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New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/9/2017, 11:38 am

The Friday post kind of brought me to ask. Planted all these except the chard the first of February in a new raised bed. My lettuce, chard, and carrots seem to be struggling to grow. Actually one lettuce plant came up so about three weeks later I replanted a mesclun mix at recommended spacing and it all spouted and is very slowly growing. After a month some have started to grow some true leaves. Oddly I planted a bucket at the same time with the same soil and seeds just randomly sprinkling seeds and very overcrowded is doing much better. Tried planting onion from seed and very few, almost none sprouted so I planted that section with onion sets. First planting of carrots about 10% germinated so I replanted them with a different cultivar and had much better germination. Chard was planted about the middle of February has germinated but only one out of sixteen has started growing true leaves. Beans, spinach and collards are doing what I consider well or at least much better for a new garden bed. I've had a cloudy, not too cold (no frost) February and early March so not sure if that's causing some of it or is it just a new garden or an I just expecting too much too soon. I used an organic fertilizer at planting and once since. The soil is not Mel's mix but what was recommended by a nursery near me. I did add peat and vermiculite to it and was about half compost with green sand and lava sand in the mix. Drains well and does not clump. Here's a picture of the lettuce in the foreground, spinach, chard(top right if you can see them) and carrots in the bed and the mesclun mix planted at the same time in the bucket.

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Re: New garden struggling

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/9/2017, 3:34 pm

Pretty garden!  Your spinach looks VERY healthy. What is it exactly that you wanted to ask, RC?   Hopefully someone in a warm climate will come along and help you out.
CC
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/9/2017, 5:27 pm

After a month should my lettuce and carrots be growing better especially after seeing the lettuce in the bucket doing so much better being overcrowded? The chard has been growing about 3 weeks now so I'm giving it a little slack but shouldn't it be bigger too? Is a slow start normal for a new garden? Or am I just expecting too much too soon?
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  Scorpio Rising on 3/9/2017, 10:12 pm

The spinach looks yummy!  Carrots will take a while, I think they are ok.  Is it too warm for the other leaves?  What say you, Texas?
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/9/2017, 10:40 pm

You say you added peat, vermiculite, green sand, and lava?
I question the quality of or what exactly the compost you used consists of. Not that that's necessarily the reason your seeds aren't sprouting. Probably not.
There are also many reasons some seeds don't sprout. Planting depth, heat, light, moisture, pests and birds just to name a few. That said, seeds don't typically need much to sprout.

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Re: New garden struggling

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 3/9/2017, 11:49 pm

I agree with RoOsTeR in suspecting some of your ingredients; what's in the compost/what the nursery recommended? Also, which fertilizer, how much, and why?

I'll also ask how often you've been watering. When you overseed, the seedlings can shade each other and whatever they are growing in and that helps hold in moisture. It also looks like they might be getting a little shade from the sides of the bucket.
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RE:new-garden-struggling

Post  newbeone on 3/10/2017, 9:26 am

I'm a little further south of You and I started my seeds back early January "inside mostly" You say Your beds are new, I've herd somewhere that new beds take a while to age before they start producing good, Another possible is unfinished compost it takes a lot of nitrogen to finish, I add a high nitrogen fertilizer to the mix like Kelp or blood meal just to make sure there's enough to go around.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/10/2017, 9:53 am

The weather here has been everywhere from 36 a couple of nights to 90 degrees one or two days. Neither extreme for long. It's been mostly in the 60's in the days with around 45-50 at night, very cloudy and windy. Light rain a couple of days. I have no idea what the compost was comprised of either. It was a garden mix( local top soil, compost and the two sands) they keep on hand and they did recommend fertilizing. I didn't know about Mel's mix when I started. Live and learn. Eight cups of Espoma Garden-tone (3-4-4) was added when I filled the bed(32 sq ft x 9 inches deep) before planting. Sprinkled about a cup more around about a month later and watered it in. Added the fertilizer because nothing seemed to be growing except spinach and collards. I did look at the dates on the seed packages when I bought them and they were all for 2017. Bought at one of the big box stores. Planted at the recommended depths. Think I'll be more selective in the future with where my seeds come from too. The second round of carrot seeds (different brand and cultivar) seemed to have germinated well. As for the onions it was the same cost to buy sets instead of different seeds. Before the seeds spouted I lightly watered about every two days. After they sprouted and between rains about once a week they get a good soaking. I would dig down in an unplanted part to see how moist the soil was before watering. Never let it get really dry.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/10/2017, 10:00 am

I was also thinking maybe the soil wasn't "aged" and minerals from the green sand and lava sand hadn't really released into the soil. Also thinking about making the bed a few inches deep maybe mid summer so can add some Mel's mix to the top and keep what's there as a base.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/10/2017, 10:41 am

@RC3291 wrote:I was also thinking maybe the soil wasn't "aged" and minerals from the green sand and lava sand hadn't really released into the soil. Also thinking about making the bed a few inches deep maybe mid summer so can add some Mel's mix to the top and keep what's there as a base.

You will not want to add Mel's Mix at this point. You've already got the peat and vermiculite. What you can add (at anytime) is more QUALITY composts. A good mix of different TYPES will work best.
I would also discourage adding a bunch of different ingredients unless you know you need them and what purpose they are serving. With a good mix of quality composts, you really shouldn't be needing to add anything.
That's the beauty and simplicity of Mel's Mix. Not to mention cost savings in the long run if done properly.

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Re: New garden struggling

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 3/10/2017, 1:44 pm

@RC3291 wrote:The weather here has been everywhere from 36 a couple of nights to 90 degrees one or two days. Neither extreme for long. It's been mostly in the 60's in the days with around 45-50 at night, very cloudy and windy. Light rain a couple of days. I have no idea what the compost was comprised of either. It was a garden mix( local top soil, compost and the two sands) they keep on hand and they did recommend fertilizing. I didn't know about Mel's mix when I started. Live and learn. Eight cups of Espoma Garden-tone (3-4-4) was added when I filled the bed(32 sq ft x 9 inches deep) before planting. Sprinkled about a cup more around about a month later and watered it in. Added the fertilizer because nothing seemed to be growing except spinach and collards. I did look at the dates on the seed packages when I bought them and they were all for 2017. Bought at one of the big box stores. Planted at the recommended depths. Think I'll be more selective in the future with where my seeds come from too. The second round of carrot seeds (different brand and cultivar) seemed to have germinated well. As for the onions it was the same cost to buy sets instead of different seeds. Before the seeds spouted I lightly watered about every two days. After they sprouted and between rains about once a week they get a good soaking. I would dig down in an unplanted part to see how moist the soil was before watering. Never let it get really dry.

@RC3291 wrote:I was also thinking maybe the soil wasn't "aged" and minerals from the green sand and lava sand hadn't really released into the soil. Also thinking about making the bed a few inches deep maybe mid summer so can add some Mel's mix to the top and keep what's there as a base.
With the caveat that it's hard to feel confident with my advice because it's not MM, and I have a very different climate than TX, so I'm having to make guesses:
I'm going to suggest watering the lagging plants more frequently and see if that helps. Not a necessarily a 'good soaking' but just 'some' every other day - more often for germinating seeds. Young plants don't have big root systems. Insufficient water that isn't enough to cause wilting can still slow growth.

Seeds getting too dry during the germination process can cause germination failure. Especially the case with tiny seeds that are sown near or on the surface. And even more so if it's been windy:
http://planttalk.colostate.edu/topics/weeds-cultural-problems/2131-watering-seed-germination-drying-winds/
Carrot seed is definitely persnickety about that. Consistent moisture for many days seems to be required. Onion seed is apparently 'delicate.' There is a big box store near me that keeps some of their seed packet stands in one of those covered but open-air fenced in areas. The seeds are exposed to sun, heat, and humidity. I would be leery about buying onion seed kept under those conditions. As is, I double to triple sow my fresh onion seed, and go to 4-5 seeds per spot for my older onion seed (and I start indoors -- but I'm in Pennsylvania.)  
 
You say your concern is that the minerals in your mix are releasing too slowly... but the fertilizer you chose is a slow release fertilizer "Long-lasting, slow release. Won’t burn or leach away." (in fact, it even has more greensand in it.) This isn't a bad thing, since most of us don't recommend using fast release fertilizers. One of Mel's 'selling points' for ANSFG-ing was 'no more fertilizer'. I agree with RoOsTeR - if you add more anything, I'd go with quality compost -- organic matter. Vermiculite is inorganic, sand is inorganic, peat moss is organic but not 'nutritive', top soil could be mostly clay and the compost in it could be not-fully-composted wood products (if it was otherwise I don't think they would have needed to recommend you add fertilizer.) Your mix could well be light on the kind of organic matter that helps your microbes grow and condition your soil, and thus help your plants. Further additions of NPK/minerals won't help that. You can have lots of nutrients and minerals in your mix, but be lacking one of the conditions that mediates getting the nutrients from the mix into the plant. (One of these is not enough water.) The Teaming with Microbes and Teaming with Nutrients books by Jeff Lowenfels tell more about these processes and are very interesting. In that line of thought, since you aren't using MM, it may be worthwhile to test the pH of your mix (-- though I think it's a less likely or not the primary, problem.)
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  sanderson on 3/10/2017, 2:37 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:You will not want to add Mel's Mix at this point. You've already got the peat and vermiculite. What you can add (at anytime) is more QUALITY composts. A good mix of different TYPES will work best.
I would also discourage adding a bunch of different ingredients unless you know you need them and what purpose they are serving. With a good mix of quality composts, you really shouldn't be needing to add anything.
That's the beauty and simplicity of Mel's Mix. Not to mention cost savings in the long run if done properly.
+1

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Re: New garden struggling

Post  sanderson on 3/10/2017, 2:42 pm

@BeetlesPerSqFt wrote:
You say your concern is that the minerals in your mix are releasing too slowly... but the fertilizer you chose is a slow release fertilizer "Long-lasting, slow release. Won’t burn or leach away." (in fact, it even has more greensand in it.) This isn't a bad thing, since most of us don't recommend using fast release fertilizers. One of Mel's 'selling points' for ANSFG-ing was 'no more fertilizer'. I agree with RoOsTeR - if you add more anything, I'd go with quality compost -- organic matter. Vermiculite is inorganic, sand is inorganic, peat moss is organic but not 'nutritive', top soil could be mostly clay and the compost in it could be not-fully-composted wood products (if it was otherwise I don't think they would have needed to recommend you add fertilizer.) Your mix could well be light on the kind of organic matter that helps your microbes grow and condition your soil, and thus help your plants. Further additions of NPK/minerals won't help that. You can have lots of nutrients and minerals in your mix, but be lacking one of the conditions that mediates getting the nutrients from the mix into the plant. (One of these is not enough water.) The Teaming with Microbes and Teaming with Nutrients books by Jeff Lowenfels tell more about these processes and are very interesting. In that line of thought, since you aren't using MM, it may be worthwhile to test the pH of your mix (-- though I think it's a less likely or not the primary, problem.)
I underlined a couple of points with which I especially agree. Feed the microbes and provide their proper environment.

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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/10/2017, 2:56 pm

@BeetlesPerSqFt makes some great points. Seeds for the most part are self contained little units that provide for themselves to a certain point. They don't necessarily need nutrients to sprout. You can sprout seeds on a moist paper towel. Like @BeetlesPerSqFt hit on, moisture plays a key role, as does temperature and other things.
Until your plants start showing signs that something is amiss when they actually start needing nutrients, I would for now concentrate on your seed sowing and care till sprouting.
I have for sure gotten poopy seeds before, but my personal opinion is that it's rare. I've had seeds several years old that have not seen much tlc and sprouted just fine.

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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/10/2017, 7:21 pm

The reason I added the peat and vermiculite is the garden soil mix was it still was wanting to pack down what I thought was too hard and was trying to loosen it up a bit. I know neither is a nutrient. I suspect the compost they put in the mix only accomplished preventing the native top soil from clumping back together. It is a very heavy clay soil. I do try to keep the sowed seeds moist and the smaller plants by watering them more often. I appreciate any and all help everyone has given.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/10/2017, 8:44 pm

It can be frustrating for sure. Just take it in stride and learn as you go. As others have said, you've got some nice looking spinach!
I don't usually do head type lettuces. We tend to like the leafy types and mixes more. I always over seed my lettuce right on top of the soil and keep moist. Lettuce seed is so small, I'm not about to bother lol.
Some blows away. Some the birds get. And some goes on our dinner plates.
Depending on the type, I may or may not thin. Sometimes I cut and sometimes I just harvest.
You'll find what works best for you after some trial and error.
I'm almost as bad with carrot seed as I am lettuce. I do tend to just scratch the seed just below the surface, and I usually do start thinning my carrots once they start growing...if I get around to it  tongue





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Re: New garden struggling

Post  Scorpio Rising on 3/10/2017, 9:55 pm

Take notes!  You will learn so much!  
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 3/10/2017, 10:21 pm

@RC3291 wrote:The reason I added the peat and vermiculite is the garden soil mix was it still was wanting to pack down what I thought was too hard and was trying to loosen it up a bit. I know neither is a nutrient. I suspect the compost they put in the mix only accomplished preventing the native top soil from clumping back together. It is a very heavy clay soil. I do try to keep the sowed seeds moist and the smaller plants by watering them more often. I appreciate any and all help everyone has given.
It is good that you added the peat and vermiculite! I was trying to highlight the importance of the lacking component.

Watering is my best guess, it might be the wrong guess. Since you have multiple squares you can experiment by only watering some of them more, and some the same as you have been, and see if it helps, hurts, or results in no change. If there's a lot of clay, and the result is still compact or sticky instead of crumbly, then your young plants may be having a hard time getting their roots through it - and there may not be enough air getting in (both the roots and the bacteria need air.) Compost can help with this, too. I'm reading online that cabbage-type plants (which would include collards) and beans are both more tolerant of clay-heavy soils than other vegetables.

There is a learning curve to all this. And sometimes it even seems like things do better the second time for no apparent reason (even in new/unaged beds.) Your spinach really looks great. My first attempt at spinach wasn't successful. Then I had one great square last year, and several mediocre. This year I'll probably do better. Same with carrots (and beets) - first year I didn't get carrots (or beets), this past year I got a few. This year I feel like I've got a better handle on when to plant them where I am, and how much water they want. My first year spring radishes never radish'ed. Lettuce has been easy for me, BUT I start mine indoors and have a cooler/more even climate and a less sunny garden than you.

My first (second, and third) try at onions -- chives actually -- I never did succeed; I eventually got a clump from a neighbor that I transplanted. My next try I got two squares of green onions. Last year I didn't get any green onions and my bulb onions were rather small. This year I've only had germination problems with one of my onions (I think I got a bad packet on that one.) My comment on big box store seed is meant only to apply to onion seeds; in my experience onion seeds seem particularly prone to loss of germination potential. I've had 10yr old tomato seeds sprout, and haven't really had issues with anything but onions.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/11/2017, 9:53 am

I am taking notes every day that I actually do something to the garden. It is an experiment to see what I can grow and can't grow and how. I did grow some radishes and they didn't radish either. I think over crowding and the fact they were too spindly when they came up and I tried to add a little soil to help support them. I did replant so we'll see on them. Onion sets are too cheap not to go that route. I'm not ready to take on that challenge. My replanting carrots has done much better with germination. Bad seeds or wrong cultivar I'm not sure. We'll see if they grow into carrots. Mesclun mix seems to thrive on competition and overcrowding. The last couple of days some in the bed has actually grown. Maybe it sensed my frustration and their impending doom if it didn't. Potatoes I planted in a container seem to be doing ok although the wind has taken a toll on them. I am somewhat proud of my collards although there isn't enough of them. Trimmed a few leaves on the bottom of the plant that were laying on the ground. Oddly they fell over when they were small so the stalk runs across the ground for an inch or two then they turn upright again. Bush beans are doing well for the most part. Planted too many of them but everybody has to grow beans don't they? Squash, zucchini and cucumbers have sprouted in their containers. Here's some pictures not so disheartening.



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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RoOsTeR on 3/11/2017, 10:47 am

Your garden looks good to me! You're growing food Like a Star @ heaven
The beans aren't to crowded. You can plant bush beans 9 per square.




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Re: New garden struggling

Post  RC3291 on 3/11/2017, 11:11 am

I didn't have my spacing down as you can tell from the beans and spinach. Made me some templates from 1 ft squares of plywood with the appropriate number of holes. Four, nine and sixteen holes on each board. Poke a hole with a pencil through the hole into the soil, remove the board, sow and cover. Also added the grid with twine and thumb tacks. I like my zucchini and squash plants. I can go out ever morning and see a difference in size. Maybe if I didn't check on the garden every hour I might not get so frustrated.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  jimmy cee on 3/11/2017, 10:05 pm

Hi folks
I'm going to butt in here and offer my experiences.
I do not feed my plants,  never never never.... what I do though is feed what is called the food soil web.
Microbes of all kinds make up this web, once they are happy, they then take care of feeding plants and plants in return help maintain these microbes.
Use a commercial fertilizer and you're doomed to use it forever, may as well as forget compost because commercial fertilizer destroys microbes.
After quickly reading these books I have come to understand what is really happening under plants. It's a fascinating world, one that all gardeners should know a little bit about.
To little is mentioned about compost and in my opinion it is the most important factor in all that we grow...and not the store purchased kind...



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Re: New garden struggling

Post  reynajrainwater on 3/11/2017, 10:16 pm

I'm definitely not an expert but while reading this thread I remembered that my vegetable fertilizer states that if you apply the fertilizer when you sow the seeds, the germination rate may decrease. I'm not sure if that's the case with all fertilizers.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  Scorpio Rising on 3/11/2017, 10:22 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:
@RC3291 wrote:I was also thinking maybe the soil wasn't "aged" and minerals from the green sand and lava sand hadn't really released into the soil. Also thinking about making the bed a few inches deep maybe mid summer so can add some Mel's mix to the top and keep what's there as a base.

You will not want to add Mel's Mix at this point. You've already got the peat and vermiculite. What you can add (at anytime) is more QUALITY composts. A good mix of different TYPES will work best.
I would also discourage adding a bunch of different ingredients unless you know you need them and what purpose they are serving. With a good mix of quality composts, you really shouldn't be needing to add anything.
That's the beauty and simplicity of Mel's Mix. Not to mention cost savings in the long run if done properly.
Exactly right.  Composts.  Investment, find a farmer if you can, for cow and horse poo and chicken poo, then if you have your own, and maybe worm castings or bagged stuff from the nursery store...compost is the doctor.
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Re: New garden struggling

Post  jimmy cee on 3/12/2017, 9:19 am

@reynajrainwater wrote:I'm definitely not an expert but while reading this thread I remembered that my vegetable fertilizer states that if you apply the fertilizer when you sow the seeds, the germination rate may decrease. I'm not sure if that's the case with all fertilizers.
I never fertilize my seedlings. Seeds have a built in fertilizer that starts them.
Since I use Mel's Mix for seeds, when I do feel like adding nutrients all I do is add a 10% solution of fish emulsion.
This has been working great for me for 2 seasons, both spring and summer plantings.
By the way, I am far from an expert, all I ever do is offer my experiences in doing, and what info I read..
Reading the 3 books above has made a huge change in my gardening outlook, and for the better I might add.

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jimmy cee

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Re: New garden struggling

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