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My Other Garden

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My Other Garden

Post  dano on 4/19/2010, 5:16 pm

My other garden (not the Square Foot one) has performed very poorly the previous two years. Low yield on tomatoes, cucs that shriveled up, only a couple peppers per plant. I was hoping some of the experienced gardeners here could help.

I had the soil tested figuring there must be something wrong with the soil. The results were:

pHs 7.2 (High)
P 49 lbs/a (Medium-Low)
K 187 lbs/a (Low)
Ca 4045 lbs/a (Medium)
Mg 420 lbs/a (High)
Organic Matter 3.6%

They recommended 1 lb/1000sq ft Phosphorus and 1/2 lb/1000sq ft Potash.

Is the P and K deficiency enough to cause the poor growth?

What should the Organic Matter percentage be?

Any other ideas what might be wrong? (It gets plenty of sunlight.)




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Re: My Other Garden

Post  martha on 4/20/2010, 11:19 am

okay, so first of all, two very important points:

1. This is not a cult.

2. I am not a cultist.

so, my first question - how hard would it be to convert it to SFG?

The reason I was such a small scale gardener before I discovered SFG is because of all those things that one has to keep track of.

Now, having said that, I do believe that SFG is only the answer most of the time - not actually all the time! So anyone with more specific feedback - your turn.

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Re: My Other Garden

Post  lizzo on 4/20/2010, 11:30 am

You may be asking your question in the wrong gardening forum! A lot of SFG'ers don't know what you're talking about. There's no reason to learn or worry about that stuff with SFG. Drink the kool-aid and get on board the easy train! Very Happy


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Re: My Other Garden

Post  dano on 4/20/2010, 11:36 am

Martha: If I were to convert this box completely, I'd have a lot of fairly good dirt to do something with. So my plan to convert to an old style square foot garden (essentially improve existing soil with Mel's Mix). I don't have the time or money to do it this year. Creating my 18 sq ft of boxes and filling them exceeded my garden budget for this year. Come to think of it, I'll probably add another box next year rather than convert this box.

In the mean time I'd like to make this 4'x8' box at least semi-productive.

Lizzo: There are a lot of gardeners here that started with regular gardens, and some of them are quite experienced and knowledgeable with standard gardens.


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Re: My Other Garden

Post  dixie on 4/20/2010, 12:52 pm

Since I'm just switching from row gardening to SFG, I don't know if commercial fertilizer is "taboo", but you might try a general purpose fertilizer (I think it's 6-12-12, don't remember) and add compost. Since you are going to gradually convert to SFG, it is an inexpensive option. It's what I have always used in the past (without the compost nad I have never done a soil test) & I've always had a very productive garden.

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Re: My Other Garden

Post  Wyldflower on 4/20/2010, 1:04 pm

Hi Dano

I know it's costly to do the conversion to SFG - and I'm glad you're taking the steps to do that.

As for the soil composition in your "other" garden - I don't know about the P-K-N stuff but I do remember one thing I heard at a xeriscaping class I went to... the organic matter should be at least 5% of the soil mix... so adding compost should help. And the pH should be around 6.5, so you want to add something to reduce the pH.

Good luck and have fun!

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Re: My Other Garden

Post  Retired Member 1 on 4/20/2010, 1:52 pm

When the soil analysis was done, you should have received a report with recommended levels of fertilizer or nutrients to add to the soil. I'd follow that along with adding more humus, especially compost. And, yes, the P and K deficiency would definitely have an affect, especially on the fruiting and setting.

I have a home test kit and when I tested the soil here late last summer in preparation to planting a few trees and winter grass, it came out pretty much inert. I tilled in a lot of sawdust, grass clippings, leaves, homemade compost and several bags of cow manure. I then sprinkled a balanced fertilizer over it all and the winter rye grass I planted in this section did great, whereas the other area that was not enriched except for fertilizer did very poorly. I think the added humus made the difference.

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Re: My Other Garden

Post  JonRigby2005 on 4/22/2010, 8:40 am

You probly know this but I'm gonna say it anyways. Those numbers on fertilizer
(ie..5-5-5) are the percentage of Nitrogen- Phosporus-Potassium, in that order. You will notice on fertilizers for bloom/fruiting higher #'s in the phosphorus and potassium, mainly phosphorus. So I believe that is a direct result as to why your fruiting varieties are subpar. The potash will help. Good compost is great because it has these, as well as the trace elements you need also(iron, manganese, boron.....) The nitrogen is generally for Green growth, not fruiting. If you want to stay organic, go through all the organic amendments you can find, and pay close attention to the n-p-k values. And remember if you use organic ammendments they generally need some time to break down to be usable such as bone meal, blood meal, guano's, and what not. powdered dolomite lime is good at keeping the soil ph neutral, but also adds needed calcium and magnesium.

That said I am no expert, but have spent many years reading, and reading, reading, and i've done a little gardening to boot Wink


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Re: My Other Garden

Post  JonRigby2005 on 4/22/2010, 8:50 am

Oh, and I live in an area where the soil is sand. It can take several years and lots of money to create an ideal medium. This is actually why I started looking into raised beds, and found this website. After seeing all the beautiful gardens here, I will be slowly converting all my gardening to raised beds using mels mix.

One thing that concerns me, and maybe someone can help answer this for me, but from what i understand, over time peat becomes acidic (low ph), 1/3 peat wouldn't concern me in containers, I just worry about reusing over the years. I haven't seen anyone here adding lime and wonder why? Please someone fill me in. Other than my worry of ph, I love the idea of mels mix, diversity of nutes, drains well, while at the same time holding water(something my sand doesn't do.


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Re: My Other Garden

Post  TheJH on 4/22/2010, 9:42 am

Here is how I grow tomatoes. My native soil is sand (Sandhills of NC) and 7.2. I tried to grow tomatoes in a normal square foot garden and it worked ok. There just wasn’t enough room to grow to big matters that I was trying to grow. So I tried a combination of new squarefoot, old squarefoot and row gardening. I dug five gallon bucket size holes in a row 2 to 3 feet apart. I filled them with Mel’s mix and a little of lime. Covered the row with a 3 foot wide roll of weed/garden fabric. Cut an X were the holes are. Plant tomatoes and mulch. I put in a 7 foot T post between every 2 plants and one on the ends. I use the “Florida Weave” to support them. They did very well. That was last year. This year I am doing the same thing but added a 1 foot by 1 foot wood collar, compost, perlite and some Sonoma brand Tomato-Tone organic fertilizer.


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Re: My other garden

Post  ander217 on 4/22/2010, 1:41 pm

This is my first year with SFG and I'm no expert, but we farmed row-crop and livestock for many years and I've gardened row-style most of my 55 years, first helping my mom and grandmothers, and then on my own.

The trouble with simple soil tests is they test for major nutrients - nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, - and sometimes secondary nutrients - calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, but they don't usually give micronutrient readings. Those include copper, zinc, boron, iron, and others. A deficiency of any of those can cause various growing problems. Besides problems caused by a deficiency, imbalance also causes problems. For example, too much phosphorus can bind up the zinc and make it unusable. Too much potassium causes a deficiency of magnesium, and so on. An extensive soil test to test for all the micronutrients may cost three figures, and is usually done only by commercial growers.

Micronutrient deficiencies are not that common unless an area has been cropped for a long time. Commercial fertilizers are less likely to correct a deficiency than animal manures which contain more trace elements. Sandy soils can absorb micronutrients easier than clay soils. Also, you need plenty of organic matter, but sometimes it can temporarily bind up nutrients, or use them to break down. For example, if you put fresh grass clippings on your garden, it will pull the nitrogen away from surrounding plants temporarily while it breaks down. Cornstalks use a lot of nutrients to break down.

So there are lots of variables that factor in when figuring out what is causing low productivity in one's garden. Those are things you don't have to worry about with SFG if you get a balanced mix in your boxes.

If I understand correctly, the reason no one adds lime to their Mel's mix is because when you pull out one spent crop, you add a trowel full of compost to your square foot grid before planting another crop. If you have good compost, it should provide enough balanced nutrients to grow another crop in spite of the peat moss.

We are also using a combination of methods. Half of our garden is very rich clay loam, built up over the years with rice hulls, manure, and grass clippings, and there are few weeds in it. It already has the texture of Mel's Mix and required no tilling before planting. It grows excellent crops and we saw little reason to convert that area to boxes, but we do plan to turn it into beds next year, a'la Mel's original style. This year we built a 4' x 4' x 1' box in a poor corner of the garden, and five 1' x 8' x 8" boxes to go around the fence for trellised crops. We also built four 4' x 10' beds to use our existing soil since we can't afford to fill that many boxes at once.

So far, I see advantages and disadvantage to both. The boxes have to be watered more often, but there is very little weeding to be done, and we shouldn't have to prepare the "soil" in them again for a long time. The beds will need to be prepared in the spring and weeded or mulched until the plants canopy, but they are holding their moisture better. It comes down to weeding versus watering. I think watering is easier.

Hmmm...I see I've rambled again. What was your question? I hope I helped answer it.

Last edited by ander217 on 4/22/2010, 1:49 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Correction)

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Re: My Other Garden

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