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Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

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Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/12/2014, 9:04 pm

I've gone by "THE BOOK" as much as I could and disappointed with the performance of my MM. My neighbor has her raised garden with nothing but mushroom compost and it is running laps around my SFG boxes. Her's is raised too, but without the grid. But that's beside the point. 

Sanderson has already given me good advise as MM began the same disappointing way at first as well. So I'd like to focus this discussion a little more on mushroom compost. I have some of it in my MM among the various composts that I used, but thinking of adding much more after seeing the impressive results of my neighbor's garden. It's a bit expensive, but so much more productive. 

What are your thoughts on mushroom compost, and have you had experience with it?

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  camprn on 1/12/2014, 9:15 pm

Is your neighbor fertilizing her garden? Are all of the plants in the garden doing well? Does she have the same amount of sun your garden does?

Typically mushroom compost is not particularly fertile, but it does offer some nutrients. There are better choices in my opinion. Maybe you just need to fertilize for now.
But truly, the best will your own made with a variety of ingredients including animal manures.

http://www.pelagiaresearchlibrary.com/asian-journal-of-plant-science/vol1-iss1/AJPSR-2011-1-1-116-130.pdf

http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/45297/1/Ramiran2010_0264_final.pdf


http://benthamscience.com/open/toasj/articles/V005/19TOASJ.pdf




Last edited by camprn on 1/12/2014, 9:33 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/12/2014, 9:26 pm

@camprn wrote:Is your neighbor fertilizing her garden?
Great question Camprn!  I just sent her a text message to find out, and I'll let you know what I find out. The university student that is doing the soil and bug test is this neighbor's grandaughter, and she's testing both of our gardens. So it'll be very interesting to see what the results show. I do know that my pH balance was decent. The numbers were slightly high in one of the three beds (I think it was 7.5 or so, but still not bad).

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  camprn on 1/12/2014, 10:03 pm

pH of 7.5 will inhibit growth of certain plants because they cannot as readily take up nutrients like iron, phosphorus, boron and a bit less nitrogen. It seems that the test results should have been available from the lab much sooner than this. The turn around time at the UMASS lab is less than a week.



This article explains pH very well.

http://gardenrant.com/?guest_post=please-stop-liming-your-soil-based-on-the-ph

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/13/2014, 6:00 am

I don't think the lab is the one holding up the results. The student just hasn't gotten around to getting back to the lab or collecting the bug paper. When she said that in "two weeks" she would come get the soil samples it was more like two months! But I can complain since I'm not paying for her services.     Mad

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  martha on 1/13/2014, 11:17 am

Camp, that's a great link.

Dstack, I love your avatar!

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/13/2014, 3:53 pm

@martha wrote:Dstack, I love your avatar!
Thanks Martha! That is the late, great Giovanni who I rescued from the Dallas SPCA when I lived there. He was my best buddy for 15 years, and when I knew "G" wasn't going to be with me much longer I had some professional photos taken.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  CapeCoddess on 1/13/2014, 3:55 pm

That's a really nice story, D.   Sad 

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/13/2014, 3:58 pm

Camp, I heard back from my neighbor. Here's her answer:

"I don't add anything but eggshells and the occasional red earthworms..they do all the work! I add another bag of dirt only as needed..."

I'm AMAZED at how well here veggies are growing when much of mine has been slowly limping along with a few exceptions.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  southern gardener on 1/13/2014, 8:20 pm

dstack, I'm sorry you are having such bad results. We experienced the same thing despite following the recipe to the T, and even buying the store bought Mel's Mix. Years ago, we made Mel's Mix by the "old recipe" in his first book, and accidentally used mostly mushroom compost and that was by FAR the best result we had with SFG method. We moved, and left that garden behind and have attempted over and over with the Mel's Mix, and can't seem to get any good results Sad We have redone our garden boxes 4-5 times??
I'm not sure why you are finding the mushroom compost is so expensive. Around here in So. Calif, it's about the cheapest thing to find. Maybe they grow them around here?
We are moving onto another method it looks like. I hope you get your problem figured out, I KNOW how frustrating it is to do all the work and have other gardens running circles around yours. God bless!! You can contact me via PM if you have any questions.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  donnainzone5 on 1/13/2014, 9:01 pm

I think a lot has to do with what compost materials are available locally.

Since I moved to Central Oregon, I've found it relatively easy (several forays to find)
different composts. When I was in Southern California, the pickings were slim.

Here, I've found: Mint compost; cow with bark fines; Harvest Supreme; llama compost; fish compost (had to travel to Milwaukee, OR for this one); mushroom compost; chicken compost; Rogue River Valley plant compost (OMRI certified); Whole Foods. I also add SMALL amounts of worm castings and bat guano.

Of course, I'm making my own compost in the meantime.

I also stole some seaweed from the Oregon coast in September, and a friend contributed oak leaf mold and pine straw.... I've yet to use these last two ingredients in my MM.

BTW, I just befriended a produce employee at a nearby market Although he will talk to his manager about people like us, he's willing to box up some chopped-up produce, label it for my use (as moving boxes), and leave it behind the market.

I also have access to miniscule amounts of duck, goat, and deer doo-doo.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  sanderson on 1/14/2014, 12:57 am

dstack,  You could try an experiment with a couple squares and add her mushroom compost to them and grow the same plants a couple spaces over where you add only the same amount of your homemade compost.  Maybe the mushroom compost your neighbor uses is unusually rich in good materials.  Have you read the ingredients?

Since I started making my own compost, the plants are doing so much better even with bits of un-composted woods that I couldn't screen out.  I have everything but the kitchen sink in it.  I added at least an inch if not 2" to the squares, even removing a little of the original MM to make room.

The 3rd batch is still siting there waiting for planting time.  It was over rich in greens so I will only add a large hand spade a week before planting.

Maybe you could add one or two 3-4" worm tubes to each box.  Mine is 9" tall with a PVC cap.  The holes are 1/2" to keep the MM from falling in.  I'm seriously thinking about having a wood worm hotel and feeding them some finished compost and traditional waste products.  The wood will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  Just seriously thinking and designing.

Keep the Faith!!

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/14/2014, 6:50 pm

Worms do sound like a great idea, as does creative thinking in general.

And this will sound vague or useless maybe, but I'd also advise patience. It's so easy to be discouraged in gardening. But whatever the problems are, they're likely to lessen year by year as you learn more in general and about your area and your individual yard and growing conditions in particular. You're such a hard worker on your garden, dstack, I have confidence you'll keep at it till things are going very well. Don't get too discouraged if at times you're faced with one of the seemingly impenetrable mysteries gardening throws at us all.

sanderson had the right idea about keeping watch on variables, too. It's hard to judge without good records. Put all your numbers and variables into a gardening log, if you haven't already, and try to control for them logically. With more data, answers might tend to suggest themselves more easily over time.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  camprn on 1/14/2014, 6:59 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Worms do sound like a great idea, as does creative thinking in general.

And this will sound vague or useless maybe, but I'd also advise patience.  It's so easy to be discouraged in gardening.  But whatever the problems are, they're likely to lessen year by year as you learn more in general and about your area and your individual yard and growing conditions in particular.  You're such a hard worker on your garden, dstack, I have confidence you'll keep at it till things are going very well.  Don't get too discouraged if at times you're faced with one of the seemingly impenetrable mysteries gardening throws at us all.

sanderson had the right idea about keeping watch on variables, too.  It's hard to judge without good records.  Put all your numbers and variables into a gardening log, if you haven't already, and try to control for them logically.  With more data, answers might tend to suggest themselves more easily over time.
+1  What a Face 

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/15/2014, 9:57 am

Thanks to everyone for your insight and idea. I'll take it all into consideration. My first season's SFG wasn't a total wash. We're enjoying some great fennel, basil, parsley, mint, and zukes (although briefly), with a few things that are finally starting to look promising like collards, onions, carrots, beets, and tomatoes.  It's only when I compare my measly kale and totally non-reproductive Seminole squash to my neighbor's that I wonder how much more food we could be eating from the garden if I had more ideal conditions. 

And this is my first time growing a couple of these things, like beets. Some of the golden beets are golf ball sized. How do I know when they're ready to harvest?

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  camprn on 1/16/2014, 6:22 am

@dstack wrote:Thanks to everyone for your insight and idea. I'll take it all into consideration. My first season's SFG wasn't a total wash. We're enjoying some great fennel, basil, parsley, mint, and zukes (although briefly), with a few things that are finally starting to look promising like collards, onions, carrots, beets, and tomatoes.  It's only when I compare my measly kale and totally non-reproductive Seminole squash to my neighbor's that I wonder how much more food we could be eating from the garden if I had more ideal conditions. 

And this is my first time growing a couple of these things, like beets. Some of the golden beets are golf ball sized. How do I know when they're ready to harvest?
Did these grow in the bed with the high pH. If so it I could be a situation of the beets not taking up enough boron, an element required for bulb formation. This may be why they are small. Just a thought. In any case, beets are edible as sprouts and beyond. If the bulbs are allowed to get to large they get woody.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/16/2014, 8:35 am

Camp, according to the pH chart that you posted the bed with the beets is in the Slightly Alkaline category. Although, this weekend I will add a bit of my organic soil acidifier to the two beds that need a little pH lowering.

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  camprn on 1/16/2014, 8:49 am

@dstack wrote:Camp, according to the pH chart that you posted the bed with the beets is in the Slightly Alkaline category. Although, this weekend I will add a bit of my organic soil acidifier to the two beds that need a little pH lowering.
'Little' being the key word, I hope it works!


A few of the major lessons I have learned 30+ years of gardening is:

Any intervention often leads to another.

A little can go a long way.

More is really, really not always better.

 Wink 

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Re: Why is my neighbor's garden growing so much better than mine?

Post  dstack on 1/26/2014, 9:26 pm

Camp, I have the pH numbers now, and they're a bit higher than what I thought. A sample was taken from each bed: 7.93, 8.28, 8.34

So I added just a tad more acidifier especially around the eggplant.  I'm still waiting on the other tests.

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