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New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

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New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  kkalasa on 4/14/2010, 10:33 pm

Hi All,
This is my first time ever planting a garden and was so excited to find Mel's book. I have a 4'x8' box, I planted "cooler weather" vegetables in early March. I live in Atlanta, luckily we haven't had any freezes and have had very mild weather. So far my peas are looking pretty good I guess (since I have nothing to compare to) but my radishes never produced a bulb after 30 days and my lettuce plants look so small. Some of them are only about 10 days away from the harvest time that was on the seed package. I don't have a perfect Mel's mix in my box since I wasn't able to get a lot of vermiculite. There is also some plain topsoil, but my box is about 9 inches deep. Do I need to add fertilizer or more compost? Any advice?

I've also seen some very very tiny spidery looking bugs in the soil. I don't want to use pesticides, do I need to worry about this, I can't tell if they are eating anything.

Thanks!

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Pictures?

Post  jenjehle on 4/14/2010, 11:47 pm

Hi Kkalasa,

Welcome! Hope you find lots of nice people, helpful info and enjoyment out of this site! I know I have.

The first thing that comes to mind, is if you could possibly post some pictures of your plants your concerned about, maybe some "experts" (not me!) can help you determine how they're looking.

For me, I don't usually go by harvest dates on seed packages; maybe that's bad... but in my area (NE Indiana) there are many variables. Here we can get all four seasons in one day. So I go more by if things look ready to harvest more than what the package said.

Can't comment much on your soil since I don't know exactly what yours consists of. Did you add peat moss? And vermiculite, just not the entire recommended amount? Maybe you could give us a "guesstimate" on what your ratios are of your soil. That may help other posters give you advice.

If you are familiar with your local extension office, you could take your soil to them to do a soil test. Ours only cost $15 and is well worth it.

Good luck! Hopefully more people will answer your questions.
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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  timwardell on 4/17/2010, 10:06 am

I agree that photos would be helpful... and that the information on the seed packages isn't a "gold standard" by which you can set your watch. I too plant stuff at the appropriate time and harvest when it's ready - whether that coincides with the date on the seed package or not. Very Happy
The bugs could be anything but without some pics or info it's hard to say. However, if you don't see any damage to your plants, they may not be eating them.
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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  mckr3441 on 4/17/2010, 1:14 pm

Welcome to the forums, kkalasa!

Hopefully you can post some pictures. That really helps all of us give better advice. You surely are in the right place here on the SFG forums. Someone here will have some answers. This is a very active site.

I'm sure you will get helpful feedback soon.

Wishing you the best.

Claire
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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  kkalasa on 4/17/2010, 2:26 pm

Alright, took me a few days to get the pictures posted. Here's a view of a few squares of lettuce and mesculun. They were planted the first week of March.


As for the bugs, this is the only damage I've found on my peas.




As for my dirt, it's kind of a mess. I have about 10cf of composted manure, 7cf of top soil, 3 cf of peat moss and maybe 1/2cf of vermiculite for about 8-9 inches of soil. I've since found other places to buy vermiculite, should I get it and try to add it in?

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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  camprn on 4/17/2010, 2:40 pm

Just a wild guess at the small plants; did you sow the seed to the recommended depth? I know when I have planted seed to deeply it will stunt growth or prevent germination. Still, they look like they are coming along. Very Happy
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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  Mirjam on 4/17/2010, 3:53 pm

they look just fine to me! When they're still small, it seems like forever before they really start to grow, but if you take pictures on a regular basis, you can compare better. it's just like with kids, you never notice your own growing, but the ones you see once a month ....
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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  CPN on 4/18/2010, 8:44 am

I am no expert but my first thought is How much sun is your box getting? That would retard growth dramatically.

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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  bullfrogbabe on 4/18/2010, 11:10 am

Taking your planting date and the cool spring weather into account that most of us are likely experiencing, your lettuce mix looks like its at the right size expected for its age if germination was running a bit behind schedule or the weather has been on the colder end of the scale. It takes a bit for even lettuce to get going when things are cooler than usual in the spring.

I started seed for lettuce indoors, in idea conditions, a week ago and the seedlings that germinated are still using their seed leaves with a tiny hint of a bud of the first set of true leaves just starting to show, while others still haven't germinated. Mine will likely look something like yours in about 3-4 weeks, if outside and cooler than expected this schedule could run a bit slower -- my experience with late/heavy frosts in early June last year taught me that once the ideal temperatures are reached lettuce will grow very quickly. I will be moving my lettuce transplants outside shortly, but it has been cooler than usual so I have held off to let them get bigger before putting them out in the cold.

Not sure what your spring climate is in your area but radishes here can't be started until 3 weeks after the earliest date for starting lettuce. Perhaps you started ahead of the prime growing conditions for the radishes? If this is the case they will just take longer to reach maturity than expected.

I had some radishes last year that didn't form "radishes," the roots stayed skinny but had lots of leaves on the tops -- the advice I received on this was that it can be a sign that the compost is either spent or wasn't completely done composting when it was used (in both situations there is a lack of nutirents available in the soil). You could try adding more compost to see if it helps?

Did you get frost recently? The damage on your peas looks like the frost damage I observed on my snap peas last spring. Mine did recover, they made up for the setback once things warmed up, so if this is what it is they will survive.
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My poor lettuce

Post  kkalasa on 4/30/2010, 3:04 pm

I got over my size anxiety for my lettuce plants. They seemed to be doing okay and after reading other posts I started clipping some leaves for salad. But now something else is wrong. I have tons of little fly bugs so I sprayed some organic garden bug spray. Now my lettuce looks terrible. It is covered in wilted spots. I'm so sad because they were finally starting to grow well and now they don't look at all edible.

I don't know if the bugs caused the problem or if the spray itself is the problem. I used 2 different kinds, one that had phosphate salts and another with Thyme, Peppermint, Clove and Rosemary oil.

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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  camprn on 4/30/2010, 3:50 pm

Generally, I don't attack pests unless they are being detrimental to the growth of the crop. Seedlings are very tender, so hand picking of pests and soap spray is always my first line of attack. I hope your wee sprouts rally.
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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  kkalasa on 4/30/2010, 4:58 pm

I just checked my plants when I got home from work and they are really getting destroyed. Even though I had sprayed yesterday there are still lots of flies and now aphids too. There's way too many to pick off by hand. Plus I think it started on my peas and it's grown much to big to check every leaf.

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Re: New Gardener, Help my plants look so small :(

Post  ander217 on 4/30/2010, 6:55 pm

I usually try to identify what bug is doing damage to my crop before I spray or try to destroy it. Not all bugs are bad, and some of the ones you see may even be there trying to eat the bugs that are actually doing the damage.

If you look closely at the bugs you see doing the damage you should be able to look online and find photos of pests that attack that particular veggie, and then see if yours match one of those. There are different remedies for different insects. For example, aphids will eat peas but as camprn said, you can usually mix up a little dish soap in water and spray them off.

Personally I feel insecticidal sprays should be the last resort because many of them will kill the beneficial bugs that keep the bad bugs in check.

Don't give up hope. I've seen plants eaten right to the ground by bugs or rabbits, that put out new leaves and produced well. If yours don't make it, plant again, or try a different crop. Sometimes bugs come at different times of the season and you might be able to time a second planting to miss them, or plant something else that doesn't attract them.
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