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Mediocre Results

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Mediocre Results

Post  CptPalmer on 8/17/2010, 3:39 pm

This is my first year at planting a SFG. I will try to be as complete as possible so any help can be helpful for me to be successful going forward. I built and planted out 16 4x4 boxes. I made the boxes out of a 16x6 length of wood. So essentially the sides of the box are only 5 ½ inches in height. I cleared out the area where I planted my garden. I covered the entire area with ground cloth before I placed the boxes down. I placed wood chips between the boxes as well. I purchased my mix from a local nursery that makes a Mel’s like mix. It is made up of perlite, peat moss, compost mix they created, and coconut husk. This nursery claimed they were getting a higher yield from their mix over Mel’s mix. The mix is called Millers. I installed a sprinkler system with drip irrigation sprayers that covered a 4 foot square area each head, and watered 2 inches per hour at 10PSI. I typically watered my garden once a week at a hour per watering. I would like to go over my vegetables that I planted and the problems with each.

Tomatoes:
They seem to be doing okay but not great as my neighbors that are row gardening have been harvesting tomatoes for nearly a month now and I and starting to harvest now but my planets are half the size of the neighbors plants.

Onions:
I planted my onions at 9 per square feet, I planted yellow and reds and they are very small, the largest are only about the size or a racket ball, and most about the size of a golf ball.

Peppers:
I planted 1 per square foot and the plants are very small, they are growing peppers but they are only about the size of golf balls and I am still optimistic, nothing as wonderful as the neighbors who are harvesting.

Corn:
I planted 8 per square foot, I know this is contrary to 4 per square are Mel suggests. I planted at this density at the recommendation of a SFG Certified Instructor that told me that all would be okay at that density and go for it. I planted Sugar Buns which is a shorter verity corn sugar enhanced. The stocks only get about 5 feet tall with Sugar Buns. Mine are at about 2 ½ to 3 feet and they are very light green in color and have more or less stopped growing. They did tassel and such and there are little corns growing but I will likely get nothing of use from my corn.

Pumpkin:
Growing but not as impressive as neighbors, my pumpkins are the size of baseballs and the neighbors are basketballs.

Watermelon:
Only the size of softballs

Potatoes:
I built a double high box for my potatoes so I could mound them up. The plants grew up very well as I mounded them, after I stopped mounding the plants grew to about 1 foot square in size per plant. They have looked like they have been dying off for about the last 6 weeks. I dug up one plant yesterday as the top was completely dead and I had 6 potatoes in that square foot area and the largest potato was the size of a racket ball and the rest are the size of a golf ball.

I have tried to be as complete as I can, I know this is a long post I just want to try and figure out why my garden has not been doing well. I did not fertilize at all this season as I tried to keep the garden all organic and thought the compost would provide all the feed the plants would need. Thanks for any input anyone may have to help a excited but now disappointed gardner out.

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Re: Mediocre Results

Post  Chopper on 8/17/2010, 4:11 pm

First let me note that I am not an expert and without more actual data, I am just making a best guess:

@CptPalmer wrote: I purchased my mix from a local nursery that makes a Mel’s like mix. It is made up of perlite, peat moss, compost mix they created, and coconut husk. This nursery claimed they were getting a higher yield from their mix over Mel’s mix.
Of course they did. Very Happy

@CptPalmer wrote: I typically watered my garden once a week at a hour per watering. I would like to go over my vegetables that I planted and the problems with each.
Utah being as dry and hot as it is, this does not seem adequate. Better 10 minutes 5-7 times a week than 1 hour once a week.

@CptPalmer wrote:
I did not fertilize at all this season as I tried to keep the garden all organic and thought the compost would provide all the feed the plants would need.
In the perfect world this would be nice - and it does a lot of the time, but no need to cut off your nose to spite your face. Who knows what might have been missing from the compost.

@CptPalmer wrote:
Tomatoes:
They seem to be doing okay but not great as my neighbors that are row gardening have been harvesting tomatoes for nearly a month now and I and starting to harvest now but my plants are half the size of the neighbors plants.
Depends when the neighbors planted and what varieties. Kind of apples and oranges w/o that info. If they have all Early Girl and you do not, it is a tough call. I have several varieties. The box store ones are hybrids and rather short, and the other ones are quite big.

@CptPalmer wrote:
Onions:
I planted my onions at 9 per square feet, I planted yellow and reds and they are very small, the largest are only about the size or a racket ball, and most about the size of a golf ball.
I planted mine in March and they are still smallish in a box that did very well. I think part of it is the time of year. The tops have not died so I am leaving them in. They look like they are just now starting to bulb out. Check proper planting times for your area. I believe I planted at an off time of year.

@CptPalmer wrote:
Peppers:
I planted 1 per square foot and the plants are very small, they are growing peppers but they are only about the size of golf balls and I am still optimistic, nothing as wonderful as the neighbors who are harvesting.
Again, what variety and when did they plant.

@CptPalmer wrote:
Corn:
I planted 8 per square foot, I know this is contrary to 4 per square are Mel suggests. I planted at this density at the recommendation of a SFG Certified Instructor that told me that all would be okay at that density and go for it. I planted Sugar Buns which is a shorter verity corn sugar enhanced. The stocks only get about 5 feet tall with Sugar Buns. Mine are at about 2 ½ to 3 feet and they are very light green in color and have more or less stopped growing.
Since you planted so close, that means providing that much more nutrients. That is a possible problem.

All in all from my inexpert POV, I would say, go ahead and add some organic fertilizer and water in a way that provides plenty of water throughout the week. In the case of veggies, one deep water is not as good as a constant source of water. Not wet, but moist.

I have used both perlite and vermiculite and find vermiculite superior. That said, success really relies on the compost. Although I believe the your nursery believes they offer a superior product, even that can vary batch to batch. It isn't a sin to fertilize and I hope you are making your own compost for the next season, too.


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Re: Mediocre Results

Post  glasgrl on 8/17/2010, 6:22 pm

@CptPalmer wrote:I typically watered my garden once a week at a hour per watering.

This stuck out for me as well. At times, my garden needed to be watered every day.

-Michelle

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Re: Mediocre Results

Post  Old Hippie on 8/18/2010, 1:35 am

First, let me say, you deserve an award for making a garden regardless of size or how bountiful the harvest. Lots of people just say a garden is too much work and too much trouble. And no matter how good a gardener a person is, none of the ones I actually know have everything go right all of the time or have bumper crops every year. We all have hits and misses. So don't get discouraged.

My compost "bible" is 'The Complete Compost Gardening Guide' by Barabara Pleasant & Deborah L. Martin. Something I learned in their book is that different batches of compost are all slightly different because they are made up of different things so in a way they are all as individual as our fingerprints are. No two batches are the same and very often they are lacking in trace minerals which although only need to be there in small amounts, if they are missing, plants can not make use of available nutrients in the mix, no matter how wonderful it is.

There is nothing wrong with adding other fertilizer to your garden and there are some that are organic if you are wishing to stick with those kinds instead of chemical ones. I am trying to do that too and it is a learning experience. Fish and seaweed ones are great but a tad smelly. When your plants are in these raised boxes and planted close together, they seem to dry out and use up the nutrients very quickly so don't be surprised if you have to feed and water them more often. One thing that I do to give my plants an extra boost is to feed them a compost slurry now and then. I bought a blender at a garage sale and use it to blend up potato peels, bits of banana peels, salad trimmings, along with water, cold coffee, tea, dregs from the beer cans, a couple of drops of soap, some epsom salts, etc. I dig a small hole next to my plants and pour some of this in then cover it over to keep fruit flies away. Sometimes if I have an empty square I will just dig a deeper hole and put chunkier bits right in the bottom and cover it up. When I plant something in that square a few weeks later, there is already a buffet ready for when the plants roots get down that far.

I am discouraged with onions and garlic. For some reason I have never been able to grow any of them very big no matter what variety I try. But I refuse to give up.

Your potatoes sound kind of like mine. Some of them got kind of spotty and yellow and then the plants gradually died. From what I have read it sounds like a virus of some kind. If I find out for sure I will post about it or perhaps someone else knows. The good thing is, there are at least some potatoes under all of them so I didn't get totally skunked.

My tomatoes do pretty well but I water them DAILY! Even though I am in a Zone 3 I grow them right outdoors in a brick planter on the south side of the house. They like the heat BUT they do not like to get dried out. I found out last year when I gave each one a half gallon of water a day that it was worth all the trips to and from the rain barrel. I also fertilized them at half strength, twice a week. It made all the difference in the world.

Hang in there. And go easy on yourself. Remember "comparing yourself among yourselves is not wise." Like Boffer says, unless you are comparing like varieties, planting times, etc, it is like comparing apples to oranges.

GK

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Re: Mediocre Results

Post  Chopper on 8/18/2010, 1:33 pm

If all you do right now is expand your watering schedule and add some fish emulsion and epsom salts I think you will see a huge improvement. Let us know what you do and how it turns out.


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Re: Mediocre Results

Post  Odd Duck on 8/18/2010, 3:09 pm

I don't know how much I have to add, other than hang in there and take some of this very wise advice others have posted. They are recommending exactly what I would say, so here's to a +1 on all this good advice. It sometimes takes a couple of years of letting the compost get really good, and adding more variety of compost before your mix will be at peak, so don't be shy with organic fertilizer. You almost can't burn plants with organic stuff (if the total of the numbers added together is more than 10, it's probably not organic).

Best wishes and a hang in there from me,
Sharon

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Problems

Post  ander217 on 8/19/2010, 6:44 am

I'm pretty much echoing everyone else.

This was our first year of SFG too, after decades of row-gardening. We converted part of our garden to boxes, some to beds, and left some in the old row-style.

We planted some of the same varieties in each to use as experiments. The results were mixed. Onions planted in the row garden were huge, while onions in the SFG box were tiny. (But the ones in the box were shaded by large cabbage plants.) Peas planted in the boxes did about the same as peas planted in the beds. Tomatoes in the boxes did okay, but the volunteer tomato that came up in the path was the best by far of all.

We discovered that we had to water more often than once a week, but the biggest discovery was that our Mel's Mix made of the three compost varieties we could find in our area, was not rich enough. We had to add bone meal and epsom salts to the mix, as well as give regular feedings of fish emulsion (all organic amendments) to make the plants grow and produce as they should. Our mix was lacking in nitrogen, phosphorus, and magnesium. We may discover others as we continue to grow plants in the boxes.

I think that's why Mel recommends using so many different kinds of compost. Plants need a variety of trace elements along with the big three, NPK, to grow properly. As someone else stated, you just never know what's really in that bag of compost or pre-mix you buy. We've started our own compost pile which is supposed to be better.

Someone in another thread stated it took them four years to get their Mel's Mix properly balanced, but once they did it, the results were fantastic. We are still in the tweaking stage, but we are seeing improvement with the amendments.

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Also...

Post  ander217 on 8/19/2010, 6:46 am

I forgot to add that our boxes raised the best carrots we've ever had. Carrots never did well before in our clay loam soil, but in the soft Mel's Mix they grew slowly until we added the amendments, then they grew huge.

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Mediocre Results

Post  Ray'ssfg on 8/19/2010, 7:12 am

Smile My experience down under after 3 and half years of sfg pretty much matches the other advice.
The compost mix is critical to get the right balance of minerals etc.
I water for about ten minutes every day and our climate is fairly mild.
Tomatoes need a lot of water.
Putting on either fish or seaweed fertilizer (despite the smell) has made a huge difference to my plants this year.
Hang in there as my sfg is 4 times as productive as my old row garden but has taken a few years to get right.
cheers Ray

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Re: Mediocre Results

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