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help - I really messed up

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help - I really messed up

Post  leftie on 6/15/2013, 8:47 pm

I've been an advocate of square foot gardening for years, and recently convinced two friends to follow suit because it is such a wonderful and fun way to garden. My daughter built an (average height) 18" high concrete-block square foot garden for me as a BIG favor as I'm housebound and can no longer garden at ground level, so to speak. We put in 12" of commercially prepared amended topsoil (1/3 topsoil, 1/3 compost, 1/3 sand) and then added a 6" layer of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost. This is were I messed up. Being housebound, everything I buy is from the phone. Because I wasn't able to shop around, I ordered all the compost from a 3-generation mom-and-pop feed store. They said the product got great results, etc. There was no intent for harm, but it turns out this year's batch of "really great compost" was burned - after we mixed and installed the 6" of Mel's mix (modified as he specifies a mixture of different composts), the seedlings didn't come up or came up and didn't grow. The root systems are totally undeveloped. Transplants slowly are dying. The bottom leaves are turning yellow as new leaves are produced but then they start dying altogether. In trying to figure out what happened, the compost material appears burnt. The little balls of dried compost crumble into what looks like ash. But out of the bag it looked perfect. The whole garden has an "ashy" look - the dirt is black and gray.

Ok, so it's totally my fault for buying only one type of compost. Is there any way to remedy this problem? What can I do? Please, please help. I love gardening, and after a hiatus of not being able to, gardening so close to being within reach with the 18" raised beds. What do we do? Remove the top 6"? Amend it somehow? It's all vermiculite, peat moss, and ashy compost. I have a total of approximately 240 square feet of square foot garden. It's so beautiful....apart from this little issue.

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Re: help - I really messed up

Post  walshevak on 6/16/2013, 12:28 am

I have no idea what I'm talking about, but can compost get too hot and actually burn the organic material leaving just ash? Does this "fire" kill all the nutrients in the compost?

Kay

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Re: help - I really messed up

Post  camprn on 6/16/2013, 7:24 am

Hi Leftie, Welcome to the SFG Forum!
I'm sad to read about your garden.
Have you contacted the store where you bought the compost? I am curious about this compost and where it came from.... they store owners should be able to get this information to you. The best way to get answers to what the true issues are with your growing medium is send it to a lab for analysis. UMASS has a great soil testing lab and their turn-around time is very quick.
Another thing is call your local county Extension Service and maybe the Ag agent can help you with some ideas.


Depending on what you find out, maybe flushing the entire bed with a lot of water may help. It is really very difficult to advise you on a solution without knowing the actual problem.

Can you post a few photos of the problem growing mix?

Hopefully you can overcome this setback and get your garden going again soon. Keep up posted.

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Re: help - I really messed up

Post  camprn on 6/16/2013, 7:28 am

@walshevak wrote:I have no idea what I'm talking about, but can compost get too hot and actually burn the organic material leaving just ash?  Does this "fire" kill all the nutrients in the compost?

Kay
I don't think so, it's not like a combustion fire, more like a chemical burn. But as of right now it's impossible to know what's going on in Leftie's garden.

As those of us who have our own compost piles know, sometimes in the interior of an active pile, there is what looks like ash, but it isn't ash, just a result of microbial action.

____________________________

40 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t3574-the-end-of-july-7-weeks-until-frost

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


camprn

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Re: help - I really messed up

Post  Triciasgarden on 6/16/2013, 9:09 pm

Welcome to the forum Leftie! Did the compost smell like nice soil or more like the raw ingredients that go into a compost pile? To me it sounds like the ingredients were not finished, but then having the heating up in such a small layer of compost sounds unusual. It may not be a problem with just one type of compost, maybe there were multiple ingredients in it.

I am so sorry you are having these troubles, especially since it is not possible for you to get out. I think Camprn's ideas are on the right track.

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Re: help - I really messed up

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