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First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

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First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Carlini on 7/13/2010, 1:38 pm

Is the settling normal? My 8 inches of soil is now 4-5 inches. Also, nothing is growing. I planted chard 3 months ago and it's just over an inch tall. I did fertilize with Dr. Earth several weeks ago and no change. What can I do to have more success next year? I'm bummed because I really have no garden this year and it's probably too late to fix it. This is my second year of gardening and I'm pretty discouraged now. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  silverbug on 7/13/2010, 1:59 pm

Yes, a lot of us are using 6 inch beds and we're working with like 4 inches of mel's mix or maybe 5....It gets compacted a bit from watering, etc...

I had some weird failures, most notably in the area of spinach, lettuces, and chard. My chard, planted WAY back toward the end of April, beginning of May is only now starting to grow. My romaine that wasn't devoured by rabbits, hasn't really grown in like 3 weeks. However, I have big eggplants, peppers, my non-productive broccoli is just kicking out foliage like no one's business.

I don't think we can really "help" without being at and in your garden. I've added Garden-Tone to my beds and it improved the things I was really concerned about. In fall, I hope to have compost from my compost pile to throw in to all of them, and I figure from here on out, I'm just going to be ammending and adding various nutrients, suppliments, etc...I don't think I'm ever going to make another batch of mel's mix to fill these beds with, so, I'm always going to be "imbalanced" from the stand point of his formula.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Squat_Johnson on 7/13/2010, 2:16 pm

Yes, settling is normal. I added a lot of horse manure the second year. I didn't have luck with chard either.
Don't give up! It's a lot of trial and error for all of us... This year for me is vole damage (I fed them potatoes) and caterpillars (fed them broccoli and cabbage).

I find this is a good place to vent! I always get suggestions for something to try.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Weedless_ on 7/13/2010, 2:37 pm

Hang in there. I was frustrated too when my Mel's Mix settled, even though I followed the directions exactly. So what... just add some composted manure, fertilizer, fish wash, and you are ready to go. All of my tenders got lost due to late planting and heat wave, but squash, cukes, and pumpkins and beans are doing great after the feeding. Before then, they sprouted, and were just sitting there, tiny, warped, yellow, and wilted. Definitely give feeding a try and add some compost on top of what you have. You can still plant for fall crops, and any melon can be started now, they love the heat.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Chopper on 7/13/2010, 2:39 pm

There are many, many variables so it is hard to say. Weather was odd and cool in a lot of regions. When you buy soil it is hard to really know what you are getting and that there are no contaminants to negatively affect your plants. Sun hours is another issue. I would take out anything that isn't working, add some more quality compost - I would personally mix some blood and bone meal into it, and plant for the fall - peas, carrots, etc. Make sure your boxes get enough sun. Make sure you never let your seedlings dry out.

I am sure this is nothing you don't know. Sorry if I am just stating the obvious. If you used the MM formula as written, you are right, it should have worked and it is very frustrating when it doesn't as you lose a season of growing.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  middlemamma on 7/13/2010, 3:03 pm

What I have discovered (this is my first year, and I also have had some dissappointments) is that no matter how much research I do or how much reading I cram in..you just have to do it and learn as you go. Every area is different, so many factors are diverse for each individual gardener. Even if you garden next to your neighbor their lot might slope different or house placed different changing sunlight factors. Trial and error and actual hands on experience are where we will learn and grow and do better each year.

As I have read on the forums I have seen experienced gardeners of many many years suffer disappointments and major catastrophe in their gardens...and they know what they are doing!

I know gardening is hard for me because I have little patience...couldnt have picked a worse hobby from that standpoint. LOL I already cant wait till next year so I can use all the stuff I learned this year!!

Keep on keeping on there and in a couple years you'll be posting your amazing garden on here. Smile

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  SMBCABJNP on 7/13/2010, 3:47 pm

This is my first year gardening at all, and I too am in SLC. My garden has been pretty slow growing as well. I am just this past week seeing veggies on my plants. I am blaming our weather though. It's been a crazy year. Late snows, heavy winds, cool days followed by supper hot days. My broccoli did nothing for a long time and then just when it started to grow a head, the heat shot up and it bolted almost instantly. Everything is small compared to a lot of the pics I see on here, but right now I am just happy that something is finally showing.

I am trying not to expect too much this year since it's my first. I'm really using it as a learning experience. Figuring out how certain plants grow and how long it takes and whatever. Next year I'll make some changes and hopefully it'll be even better. I was wondering about the settling too. This year though, I'll just see what happens in the little soil I have, and then when the season is over, add more.

Also, when my garden didn't seem to be doing much, I started adding organic miracle grow every 2 weeks and it seems to be helping. I don't know anything about chard, but I can say that my spinach and lettuce were pretty slow, but then I picked a few outer leaves (figured I might as well use something off of them if this was all I was getting) and they took off like mad! Guess it's true that the more you pick, the more you grow!

Hope some of that helps and you don't get discouraged!

Tiffany

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  ayanefan on 7/13/2010, 5:23 pm

Almost seems universal, I too had little luck with Chard, it is now only growing but was no more than 2 inches high for a month. My carrots too did not do well. Something is odd and synchronistic at the same time. This is also my first year in SFG, I will not blame the system, I blame myself for not knowing what to do. My wife's uncle has been a farmer for 40 years and he had a HUGE crop, but he uses chemical fertilizers and such. Your soil will get richer and richer and within 3 years you should have the best soil going.
Don't give up, I almost did. Just take out the stuff that is not growing and plant anew.

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Don't get discouraged

Post  ander217 on 7/13/2010, 5:46 pm

I've been gardening for many of my 55 years, but this is my first year of SFG. I too have had some discouraging crops, but there have been successes, too.

This was a really bad year in our area to be a first time gardener. We had drought, vole infestations, hungry birds and rabbits, hordes of hungry insects, - you name it, this seems to be the year for it to attack a garden in epic proportions.

But that just makes it a good year to gain a LOT of experience.

I'm finding that many of the crops which just sat in the Mel's Mix not doing anything at first are now suddenly coming alive and growing. I added fish emulsion twice to my boxes, and I added a round of homemade compost just before the rains began last week after a nearly three-month drought. I think the homemade compost is what helped most (along with the rain). I'm convinced the commercial compost available in our area just doesn't have the stuff it should for growing healthy plants.

As others say, if your plants aren't growing add some amendments to your mix and see what happens.

My mix also settled, then I reread the directions and realized I had not watered each layer properly as I should have. Also, someone on the forum said some peat moss brands take a lot more water to properly hydrate. I plan to make another batch of mix using my own compost, and finish filling my boxes before planting next spring.

We just planted two beds of corn and bush beans for fall, and made a late planting of potatoes in a 4' x 4' x 12" box. All are up and growing fast now, and I plan to make more plantings of beets, carrots, peas, lettuces, radishes, turnips and greens in a few weeks.

If at first you don't succeed...

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Retired Member 1 on 7/14/2010, 7:57 am

I am experiencing a similar problem in the MM beds to other folks who have already replied. The lasagna (sheet composting) beds are outproducing MM 2 to 1. And I used 5 to 6 kinds of compost in the MM. I am using half strength soluble Miracle Grow clone every two weeks and things have changed dramatically. I also dug quality compost, rabbit manure and coffee grinds around the plants. But part of the problem was a slow start due to the crazy weather we had this year and some due to poor nutrients. Swiss chard is doing great for me but it is in a lasagna bed. I suggest a high nitrogen fertilizer for that -- if you have any lawn fertilizer that isn't a "weed and feed" put a little of that around the chard and water in well.

I also have been disappointed by how much MM settled -- close to 2" in most beds. I've decided that MM doesn't work well in our Texas heat and drought, and as I take out plants am amending with home-made compost and East Texas bagged sandy loam/humus mix to give it a bit more weight.

Hang in there. As you take out a square, amend with quality compost, and if you can get it, rabbit manure (which can be put directly into the garden), and coffee grinds. And as others have said, plant a fall garden with amended MM and see how that does.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  kimbertangleknot on 7/14/2010, 12:20 pm

Don't give up. I know it can be discouraging. I had peas, carrots, and radishes that I wanting, but never really happened. Every area is different weather wise, and usually weather is the biggest contributing factor than anything, second is usually lack of nutrients. For example, we've had hot and humid weather here for the past few weeks. My containers should be watered every day but with the heat and what not I can usually only do every two. Then the past few days we've had rain, and the heat was cut down, but now we're back to our hellish south weather. With me being able to go and put some coffee grounds around a few plants before the rain came the other day, the few tomato plants that I had that were looking down and out and now fully back to life.

Settling of the soil will happen no matter what you use. I'm using compost and two different types of container soil (I have self-watering raised beds which are truly more like containers), I also didn't find out about Mel's book until I already planted. My research just came from my own, but personally I'm not a fan of peat moss, I have the worst luck with it, unless you considering growing mold an accomplishment, then I rock with it. But I digress, my soil has settled about 1-2 inches in my big beds and about the same in my smaller ones. And when I was planting in the soil, it too would get compacted with the watering.

I would say check on the packets or online for whatever your growing prefers. There might be a certain nutrient that the plant loves that you should try to put around it. For me, coffee grounds have honestly been a saving grace, and since I brew a pot almost daily, I have a nice stash at the end of the week. But weather is always a big factor.

Just don't give up! If it doesn't work in your bed, try planting it in it's own pot that you can move around for a test. Maybe it's too much or not enough sun. Never know until you try!

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Carlini on 7/14/2010, 4:05 pm

Thank you everyone! I am NOT giving up. I think for next year I will add more really good compost and go 12 inches deep. Last night I used some fish emulsion. Hopefully that will do the trick!

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re: first year SFG

Post  jwbryson on 7/14/2010, 4:12 pm

If it helps, I am also a first year SFG'er. I bought nearly everything I planted from the local nursery and transplanted them into two 4x4 boxes that I built. I took forEVER for things to "take," but once they did, BANG, overnight I was overrun by ridiculously large zuke and cuke plants, and my cilantro is over 3' tall. Others are growing like wildfire too.

Just give it time and keep the faith.

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re: first year SFG

Post  junequilt on 7/14/2010, 4:48 pm

I, too, am a first year SF gardener -- unless you count my original SF bed 19 years ago that wound up full of contaminated ash, and I guess the less said about it, the better. However, I have almost 40 years of gardening experience in three different plant hardiness zones, and I feel for you newbies. You are going through so many of the things we old-timers have wrestled with, and all I can say is, keep at it! There is so much to learn from so many different sources. Even after you become a seasoned gardener, every once in a while something will still make you wonder why you took this up as a hobby, but no matter. Your fingers will itch as late winter rolls around and you'll be counting the days until you can plant!

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Megan on 7/14/2010, 5:34 pm

My chard was TINY TINY for the longest time, and I was so frustrated with it that I nearly tore out all three squares of it. I left it in, and it *finally* started growing recently.

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My First Year SFG

Post  Ray'ssfg on 7/14/2010, 10:49 pm

Hi from Down Under
I have been doing sfg for over 3 years and this winter is the best garden I have had by far.
It has taken that long to get the compost right which has been the key for me. I have had monumental failures over the 4 years but now finally seem to have it right. The only thing I have a problem with is carrots and I have learnt I have to plant them after a heavy feeding plant like silver beet or potatoes and don't add any compost.
I think a lack of nutrients is critical to success. Yellow plants usually mean they are hungry. Slow growth usually means they are hungry or thirsty, although to much heat can be critical to plant growth. Fish emulsion is really a great top up.
Don't give up because if you get it right the other features of sfg like no weeds is so much better than row gardening. Production in my garden is probably 4 times better than conventional gardening and I love it.
This spring I am trying heirloom varieties and continuing with growing by the moon, which is adding increased fun to the garden.
Hang in there.
Cheers Ray

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Bill SC on 7/15/2010, 10:47 pm

I hope the fish water helped... I had a similar problem and came across this info about soil pH. I'm just sharing this as something I did not as advice as this is my first year gardening. Liked the sound of instantly... lol

Here's the link to the page for the complete article... http://www.savvygardener.com/Features/soil_ph.html


DECREASING THE SOIL pH
Many ornamental plants and some fruit plants such as blueberries require slightly to strongly acid soil. These species develop iron chlorosis when grown in soils in the alkaline range. Iron chlorosis is often confused with nitrogen deficiency because the symptoms (a definite yellowing of the leaves) are similar. Iron chlorosis can be corrected by reducing the soil pH value.
Two materials commonly used for lowering the soil pH are aluminum sulfate and sulfur. These can be found at a garden supply center. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Sulfur, however, requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate of the sulfur is dependent on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature and the presence of the bacteria. Depending on these factors, the conversion rate of sulfur may be very slow and take several months if the conditions are not ideal. For this reason, most people use the aluminum sulfate.
Both materials should be worked into the soil after application to be most effective. If these materials are in contact with plant leaves as when applied to a lawn, they should be washed off the leaves immediately after application or a damaging leaf burn may result. Take extreme care not to over-apply the aluminum sulfate or the sulfur.

Good luck

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Re: so disappointed

Post  junequilt on 7/16/2010, 3:55 pm

Be careful about lowering pH! If your mix is too acidic, you can add nutrients until the proverbial cows come home and your plants will starve becauset they won't be able to access the nutrients. Think acid rain.

Please do a soil test before you lower pH!

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Carlini on 7/22/2010, 2:31 pm

Update: The fish emulsion worked great! Everything in the garden is jumping. Well except the beets. They still haven't done much but I'm so excited! Even my eggplant has a beautiful purple flower on it. And the fun part is I get to plant my fall garden soon. Yay!

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Lack of nitrogen is the culprit!

Post  junequilt on 7/22/2010, 5:11 pm

Carlini, I'm so happy for you that the fish emulsion has worked! I really believe that a lack of available nitrogen is behind most of the nonproductivity problems we have experienced in square foot gardening.

In our first square foot bed installed this spring, ALL the plants sulked for a month -- no growth whatsoever -- before I finally gave in and sidedressed with organic fertilizer. SUCH a difference it made! Within two days they were leaping forward. After a while they kind of ground to a halt, so I applied a little more fertilizer, and off they went again. It's probably time to give them another boost to finish out the season.

In the future, unless I'm growing carrots or something else that really can't take nitrogen, I think I'll add a small amount of Black Hen to each square.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Chopper on 7/22/2010, 5:12 pm

@Carlini wrote:Update: The fish emulsion worked great! Everything in the garden is jumping. Well except the beets. ...

I planted beets in March and then successive plantings. The march ones did well but the later ones, not so good. I think beets like what they like and are fussy otherwise.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  Carlini on 7/22/2010, 5:23 pm

Are coffee grinds a good source of nitrogen?

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

Post  LaFee on 7/23/2010, 2:45 am

Yes -- it's not immediate, but as they break down, they're a great source of Nitrogen.

Kimbertangle has been using them a lot -- check her posts to see what they've done for her.

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Re: First Year SFG. So Disappointed.

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