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Slower than I expected

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Slower than I expected

Post  WendySue67 on 8/1/2011, 3:16 pm

Everything in my garden seems to be growing WAY slower than it should... I don't know if I am doing something wrong or if there is a way to help it get moving... I have about 50 tomatoes growing (3 are just starting to turn red) and the bushes (romas) are small but seem to be producing well so far. My carrots have been growing a long time but when I decided to pull one it was only about an inch and a half long. My pepper plants look healthy and are just barely starting to grow well--I have a total of ONE pepper. Cantaloupe are still seedlings, cucumbers are barely a foot up my trellis with no fruit, even the zucchini is still small with no fruit. I planted around Mother's day--all of it. The only thing that we have been able to harvest is lettuce. And all the flowers are growing... Everything looks great and healthy...just not producing and is growing really slow. And I also have tons of bees (saw them in the zucchini flowers today so I'm sure I'll see something soon there)

I planted everything in MM and I have used fertilizer. I just don't get it...why would everything be so stunted? I also should mention that the weather and been very cooperative since summer began (we had a super cold spring)--we've had lots of good sunny, warm days and now we're entering monsoon season, so we get good warm sunny days with afternoon rainfall.

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  duhh on 8/1/2011, 6:17 pm

Mine did that for awhile. They kinda hung out and didn't do much. I am thinking they were developing their roots. When they finally began to grow, they really took off! Some people remove the first fruits to encourage more plant growth. I haven't tried this, but might this next year.

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  fiddleman on 8/1/2011, 7:25 pm

I wonder just a couple of things... one- how hot has it been through the day? Too much heat can be quite stressful to plants - though I don't have much of a problem with it in my part of the country, perhaps it's an issue where you are. I begin to wonder about root temperature, and / or wetness. Is the Mel's Mix watered well enough (all the way to the bottom of the box) for the temperatures you are experiencing? Mulch or shade blocks might be called for if there are issues there.
Two... Nematodes, root maggots, caterpillars... bugs can cause delayed or non-existent growth...
depending on what you used in the Mel's Mix, or whether you placed the boxes on the ground where nematodes already existed...

How much sun does your garden get? I would assume it gets enough, but perhaps there are things shading the garden too much.

Hmmm. I am not from your part of the country, and don't know all of the local stuff going on, but perhaps there is a master gardener locally who could help you out with local issues and good planting dates.

I planted my cucumber's on Mother's day as well, and now they're 8 feet tall, and just this week I have started harvesting a cucumber a day now. I have had 3 ripe tomatoes so far. I would expect similar stuff from your garden, but with the different zones, who knows.

Fertilizer isn't generally needed for a well composted garden. I am assuming you went "by the book" to find the 5 different types of compost (not with a bunch of peat in the mix), put in the proper amount of peat moss, and vermiculite.

Good luck with this!
Mark

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  littlesapphire on 8/1/2011, 7:29 pm

Do you notice anything else about the plants? Any discoloration or wilted leaves or anything? Did you plant from seeds, buy transplants, or start seeds indoors?

If everything's normal, and you're fertilizing, I don't know what to say Sad My garden did the same thing last year, but it turns out it was because I wasn't fertilizing enough. I also have one pepper plant that's super tiny compared to the others. I started them all indoors, and I think I must have done something to stunt its growth early on in its life.

I hope you can figure out what's up with your garden!

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 8/2/2011, 2:32 am

Hi WendySue Smile - I don't know if this is your first year or not. Myself, I am a total newbie. All the items that Mark so generously listed in his post are probably affecting my plants and veggies. The trick is I'm too new to know what's affecting what, how, and what to do about it. That's where ANSFG and the forum come in. Maybe I didn't get tons of produce (yet Wink ) but when I stop and think that now I know what SVB damage looks like, what tomato hornworm droppings look like, the benefits of a good soap spray, the importance of stinky fish fertilizer, why I should use my neem oil a little more frequently, and enough about compost to make me want to try my own despite my BW tree....well, that's a heck of a harvest of knowledge. I can't wait to try my hand at fall plants...there is still so much to learn... rock on

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  Goosegirl on 8/2/2011, 8:05 am

+1 UTBW!!!

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  Mamachibi on 8/2/2011, 9:09 am

Far from an expert here, but my understanding of this SFG thing is that plants don't need fertilizer when in MM. Some plants will focus on leaf production when fertilized, not fruiting.

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  fiddleman on 8/2/2011, 5:35 pm

@Mamachibi wrote:Far from an expert here, but my understanding of this SFG thing is that plants don't need fertilizer when in MM. Some plants will focus on leaf production when fertilized, not fruiting.

I am not an trained expert, just someone who has gardened for 35 years and read and watched a fair amount.

In my experience, there is a balance to be struck with fertilizer. If you are having good leaf production, then fertilizing is usually unnecessary. If you notice stunted plants, but there is an abundance of leaves, it is likely caused by something OTHER than a lack of nutrients. The plants with yellowish and small leaves or leggy with few leaves on them will often respond to a fertilizer.

If the plant already has an abundance of deep green leaves, there is no reason to suspect more than poor climatic conditions for the poor production of fruit or flowers. If the plant seems leggy and needs more leaves to be healthy enough to set flowers then a shot of high nitrogen fertilizer could be called for, but not always. Sometimes there isn't enough heat in the ground to allow the plant to take up the nutrients, and all the fertilizer in the world won't make it a healthy looking plant.

Often I see compost not fully completed being worked into a garden... when it is worked in to the soil before it is finished "cooking", the finishing will be completed with the nutrients being sucked out of the existing garden soil. (that's why you see people recommending 10-10-10 fertilizer worked into the soil with the compost) The compost will rob your soil of nutrients in the short term, only to release them back into the soil more slowly in the long term.

The benefits of compost are that it releases the nutrients in a way the plants can take them up over a long period of time - ironically enough, just the way the plants require. We often don't think of plants in plant terms - how big they'll get, that they'll grow slowly at first until their roots can manufacture enough nutrition and water to support the leaves the plant needs to make energy. We think of only the parts of the plants we can see as the growing parts, but the ROOTS are the part which anchors and feeds the plants... they need to grow before the leaves or flowers, or fruits can grow. Once the roots are well established only then will the leaves be well fed enough to power fruiting and flower production. IF you have either homemade compost or the 5 varieties as Mel has recommended, it is quite unlikely you'll need to fertilize except for perhaps the most heavy feeding of plants (melons and the like) an extra shot of compost when you plant will likely will be all you need.

So if your plants are stunted... look to the ROOT of the problem. Likely as not there is something wrong at the foundation of the plant, not the roof of the plant.

Mark

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  camprn on 8/2/2011, 7:04 pm

@fiddleman wrote:
@Mamachibi wrote:Far from an expert here, but my understanding of this SFG thing is that plants don't need fertilizer when in MM. Some plants will focus on leaf production when fertilized, not fruiting.

I am not an trained expert, just someone who has gardened for 35 years and read and watched a fair amount.

In my experience, there is a balance to be struck with fertilizer. If you are having good leaf production, then fertilizing is usually unnecessary. If you notice stunted plants, but there is an abundance of leaves, it is likely caused by something OTHER than a lack of nutrients. The plants with yellowish and small leaves or leggy with few leaves on them will often respond to a fertilizer.

If the plant already has an abundance of deep green leaves, there is no reason to suspect more than poor climatic conditions for the poor production of fruit or flowers. If the plant seems leggy and needs more leaves to be healthy enough to set flowers then a shot of high nitrogen fertilizer could be called for, but not always. Sometimes there isn't enough heat in the ground to allow the plant to take up the nutrients, and all the fertilizer in the world won't make it a healthy looking plant.

Often I see compost not fully completed being worked into a garden... when it is worked in to the soil before it is finished "cooking", the finishing will be completed with the nutrients being sucked out of the existing garden soil. (that's why you see people recommending 10-10-10 fertilizer worked into the soil with the compost) The compost will rob your soil of nutrients in the short term, only to release them back into the soil more slowly in the long term.

The benefits of compost are that it releases the nutrients in a way the plants can take them up over a long period of time - ironically enough, just the way the plants require. We often don't think of plants in plant terms - how big they'll get, that they'll grow slowly at first until their roots can manufacture enough nutrition and water to support the leaves the plant needs to make energy. We think of only the parts of the plants we can see as the growing parts, but the ROOTS are the part which anchors and feeds the plants... they need to grow before the leaves or flowers, or fruits can grow. Once the roots are well established only then will the leaves be well fed enough to power fruiting and flower production. IF you have either homemade compost or the 5 varieties as Mel has recommended, it is quite unlikely you'll need to fertilize except for perhaps the most heavy feeding of plants (melons and the like) an extra shot of compost when you plant will likely will be all you need.

So if your plants are stunted... look to the ROOT of the problem. Likely as not there is something wrong at the foundation of the plant, not the roof of the plant.

Mark
Brilliant ! +1

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  martha on 8/2/2011, 9:47 pm

Mark,



I'll be cutting and pasting what you wrote into my General Garden Wisdom folder.

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  WendySue67 on 8/3/2011, 12:57 am

Hmm... I never really thought about neematodes but that could possibly be a problem. Is there any way to easily know?

The only other thing I can think of is poor compost. I tried to get a mix of 5 different types but don't know how equally I got it all mixed and spread throughout the garden and I don't know how great it was when I bought it (might have been filled with peat--didn't know to check). I have been giving the garden a fertilizer recommended for root development and that seems to have helped in the last week or so, Everything actually looks really good and healthy, just small and not producing.

Thanks for the tips. Maybe I'm just too impatient. Since my original post I have found my first zucchini and cucumber finally growing...and harvested my first three tomatoes. For having only three tiny tomato plants I sure have a ton of them growing.

My other really big problem is earwigs! It is the only pest I have seen and I have tons of them. I bought an organic spray that is killing them but it has to be sprayed directly on the bugs to do the trick. Is there something you can use that will kill them as they travel through?

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  fiddleman on 8/3/2011, 5:11 am

@WendySue67 wrote:
My other really big problem is earwigs! It is the only pest I have seen and I have tons of them. I bought an organic spray that is killing them but it has to be sprayed directly on the bugs to do the trick. Is there something you can use that will kill them as they travel through?

This was posted by someone else, but it works wonderfully. http://youtu.be/5gJNZd4mp4Y.
Basically place a 1/2" of vegetable oil in a container, place it into the garden, and the ear wigs will crawl right in. Organic, cheap, and easy... my kind of pest control!

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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  fiddleman on 8/3/2011, 6:40 pm

@WendySue67 wrote:Hmm... I never really thought about neematodes but that could possibly be a problem. Is there any way to easily know?

Since my original post I have found my first zucchini and cucumber finally growing...and harvested my first three tomatoes. For having only three tiny tomato plants I sure have a ton of them growing.

Pull up the plants and see if the roots seem thin and skimpy or have thickened galls or unusual swellings. Rather drastic. From your description of the plants, I doubt nematodes are the issue if you're getting a harvest now. Likely, as you mentioned you just wanted your plants to grow faster than they did. The garden sounds healthy overall.

Here is some info on Nematodes though.
Nematodes are small microscopic animals usually under 1mm in length and depending on the species can be beneficial or harmful to gardens. Nematodes are found literally almost everywhere, but there are a few types of concern to us gardeners. One of the more destructive types is the Root-Knot nematodes which cause galls or swelling on the roots of broadleaf plants keeping the root from efficiently gathering nutrients or water. They do this by invading the rootlets and traveling up the root to a point where a gall forms.

Dagger nematodes tend towards fruiting plants such as strawberries, blueberries, and cherries, (they can also attack Dandelions) and can be vectors for viruses such as Tomato Ringspot Virus, Tobacco Ringspot Virus, and others. High densities of these nematodes can cause root swelling from their feeding off the plants, making it difficult for the plant to feed. Roots often die because of this feeding, therefore, dagger nematodes can affect a plants growth and yield even if they are not harboring viruses.

Nematode damage is often noticed above ground by yellowed foliage, and a loss of plant vigor (stunted growth and spindly growth), especially if the plant is stressed by other things: such as bugs, drought, or high temperature. Because of their microscopic size, sending a soil sample to be tested for nematodes is the only way to be certain, and then the sample should be taken in the summer for the greatest densities of the little guys - if the sample is taken in the winter, there may not be a high enough population for them to be discovered in the sample. If sending the plant in for testing, then about a month after germination is what is recommended.

Nematode controls.

There are not any effective sprays or applications which can lower the nematode population for the home gardener... farms have access to things we do not... however, we still have some options to lower the populations to acceptable levels if we're having nematode damage.

Nematode infected plants should be removed from the garden. Turn the soil (Mel's Mix) over to bring any plant rootlets to the surface. Turn the soil over even in the winter if possible to bring the nematodes to the surface where wind and sun can kill them and their eggs. Don't leave anything in the garden which gives nematodes a place to overwinter... no root crops or weeds should be in the garden.

Rotate crops. Change what you plant in a square each year, and scatter your plants throughout the garden if possible, to keep them from building high populations. Plant families tend towards having the same problems so if you planted cucumbers in a square last year don't plant pumpkins, melons, gourds, or cantalopes in the same square this year. If you look in Mel's book, on page 251 you'll find plant families with the types of plants.

Use resistant varieties - kind of a no brainer, but look for nematode resistance if you're having problems with them.

Fallowing - don't allow any plant matter to grow... cover with plastic and starve the buggers! This will help to sterilize the soil somewhat by increasing the heat in the soil inhibiting reproduction.

Mel's mix is naturally inhibiting towards nematodes, insofar as it has a high amount of organic matter, and is friable, giving you healthier plants which can withstand nematode attack.

Suppressive crops - some plants seem to have a negative effect on nematode populations. These plants have nemacidal (killing) and nemastatic (suppressing) compounds which seem to be toxic to nematodes. French dwarf marigolds such as "Tangerine" and "Lemon Drop" appear to have both nemacidal and nemastatic properties. The Chrysanthemum "Escapade" is another. That doesn't mean they'll wipe out a population, but they can help control certain species of root knot nematodes.

I know it is a bit more information than you asked, but I was aware of some of this but I learned a fair amount myself while researching this question.

Mark







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Re: Slower than I expected

Post  camprn on 8/3/2011, 6:50 pm

@fiddleman wrote:
@WendySue67 wrote:Hmm... I never really thought about neematodes but that could possibly be a problem. Is there any way to easily know?

Since my original post I have found my first zucchini and cucumber finally growing...and harvested my first three tomatoes. For having only three tiny tomato plants I sure have a ton of them growing.

Pull up the plants and see if the roots seem thin and skimpy or have thickened galls or unusual swellings. Rather drastic. From your description of the plants, I doubt nematodes are the issue if you're getting a harvest now. Likely, as you mentioned you just wanted your plants to grow faster than they did. The garden sounds healthy overall.

Here is a previous thread with photos of nematode infestation. http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t8479-green-beans-what-is-going-on

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