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New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

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New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  Doug W on 8/3/2015, 6:31 pm

Hello all! 

I read the New SFG book last winter and was instantly psyched.  We live in a city with a small backyard and have had some luck with raised bed vegetables the past couple of years, but Mel's book gave me new hope.  So I followed his mix recipe to the letter, adding it to one of our lower beds, and our tomato plants there are amazing!

Here's my problem:  I also got buzzed and built a couple of 2' x 4' beds on legs to sit against a fence in my driveway.  As per Mel's instruction, I only made them 6" deep, drilled drainage holes, lined them with landscape paper, and filled them with the mix.  In May, our plants took off, and we were happy with the results from then through June.  But this June was perhaps the wettest ever in our area, with lots and lots of rain, and after that many of the plants seemed to slow or stop growing.  It seemed like and made me think the nutrients had simply washed out of the beds.  Everything is still alive, but struggling to produce.  I've tried to help with compost tea, but there's little improvement.  Any thoughts?

Doug
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Re: New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  sanderson on 8/3/2015, 8:28 pm

Hi, Doug, Welcome to the Forum from dry, hot California! glad you\'re here

This is just my 2 cents. You may have diagnosed your own problem. Excessive rain may be washing the nutrients out of the box* faster than the compost can release them. [1] You can add a little organic fertilizer** such as Espoma Garden-Tone. Follow directions, adding less rather than more. [2] You can top dress with more new compost. The Mix shrinks as the season progresses so adding compost on the top keeps the volume up. [3] You can also build a temporary rain barrier when enough is enough. cloudy-bummer Make sure the roof is sloped so the water runs off the plastic. Nothing worse than having a flat roof fill up with water and dump it all in the box! Embarassed

* Even if the box was on the ground, water is still washing out the bottom, maybe a bit slower as the ground underneath becomes saturated.
**feather meal, manure, bone meal, alfalfa meal. greensand, humates, and potassiums.

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Re: New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  Marc Iverson on 8/3/2015, 8:28 pm

You might want to try heavily mulching your garden.  The mulch can wick away some excess water when it rains hard, and keep temperature and moisture levels more moderate.  

Mel's mix is prone to heaving if it dries out and gets watered again, which can damage the tiny hairs on roots and set plants back a little, so whatever you do, try to keep the moisture level as even as possible in the future.  That can be impossible in some circumstances.  Just do what you can.  Even if you get a lot of rain, don't try to counter it by letting your beds get too dry.  You want the soil to stay fluffy ... but dry peat can set like concrete.  Well, weak concrete.

On losing nutrients through heavy raining, that happens a lot up here in the Pacific Northwest, where we sometimes have heavy fall and spring rains.  We lose a lot of nutrients to rain and have what is washed away turn our soils acidic.  So it's the pH as well as the nutrition level that you may need to keep an eye on.

It's the same thing with potted plants.  The soil that may give you many years of good growth when it's in the ground may only perform well for a year or two in a pot, because pots both heat up and dry out so quickly that they need disproportionately heavy watering.

Anyway, think about mulching and in the meantime dump some more compost on your beds if there is any room at all to do it.  But I'd save some space for the mulch too!


Last edited by Marc Iverson on 8/3/2015, 8:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  sanderson on 8/3/2015, 8:34 pm

If mulch is in your future, build your beds higher than 6". I started with 7" (two 2" x 4" sides = 7"). I have to mulch heavier than I originally thought so now hubby gets to add one more row of 2" x 3" to hold in the straw on those that are still only 7".

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Re: New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  AtlantaMarie on 8/4/2015, 8:38 am

Hi Doug.  Welcome from Atlanta, GA!

Can't really add to anything the folks have already told you, but we're glad you've joined our party...!

Remember - it's all a learning experience......
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Re: New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  camprn on 8/4/2015, 11:02 am

Doug W wrote:Hello all! 

I read the New SFG book last winter and was instantly psyched.  We live in a city with a small backyard and have had some luck with raised bed vegetables the past couple of years, but Mel's book gave me new hope.  So I followed his mix recipe to the letter, adding it to one of our lower beds, and our tomato plants there are amazing!

Here's my problem:  I also got buzzed and built a couple of 2' x 4' beds on legs to sit against a fence in my driveway.  As per Mel's instruction, I only made them 6" deep, drilled drainage holes, lined them with landscape paper, and filled them with the mix.  In May, our plants took off, and we were happy with the results from then through June.  But this June was perhaps the wettest ever in our area, with lots and lots of rain, and after that many of the plants seemed to slow or stop growing.  It seemed like and made me think the nutrients had simply washed out of the beds.  Everything is still alive, but struggling to produce.  I've tried to help with compost tea, but there's little improvement.  Any thoughts?

Doug
My suggestion,
Fill the beds with a compost blend (not MM). Fill it right to the top again, around the existing plantings.. Tomatoes are very heavy feeders. If you again see signs of nutrient deficiency, go ahead and fertilize with something like garden-tone.

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Re: New guy from upstate NY - SFG washout?

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/4/2015, 9:21 pm

Agree completely!
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