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help! nothing's growing!

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help! nothing's growing!

Post  dstubbs on 7/12/2010, 8:58 pm

Hi everyone. I need help!!! After an excellent start this spring, I have become verrrryyyyyy frustrated with my SFG attempt for the last month or so. Apart from my peas, and a strawberry plant that was not started from seed, absolutely nothing's doing in my garden.

This is my first SFG. It's on my inner city rooftop in Atlantic Canada (zone 5). I started planting in early May. I have about 50 varieties of herbs and veggies in, a different variety in each square. Things started off encouragingly well, with most of my plants sprouting in May or June, but for the last month, everything seems to have stalled and some sprouts have withered away. The broccoli and cauliflower sprouts never got more than about half an inch. One radish variety has gone to flower.

A reply to an earlier post on the New England forum suggested I may be watering too frequently, so I've cut back from daily to a few times per week, but it hasn't helped much. I live in an area that's relatively cool and gets an awful lot of fog -- I don't know, maybe I'm just not getting enough sun? My SFG gets sun from late morning until sundown.

The peas (Lincoln) are inching coming along, though some leaves are a bit yellow, but everything else seems to be dying. The only thing I've been able to harvest is 3 strawberries off a plant that was started as a seedling.

I had such high hopes in the beginning and now I'm feeling like giving up. Any ideas what I may be doing wrong?

I'll try to attach some pictures in a moment.

Thanks..... sniff....






Last edited by dstubbs on 7/12/2010, 9:18 pm; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : trying to add photos)

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  dstubbs on 7/12/2010, 9:27 pm



Here are my peas (they're doing ok but growing slowly).




Even my zucchini is withering away (I thought zuchinni were supposed to practically grow themselves!)



An Asian radish variety is growing (sort of), but has gone to flower.



Almost all of my plants have stunted, shrivelled, or, in some cases, never sprouted at all.

I forgot to mention that I thought perhaps I was overwatering and draining all the nutrients out of my Mel's Mix, so I added some Stabucks coffee grounds to the top of my Mel's Mix (I figured it would either kill everything once and for all or help). It didn't seem to make a lot of difference, but at least it smells nice when I water.

I started a few more seeds indoors this week -- will try transplanting them out if they sprout.

I need your tips and advice, please!

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  WardinWake on 7/12/2010, 10:52 pm

dstubbs:

I love your roof top garden. It looks really neat.

From your description I would think that you have a nitrogen deficiency. If you mixed the proper ratios of composts, vermiculite, and peat moss you may have used compost that was not completely finished. One of your pictures showed twigs and sticks. When compost is fully ready you should not be able to identify any of the base material such as leaves, sticks or stems. Compost that is not fully ready will rob nitrogen from the surrounding mix until the composting process is complete and then the nitrogen will be released to your plants. At this point you might want to try to boost the nitrogen content by adding liquid fish emulsion to each square. Water first then apply diluted emulsion at a rate of 16 to 20 ounces per square. If nitrogen is your problem you should see improvements within 3 to 4 days.

God Bless, Ward and Mary.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  boffer on 7/12/2010, 11:06 pm

Hi,

I think Ward's suggestion is worth a try.

Two other ideas come to mind though: How are other people's gardens growing compared to yours? If they are getting something more than you, that could help rule out weather. I imagine some of the pipes on the roof are stink pipes connected to your buildings sewer pipes. Is there any chance of excessive methane being released? (It's an obscure, long shot; I don't even know the effects of methane on plants, but it is a situation unique to your environment that is different from most of ours.)

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Wyldflower on 7/12/2010, 11:13 pm

@boffer wrote:Hi,

I think Ward's suggestion is worth a try.

Two other ideas come to mind though: How are other people's gardens growing compared to yours? If they are getting something more than you, that could help rule out weather. I imagine some of the pipes on the roof are stink pipes connected to your buildings sewer pipes. Is there any chance of excessive methane being released? (It's an obscure, long shot; I don't even know the effects of methane on plants, but it is a situation unique to your environment that is different from most of ours.)

Leave it to Boffer to think of methane release!

(.... hey that sounds like a tv show.... leave it to boffer!)

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  camprn on 7/12/2010, 11:41 pm

@Wyldflower wrote:Leave it to Boffer to think of methane release!

(.... hey that sounds like a tv show.... leave it to boffer!)
funny post

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Megan on 7/13/2010, 7:09 am

Have you tested the temperature of your soil? My garden is on the north side of my house and it took longer than normal for the soil to warm up....and my plants lagged behind my neighbors. (I don't think that was the only reason, but it was probably one of them.) I may be grasping at straws here, but that roof is a light colored material and probably reflects more heat than it absorbs.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  silverbug on 7/13/2010, 7:30 am

I think a lot of us are discovering that Mel's Mix, even though we try to follow the formula as closely as possible, can often be lacking a few things. After I boosted all my plantings with Garden-Tone, everything improved and started to really take off. I have no idea what could be happening with your stuff. You say you planted in May?? I would think you'd have a lot more progress by now....

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Retired Member 1 on 7/13/2010, 9:34 am

I have needed to supplement all my Mel's mix SFG beds even though I used 5 kinds of compost. I use a soluble Miracle Grow clone (15-30-15). First dose at full strength on the soil only and subsequent doses of 1/2 strength sprinked over foliage and soil every two weeks. My garden really took off since I started doing that. I'm also amending with rabbit manure and coffee grinds for a longer lasting fix, and will add more compost when I replant. But I figured my plants needed something NOW, so I supplied it. If you are trying to be organic, Miracle Grow does put out a certified organic product -- saw it at Walmart and Home Depot this past week.

Good luck and keep us posted.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Weedless_ on 7/13/2010, 10:05 am

Definitely follow the suggestions above. My garden showed great promise in the beginning, then everything started yellowing and some plants wilted. I added organic vegetable fertilizer, and fish wash, and overnight, things improved, literally. I planted my garden late in May, which is late for zone 7, and I am still doing pretty darn well. No tender veggies for me this season, but all the squash, cukes, melons, and pumpkins are doing great, couldn't be happier.
I think that initial mel's mix is lacking, because it's highly dependent on the compost quality, which we can't really predict, unless we use home made compost. That's my experience. I also added steer manure as top dressing, and my plants are thanking me every day. I heard that rabbit pellets are even better, will try next time.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  ayanefan on 7/13/2010, 5:09 pm

I feel your pain, I had nothing but bad luck this spring and I attribute it to lack of knowledge on my part. In Saint John and Sussex, it was a very cool spring except for 2 weeks this year, after that things just took off when the hot weather came. I know your area, everything is dry, dry, dry while here things are relatively normal. I personally suspect lack of water because you are on a rooftop. My pumpkins did the same thing, they shriveled, then I took a bucket and doused them with water, all 4 plants took off! Then 3 of them were eaten by slugs but the remaining one is doing great.
You should get a soil moisture tester if you don't have one already. If you didn't put in at least 4 different types of compost then I would recommend as stated before to get some nitrogen rich supplement.

PS: I ripped out all my spinach and lettuce and started again, now things are growing great. Seed was probably getting rotten because of the slow mid spring.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  dstubbs on 7/15/2010, 7:16 am

Thanks everyone. I think I'll try this fish emulsion stuff if I can find some, or the organic Miracle Gro (though that feels a bit like admitting defeat).

I have another question: is there a simple way to tell by touch whether or not my soil is too wet or too dry?

We could really use some sunshine in my area -- it's been rain, rain, rain, and fog for weeks, it seems.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  L&K-IL on 7/15/2010, 10:34 pm

If it's dry an inch from the top, it's too dry in my opinion.
I usually stick my index finger in the soil to the first knuckle and root around a little. If I feel moisture, it's good. If not, I give it all a drink.

Back to your original question, my guess is that your soil could be way too hot.

Roofs get tremendously hotter than the ground. Whether the roof material is reflecting OR absorbing, it's either reflecting heat into your gardens or radiating heat into your gardens.
I think you definitely need to check your soil temperature.

Look at Mel's book and the rapid decline of seed germination when temperatures rise into the 90s. It's well within reason for a roof to get into the 100s, even when ambient air temperature is in the high 80s, esp. a black roof. If a white roof is reflecting all that solar gain into your boxes and soil, you could be cooking your garden.

Just a thought....
And I'm curious...
what is the temperature in your area? (highs and lows)

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  boffer on 7/15/2010, 10:47 pm

L&K-IL wrote:Roofs get tremendously hotter than the ground. Whether the roof material is reflecting OR absorbing, it's either reflecting heat into your gardens or radiating heat into your gardens.
I think you definitely need to check your soil temperature.

+1 A cool roof in the summer is a rarity.

Maybe I misunderstood the description of how poorly everything is doing, but I think there is more going on than just a poor batch of MM.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Chopper on 7/16/2010, 4:19 am

@dstubbs wrote:Thanks everyone. I think I'll try this fish emulsion stuff if I can find some, or the organic Miracle Gro (though that feels a bit like admitting defeat).

I have another question: is there a simple way to tell by touch whether or not my soil is too wet or too dry?

We could really use some sunshine in my area -- it's been rain, rain, rain, and fog for weeks, it seems.

Too much water can drain nutrients and the fog on top of it - lack of sunshine - does not help. I think you may have the same problem that the Pacific NW is having. No sun and no warmth! Not conducive to growing veggies.

Feeding is good, and not defeat. There are so many variables in compost it is hard to provide everything everytime - plus the rain issue.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  dstubbs on 7/16/2010, 7:20 am

I think you might be right, Chopper. I went looking for the fish emulsion at a small garden center yesterday with no luck, though I did find some Miracle Gro (not organic, unfortunately) and gave that a try last evening. So far, the only difference I've noticed is mushrooms sudenly sprang up overnight in two of my squares (broccoli and radish). For the love of Pete! Ah well, we'll see what the next few days brings.

I'm still not sure how to tell if my garden is too wet or too dry. Any simple ideas?


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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  dstubbs on 7/16/2010, 7:30 am

Re: Boffer's question about the soil temperature. I think that's a good point about the roof, but it's hard to imagine the soil getting hot enough to cook my plants. It's very temperate here. Even in mid-summer, it's about 15 C in the morning, and highs rarely reach above the low 20's C, on account of being right on the coast (and the fog that results from that). Even a few km inland is much hotter and drier.

My roof is surfaced with a membrane that's a very pale grey in colour -- would reflect the heat more than absorb it. Not that hot either -- I can easily walk on it in my bare feet, for example. The boxes are raised up off the roof surface a few inches (for drainage), except along the edge of one box (because the roof is slightly sloped).

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  1chichi on 7/16/2010, 9:39 am

@dstubbs wrote:Thanks everyone. I think I'll try this fish emulsion stuff if I can find some, or the organic Miracle Gro (though that feels a bit like admitting defeat).

I have another question: is there a simple way to tell by touch whether or not my soil is too wet or too dry?

We could really use some sunshine in my area -- it's been rain, rain, rain, and fog for weeks, it seems.

I'm no expert, but could it be poor drainage? Roots left to sit in the excess water will cause the plant to wither.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  SassyScraps on 7/16/2010, 11:45 am

I am just outside of Sussex and so far things have been great in my SFG. The only thing that has been unsuccessful are my carrots, but I did not have high hopes for them as the soil was not deep. I plan to raise a few sqaures next year for that reason. SJ has been very foggy this summer. I think that could be one reason why things are not progressing as you hoped.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Chopper on 7/16/2010, 4:57 pm

@dstubbs wrote:

I'm still not sure how to tell if my garden is too wet or too dry. Any simple ideas?


You can buy meters that measure garden moisture. The simple way is to stick you finger in the soil. If the top inch is moist, you are fine, if the top inch is dry, you should probably water. It sounds to me that with your fog and rain you shouldn't need to water too much by hand.

The PNW actually had a disaster called via state officials b/c it was so wet and overcast during the height of the growing season. It matters. Perhaps grow lights clipped on the sides of the boxes (that is only half kidding!)

Mushrooms are usually a sign of low light and lots of moisture.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  dstubbs on 7/17/2010, 6:50 pm

Things are looking up slightly -- I noticed that I have a few pea pods forming now. My first crop hat was grown from seeds! In other news, those struggling zuchinnis in my earlier photo are now dead as doornails.

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pea theories?

Post  dstubbs on 7/18/2010, 8:36 pm

I am wondering if any one has any theories as to why my peas seem to be growing and basically nothing else is?

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  camprn on 7/18/2010, 9:31 pm

What have been the average day and night time temps there?

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  Chopper on 7/18/2010, 9:49 pm

"I am wondering if any one has any theories as to why my peas seem to be growing and basically nothing else is?"

Absence of light.

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

Post  camprn on 7/18/2010, 9:59 pm

@Chopper wrote:"I am wondering if any one has any theories as to why my peas seem to be growing and basically nothing else is?"

Absence of light.
I was thinking cool temps are great for peas not so much for summer crops. Sad

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Re: help! nothing's growing!

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