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Could my soil be too compacted?

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Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  ShannonKruger on 7/25/2013, 8:27 pm

In May my husband built me two raised beds for our backyard.  I finally got things planted toward the middle of June - really late but not horrible given our weather tends to do nothing but get better after that.  However, my seeds sprouted and then nothing.  I have one tomato plant that is doing a little something but literally everything came up and then stopped growing - even the radishes!!  We've watered, we've not watered, its good soil (not Mel's Mix but from a reputable source) and nothing changed.  This weekend I went to stake up the one tomato plant and discovered that the soil is really dense.  My husband then told me that he put the soil in, compacted it and then put more soil on that.  I have very strong suspicions that is why the seedlings never did anything except sprout but am hoping someone can confirm.  

I plan to take about a third of the soil out this weekend and turn it so I can hopefully get a fall crop of ???? planted with some success.  I hate to think of a whole season without anything I've grown.  Very Happy  Thanks!

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  murarrie25 on 7/25/2013, 9:16 pm

Soil  Ph could be bad  or may be salty ,no way of knowing  what is in soil and compost  .

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  camprn on 7/25/2013, 9:22 pm

Since I have no idea what your 'good' soil contains.... my suggestion is send out a sample for analysis. This way you actually KNOW if you have  a soil problem and HOW you can fix it.

If you have a garden fork, stay well away from the plant stems and use the for to just gently loosen the soil in the bed. Don't lift the plants.

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  murarrie25 on 7/25/2013, 9:56 pm

Here in Australia we have a company that has a commercial composting facility has been operating for over 10 years .They put in a development application to build a biomass incinerator at there site .Documentation  in there application shows what they have a permit to place in compost. Landfill leachate  and used sandblasting sand  are a couple of the toxic ingredients. Compost is a good way of disposing of toxic waste ,have a look at fertilizer that has lead mercury and cadmium.

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  boffer on 7/25/2013, 10:31 pm

glad you\'re here to the forum.

This is a great year, weather-wise, to be a gardener in the PNW.  You're experiencing what row gardeners have been dealing with for decades: gardening in soil of unknown quality.  As was suggested, get it analyzed by a lab so that you know what you're working with.

Since all your plants are stunted, I would guess that compaction isn't the main problem.  Radishes might not bulb up, or grow weird, because of the compaction, but the greens would still grow in a healthy growing medium.

You still have time to plant fast growing cool crops like rads, lettuce, bok choy, and maybe peas.  Check out the PNW regional forum to see what others are doing in their gardens right now.

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  Triciasgarden on 7/25/2013, 10:40 pm

Welcome to the forum Shannon!

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  ShannonKruger on 7/25/2013, 11:12 pm

I just did a frugal ph test ~ vinegar in one sample) and baking soda/water in the other.  Neither sample did anything.....  Where does one send soil out to be tested and what would they be testing for?

We've been using the SFG & soil from cedar grove soil about six years and I've never encountered this.  We moved so this is our first year with these beds.  I did get one tomato plant & four beans that growing so not everything acted stunted.  I pulled everything else up this evening and then gently tilled around the remaining plants.

Thanks for the welcomes!!!

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  murarrie25 on 7/25/2013, 11:23 pm

What is the original soil like that was covered with the new  soil  may be OK to use that .

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  boffer on 7/25/2013, 11:23 pm

One of the cheapest and fastest

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

The results look like this.

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  gwennifer on 7/26/2013, 12:37 am

Hi Shannon and welcome to the forum! Glad you found us here in the PNW. We are having a fantastic gardening year, and its a shame your plants are missing out. If you get things figured out in the next few weeks you'll still be able to get a fall garden in with good results I bet.

From my personal experience last year, plants that sprout and then don't grow is because of a lack of nitrogen. It may seem like your garden is doing just fine because everything sprouts so readily, but actually the seed itself contains all the nutrients it needs to produce a seedling - give it some water and if the temperature is right off it goes. That's why you can sprout seeds on a damp paper towel in your kitchen. About the time a seedling gets its first true leaves is when its little self-contained package runs out of steam and it needs to be able to get nutrients elsewhere.

Keep in mind nitrogen is the most volatile component of the "big three" needed for plant health (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium), and so many soil tests won't even include results for it. The one from umass that boffer linked to is a good one and it does include nitrogen.

If you want to convert those beds to have a 6" layer of Mels Mix on the top, let us know - we're here to help. wave smile 

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I had the same problem.

Post  SLake2000 on 7/31/2013, 8:32 pm

@ShannonKruger wrote: However, my seeds sprouted and then nothing.  I have one tomato plant that is doing a little something but literally everything came up and then stopped growing - even the radishes!!

I had the exact same problem. I had 2,000 square feet of tiny plants doing nothing in all these brand new beds following Mel's recommendations to the letter. I discovered that the compost/soil we can get here is not rich enough. I added fertilizer to mine and it took off like a rocket. Now whenever I see the leaves turning a little yellow I fertilize again. I have had to side dress about every 3 weeks.
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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

Post  boffer on 7/31/2013, 9:10 pm

@SLake2000 wrote:...I had the exact same problem. I had 2,000 square feet of tiny plants doing nothing in all these brand new beds following Mel's recommendations to the letter. I discovered that the compost/soil we can get here is not rich enough...

For the benefit of all the lurkers who read the forum, and particularly those in the PNW contemplating starting SFG for the first time, many of us are having great success with the SFG method when we  compost our own individual ingredients, such as grass, leaves, plants, mushroom compost, and cow, chicken, and horse manures.  Native soil quality is not an issue because we don't use it.  

The use of bagged composts, or even commercial blends in bulk like Slake2000 used, can be problematic, and we frequently see the results that she described.  Mel's Mix works as advertised, in the PNW, when properly made homemade compost is used.

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Re: Could my soil be too compacted?

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