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something is terribly wrong

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something is terribly wrong

Post  dstubbs on 7/22/2010, 8:20 am

Many of you have been following my tales of trial and tribulation with my first SFG. In short, many crops spouted and then stalled and died. Only my peas seem to be doing reasonably ok. I have tons of different veggies planted, so you'd think at least a few things would work out. I have been tweaking a few things, but haven't seen much action yet. I had been thinking that my difficulties may be mainly weather related.

Yesterday, while out for a walk, I noticed a vegetable garden outside my local homeless shelter. There is a sign posted on the fence next to it saying that it is grown in compost from our local municipal waste facility (they started collecting compostables seperate from garbage a few years ago, but this is the first I've heard of anyone using the finished product). It's a row garden, not an SFG, and appears to be doing fabulously, with tall, lush plants (I could see beets and potatos). By comparison, all my crops could be measured in fractions of an inch. Since this is only a few blocks from home, it has exactly the same weather. If anything, it would get a little more fog. The only difference I could see was that it gets earlier sun -- it was on a south facing slope and appears to get mainly south and southeast exposure, whereas my SFG gets little morning sun but great afternoon and evening sun (my exposure is mainly north and west facing).

So.... if it's not the weather, it must be either my growing soil or some factor related to it being on my roof (someone suggested extra heat, for example).

I tried Miracle Gro (put the second application on yesterday), we'll see what that does. I have a worm composting unit and some liquid fertilizer made from seaweed on order. Ditto that. Meanwhile, I figured I had nothing to lose, so planted some extra seeds yesterday in the missing spots -- maybe I had planted when the seeds were too cool to germinate properly.

I was feeling pretty discouraged until someone on the forum reminded me that the MM only gets better as the soil continues to break down over time. I'll perservere. Hopefully, I'll have better luck next year, but I'm still hoping I can get something edible out of the garden this year.


Last edited by dstubbs on 7/22/2010, 8:24 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : spelling fix)
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Re: something is terribly wrong

Post  milaneyjane on 7/22/2010, 10:15 am

My first thought was the extra heat from the roof. Have you taken a thermometer up there to see how warm it gets near the surface of the roof? I would also put one in the soil during the hot part of the day.
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Groan!

Post  altagarden on 7/28/2010, 11:17 pm

I so feel for you. I have garden envy over here too and I am in my 2nd year. (Not to knock down your last hope, but year one was great, year two not so great).

If it isn't the heat on your roof, I think you should get a soil test kit. Maybe there was something off about your compost makeup. Store bought soil kits aren't always reliable though.

I haven't done a test year, but I am suspecting that lack of nitrogen is my problem even though I was very, very careful with my MM. Last year I added blood meal and this year I didn't. Last year I got amazing greens, this year nothing but stunted plants. Blood meal is full of nitrogen. My root veggies never really did well last year: all tops, no bottoms, which can mean excess nitrogen so I left it out this year. The peas seem not to care either year, which is your case too.

I think next year I will add organic fertilizers to my Mel's Mix. I am trying side dressing with blood meal right now.

I found this link helpful.

http://soil.gsfc.nasa.gov/soilfert/npk.htm

Some helpful bits:

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PLANTS DON'T GET ENOUGH NITROGEN:

Plants deficient in nitrogen have thin, spindly stems and their growth is stunted. Their older leaves turn yellowish-green from nitrogen starvation (chlorosis), while newer leaves are supplied with the available, but limited nitrogen.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PLANTS DON'T GET ENOUGH PHOSPHORUS:

Plants that don't get enough P have spindly, thin-stems that are weak. Their growth is stunted or shortened, and their older leaves turn a dark bluish-green. The ability of phosphorus deficient plants to produce seeds, flowers, and fruits is deminished. Farmers and gardeners add P fertilizer to soil to so their plants wont become unhealthy.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PLANTS DON'T GET ENOUGH POTASSIUM:

Plants lacking in K do not have enough energy to properly grow, their roots are not well formed, and they have weak stems and stalks. The edges of older plant leaves appear "burned", as K deficient plants cannot regulate and use water efficiently. K deficient plants are more easily affected by pests, bugs, and diseases. Also, they cannot survive through winters or droughts (periods of time when water is not available to plants).
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Re: something is terribly wrong

Post  dstubbs on 7/29/2010, 8:46 am

Alberta Garden, thanks so much, this is extremely helpful information!!!! I'm thinking my situation sounds like a nitrogen deficiency. I'm learning so much from this forum, it's incredible -- I almost feel like a real gardener now!

I have noticed a substantial growth spurt since I started fertilizing a couple of weeks ago (2 apps of Miracle Gro a week apart and a splash of liquified seaweed every other watering). Many of the new seeds are beginning to sprout, too, so things are looking up.

I am more convinced than ever that improving my soil quality is a key issue, and I'm just starting up a worm composting unit. I hope to be able to add my worm castings in the fall. My Mel's Mix has settled to about 4 or 5" depth rather than 6 so I hope to use the worm comopost to top up the soil volume as well.

I'll try to check into the soil temperature, too, but I'm thinking it's actually too cool / not enough sunlight. That's the other key difference between my garden and that at the shelter -- theirs would get many more hours of daylight. Someone also mentioned that morning light is more beneficial than afternoon / evening light. I may try to move my beds farther out on the roof so they get less shade and earlier light.

Can anyone tell me what an ideal soil temperature ought to be?


Last edited by dstubbs on 7/29/2010, 8:47 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typos)
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Re: something is terribly wrong

Post  Odd Duck on 7/29/2010, 12:43 pm

You might see if you can get your hands on some of that municipal compost to top off your boxes along with the worm castings. It's going to take a while before you get any quantity of worm castings and you'll probably need to add more volume of compost than that, at least this first year. After this year, your worm castings may keep up with the volume.

It's still a good idea to have a variety of compost sources, so you may still want to start your own compost heap in addition to the vermicomposting. You may end up surprised by how much garden waste you get when everything is "up and running" and your garden has better production. For your situation, you might consider a pre-made bin because it will contain the odor a little better. Or you could make a bin(s) from salvaged pallets.

Hang in there dstubbs, it will get better as your soil/MM matures and you gain experience.

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Water?

Post  ander217 on 7/30/2010, 8:18 am

Since your beds are on the roof where it is hotter, are they getting enough water?

When I planted my first bed this spring, many of my sprouts died because I had misunderstood the book and I wasn't watering them enough. I didn't realize they had to be watered once or twice a day until they became established, and once they were growing well then I could I water when the soil indicated they needed it.

I also had to add extra nitrogen - I used fish emulsion. Some of my compost was made from cotton plants, and it still contained stalks and bolls. I think it may have taken nitrogen from the plants as it broke down. We are now mixing blood meal, epsom salts, and bone meal into our new batches of Mel's Mix just to be on the safe side. I also intend to sprinkle a few wood ashes into the mix, too. I think we'll eventually get the right mix of everything.

You can always do a soil test to be sure, but your plants will usually let you know when they are hungry.
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Another thing...

Post  altagarden on 7/30/2010, 3:02 pm

Interesting link on soil testing....

http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/soiltest.htm
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blood meal

Post  altagarden on 8/9/2010, 4:41 pm

Just an update....things are looking better with lettuce, kale and other greens in my garden since side dressing with blood meal. I now have enough for salads of young greens. I pulled a bunch of spindly crap out and worked organic veggie food into the soil and blood meal. Planted lettuce and spinach seeds, which have sprouted in the shade. Will see if things grow better. Still no idea how to help the poor root veggies.

Hope things are going better out there too dstubbs!
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Re: something is terribly wrong

Post  dstubbs on 8/9/2010, 4:46 pm

Thanks, my leafy vegetables haven't done much -- will give that a try!
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bone meal vs. blood meal

Post  dstubbs on 8/10/2010, 8:19 am

Ack! After reading your post I went merrily forth and sprinked bone meal throughout my SFG. I guess I can't read! How much of a problem have I just created for myself?
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Re: something is terribly wrong

Post  camprn on 8/10/2010, 8:25 am

You have not done anything wrong, the bone meal is a good thing for the garden. Go ahead and spread the blood meal now. Very Happy It's all good.
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Re: something is terribly wrong

Post  dstubbs on 8/10/2010, 12:01 pm

Whew, thanks!
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Re: something is terribly wrong

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