts have a guaranteed analysis? You may need to phone the manufacturer of these composts and get information on just what you bought.

I had so many concerns over bagged compost that I began making my own.

You made the comment that you couldn't call this MM. Did you blend 1/3 Peat, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 mixed blended composts —all volumetric ratios? If so, you have MM. If your composts have a peat filler, then you have problems unless you adjusted to keep the peat at 1/3 maximum by volume.

I'd grab a soil test kit at Lowes or HD and do a couple of quick tests. They are not accurate enough, but should give you a ballpark number. They will also reflect a trend.

I add Nitrogen using blood meal. A tablespoon per square is about right. Not sure how long it takes this to be assimilated by the plants.

I disagree that you have a pH problem. Most vegetables like a neutral to slightly basic soil. My MM came back at 5.5pH. I add crushed limestone at the rate of 1/2 lb (about 3/4 cup) per cu ft of MM because peat is highly acidic.

WARNING: It's dangerous to start adding certain elements without considering the overall balance in the soil. pH is self correcting when elements are ideally balanced in the soil.*1. Get a complete analysis of both unused and used soil.

Keep in mind, over-watering/too much rain can both leach out some elements.


*1. The Ideal Soil (SoilMinerals.com)

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Answers

Post  Richard2 on 8/10/2012, 8:37 pm

Cincinnati...You have lots of questions and I have few answers. I'm pretty new to all of this and am trying to get help from this form to improve the poor start I've got with my SFG. I hope I don't come across as critical of the SFG method. I certainly don't feel that way. As I said in the beginning, "I" must be doing something wrong. I thought I was following what was in the book, but something happened and my garden didn't turn out well this year.

The lab I used was University of Mass as was suggested in this thread. I can't get them "Hosted" on this thread for some reason...

Results are in mg/L

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Re: Poor SFG :(

Post  camprn on 8/10/2012, 9:08 pm

Richard did you request the soilless greenhouse mix test? I am rather surprised at the lack of information you have. I hear they send the report back with value ranges and recommendations for corrections...
Perhaps I was misinformed. Shocked

Do you have the ability to scan the paperwork they sent to you?

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Location : Keene, NH, USA ~ Zone 5a

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Scan

Post  Richard2 on 8/10/2012, 9:38 pm

They sent the information in an email attachment which I saved and tried to "Host" it. Couldn't get it to work. I then scanned it to my computer and tried to "Host" the scanned and couldn't get that to work either. The error I get is File Type not allowed.
There are recommendation, but some of them I find confusing. EG: My pH is above the range of 5.5-6.0 for Soilless Media, and 6.2-6.5 for Media with 20% or more field soil. My pH is 7.4. All the recommendations talk about raising pH. Mine is already to high.
My Phosphorus is high, Potassium good, Calcium low, Magnesium low, Iron good, Manganese low, Copper good, Zinc good and Boron good.

My beans, peppers, Lettuce, strawberries, and broccoli are responding positively to the addition of the nitrogen as mentioned earlier in the thread. So I plan on continuing with it. I just don't understand how it's possible to have no Nitrogen show up in the lab test with my mix. There is a phone number to call. I'll do that on Mon.

Richard2

Posts : 19
Join date : 2012-08-03
Location : PNW, on the Canadian border

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Re: Poor SFG :(

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