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my new SFG is dying

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my new SFG is dying

Post  arlene'sgarden on 5/1/2010, 12:09 am

I am new to SFG and followed Mel's book as closely as I could. Most of my vegetable plants have turned yellow, have stunted growth and look like they're dying. My strawberry plants are still green and my bush beans are also still green but aren't growing much anymore. I have planted tomatoes, peppers and eggplant from transplants and they haven't grown at all since I placed them in the garden over three weeks ago. Now leaves are starting to fall off the peppers. The eggplant have holes in their yellow droopy leaves and the tomatoes plants are yellow. The melons, cucumber and corn were seeded and they sprouted but have stopped growing and have a yellowing tone to them. I used 4-5 different kinds of compost when I mixed my soil as well as the peat moss and the vermiculite. Seems like I followed all the rules but now I'm stumped. Can a late freeze shock plants that much? I covered them April 5th when we had out last freeze but maybe our nights are too cold. Anyone with advice, I'd appreciate it.

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  ander217 on 5/1/2010, 7:58 am

There could be a lot of reasons for the things you describe, but a few ideas came to my mind. Did you mix your Mel's Mix really well? If the compost all wound up on the bottom of the boxes the small plants roots might not be able to reach it. Nitrogen deficiency could cause the symptoms you describe. Beans make some of their own nitrogen which might explain why they are still looking good.

Have you watered them correctly? Do your boxes drain well so that water doesn't pool around the plant roots?

Is your garden located near agriculture fields that have been sprayed recently? Sometimes spray drifts on windy days. Usually you notice shriveled leaves when that happens. (Trust me, I know about this one.) But there might be some types of spray that produce the symptoms you describe.

How cold have your nights been? One of our daughters lives in Austin and she has tomatoes and basil growing with no problems, but she didn't set them out until a couple of weeks ago.

Have you checked with your neighbors to see if any of them are having similar problems with their plants? Perhaps some type of plant disease is hitting your area.

Is there someone in your county extension office who might help you identify the problem? Some offices have garden experts who will come to your house and look at your problem and try to help. Others have agronomists who will look at plants if you bring them in.

I wish you luck in finding answers. Just please don't give up on your gardening. Figure out the problem and try, try again.
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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/1/2010, 8:09 am

I have one garden bed where the plants are not doing as well as the others -- sort of wimpy and yellowish. Wished now that I had kept better records of the kinds of compost I used. I mixed up a half strength solution of soluble veggie fertilizer (15-30-15) and watered with it, including spraying some on the leaves every other day. The plants are beginning to perk up. The brand I'm currently using is Expert from Walmart which is a knock off of Miracle Grow. You might want to try this. The problem in the States is we don't know how much compost is in our compost -- some I've purchased has been full of small twigs which seems to be used as fillers. They will eventually break down but are useless to the plants right now. As soon as my own compost is done, I'll be amending all my beds.

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  camprn on 5/1/2010, 9:05 am

belfrybat wrote: As soon as my own compost is done, I'll be amending all my beds.
+1 . It sounds like nutritional deficiencies in the soil mix. Test your soil with a home tester, one you can pick up at the garden center. If the test results show deficiencies, or improper pH, you can amend the soil appropriately. See here for organic amendments. Good luck
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my new SFG is dying

Post  arlene'sgarden on 5/1/2010, 9:44 am

Thanks for all the advice. To answer some of the questions, my beds are in a well drained area. When we made the beds, we mixed the three parts well with a tarp like he suggested. In the end the mix looked like his in the book as far as we could tell. Watering - I have probably over watered but Mel's book says that you can't over water his mix so I didn't worry too much. I cut back on the watering and the plants started to look worse.....don't know what that means. I have some friends who started gardening and their plants made it though our last freeze no problem and are thriving now. I have wondered about nitrogen but I have another questions, though. My corn was planted in stages and the first batch came up fine and grew to about 6 inches tall. The second batch was planted about 2 weeks later and it also came up fine and grew to only about 3 inches and then they all stopped growing at the same time. Would this still be a nutrient problem? If it were, how would I amend the soil with more nitrogen organically? Thanks to everyone who's trying to help. I'll keep trying.

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/1/2010, 10:24 am

This site has a good primer on organic nitrogen http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00546.html

However, adding manure and other compost will take a while to affect your existing plants, and it sounds like your plants need help now. If you are uncomfortable about using a chemical fertilizer as a quick fix, I'd suggest a trip to your plant nursery section and see what they have in way of "certified organic" quick acting fertilizers. I also agree with camprn about testing your soil. I have one of those home kits and it does come in handy.
But if you can't or don't want to test, you could use blood meal to add nitrogen or just use a balanced fertilizer for now and start to add more compost.

Another possible problem might be one of your composts wasn't fully composted and is burning your plants. Sometimes even commerical compost isn't quite done.
I don't know of a way to test that or of a fix if that is the problem. So sorry you are having this problem.

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my new SFG is dying

Post  arlene'sgarden on 5/1/2010, 2:44 pm

I'm heading out today to get a soil test kit - I'll go from there. Thanks to everyone who's helping me. I appreciate all the advice I can get. Being a rookie isn't always fun, but when things go wrong, you sure do get an education!!! I'll keep posting.

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  bpbdrummer on 5/1/2010, 4:02 pm

I have a similar issue, one of my 4 beds is just weak, nothing seems to want to grow. I planted marigolds in that bed at the very same time I planted them in the bed right next to it. the ones in the other bed look great and are starting to flower. The ones in the weak bed still look like seedlings. I also have cukes/beets/beans/onions/canteloupe and roma tomato in the bed and none of them are showing much growth compared to the rest of the beds. I'm going to end up having to digs out of of the soil and mix a new batch.

the strangest part is that the best growth is in the center and everything gets smaller as you move out from the center, you can literally see the spinach get smaller from one square to the next

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  Icemaiden on 5/1/2010, 4:17 pm

bpbdrummer wrote:
the strangest part is that the best growth is in the center and everything gets smaller as you move out from the center, you can literally see the spinach get smaller from one square to the next

What are your boxes made from/coated with?
Not taht I know anything abot SFG but of the middle is OK then I would wonder about that.

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/1/2010, 6:01 pm

Longshot guess here. I'd also wonder about water issues if the center of the beds are looking better than the outside. I've found in lasagna gardening, that it's easy for the water to run down the inside of the box instead of watering the soil well close to the edge. You might test the dryness of the soil in the center and the edge. Just stick you finger down about 2".

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my new SFG is dying

Post  arlene'sgarden on 5/1/2010, 11:33 pm

I tested my soil and it's 8.0 alkaline. Potash is medium. Phosophorous was light green - it wasn't a color on the test kit. Nitrogen was also a color not on the chart - definitely darker than any of the colors to compare it to. Belfry bat wrote that compost can have a lot of twigs in it - that's mine. I noticed that when we were mixing it up, but being a rookie.....well, I just didn't know. Does anyone know how to read that test? Also what fertilizer would be best to correct this problem. Thank you.

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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  camprn on 5/2/2010, 6:47 am

There are things to do for relatively quick results, read and follow all label directions. Talk to the folks at your local garden store when you are hunting up products, and I mean someone who knows what they are talking about. Do you know any other gardeners in your area? talk to them too. Ask them what is recommended for your area. Read the link I sent before (Thread: garden soil)
Your County Extension Agricultural Cooperative Agent is another resource for advice and information. Gardening is a process not an event, things will work out. Very Happy
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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/2/2010, 11:27 am

arlene'sgarden wrote:I tested my soil and it's 8.0 alkaline. Potash is medium. Phosophorous was light green - it wasn't a color on the test kit. Nitrogen was also a color not on the chart - definitely darker than any of the colors to compare it to. Belfry bat wrote that compost can have a lot of twigs in it - that's mine. I noticed that when we were mixing it up, but being a rookie.....well, I just didn't know. Does anyone know how to read that test? Also what fertilizer would be best to correct this problem. Thank you.

All test kits are different, so I'm not sure we can help you read your test. Did the test come with literature explaining the readings and suggested remedies for various problems? Mine had quite a few helpful hints on how to amend the soil -- all chemical, of course-- but that can be translated into natural/organic. A PH of 8 is extremely high alkaline. Most veggie plants do best in PH around 6-7. I just tested my mix and the PH is 6.5-7. The colour is sort of between the two. You might want to bring down the PH by adding a little iron sulfate, then use an acid compost. My favourite is cotton burr, but I'm sure there are others.

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Dangerous compost

Post  Jola on 5/2/2010, 1:14 pm

I have been using store bought compost for years without any problems. Last year was different. Last year I built three boxes for raised bed gardening (they will be SFG this year). I was able to fill two of them with my own compost, and some of store bought compost (among other ingredients). For third one I had to use only store bought 1 bag of compost. I used a little bit of compost from the same bag for my deck box. I sowed radishes etc., and planted marigolds in third box. Marigolds in other boxes flourished as did other plants, in 3rd one marigolds were dying. After waiting for 3 week for radishes and other seeds to sprout (!) I knew I would never get any plants. At the same time I noticed that grass around 3rd box is dying as if someone treated it with herbicide. Plants in a deck box (just a bit of compost) were struggling. Marigolds in 3rd box eventually died, and nothing sprouted.
What I concluded was that some unscrupulous compost supplier used herbicide on some part of his compost were plants were growing in it, and packed it for distribution. I flushed that box with water for some time which caused more grass to die, but eventually after a month, I planted other veggies there and they were fine. I do not have any other explanation for that strange effect of dead marigolds, seeds not sprouting, and grass dead around one box only. Now I'm really reluctant to buy compost.
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Re: my new SFG is dying

Post  junequilt on 5/3/2010, 3:32 pm

If an organic nitrogen supplement is needed and you don't mind using an animal product, blood meal is a good source. We have very low pH conditions where we live, including our well water -- it's so acidic, it dissolves all minerals and has the same effect as acid rain on plants: it will keep them alive, but they are unable to absorb many of the nutrients in the soil. When the plants stop growing and just sulk, that's frequently the problem. I sprinkle blood meal around them, work it into the top layer, and water it in with rain water if there's any on hand, and that usually gets them growing again. Blood meal is slow-acting, so one application lasts a long time.

Needless to say, we collect all the rainwater we can and will be using it on our square foot beds providing Mother nature cooperates! DH is so fed up with the well water for gardening purposes, he would like to install a cistern!

Oh, btw, if you do use blood meal, make sure to provide some kind of protection against nosy critters (such as dogs and cats) for a short time.
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soil too alkaline

Post  Jola on 5/3/2010, 7:01 pm

If your pH is so high your plants might suffer from iron chlorosis. Do your plants have interveinal yellowing of leaves, when the veins are green and the tissue between the veins is yellow? It is symptomatic of iron chlorosis.
Lowering the pH can reduce problems with iron chlorosis, but the simplest approach may be to apply fertilizer containing iron.

Your soil might also be deficient in sulfur, what occurs in alkaline soil too.
Some vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, etc., require higher levels of sulfur than other. Try to apply good compost, like manure compost, it might be enough to help correct the problem. Many fertilizers include small amounts of sulfur, which will be indicated on the package label. These small amounts are often sufficient to help with soil deficiencies. You could use ammonium sulfate as a source of nitrogen fertilizer, it will supply more than adequate amounts of sulfur.

Blood meal might be beneficial for you (if it is not iron or sulfur deficiency) as it lowers slightly pH, but it is fast acting organic fertilizer and care should be taken not to apply too much. Blood meal decomposes very quickly in warm and moist conditions and could be damaging, especially to young plants. Follow instructions carefully when applying.
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good local dirt?

Post  Saartje on 5/4/2010, 8:32 am

You mention that your friends plants seem to be doing better than yours. Are they using Mel's Mix? Is the soil in your region naturally fertile? If the answers are 'no' and 'yes', why not just forego Mel's Mix altogether and go with nature?

I heard from the expert at my gardening center that sometimes compost, which is not quite 'ripe' yet, can continue to 'ripen' in your pot, or box in this case, and then produces a salty substance which kills plants. If it's just in low concentrations, for example when you add a little bit of compost to your existing dirt, it won't do any harm, but when used to making potting soils, or in Mel's Mix, it can kill everything. Maybe that's what's going on?

My best advice yet: get an experienced gardener to have a look at your plants and soil, he/she should be able to tell you what's going on and how to mend it.

Good luck!

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