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Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

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Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  Tbites on 6/7/2011, 6:08 pm

Hello,

Suppose a mistake prone gardener realized their mix has way too much peat moss due to blended composts and plants are currently growing in there already, can you add compost (not blended) around the plants to help with drainage ?

(All the posts I've read suggest adding compost to "balance" the nutrients)

In other words, if my hands touch the roots of the plants while trying to add handfuls of manure, could it harm the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers ?
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  martha on 6/7/2011, 7:00 pm

I'm waiting for the answer because this year's helper is much better at directions than last year's helper, but I did still get one entire box with no peat moss. And of course that is the only box that my helper planted as well as mixed.
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  AZDYJ2K on 6/7/2011, 7:16 pm

I'm not an expert but here is what I would do.

I think it depends on how established your plants are. If they are fairly young, you may be able to dig around the roots and pull them out being careful not to disturb the root balls. Then you can add more compost and vermiculite to even out your ratio of MM.

If the roots are established then I would suggest using compost tea to water your plants (probably not daily but enough to give them the nutrients they need). After you have harvested and pulled your plants then you can even out your MM ratios.
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 6/7/2011, 7:19 pm

While I can't guarantee your success, I can tell you that I've never had a problem messing with plants while they were in the ground. Just be careful and disturb the roots as little as possible.

1.. If you just topdress with compost...and don't mix in...the nutrients should leech down into the root zone almost the same as mixing in since we are only dealing with 6 inches of "friable" soil.

2.. I have never had an issue with taking plants out of one square and moving them to another. That's a pretty stressful move for plants, especially in really hot or cold weather. But, they can usually handle it. They may stop growing for a bit to recover, but they usually will recover just fine.

3.. Compost isn't for drainage. The peat moss and vermiculite are. The compost is your nutrient base. If you are deficient on nutrients, due to a lack of compost, I would suggest still going to the trouble of adding a balanced/blended compost. You simply don't have much of a nutrient base to fall back on if you happen across a dud mix.

4.. Great suggestion with the compost tea!

Happy Gardening!
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  Tbites on 6/7/2011, 8:24 pm

Thanks for the responses.... my MM dries up on top but retains A LOT of water, I just went after your posts, stuck my hand to the very bottom and I can squeeze a little bit of water out of it. I only watered about a cup to the roots 2 days ago.... so the dampness is from last week's rain. I'm thinking extra compost would add nutrients and help with drainage based on this statement from How Strong is Your Backbone

" When there is too much peat your SFG will become water-logged, and you can get a crust on the top of your mix. If you have too much peat you are also going to have too little compost, and that nutrient deficiency will cause your SFG to struggle."


:scratch:
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  Barkie on 6/8/2011, 7:03 am

This is my take on the problem and the soil mechanics.

Sifted and fluffed up peat has a fine particle size. When wet it clumps together and is airless. The surface however dries out fast, goes crusty and resists wetting.

Compost has a larger crumb size so it drains quickly but the spongy humus particles hang on to some moisture and it provides nutrients.

Blending compost, peat and vermiculite balances out the free draining and moisture holding properties. Because it creates spaces between the different sized particles water can get in and it drives out stale air then the water dries and drains away allowing fresh air in.

If I was not going to transplant and liquid feed until the bed is clear then improve the mix I would also mulch around plants with compost (but clear of stems) especially if the weather is warm and windy as it could help to improve the pH as well as provide a dose of nutrients when it rains.

I was just wondering also about the surface your bed is on if excess water can drain freely or not.

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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  NHGardener on 6/8/2011, 7:14 am

Barkie- Are you saying to keep the stems away from top-dressed compost? Why would that be? Does it burn the plant? Yikes.

I just sprinkled more compost around my bean and corn plants yesterday because they're kind of yellow and I figured they were probably low on nitrogen and maybe my compost content was lacking. I just basically poured it on top of the soil and on top of the plants and brushed off the leaves - and this is the 2nd time I've done this. I figure I might as well use up my excess compost instead of leaving it in a heap - it's almost gone now.

Am I hurting these plants? Uh oh.
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  Tbites on 6/8/2011, 7:44 am

Goooood morning,

Thank you, the particle explanation was definitely helpful.

My beds are sitting on grass and weeds. There's a layer of cardboard underneath and plastic type weed barrier stapled to the bottom of them. Earlier last month this same weed barrier was used to line a pot and the Roma plant inside it died from waterlogging. So, I went over both planted beds poking in holes with a brochette skewer to improve drainage.

Sorry if I seem slow... but I didn't quite get this part of your sentence "...If I was not going to transplant and liquid feed until the bed is clear then improve the mix.." You mean clear as in good drainage... or clear of fungus gnats ? ( I didn't mention those)

I should get pure rabbit manure by this weekend, so I will top dress with that,and stay away from the stems as suggested, in the meantime... since the answers seem to suggest my clumsy hands near the plant roots shouldn't cause too much damage, I think I'll scoop in handfuls of rinsed gravel. I'll probably swear about having to remove these next year but I figure it's better than waterlogging

Thoughts ?
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  Barkie on 6/8/2011, 8:18 am

@NHGardener wrote:Barkie- Are you saying to keep the stems away from top-dressed compost? Why would that be? Does it burn the plant? Yikes.

I just sprinkled more compost around my bean and corn plants yesterday because they're kind of yellow and I figured they were probably low on nitrogen and maybe my compost content was lacking. I just basically poured it on top of the soil and on top of the plants and brushed off the leaves - and this is the 2nd time I've done this. I figure I might as well use up my excess compost instead of leaving it in a heap - it's almost gone now.

Am I hurting these plants? Uh oh.

Mulch is a thicker layer than a sprinkle. I
think a sprinkle will do no harm. It's better you fed your plants to
keep them growing than not. I get too much rain sometimes so I would keep mulches away from stems so that it doesn't invite slugs right up to stems for a midnight nibble and to ensure the underside of plants stay drier and to keep air circulating underneath as I don't want to encourage fungal problems. Your weather may be reliably drier and warmer than mine, and I do hope it is.

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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  NHGardener on 6/8/2011, 8:34 am

Ah! Slugs and fungus. I don't have a problem with those yet. As long as I'm not burning my plants...
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Re: Can you correct MM while plants are in it ?

Post  Barkie on 6/8/2011, 10:00 am

@Tbites wrote:Goooood morning,

Thank you, the particle explanation was definitely helpful.

My beds are sitting on grass and weeds. There's a layer of cardboard underneath and plastic type weed barrier stapled to the bottom of them. Earlier last month this same weed barrier was used to line a pot and the Roma plant inside it died from waterlogging. So, I went over both planted beds poking in holes with a brochette skewer to improve drainage.

Sorry if I seem slow... but I didn't quite get this part of your sentence "...If I was not going to transplant and liquid feed until the bed is clear then improve the mix.." You mean clear as in good drainage... or clear of fungus gnats ? ( I didn't mention those)

I should get pure rabbit manure by this weekend, so I will top dress with that,and stay away from the stems as suggested, in the meantime... since the answers seem to suggest my clumsy hands near the plant roots shouldn't cause too much damage, I think I'll scoop in handfuls of rinsed gravel. I'll probably swear about having to remove these next year but I figure it's better than waterlogging

Thoughts ?

You're welcome. Ah grass and weeds, like mine, mine is stony clay soil too which gets compacted solid like concrete if walked on when wet. I removed the weeds and roots and nothing was growing back when I got to making the bed so I forked over the soil 6 inches deep to break up the hard pan. I was wondering if you might have a hard pan under your bed causing water to back up and not run away fast enough.

I remember you had that weed barrier causing waterlogging problem with your Roma. Rotten luck that. I probably had that in the back of my mind and didn't put down weed barrier when I made my bed. I'm not familiar with using weed barrier and had the drainage in mind but I may have made a mistake not using it.

Nah, sorry, it was me who was being fuzzy. I meant clear as in the bed being cleared out after you have harvested and you have no plants in the bed. Then you could get in to improve your mix so that it drains more sharply without any plants being in your way. I hope that is making better sense but do nudge me if I need waking up.

Fungus gnats, I had a look on wikipedia for them, hopefully sharper drainage will see them off also when there is only fully decomposed compost in your mix. Rabbit pooh is good and an exception to the rule of not using fresh manure which I learned on here from someone (thanks). I think it would be plain sailing for you when you get the blend in your bed right. I'd say gravel would be better placed under the weed barrier though than in the bed because I would find it a long and tedious job getting it out. I was bored just sifting a bale and a half of peat through a riddle!

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