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My first Seedlings.

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My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/29/2013, 12:27 pm

Hello all-

This is my first season growing anything, and I decided to give a variant of SFG a shot. I have a few questions (probably answered somewhere else, but the amount of info here is overwhelming!), and a few pictures to share.

I am looking for some basic feedback and maybe a bit of a "guiding hand". Thanks for looking and here is a "cut and paste" section from another forum (unhelpful for the most part) Sorry for the long initial post, bear with me here......

This is where I started:


I decided to start this thread instead of taking up the SFG thread.

The Jist:
New to gardening. Trying my hand at Square Foot Gardening this year due to a bad plot of land (former dog run) where we eventually will have our full garden.

This year I decided to build cheap raised beds and work on the soil at the end of the growing season. I will get the "dog run" tested, here soon to know for sure, but I have been amending the soil with grass clippings all summer (2012) before I knew it was unusable. I have tilled in a ton of fresh soil from our 30 fence posts as well. Hopefully It won't need much work to be usable soon.

The plan is to put the raised beds on this ground and then in the fall, till all the soil back into the original ground and have it tested again.

Anyway-

Started my first seeds this weekend! We shall see how they do.

Day 1

Brandywine Maters
Chives
White Sweet onions
Green onions
Jalapeños
Green/Red peppers
Cilantro








I was told that my lights were to far away, and my plants were extremely leggy, so I moved them up closer to the light:

Well, we have sprouts and lots of them! Except for the Peppers... I think they may need to be warmer than we are offering.

I think I see what you guys meant by "leggy" plants though... These guys have reached for the stars, while I was trying to plan the next move for them. Only took two days and they were 3 inches tall. Now we have them directly beneath the light and have given each planter their own light source. In the pics, you can see the second planter with its own light in the background. Also, most of the sprouts have straightened up after the addition of the foil. We were rotating them every few hours so that they would bend as much, but now that the foil is there, they are mostly shooting straight up.




My next question is, how do you decide which ones to keep? We planted between two and four seeds per slot (depending on the plant) and now, in some cases we have three sprouts in the same slot. How do you transplant/move them? Or do you just pick the strongest looking ones and pull the others?

Thanks again for all the help.

After some discussion, I ended up building this light setup for them:

Much Better! (at least I hope...)




Edited my original plan after a few more conversations and ended up with this, some have said that I am doing it all wrong, but no one suggests a better course of action. Its frustrating to say the least!:

New garden layout. Added lettuce and strawberries. North is the bottom of the pic. Moved the taller plants so they are on the north side... Anyone see an issue with this layout?



I also built a compost bin out of 1x6 squares stacked 4 high, obtained a bunch of chicken bedding and manure, tossed in our table scrapes, and now have a hot pile.

Yesterday I built this out of some 2x4 and a free barrel from a friend. It "eco friendly, water soluble soap/degreaser in it. I am a bit worried it will be harmful, but my friend assures me he has used this very type of barrel with no ill affects.


I built a stand for the bin, and unfortunately, the bin I got for free held Industrial Degreaser/Soap, so I will have to see if it can be cleaned well enough for my hot compost or if I need to find a "food grade" barrel. Sad Locally they run $50-$150.



So, that is where I am at. Now for a more structured Q&A session. In the next post Laughing

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  walshevak on 3/29/2013, 12:31 pm

That grow light setup is much better. You will get less leggy seedlings.

Kay

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/29/2013, 12:35 pm

Okay: A few direct questions.

1) Are my Tomatoes a loss because of their "leggyness"

2) Will Brandywines even work for SFG or should I find a "vine" type plant that can grow up a trellace?

3) My peppers have yet to germinate, they probably need more heat then the 55-60 degree garage, right? They spent a week indoors (as well as all the other seeds, at 70deg).

4) Is my layout going to work? Any suggestions one where to rearrange for the best output?

5) My soil in the preferred location was a dog run over a year ago for many years, it has been tilled and amended with the soil from our fence posts and grass clippings for one full summer. Will this soil kill the plants, and more importantly will it harm any of us?

6) The barrel for compost- Should the water soluble mix that was in it be okay after a good scrubbing?

7) Am I crazy to try and have a garden when I work 50 hours a week, and attend college night classes full time as well?

Shocked

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  walshevak on 3/29/2013, 12:51 pm

The tomatos can be saved if you can find containers long enough to lay the plants down and bury the roots and stems up to the first leaves.

I have brandywine tomatos in my SFG. They are indeterminate and need trellising.

Peppers are finicky to start. A lot of mine didn't germinate and that was on a warming mat. Also take more time than tomatos to germinate, up to 25 days.

I'll plead not qualified on 4, 5, and 6, but as to 7 this method is your best chance of having a garden with your work school schedule.

Kay

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/29/2013, 1:02 pm

@walshevak wrote:The tomatos can be saved if you can find containers long enough to lay the plants down and bury the roots and stems up to the first leaves.

I have brandywine tomatos in my SFG. They are indeterminate and need trellising.

Peppers are finicky to start. A lot of mine didn't germinate and that was on a warming mat. Also take more time than tomatos to germinate, up to 25 days.

I'll plead not qualified on 4, 5, and 6, but as to 7 this method is your best chance of having a garden with your work school schedule.

Kay

Bury the stems horizontally, and have the leaves above the soil layer by how much? Barely?

Would it be better to just replant another set of seeds? This won't bother me one bit, if its the best case scenario.

Thanks for taking the time to respond!

~Nick

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  quiltbea on 3/29/2013, 1:05 pm

I can only help with a couple of things.

Removing extras......When you see one seedling looking healthier and stronger than the other one or two, cut out the others at soil level. Do NOT pull it out or you could pull out all of them.

Grow lighting.....Its lookin' good now. Make sure they are on only 15-16 hrs a day and kept about 2 inches above the tops of the growing seedlings. The plants need to rest some of the time so no lights the other 8 hours. If you've kept them on 24/7, that would be your legginess troubles.

When you transplant your tomato seedlings, just bury them deeper in the next pot. That will take care of the legginess. Another tip: hold the seedling by the leaves, NOT the stem which is more sensitive and could be easily crushed.

To strengthen your seedlings, brush your hand lightly across their tops a couple times a day. It makes them stronger.

Peppers need warmer temps than those to germinate, 80-85 degrees.

I hope someone can help you with your other concerns. glad you\'re here to the forum. Its the easiest way to garden and won't take as much time as conventional methods.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/29/2013, 1:25 pm

@quiltbea wrote:I can only help with a couple of things.

Removing extras......When you see one seedling looking healthier and stronger than the other one or two, cut out the others at soil level. Do NOT pull it out or you could pull out all of them.

Grow lighting.....Its lookin' good now. Make sure they are on only 15-16 hrs a day and kept about 2 inches above the tops of the growing seedlings. The plants need to rest some of the time so no lights the other 8 hours. If you've kept them on 24/7, that would be your legginess troubles.

When you transplant your tomato seedlings, just bury them deeper in the next pot. That will take care of the legginess. Another tip: hold the seedling by the leaves, NOT the stem which is more sensitive and could be easily crushed.

To strengthen your seedlings, brush your hand lightly across their tops a couple times a day. It makes them stronger.

Peppers need warmer temps than those to germinate, 80-85 degrees.

I hope someone can help you with your other concerns. glad you\'re here to the forum. Its the easiest way to garden and won't take as much time as conventional methods.

Is there an easy way to tell the "strong" ones from the others? They are all pretty much uniform in height, and color. None have more than the first two seedling leaves, and none are a different color.

When is the right time to pot up? Would now be the time, because of the leggyness? Would dixie or solo cups work for the next pot? I plan to put them in the garden after that.

I will take a few closer shots of the Brandy and Cherries and our onions.

Thank you for the warm welcome!

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Turan on 3/29/2013, 1:43 pm

I'll try to address some of your questions, but realize they need to be taken with a grain of salt.

4) Both the tomato varieties are usually indeterminates, long vines that need trellising. Double check your seed packages. But either way that is very tight spacing for tomatoes, spread them a little and they will be less work for you in pruning.
I would rearrange the long lines of radishes, carrots, strawberrys, lettuce and potatoes etc into blocks rather than 1'wide rows, but that might just be my personal preference.

5)This can only truly be answered by doing soil tests. You are concerned about dog parasites? I doubt they are still a problem in soil that has been tilled and amended but talking to the county extension might give you a better way to answer that question firmly.

6) Depends on what is meant by Eco friendly. From what you have said it sounds fine. "Industrial Degreaser/Soap" describes Dawn dish soap as well and I would not have a problem with using a well rinsed holder of that to hold water for watering seedlings after all.

7)No crazier than the rest of us rock on

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  quiltbea on 3/29/2013, 2:03 pm

Neeco.....
Choose the one that's in the center if its difficult to choose from 2 or 3 sprouts.
Because of the legginess, I would move them up and bury their stems deep.
I've transplanted into 16-oz drinking cups, made into air-pruners (cut a slit up 2" from the 4 holes punched in the bottoms) and it worked well even for tomatoes. I've given them to the community garden and even though smaller than ones I transplant from 2-liter bottles, they grew big and produced well.

Transplanted from cups 6/2. That's a volunteer, not me.
Same tomatoes far right row with the green posts, on 7/18 growing quite nicely. They fed many folks at the Food Pantry that fall.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/29/2013, 3:31 pm

@Turan wrote:I'll try to address some of your questions, but realize they need to be taken with a grain of salt.

4) Both the tomato varieties are usually indeterminates, long vines that need trellising. Double check your seed packages. But either way that is very tight spacing for tomatoes, spread them a little and they will be less work for you in pruning.
I would rearrange the long lines of radishes, carrots, strawberrys, lettuce and potatoes etc into blocks rather than 1'wide rows, but that might just be my personal preference.

5)This can only truly be answered by doing soil tests. You are concerned about dog parasites? I doubt they are still a problem in soil that has been tilled and amended but talking to the county extension might give you a better way to answer that question firmly.

6) Depends on what is meant by Eco friendly. From what you have said it sounds fine. "Industrial Degreaser/Soap" describes Dawn dish soap as well and I would not have a problem with using a well rinsed holder of that to hold water for watering seedlings after all.

7)No crazier than the rest of us rock on

I am sure the tomatoes are Heirloom Brandywines, not sure of the exact Cherry variety. I used a SFG Garden planning site to build it, and just went with what it suggested. What would the right distance per plant be for the Brandywines? The Cherries? Just follow the package instructions?

The Dog Run- A trusted friend told me the soil would not be suitable to grow a garden in, hence the reason I went to Raised beds, and ended up trying SFG. Otherwise I would have planted everything traditionally in rows right into the soil and hoped for the best! Ha, so it was a curse and a blessing. I did not know the slightest thing about seedlings, Vermiculite, Peat Moss or even compost a month ago. Now I have my own Chicken Bedding compost steaming away, and 40-50 leggy seedlings! affraid

I work for a plastics company and know for a fact that "food grade" poly is the same as "chemical grade". We cure it slightly less if we can, but the tolerances are near identical. Now, the chemical in the barrel is said to be Eco Friendly and water soluble and that is why my company purchases it, to meet some of the "food grade" branded criteria. Hopefully this barrel will work for my hot composting purposes.

How does this layout look? I switched to 4 8ft beds instead of two long beds... more access. Still need to fix the spacing on the tomatoes, but that can be done when they get sown into the soil.



Last edited by Neeco on 3/29/2013, 3:40 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/29/2013, 3:37 pm

Quiltbea: Thank you for the visual and the sound advice! I will be potting these guys up tonight most likely. I will need to buy another lighting setup though, it seems... And find somewhere to put it all. HA.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  quiltbea on 3/29/2013, 6:29 pm

Neeco.....I'm not sure of your zone in Nebraska, but you probably can space your toms 1 foot apart if they are trellised, staked or on strings. Just make sure you remove the suckers as the tomato grows. Check the search feature to learn about suckers. I string mine and its so easy to twist the leader around the string as it grows. Its now my preferred method.
I always used the 1 foot spacing here in zone 5a, but this year I'm putting only 3 in a 4' wide space lengthwise for better air circulation. I think it will foil the blites a little longer with better air. If they are determinates, the ones that don't grow into vines, then I'd place them 2' apart. They don't get their suckers removed so they can get pretty bushy. A tomato cage would work well for the determinates since they only grow from 2 1/2' to 6 feet tall (depending on the variety) before they harvest within a 3 week period. I put my determinates in pots last year and will do the same this year, with a tomato cage.

I've never put two rows of tomatoes side by side so maybe someone else can concur with your garden plan. I would find it terribly difficult to get to the inside row to snip suckers and harvest. I only put mine one row along the north side and sometimes on the west side if I need extra space.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/29/2013, 6:38 pm

Neeco, I like what you've done so far. Is there a chance you have a nice sunny window to put your seedlings in?
Also, I wouldn't think twice about using that barrel after a good washing, but that's just me Very Happy

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  jazzycat on 3/29/2013, 7:52 pm

I'm completely new at this, so take what I say with a grain of salt. But here is my experience so far with tomatoes (which is all I'm growing at this point)...

I was going to suggest putting them on top of something to bring them closer to the light. I have my shorter plants on game boxes at one end, and the taller ones at the other end with the lights raised a bit higher. I move them around periodically so they all have access to be directly underneath the lights. (I'm also using some foil, like you. Lights get expensive.) As they grow, I move the lights up a little more. I keep the lights between 2-4" above the plants.

I repotted some of my leggier plants, and put them as deep as I could into dixie cups or larger seedling trays, trying to bury the stems as close to the cotyledon leaves as possible. Once I did that, they took off.

That's all I can offer. As I said, I'm new at this. Smile

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  johnsonjlj on 3/30/2013, 7:34 am

I'm pretty new at this gardening stuff, too, but I learn more every season! This was also my first year growing from seed and I was so afraid I would do something wrong! Now that they're in the raised beds, I'm really glad I did it! This was the first year I have ever trenched my tomato plants and they look great!! As far as your tomatoes go, check to see if your cherry tomatoes are determinate or indeterminates- I think most of the cherry ones are indeterminates, but check your variety to be sure. If they are, you're going to have a problem with your tomato placement. An indeterminate tomato is going to grow on a vine which will continue to grow until frost (or bugs or disease or heat get to it!). A lot of people prune their indeterminates so that there is just one main vine which allows the plant to put its energy into all of those tomatoes. If you are pruning and trellising your tomatoes, ALL of them will need to be put along the north side of your beds to keep them from shading your other squares and so you can get to them. You'll need easy access to prune the the suckers off, which can grow at an alarming rate! With that much weight, I would recommend using cattle panels for support (you can search this site and see photos). I used string netting last year when trellising 4 tomato plants (one of them cherry) and had it break on me. My one cherry tomato plant had about 100 tomatoes at a time on it, which wasn't bad by itself, but between the weight of the vines and tomatoes was just too much. With you planting 8 of each variety, you're definitely going to have to have a sturdy trellis (brandywine tomatoes are indeterminate, too!). If you aren't sure about how to prune the tomatoes, just go to youtube and search for pruning indeterminate tomatoes. That's how I found out about it. Growing Your Greens has a good video on it.

I have a pretty busy schedule, too, and find that gardening using the sfg method is the only one that would work for me. Weeds are easily plucked out and, now that we've added drip irrigation to our 370 sq ft, upkeep is a breeze.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  camprn on 3/30/2013, 7:54 am

Neeco, welcome to the Forum! Your light set up, with adjustments looks very good!
Regarding the discussion of placement of indeterminate tomatoes, yes, place on the north side. Mine grew over 7 feet tall last year. As for support, I have had great succecss with the Florida weave trellis system for my cherry tomatoes.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  quiltbea on 3/30/2013, 9:49 am

johnson....If you like stringing, use nylon tomato twine, made specifically for tomatoes. Its sturdy and won't break. It made all the difference for me after trying green garden twine and sisal prior years.

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/30/2013, 10:37 am

@quiltbea wrote:Neeco.....I'm not sure of your zone in Nebraska, but you probably can space your toms 1 foot apart if they are trellised, staked or on strings. Just make sure you remove the suckers as the tomato grows. Check the search feature to learn about suckers. I string mine and its so easy to twist the leader around the string as it grows. Its now my preferred method.
I always used the 1 foot spacing here in zone 5a, but this year I'm putting only 3 in a 4' wide space lengthwise for better air circulation. I think it will foil the blites a little longer with better air. If they are determinates, the ones that don't grow into vines, then I'd place them 2' apart. They don't get their suckers removed so they can get pretty bushy. A tomato cage would work well for the determinates since they only grow from 2 1/2' to 6 feet tall (depending on the variety) before they harvest within a 3 week period. I put my determinates in pots last year and will do the same this year, with a tomato cage.

I've never put two rows of tomatoes side by side so maybe someone else can concur with your garden plan. I would find it terribly difficult to get to the inside row to snip suckers and harvest. I only put mine one row along the north side and sometimes on the west side if I need extra space.

The tomatoes in the second row were cherry tomatoes. How does this layout work. I will just grow a few plants in pots if I feel I need more toms. I looked up pruning the suckers, and I agree. It looks like they will be to closely spaced for so many plants. It would work, but it would be a pain for me to prune and harvest. So I thinned them out to a plant in each 2 foot plot.

Each of my tomato varieties are indeterminate. Burpee Heirloom Brandywine Reds, and Ferry-Morse Red Cherry. I looked up the string method and that is probably what I will do. Seems simple enough and handles everything that it needs to. Thanks for the tips on the suckers and going vertical!!

I am in Zone 5, Southeastern Nebraska. Near Lincoln.



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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/30/2013, 10:52 am

So, I finished up building the compost tumbler, and went out back to check the pile. I was saddened to see that I have Blow flies. After a bit of research this is due to a poorly maintained compost pile! Shocked I guess my first try needs some amending! I went and bought some straw from the local Farm Supply. I will be turning and adding in more browns (leaves and the new straw).

We have been saving kitchen scraps for about 3 weeks and with 3 young boys, its amazing how fast you can fill up a 3 gallon plastic tote with veggie and fruit scarps!

I guess that mixed with the chicken bedding/manure we are a bit to rich in greens! It also has a manure/ammonia stink to it. Stinky will not work, as I live in a neighborhood.

Does my deduction seem right to you more experienced composters?

I will also have pics of everything a bit later, after I clean the barrel, transfer everything and pot up my maters.

You guys/gals have been a wonderful help! I have learned more in the couple days I have been here, than in the three weeks I have been researching this!

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Turan on 3/30/2013, 12:02 pm

You might shred newspapers also for your browns.

Take a strong look at camprn's picture, she has 3 rows of indeterminate tomatoes there in close quarters. The trick seems to be constant pruning to keep it open enough for good air circulation etc. Maybe she will go into what are the pros and cons she found with that?

Look up Hoggar's amazing tomato trellis for view of a double row stringed up tomatoes in 1/sq spacings.

Using your staggered rows will mean you can be less fanatical about the pruning.

About your dog run. It is not clear to me if you are planning to grow in the modified dirt of the dog run put into raised beds and are concerned about it. Or have mixed up MM into the raised beds to plant in and are concerned about that? If you are using MM that is just the kind of scenario it was designed for, growing vegetables in places you have concerns about the native soil's harmfulness.

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Turan

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/30/2013, 1:18 pm

I'll look into it! Thanks.

Here's a pic of me transplanting. Hopefully what I have will work!

Dixie cups with drainage holes and seedling mix.

MM is hard to come by here, expensive to make as well! Going to be over 200$ just for soil?!








Neeco

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  camprn on 3/30/2013, 1:32 pm

@quiltbea wrote:johnson....If you like stringing, use nylon tomato twine, made specifically for tomatoes. Its sturdy and won't break. It made all the difference for me after trying green garden twine and sisal prior years.
Or conversely, sisal twine that you can just compost at the end of the season. Ask 3 gardeners for their opinion and get 5 answers. Wink

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 3/30/2013, 2:35 pm

Turan-

The dog run was an established run for many years. We moved into this house last May. Since then, it has been tilled with new dirt from our fence posts and all my grass clippings.

Ideally, I would double dig the ground, inside the raised beds, and plant directly with amendments of homemade compost and some sort of Vermiculite or Perilite.

I was told that the soil under the dog run is uninhabitable for a veggie garden. Maybe I had bad information? The whole point is to have a garden, in that spot, whatever way will give us the best results for the cheapest amount of money! Ha


Neeco

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Turan on 3/31/2013, 1:37 pm

Neeco, Do you know why the soil was deemed "uninhabitable for a veggie garden". If you know then you have something to work with in addressing the perceived problems. My guess is a concern about parasites, especially roundworms.

In general a series of tilling so all the soil is exposed to sunlight kills parasite eggs. Making the soil very bio active like your adding adding grass clippings and then compost will help as well. Then there is time, I have read a couple of months of no dogs with the tilling and sun baking will do it. I also read that with certain parasite eggs it can take years. That is why I suggest talking to the County Extension and a Veterinary to see if there is testing available for those concerns.
Sooooooo what this gets down to is where do you draw the line? You gave a year of remedial tilling and adding bio mass. Do you think it needs one more year? 2? None? Maybe biting the expense and using MM is best for your peace of mind and possible health? No one else can answer these for you definitively.

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Turan

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Re: My first Seedlings.

Post  Neeco on 4/2/2013, 9:15 am

The only reason I think the soil was bad, was the advice given from another forum of friends. I didn't even know dog manure was bad for the garden or yard before then.

I will take a sample and see if I can get it tested.

Right now, I have a stinky compost that I need to resolve. My neighbors will not be happy if it gets any worse!

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Re: My first Seedlings.

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