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Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

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Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  Serendipity3 on 5/16/2013, 7:35 pm

I am square foot gardening for the first time and I think something is wrong with my mixture. I used 5 good composts, the coarse vermiculite and the peat moss. I followed the book instructions exactly, and began planting two days ago. Yesterday, after my eggplants were only in for one day, I noticed the leaves had some lighter edges that were pale yellow. Today, those leaves are curling up and even more pale and yellowy. The tomato plants that I planted yesterday, are also looking sickly today and getting limp and curling. All of the plants are from reputable nurseries and were healthy when planted.

The reason I am certain it's my mixture is because I found an interesting potting soil when I was purchasing all the composts for my mixture, and thought I'd also fill some of my containers with that to see the difference between what was grown in the mix and the potting mix. None of the eggplants or tomatoes grown in the potting mix are having any issues.

What could be wrong? I looked up yellowing and curling leaves and it always seemed to pertain to plants that have been planted for longer than just a day or two. What did I do wrong? More importantly, what can I do right now to save these plants. At the rate they've degenerated, I can't see them surviving much longer.

Could it be too much peat moss or vermiculite? I did feel like the mixture seemed very light and the compost seemed almost nonexistent in the mixture. I'm not sure if that's because of the ratio of the three and that's normal.

Thank you in advance for your help. I hope I can save what I've planted and continue planting since I'm now afraid to plant anything else.
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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  camprn on 5/16/2013, 7:58 pm

Did you grow these plants? If you did, did you harden them off? Did you water deeply when you transplanted? Did you transplant the potted up ones at the same time as the ones in the bed? Was it really hot and sunny today? What types of compost did you use? Did you add anything else to the mix? How did you go about making the mix? Was it cold last night? Would you be able to post a photo?

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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  Serendipity3 on 5/16/2013, 8:10 pm

No, I bought them at two reputable plant centers. My composts were cotton burr, mushroom, cow manure, chickity doo doo, Dr. Earth compost(has a number of things in it). I did water deeply. I planted the eggplant two days ago and the tomatoes yesterday. The ones in potting soil were planted at the same time as the ones in the mixture. It has been chillier at night, but not anywhere near a frost. I'm figuring I did something wrong because of the difference in how the plants are growing in the two different mediums. If they were all doing poorly, I would be more apt to think it's the temperature at night or the watering. I figure it's something I did with the mixture. Is it normal for the mixture to seem so light and the peat and vermiculite much more obvious in the mixture. I'm not able to include a picture right now.
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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  camprn on 5/16/2013, 8:22 pm

Did you fluff up the peat moss before measuring it? Did you do anything like trim the roots or plant the root ball very deeply?
It is possible that it's transplant shock. Also, tomatoes and especially eggplants do much better if the mix is at 50*F. Has it been very windy?

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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  Serendipity3 on 5/16/2013, 9:10 pm

Thanks for your quick replies.

I did fluff the peat moss because I remember reading on this forum the need to do that. It still did seem like the peat moss seemed to dominate the compostion of the mixture....or at least the coloring did. It did seem like the mixture was mostly peat moss and vermiculite, and only the cotton burr was recognizable.

I loosened up the roots because the roots weren't badly bound. The tomatoes I planted deeply and trimmed off the lower leaves. The eggplant I didn't plant deeply.

The temps. the last few days have been in the upper 80's and dropped to the 60's at night. I don't think it was colder than 50 in the early morning hours, although I can't discount that.

Is there anything I can do if it's transplant shock? Is there anything I can add to the mix if it's deficient in something or has too much peat moss or vermiculite.
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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  dvelten on 5/16/2013, 9:17 pm

It's really not possible for the mix to be the cause, unless one of the composts was in some way contaminated. Peat and Vermiculite are inert and the compost has nutrients. If your mixture was off (e.g., not enough or good enough compost), you might see failure to thrive over a much longer period, but plants are simply not going to curl up and die overnight because of MM.

Did you harden off the plants before you set them out? Has it been cold? You say you are in zone 5 but not where. I'm in zone 6a and will not be planting my tomatoes for another two weeks. The peppers and eggplants will wait for an extra week or two, since they are very cold sensitive. Eggplants are supposed to be planted 2-3 weeks after last frost date, which for me is estimated to be May 10. This year I wouldn't count on it. What you described sounds to me like cold damage, or possibly even sun scald. Do you know what your last frost date is? I already have cold hardy plants like broccoli and kale damaged by freezing temps even though they were planted out after their scheduled date because of poor weather.

Are your containers in the same location as the beds and are the plants at the same height? Cold air is heavy and sinks to the ground. If the containers were close to a building or on a patio, the thermal mass could make several degrees difference in air temp.
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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  camprn on 5/16/2013, 9:26 pm

I think you need to wait and see at this point. Be careful to water, but not over water, the root systems are small. Once they start growing in the new space you water requirements will increase. Also, watch your weather forecast, If it's predicted to be a frost or 35*F or below, be prepared to cover the bed.
Post a photo when you can.

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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  Chopper on 5/16/2013, 11:40 pm

It absolutely could be the mix. Because it comes from a lot of sources there are a lot of variables. If you got a compost that was exposed to an herbicide - not common, but it happens - that could be it. If one or more of the composts were not thoroughly broken down that could do it.

MM itself is not the problem - too much practical and scientific data behind it, but that does not mean one or more components might have skewed things.

The other thing is to beware that the mix is wet enough. On the first go round one of the common mistakes is to not water it enough before planting. If it does not get saturated that first time you can be playing catch up for awhile.

I am sorry for your challenges. In the long run, and usually immediately the MM is pretty efficient. Keep at it! And good luck.

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Re: Need help! My newly planted vegetables are dying.

Post  Turan on 5/16/2013, 11:41 pm

Cow manure was the culprit for the herbicide contaminated gardening composts in Washington. They had similar problems in Vermont. So, yes, the problem could be in the MM, in the composts.

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