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Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/12/2013, 9:56 pm

I don't know what exactly I did, where I went wrong. But my garden isn't working.  I had good crops this summer.  Sixteen family sized salads of buttercrunch bibbs and red sails. Spinach did great, broccoli did great! Then I planted my summer crops.  Bust, every last one of them.  Nothing is growing beyond a few inches high. The transplants never continued growing.  

My high box is doing great! Potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and leeks.  Beautiful! 

My 6" high box is the one that's struggling.  Even the zucchini is a bust. It flowered a few times with small leaves, and I mean small leaves.  Each leaf is about 3" big. The cherry tomatoes and early girls .... nothing.  The cantaloupe . . . nothing.  The cucumbers . . .nothing.  The tomatillos are actually growing, but not fruiting. The serrano peppers are fruiting; the bell peppers are starting to fruit too . . . but even these plants seem undersized.  The eggplant . . . nothing.  I have a square of sickly looking basil, but I have more basil in a pot that looks great. 

What do you think?    It's all the same soil in the 6", high hat and pots. Could it be drainage?  Did my spring crops leach out the nutrients from the 6" high plots? (Though I've been using compost tea and adding compost to vacated squares before planting more. )

Bugs have been under control. 

I'm just stumped.  I'm new at this and was so looking forward to this being "easy" gardening.  I expected it to be work, but I had hoped for much better results.  

I'm not giving up yet! I need some advice!!!!! thanks

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Re: Big Fail

Post  camprn on 7/12/2013, 10:10 pm

Is it getting watered all the way down to the lowest roots? My suggestion, top dress with compost or give the bed a nice drink of compost tea. Maybe some fish emulsion or garden tone. Follow the label directions. Good luck.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  cheyannarach on 7/13/2013, 1:30 am

Reach your hand down to the bottom of the boxes and check for moisture!  I have a few boxes that seem the same way but I have been trying to rely on rain for water because I have a bad well.  I hope things turn around!

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Me, too

Post  Nicola on 7/13/2013, 2:39 am

I'll have to do those things, and keep an eye on this thread for further advice. My older bed, the standard 6", is the slow-grower (the wood fell apart when I moved the beds, and I re-did one with 8" wood). My questionable tomatoes, welsh onions, Chinese cabbage, eggplant & pepper seedlings are all  frozen-in-time-and-space, with nothing much growing. Maybe I just need way more compost as a "dressing"? Or it could  be that I  never stripped the paint off the wood in the cellar that was s'posed to hiding replace my broken grids--maybe the grids really add special,  different micronutrients?!thinking

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/13/2013, 11:16 am

I checked the soil at the base and it was wet.  I could squeeze many drops of water out of it.  Any other suggestions? Could my soil mix be the problem?  I know my high hat box looks great and seems to be growing well, but honestly, I have no idea how things are growing beneath the surface. My potatoes and parsnips might be very very small. I guess that makes the case for adding something more to the soil.  I did mix in a bit more compost today, but I'm not sure that's the right thing to do either.  

Maybe a soil test is in order? 

hhhhmmmmm . . . . . .

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Re: Big Fail

Post  TxGramma on 7/13/2013, 12:29 pm

How often and how much are you watering? Sounds like it may be too wet which can stunt growth as well. It shouldn't be soppy wet just moist. What is in your "soil" mix? Did you use MM and if so how many types of compost did you include in your mix? Do the plants look healthy other than stunted growth? Post pics if you can sometimes it shows more than you describe and someone on here may see a problem that might be missed through just descriptions.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  yolos on 7/13/2013, 12:32 pm

I agree, seems like too much water. What kind of a bottom/drainage do you have. I know Mel says you cannot overwater, but if there is not proper drainage from the bed, it can be overwatered. There may be other issues but my first thought was also too wet.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/13/2013, 2:12 pm

I made MM using 5 types of compost.  On the bottom is a weed barrier. The sorta flimsy kind, not landscape fabric.  So, I doubled it up. Maybe that's preventing drainage?  Though the soil at the bottom didn't seem soggy, but wet. 

We went away on vacation around noon each day.  I live in high desert, with high temps.  While we were away we included another short watering cycle for about 10 minutes. Usually, things heat up a lot during that time. But this year, it stayed cool and it rained while we were gone. This may have been the start of the problems, now that I think about it. When we got home, the ground around the garden was noticeably damp.  It may have been overwatered while were gone.  Since then we cut the watering back. 

These days it's watered for only the noon cycle and there is 8-10 hours of high heat sun. Things cool down to about 60 at night, but during the day it's full blast hot heat and sun. My thermometer on the fence, which runs a little high sitting in the sun, is often 110 at dinner time. It's dry, hot heat.  

What do you suggest?  Maybe back off more on the watering until things turn around?  Can I EVEN turn this around?

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Re: Big Fail

Post  donnainzone5 on 7/13/2013, 3:16 pm

Which 5 composts did you use? Did you "fluff" your peat moss? Did you thoroughly wet your MM before planting?

In addition to weather and watering, these could also be issues.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/13/2013, 4:30 pm

I don't remember the exact composts, but I do remember it included steer manure, chicken poultry, forest products, the usual "stuff." I fluffed my peat, I wet the soil.  My Spring crop did great  . . ..  lots of lettuce, spinach, broccoli.  

Where to go from here?  

I think I am going to cut back the watering and closely monitor it.  When things start to dry out, slowly work back up.  Should I assume these plants are a lost cause? 

I picked up a new tomato plant today. I am going to swap it out with the old one and see what happens. 

In the meantime, I have a few empty squares from my spring crops.  I'm going to plant some bush beans and see what happens with those too.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/13/2013, 4:31 pm

That's bush bean seeds, btw.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  cheyannarach on 7/13/2013, 9:17 pm

Forest humus is often not a very high nutrient compost that can contain a lot of peat, I just got a bag of worm castings  I am going to top dress a few of my boxes with, maybe that would work for you too!

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Re: Big Fail

Post  TxGramma on 7/13/2013, 9:51 pm

Yeah I would cut back on the watering and try that. I am in the Houston area and we are having temps from 95-106 my garden is in full sun and gets about 10-12 hours of sun a day and I am watering about once a week if it doesn't rain. I was watering more but I cut back especially after I got the mulch in place on my beds. If it is from over watering they will bounce back and start to grow as soon as they are no longer waterlogged. I would stop the watering cycle you have it on and for the next few days or week go out there each day and stick your hand down in the "soil" and see if it is moist down to about 6" as long as it is still moist down deep it is ok for the top inch or two to dry out a little...you want a deep root system anyway and that will get the roots to grow deeper for the water. As long as it is still damp don't water it that day. And watch your crops to see if the leaves start to droop. If they droop a little in the very heat of the day but pep back up at night they should be fine. This will help you figure out how often and much you need to water. Just and FYI at an inch a week my 2x10x10" deep beds need about 10-12 gallons of water per week. A 4x4x6" bed needs about 5 gallons per week maybe more given your conditions during the heat of the summer.

I read a good way to test your "soil" is to pick up some and squeeze it in your hand if water comes out it's too wet if it clumps together when squeezed but crumbles apart easily when touched it's good and if it clumps together and stays together even when you give it a good jab it is too heavy and will pack too much on your plants. It has helped me to monitor my "soil" better maybe it will help you gauge the water retention of your mix.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/13/2013, 9:55 pm

Thanks so much TxGramma!  Just the right kind of advice I needed. Very Happy  I've been squeezing my soil and not sure what would be just right.  I'll be monitoring the water very very closely this week to see how things go.  Compounding the issue is that the beds are surrounded by grass that is a part of our yard, so the hubs doesn't want the grass to die while we figure this out . . . .but we'll strike the right balance . . . even if I have to hand water the grass. Laughing

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Re: Big Fail

Post  TxGramma on 7/13/2013, 10:21 pm

We had grass around our beds too but I convinced hubby to do mulch instead...hey you won't have to mow as much honey. Wink  So he hauled mulch in for me and helped me lay out newspaper and put mulch on top of it. Our garden area is a work in progress at the moment but we are fencing off the garden side of the yard and it will be filled in completely with mulch, garden beds, and flowers....no grass for hubby to have to mow. And no grass to grow up into my beds...win win!!!! rahrah 

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/25/2013, 6:20 pm

UPDATE:  I pulled back on watering . . . . a lot. I let things dry out a lot.  And plants started perking up. Some even grew a couple inches.  Some greened up more.  All good things.  But still, things weren't "bouncing" back all that great.  My gut told me something still isn't right. It seemed like the plants were still sorta frozen in time or at least moving very slow.  

I decided to test the soil. I got a moisture reader.  Which has been fun, we'll see how helpful it becomes. And I got a soil test.  And behold, I may have found the problem. 

My pH was neutral.  My P and K were both great.  My N was practically practically non-existant.  I mean it didn't change color. at. all. Zipppo on the Nitro. 

Seems my issues may have been two fold - overwatering and no nitrogen.  Both are correctable, right?  I've cut back on watering, which definitely needed to be done.  I have a much better handle on what's needed.  Seems the soil is holding more water than I thought and sometimes more than actually meets the eye. 

I guess bush beans don't need nitrogen, cause those seeds sprouted and have been doing awesome.  Maybe lettuces didn't need nitrogren, cause those did great too. My potatoes did pretty well.  I thought zucchini didn't want to too much nitrogen, but seems they want a lot more than I've been giving them. 

I suffer from garden envy every day when friends post pics on Facebook of their fabulous garden veggies and I've got one piddly little tomato on a stunted plant.  

I refuse to go down a black thumb.  I will learn from my mistakes, and I WILL GROW SOME EVERLOVING VEGETABLES, got that? 

As for nitrogren, that's where I need your help.  What do you suggest as a course of action for nitrogen?  Blood meal? Bone meal? Coffee?  What to use?  And, then the best way to apply to my already planted soil?

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Re: Big Fail

Post  No_Such_Reality on 7/25/2013, 6:59 pm

If the nitrogen test was store bought, they tend to be horribly unreliable. I don't think Nitrogen is your underlying problem. The successful lettuce and potato crop says you had good nitrogen. Both are heavy consumers of nitrogen.

If you're not doing an organic garden, personally, I'd hit it with a half dose of the water soluble Miracle Gro. Use the organic stuff if you want, but I've always found for my sickly container plants the diluted strength MG is like a good coffee hit in the morning. If you don't like MG, then use an organic blood meal which is almost pure N. Or put coffee ground in . I myself prefer the soluble fertilizer so I know it's immediately saturated the plant area.

It's possible the lettuce and potato crop with the heavy watering leached most of the nitrogen out, cutting the watering and letting it recharge might work, again, a fertilizer hit will answer that quickly.

If the fertilizer doesn't do it, then it's some trace element that is likely low and affecting the uptake.


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Re: Big Fail

Post  camprn on 7/25/2013, 9:20 pm

Oh dear. Store bought soils tests are notoriously inaccurate. For a quick fix, try Garden- tone or Tomato-tone.... BUT BEFORE YOU ADD ANYTHING... take a soil sample and send it to UMASS for analysis.

http://soiltest.umass.edu/

http://soiltest.umass.edu/sites/soiltest.umass.edu/files/forms/soilless-greenhouse-media/Soilless%20Greenhouse%20Media%20Sample%20Submission%20Form-editable.pdf

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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

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Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: Big Fail

Post  Marc Iverson on 7/25/2013, 9:24 pm

Have you thought about a compost tea? It's an extremely cheap way to get nitrogen to your plants fast. So much so that you may not want to use it too deep into the flowering cycle, as too much nitrogen can promote leaf and branch growth at the expense of flowering and fruiting, both from what I've read and from what I make of my casual daily observations this season.

I have been using compost tea every 3 to 5 days and got some really nice leaf growth, but less successful fruiting than I would have hoped at times. Great way to get a plant established though. The foundational stuff like roots and leaves are of course what feeds the eventual fruiting. And my compost tea has seemed to rescue a straggler or two and turn it strong.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/27/2013, 11:36 am

I'm taking the advice. Very Happy 

I didn't start this garden with the purpose of being organic.  I did it for joy.  I have used all organic methods up to now. I won't use insecticides, but I did pick up some liquid Miracle Gro fertilizer and fed my plants.  Hope this helps.  

I was doing compost tea regularly, back when my plants were doing better in the spring.  That might have been why they did alright. After I went on vacation (when the overwatering happened), I got lazy about my compost tea. Now, I'm back on the compost tea wagon.  Laughing 

Thanks all!  Hopefully in a week I'll be able to make a positive update. Thanks for caring about my garden. Thanks for the advice.  And God bless your gardens. sunny

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Re: Big Fail

Post  pryz123 on 7/27/2013, 12:29 pm

the overwatering that went on after your spring veggies could have leached out the nutrients too.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  gardenertaylor on 7/27/2013, 11:11 pm

Oh! I also forgot to mention, I'm going to send out my soil for testing.  I have a local extension office in town here that will do it. Smile 

Pryz123, if you were in my shoes, how would you replace the nutrients.

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Re: Big Fail

Post  pryz123 on 7/28/2013, 1:30 am

Hi,

I would use compost and fish emulsion /seaweed fertilizer. I use Neptune's harvest available on amazon. I would use weak fish emulsion seaweed fertilizer every week or ever other week.

I hope that helps. 

Rachel

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