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I think my spring garden is a dud

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I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  HPartin on 4/4/2011, 2:17 pm

I planted by seed lettuce, beets, peas, chard, and spinach Feb. 22. My peas are 4 inches tall and my lettuce has all of 4 leaves, some of which are turning yellow. My tranplants are foundering as well. My cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower leaves are turning purple (and aren't purple varieties) and my kale and parsley are turning yellow as well. I really think I should at least of some usable lettuce by now. I am a bit frustrated because there really is no scientific way to know what to change to make things grow better. It has been either hot (in the 80's), freezing a couple of times in the low 30s, rainy (in the 40's) or crazy windy. I'm ready to pull it all up and start over with summer. Summers just seem to be more predictable: buggy and hot Smile.

So that's where my garden is now.

Heidi

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  lisaphoto on 4/4/2011, 2:26 pm

I have no advice other than to say I'm right there with you. We had 2 weeks in the upper 60s, then it dropped as soon as I planted broccoli, down to a high in the 30s, and we also had a hail storm. Spring weather sucks!
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/4/2011, 2:35 pm

I wish there was a way I could help. But, I'm at a loss for you, too.

Have you ever tried any kind of climate control like a row cover or a hoophouse? Sometimes, those can regulate temperatures on the cold days of early spring.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  dizzygardener on 4/4/2011, 2:36 pm

Don't give up hope!

If you want to have a spring garden give us a little more info about how you start seeds and what you MM is made out of. I'm sure we can put our heads together to come up with something!
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  lizzo on 4/4/2011, 2:38 pm

Possibilities to consider:

  • Cool weather slows growth a lot. How are others faring in your area?
  • Lack of nitrogen.
  • In early March you wrote:
    I noticed that the ground surface is hardened. I used Mel's Mix to fill the beds. Do I have too much peat moss in the box? Has anyone had this same problem? I am worried about sprouts not being able to break through it. This "crust" is about 2 inches thick.
    The crust seems to indicate an excess of peat, from what other members have reported. Is there any chance that you didn't 'fluff' the peat before measuring?

Can you give them more time, in case it's weather related?

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  walshevak on 4/4/2011, 5:12 pm

I've over in the NE NC area where it is warmer than in the mountains. The frost last week really slowed everything down after we had 2 weeks of above average temps. And I am only harvesting from bok choy transplants planted early March. Anything that was seeded is not big enough to harvest. Lettuce mix I planted in mid Feb is only slightly bigger than lettuce mix planted in Mar. But, I noticed today that everything is picking up. So I'm just gonna hang in a bit longer.

I have not had any yellowing problems, so recheck the amount of peat in your mix. You may need to add some more compost or even a supplemental feeding until you can correct the problem.

Kay

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/4/2011, 6:41 pm

My temps here in NE TX have been all over the charts, up and down and up and down. I was regretting not getting some tomaotes out this weekend, but the few I left on the porch to get some rain got pounded. Thank goodness they were not out in the garden.

Temps can affect everything, especially when they are up and down, keep an eye on the plants and wait and see. My lettuce was slow, then took off, and has slowed down again, so here's hoping.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  HPartin on 4/4/2011, 9:45 pm

I am a new gardner so I know there are going to be bumps in the road.

I put the boxes together trying to stick close to Mel's mix. For 3 4x4 boxes I bought 2 large bags of course vermiculite, 1 large peat (think it was 3.9 cu ft.--I was aware of expansion), 100 lbs of Black Kow, and two large bags (2 cu ft each) of "Bumper Crop" soil ammendment. I am guessing I need more compost. It was well watered as I put it into the boxes so I know it was fully saturated when I planted. I did have some initial problems with crusting and I broke it up one time but I haven't needed to do it anymore. It looks and feels crumbly and nice. I seeded my first boxes Feb. 22 and then a staggared planting March 16. My lettuce planted have 4 leaves the size of dimes and my March lettuce has 2 hardly visible leaves. I really thought lettuce would be my "easy given" crop. My beets have 4 leaves about 1 inch long. The March beets have 2 leaves. The spinach is progressing about the same rate--just two regular leaves after the initial skinny leaves. The March plantings have just 2 skinny leaves (that don't look like spinach Smile ) Swiss chard looks like it just unfurled out of the ground (two tiny leaves) on both plantings. My peas are too short, about 4 inches, to reach the trellis. But, my trellis looks nice Smile.

Of course my transplants are pitiful too. Yellow leaves on kale and parsley and purple, possibly turning brown leaves on the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. It is very possible that they are burned by a freeze last week. The transplants haven't gotten any taller, but I have noticed that they have gotten a little thicker in the stem. One broccoli plant has a teeny little head.

Obviously it would be more convenient to take a picture but I don't have one--it is at the bottom of a canyon --thanks kids Wink.

So, I am getting ready to add summer crops with 3 more boxes. I have purchased more compost--turkey, cow (kow), mushroom, and one lrg. bag of "bumper crop." I have some horse compost but I don't think it's ready yet. I am looking for more. I've still got plenty of time , especially if I continue to this slow spring stuff.

For reference purpuse the bumper crop soil is described as:

"A blend of sphagnum peat moss, composted fish bones & lobster shells, composted chicken & cow manure, peat humus, blood meal, kelp/seaweed and aged bark fines. An all purpose garden soil amendment. Excels as a nutrient rich top dressing and mulch. Available in 1 & 2 cubic foot bags.

Heidi

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  Old Hippie on 4/4/2011, 10:16 pm

Looking at what you have in your mix and judging from the colour and size of your plants, I am thinking you are right about needing more compost. Peat moss and vermiculite have really nothing to offer in terms of nutrients for your plants. They are there to retain moisture and keep the soil light and fluffy so the roots will be able to grow. What that means though is if you don't have enough compost and/or enough different kinds of compost, your plants won't be getting the food they need.

When I was shopping this past weekend for compost I could only find two kinds so far....cattle and steer. To me they are similar enough to only count as one. Most of our garden centers aren't open yet. There was another "soil amendment" on the shelf but it was more expensive and when I checked the ingredients it contained about 50% peat. So you have to be really careful and read the ingredients on the bags or you will end up with too much peat. Besides not having any nutrients in it, peat also tends to make the soil somewhat acidic which some plants don't like. The extra compost helps to balance that.

Try to find some chicken manure, fish or kelp compost, as well and add some of that to see if it makes any difference. Take heart. Things don't always go quite the way they should sometimes.

Gwynn
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/5/2011, 8:22 am

Mine took about as long as yours have, but I put my lettuce out in Feb-at least I think I did, I'll have to double check it in a bit. It took forever to get where it is now, kind of that watched pot never boils thing. Consider too, will temps going up and down, the soil may still be a bit on the cool side. Mine started to pick up speed last week, my lettuce is really starting to fill out and move up. I pulled about 10 leaves last night, and also about 10 spinach leaves, I could not take it, I wanted a full salad, and I was almost out of my salad dressing, I knew I better eat it before the kids did.

I believe Old Hippie (she really is, it's so cool) is on to something with the fertilizer. I also wanted to add, look for rabbit manure, you can add that right in and not wait, it really is the perfect fertilizer.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  Lavender Debs on 4/5/2011, 10:21 am

Hey Heidi! Hangeth thou in there!

I live across the country in another zone 7. Can I encourage you with my discouragement? In Washington (the state) it has been cold, wet and windy. All that we are usually advertised as right? But it has been so over the top that it is worth mentioning.

I generally start my peas in February, St Patrick's Day at the latest. Huge mistake this year. Just about everything has drowned in a garden that isn't supposed to have drainage problems. Even by western Washington-Oregon standards it has been an excessively wet year. I have had to replant just about everything and put up plastic covers (that the wind keeps knocking down) just to give the babies a chance. It has been a great year for slugs. Those little buggers like micro-greens, even my Fava beans had a difficult time outgrowing the slugs.

Generally our springs here are mild. I am daily able to put my tomato plants out on a table on the deck during the day (which allows me to get them into the ground nearly a month ahead of neighbors who buy their tomatoes from a nursery). Usually I can count on daytime temps in the mid 50's this time of year with a few spikes into the 60's. Yesterday I couldn't even get the tomatoes out of the kitchen because we never got above 45 (and that was well after 2 in the afternoon). My husband and I went to Whidbey Island just across the bay where the rain was coming in sideways almost from the moment we set up to the moment we hitched back up. The trailer rocked all night. It was a crazy maker! I think of the homeless Japanese in this kind of weather, who have lost a huge portion of their national garden to sea sludge and who knows what else and am forced to remember that I at least still have my own bed and (so far) an unpolluted growing space with hope for the next season.....assuming this is not part of the bowl judgments.

~*~My peas are short but growing. Patience is required. At just the right time they will take off.
~*~Some of my homegrown broccoli seedlings did turn purple. The one under the cloche that stayed dryer and warmer is a nice shade of green but not much bigger than the chilled broccoli.
~*~Slugs made sure that you are ahead of me in the lettuce squares, but I have lots of seed and a little extra beer.
~*~Many of the nutrients in compost need a number of days of steady heat to be available to plants. You can add all you want but unless the soil heats up it is just filler (at least where I live, it could be different in your area). You already have a whole lot of animal based products as compost, I'd be looking for more vegetarian (vegan if possible) compost for nitrogen.... even knowing your soil needs longer days of dry warm weather to make it available. Generally, spring crops are called spring crops not just because they can tolerate cool weather, but because they are able to thrive in cooler soil that has less nutrients available.
~*~If your broccoli is tiny and purple when it is supposed to be green AND is trying to make a head, it is very stressed and trying to do what it was created to do, reproduce, before it dies. In my zone 7 it is WAY too early for broccoli. We can start seed under a cloche in a good year right now, we can set out seedlings in a protected place (like a coldframe or cloche) this early but they will be slower to grow than the same broccoli I put out in May or even mid May. It is worth the gamble to put them out early IN CASE we have a beautiful spring. ....and Washington-Oregon are not having a beautiful spring this year. From what I hear in the news, neither are you....though your really bad days may be all that is reported over here.

Deborah.....not willing to throw in the towel until the first really big frost in October.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  landmouse on 4/5/2011, 10:22 am

I just read this at mysquarefootgarden and thought it might help with the purple leaf bit:

"Phosphorus promotes healthy root growth, flowering, and fruit. When
there is an extreme deficiency, the leaves will turn purple, but
moderate deficiencies result in small plants and stunted growth. This
element is less available during cool temperatures, so it may be
important to add it early in the spring."

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/5/2011, 2:20 pm

Landmouse! Thanks for the input, I too enjoy mysquarefootgarden.

Not having a nescisary mineral (or vitamin or whatever) in your MM probably means you were either unable to get 5 sources of compost, or 1 or more of them was a bad batch, not likely to happen but it could. That is why Mel recommends adding a trowel of compost to each square before planting in it.

If you are composting on your own (or wanting to like me) it is important to vary what goes into the mix, so you get all the right stuff in there for your plants.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  SFG in Chicago on 4/5/2011, 2:26 pm

I know you're not supposed to need to fertilize with MM, but I found I had to last year. I would try a little fertilizer and see if your plants perk up.

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  HPartin on 4/5/2011, 2:30 pm

I'm kind of thinking I need to go find some fertizer. I don't think it will hurt it anything at this point. I guess I will go and see what I can find!

Heidi

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/5/2011, 2:32 pm

Actually Mell does say that when you pull one plant up and add another, add a trowel of compost, wich is your fertilizer. Many here do add to large feeders, and fish emulsion is a good one, in fact my plants love it when I clean out my fish tanks, I just add part or all of the old water.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/5/2011, 3:32 pm

@SFG in Chicago wrote:I know you're not supposed to need to fertilize with MM, but I found I had to last year. I would try a little fertilizer and see if your plants perk up.

Warning.....BBG is going to become a hyppocrit here!!! Just kidding. But, I DO agree with the above, and here's why I don't think it contradicts SFG principles.

Page 32, bullet #5..."...I was able to simplify my original book's formula for the perfect soil mix to only three ingredients: 1/3 each of peat moss, vermiculite, and blended compost, and completely eliminate the use and expense of fertilizer."

Mel says you no longer NEED fertilizer in your MM. He never really says to AVOID it. I would contend that if you weren't replenishing the compost, had a bad batch, didn't have enough compost in your MM in the first place, or didn't have MM at all, you need to add something. If you didn't achieve the "perfect mix," you are in need of amending your soil per the old system.

The best answer should be more compost. But, this is one instance I can see adding fertilizer to your SFG, especially if you have plants started currently. However, we don't need fertilizer on a regular, or long-term, basis. In fact, we should be working on reconditioning our MM so we don't ever need to add fertilizer again.....it's expensive.

Another thing from page 32 worth noting here in terms of fertilizer: "...Besides, compost was all-natural and couldn't burn or harm the plants." This gets into soluable salts. Be careful which fertilizers you add. The higher the numbers (x-x-x on the label), the higher your chances will be of "burning" your plants. With an intense concentration of fertilizer, the salts can accumulate close to the base of the stem and root ball. The salt actually PULLS water and nutrients away from the plant by reverse osmosis. This causes dehydration in spite of watering your garden. It's an easy mistake to make and I'm almost positive why Mel wanted to get fertilizer out of his system if possible.....too many people can make too many mistakes by accident. The lower the x-x-x numbers, the better off you are. I would look for something under 5-5-5 if it were me.

And, another thing to try in this specific case would be.....compost tea. Again, overkill for the correct blend of MM, but worth a shot to add quick nutrients to your soil. Either Furbalsmom, Quiltbea, or Camprn had the best idea I have heard while looking into the concept (the internet can really overanalyze the subject). One of them told me to just grab a chunk of compost, toss it in a bucket of water, mix it all up, grab a strainer of some sort, and pour into the garden the same way I water my plants. That dirty water is carrying nutrients into your MM and replenishing it almost immediately. How powerful will it be? I don't know. But, it won't burn your plants, and it can't hurt imo if your garden needs a little pick-me-up.

However, here is where I WILL become a stickler. Based on what I just quoted, the author is recommending fertilization of your SFG to everyone?

..."My recommendation for those using Mel’s mix is to combine 1 cup of 16-16-8 complete fertilizer with 1/4 cup of Ironite mineral supplement. Sprinkle and mix into the top 6-8 inches of soil before planting in the spring."

Didn't we just see that Mel's Mix, if done by the book, doesn't NEED fertilizer of any kind? She has a great blog, don't get me wrong, but there is no need to encourage folks to deviate from the system laid out in the book without a specific reason.

Someone get her over here, though. I bet she's a valuable resource.....and a "pro-SFGer" to boot.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  HPartin on 4/5/2011, 3:57 pm

I am not trying to stray from the principles of Mel; I have made my best effort to stay true. Unfortunately, it ain't working for the time being. Despite my efforts my garden is essentially non-existant after 8 weeks of growing. I am all for replenishing plantings with a trowel of compost but right now, I'm not replanting. I would prefer to not use fertilizer because the main reason I am square foot gardening is because I thought it would be the easiest way to be organic.

I have lots of uncomposted/composting (not ready) horse manure. I am going to make a compost tea with it. I am unsure if this will take care of the phosporous issue if it is indeed my problem. I am also considering looking into some seaweed dilute of some sort. I have never heard of it and I don't know if is accessible from a big box store but I am going to go see later.

With all this said, I actually it is probably too late for my lettuces, spinach, broccoli and cauliflower. The cabbage looks quite pitiful too so I don't really know what to do about it. At this point I am at the last ditch effort.

What's frustrating is I'm about to add 3 more boxes and I dont know how to proceed. I need an ounce of success so that my husband doesn't think I am completely off my rocker Smile.

Heidi

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/5/2011, 5:03 pm

It sounds like when you mixed your MM you got a bad compost in there, not your fault at all. My husband got some bags of gardening soil 4 years ago and when I opened them they were gray and slimmy, correct me if I'm wrong, but that's not what it should look like.

If it were me, and I realize it's not, so don't anyone bite my head off for deviating, I would test the soil. I'm curious, I just want to know what's going on with things. I keep a soil kit on hand, just because, for my other stuff, roses, herbs and such, so I can check what they need.

What you are planning on sounds great, give it a try and keep us posted. Lowe's may have seaweed stuff, they are starting to carry more and more organic garden supplies. My lettuce was late getting in, and now that it's finally taking off we have had mid 80's here, too hot, so I'm hoping they will survive long enough for me to eat, not the goats.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/5/2011, 5:07 pm

Not straying from principles is great. Not consoling at this point, but at least we know you are doing what you can to make sure we are all on the same page.

I just re-read most of the thread to make sure I remembered everything asked and commented.

You mentioned you planted Feb 22 and again on March 16, as well as have some transplants showing the same signs as those from seed. How are the March 16 plants faring? I didn't see any comment on those.

It really sounds like weather related stuff to me. With all that inconsistency, there's bound to be some stress on young plants.

We are all spitballing here trying to help you to the best of our abilities. But, for now MY (and it's no better than anyone else's) is to wait it out a bit. Maybe some of the organic turbo boosts you mentioned, but really I think it's just a patience thing. Maybe they come back, maybe they don't.

I suppose there could be another issue like fungus, nutrient deficiency, but those are so hard to diagnose without either being there or seeing a picture. Not your fault. Just hard to see without being able to see.

You won't be the first person to have a horrendous spring. Someone on the left coast mentioned they had lettuce, spinach, or broccoli bolt while they were at work....and really never got a meal from the plant. Farmers in Florida lose oranges and other crops all the time. Gardening of any kind isn't foolproof. (I know you know this.) It stinks to have the added pressure of someone watching critically on top of all this.

I hope you can get to the bottom of this with our help or without it. I would love to see things turn around. But, we likely need the weather to cooperate, too.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  walshevak on 4/5/2011, 5:08 pm

Don't give up the ship yet. The weather in NC has been crazy and you may just need a bit more time of decent weather and maybe a bit of a boost in nurtients. My lettuces were direct seeded and are healthy but little, nothing more than 2". My snap peas are anywhere from 6" tall to 1 1/2" tall from 2 different sowings. The mustard and turnip greens only started to get above 2" this week. I followed the MM formula very carefully and cut the peat just a hair because of the peat in one of the composts. Only my transplants are doing well.

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 4/5/2011, 5:12 pm

I just googled your zip code for Angier. I came up with 27501.....Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area.

You said you planted on Feb 22 and again on March 16? The frost date (50/50 chance of no more frost) isn't until March 31 at the earliest.....April 12 at the latest. http://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/index.php?q=27501&submit=Go

Did you have some protection for those veggies as they were sprouting on chilly nights? Sounds more weather related to me. Not in that the plants will die, but that they are just suffering from a colder than normal spring like most of us have had.
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Post  HPartin on 4/7/2011, 3:10 pm

I purchased a soil testing kit and tested my soil. My ph is about 8 (too base); nitrogen is in the very low range (showed no color at all); phosphorous is medium and potash is very low. So I purchased a bag of "Plant-Tone" fertilizer 5-5-3. I'll let you know if it is too late for these babies Smile.

Heidi

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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  FarmerValerie on 4/7/2011, 4:14 pm

Do keep us posted!
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

Post  dizzygardener on 4/7/2011, 4:25 pm

Do you have any plans to deal with the pH issue? In a traditional garden one might use Aluminum sulfate or sulfur to lower the pH. Ideal garden pH is around 6.0 . I'd contact my extension office and send off for a really soil test before fooling with the pH though. Those home kits can be off by as much as 2 points.
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Re: I think my spring garden is a dud

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