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Disappointed in output

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Disappointed in output

Post  1airdoc on 8/18/2011, 10:02 am

This was my first year for SFG, and I was fairly disappointed in the production. After all I'd read, I'd expected bushels! All I got was a small basin of veggies, though. My garden is 4x12 and I worked hard to get the right Mel's Mix made. The garden is in full sun for about 10+ hours. I grew green beans, bell peppers, cantaloupe, jalapenos, brussels, onions, leeks, and cukes. I'm afraid cucumber beetles got the cukes, and some other insect got the brussels -- my fault. But I didn't get many green beans or bell peppers, and the onions just didn't grow. Herbs were OK, and cantaloupes now have about 3 fruits. I've pulled the nonproductive stuff and am planting some fall seeds this week. Any suggestions as to how to optimize my output for next year?

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  littlesapphire on 8/18/2011, 10:12 am

I know exactly how you feel, 1airdoc. My first year with my SFG was terrible. My squash plants were totally destroyed by powdery mildew, slugs chewed up my lettuce, the pepper plants hardly produced anything, and everything got chowed down by deer early in the season. By the end of the growing season, I hardly had any veggies to show for my work.

But that first year was miles ahead of the three years I had tried gardening before that, though. Those first three years were TERRIBLE. I think I got one bean the last year I tried traditional row gardening, and maybe a tomato or two. I sure got a lot of weeds, though. If I could eat most of the weeds, that would have been great.

This is my second year with my SFG, and although my garden still isn't producing a whole lot, it's doing a lot better; probably about twice as well as last year's SFG.

I think what I'm trying to say here is that the SFG method is a million times better than row gardening (at least for small personal gardens like mine). And also, gardening is a skill that has to be learned through experience. My garden is doing better this year because I learned a lot of valuable lessons last year. For instance, I know how to combat powdery mildew this year, I know what squash vine borers look like, and I know how to keep the deer out of the garden. The more I learn, the more my garden will produce Smile

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  milton_gardener on 8/18/2011, 10:21 am

Littlesapphire hit the nail on the head. Basically don't get discouraged (or get discouraged but don't stay there). Gardening is a skill like any other and has to be learned through trial and error. This is my 2nd year with SFG and I am miles ahead of where I was last year, but already I am thinking of what I will do better next year.

One important thing that someone told me is to keep a garden journal. Just a simple point form synopsis of your year and anything you observe or learn through the year. It really helps when it comes time to plant for next year.

My big lessons for next year are going to be dealing with vine crops. I have already lost my zuchinnis to Squash borers, and it looks like I am losing my Cucumbers to wilt caused by beetles. I'm really dissapointed. But on the upside, I am getting a small harvest every day of a good variety of vegetables, so there is always something else to keep me busy, and I already have a plan for what to do to prevent these pests next year.

Good idea to plant those fall crops. Will give you something to look forward to.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  quiltbea on 8/18/2011, 10:33 am

I would amend those squares before you plant anything else in them. They need lots of compost. You'll have used up the nutrients pretty much from the spring and summer growing. Lots of compost is needed. Maybe your 5 types of compost weren't rich enough. Do NOT add more peat moss, which will lower your PH.

If your green things like lettuce, broccoli, and other leafy plants weren't bushy and green, you need to add some Nitrogen (N), like bloodmeal, alfalfa meal, leaf mold or fish meal. If you've had disease, you need to add some Phospherus (P)for disease resistance. Try bonemeal, rock phosphate or limestone. For improved fruit production, stems and roots you need to add some Potassium (K) with greensand, seaweed or wood ashes. Read the labels on the packages and add to your present soil. I would, in your position, add one of each of those items(Nitrogen, Phospherus, Potassium) to your bed and spread it in, according to the package. It sounds like something was missing in your soil.

I get my amendments at the local feed and grain store. The small bags can last for years.

You can never add too much good compost. Every time you plant a transplant or sow seeds in a square, you need to add 1 or 2 trowelsful of good, rich compost to the square to boost its energy. If you don't have your own compost pile, you can buy good compost or composted manure at garden centers.

In the spring, I spread 2-3" of good compost over my beds and rake it into the top layer of soil.

Good luck with your fall garden.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  Dunkinjean on 8/18/2011, 12:31 pm

My 1st yr of SFG was not as productive as I would have liked (summer drought) but I still got more produce than I ever did when I did row gardening. This is my 2nd year of SFG and I feel I am still learning alot gardening. Some of my plants are doing well and some aren't; there are so many reasons that we can't always control.

I know the original investment in a SFG garden is costly in the beginning but afterwards, it is just adding the compost, nutrients and plants/seeds. The rewards are worth it!

Don't give up!! Each year will be better.

I never so much about gardening until I did SFG and thanks to this forum everyone is so helpful.

Yes, do a fall gardening. As Boffer always says, "what's a few seeds". Laughing

Best of luck. flower

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  squaredeal on 8/18/2011, 2:54 pm

I was feeling the same disappointment with my garden, too, and I'm a first year SFGer. My carrots were squigly, beets the size of golf balls, peppers quit producing, few peas, few beans, etc, etc. Of course we've been in a moderate drought for seven weeks, but still I expected more. Then I went to the Indiana State Fair, before their tragic concert, and checked out the Horticulture displays. And I saw squigly carrots (embarassing bad actually) and golf ball sized beets. So now I feel encouraged, and with some tweaking along the lines Quiltbea suggested, I think I'll have a successful fall garden.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  fiddleman on 8/18/2011, 7:15 pm

@1airdoc wrote:This was my first year for SFG, and I was fairly disappointed in the production. After all I'd read, I'd expected bushels! All I got was a small basin of veggies, though. My garden is 4x12 and I worked hard to get the right Mel's Mix made. The garden is in full sun for about 10+ hours. I grew green beans, bell peppers, cantaloupe, jalapenos, brussels, onions, leeks, and cukes. I'm afraid cucumber beetles got the cukes, and some other insect got the brussels -- my fault. But I didn't get many green beans or bell peppers, and the onions just didn't grow. Herbs were OK, and cantaloupes now have about 3 fruits. I've pulled the nonproductive stuff and am planting some fall seeds this week. Any suggestions as to how to optimize my output for next year?

Compost... plain and simple. If you haven't gotten your own compost pile going, then get a hold of the best quality stuff you can get. Between that and giving the plants the kind of water they need to not just survive, but to prosper. You cannot over water the Mel's mix if you've mixed it up properly.

Some questions for you though...
How many flowers did the Green Beans produce? Were they covered with flowers and just not enough beans produced, or did you have a low flower production as well? Low flower production in my experience (just my experience) is usually related to a stressed plant - sometimes too hot, sometimes too cold, or usually lack of nutrients for good root production. The plant won't produce a lot of flowers if there isn't enough root to supply them with water/food. I am assuming you don't/didn't have any root problems when you pulled the plants. In my garden this year when I pulled the beans and the lettuce plants, each plant had roots the size of two large man sized fists. I have had a good year for lettuce especially; but I digress. If you didn't have this kind of root production I think it likely your compost wasn't as good as you thought (or less likely you were stingy with the water). So as I said above compost! If you make a mix with the power of Boffers (see the recent soil analysis of properly made Mel's mix), then you've set your self up for the best possible chance for a good harvest.

Did you have bad weather at the start of the season? I have also had that happen. A case in point, this year a hail storm stripped my garden baaaddd. Most plants I just replaced/replanted, but a few were still alive with a few leaves so I left them. The new plants outproduced the stripped plants by 4 or 5 to 1. Green peppers especially. So far for my green peppers, there have been at least 4 peppers per plant, and the season isn't done yet... so far that's a 160 peppers. Except on the plants I left from the hail storm... some haven't produced anything, others have produced one. Same box, same mix, same sun, same water. Side by side the injured plant (which was bigger than the transplant when the transplant was planted) didn't produce near as well, even though it had nearly the same leaf production. There were fewer flowers, so there were fewer opportunities for green peppers. Stress.

Some years my onions are pathetic (last year) and some years they do okay (this year). I have no explanation.

Cantalopes are touchy... they are a warm weather crop and (for me not to produce a lot) could be I am at the edge of where they can be grown well. My season isn't all that long.


IF you are thinking about messing around with the amendments... blood meal and other stuff, then by all means figure out what you need to add before you just throw stuff on or mix it in. Send a soil sample to a lab and add the needed nutrients not just what other folks are throwing at theirs; you have two different mixes, and what they may be deficient in you may have a surplus of. Mel's mix has everything a growing medium could possibly want in already it IF you don't have peat in the compost you purchased. Often times it is a filler to give the compost more volume... perhaps this happened to you and your plants just need some nutrition. Make a compost pile if you can of the non-diseased garden refuse and the leaves that fall this autumn, and watch the garden blow out of the ground next year.

The other advice is correct though, a healthy trowel full of balanced compost should be thrown in to the garden square when you replant for your fall harvest.

Mark

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  Lindacol on 8/18/2011, 8:31 pm

@1airdoc wrote:This was my first year for SFG, and I was fairly disappointed in the production. After all I'd read, I'd expected bushels! All I got was a small basin of veggies, though. My garden is 4x12 and I worked hard to get the right Mel's Mix made. The garden is in full sun for about 10+ hours. I grew green beans, bell peppers, cantaloupe, jalapenos, brussels, onions, leeks, and cukes. I'm afraid cucumber beetles got the cukes, and some other insect got the brussels -- my fault. But I didn't get many green beans or bell peppers, and the onions just didn't grow. Herbs were OK, and cantaloupes now have about 3 fruits. I've pulled the nonproductive stuff and am planting some fall seeds this week. Any suggestions as to how to optimize my output for next year?



We need a lot more info to be able to help you. Where are you? what has your weather been like? Watering - how much & how often? What did you use in your MM?



This is my first year too. I am in southern California.

Green beans, both bush & pole were just ok. I learned that I will plant them by the half squares next to a trellis for both varieties and not next to the cukes.

The cukes I had trouble starting but they are producing fine now. Went bitter for a while but are now back to tasting good.

My bell peppers have done fine - 3 plants (2 from seed & one from HD) have given me many peppers and there are still a bunch growing.

Canteloupe grew well - better than my neighbor says he has seen in this area but the ants got more of the fruits than I did.

I didn't do jalapenos, brussels or leeks.

Onions - the bunch of half dead plants from HD were great - grew enough to last us probably 8 mos, but the seeds and few sets I tried did not do as well.

Potatoes - I learned not to use metal trash cans but still got several family meals that were delicious.

The spaghetti squash and trom zuchini gave lots and are still producing. I need experiment more in ways to use them. But what we don't eat the goats do.

Tomatoes are going great. They are sooo much better than storebought. I lost one plant and am about to pull another (my only determinat) that is not doing well but I have 6 that are producing hundreds of toms, mostly cherry & smaller types.

I have 3 bunchs of celery still going but have been disappointed in the taste.

I have a couple of chard and kale plants but they seem to be a trap plant in my bed - full of holes but the goats like them anyway.

I have corn just getting ripe that was planted after I pulled the onions. Looks like 2 ears on almost every stalk.

Carrots - I have harvested several squares and have a cuople more to go.

I started with raddishes (ok) and lettuce, till is it went bitter in the heat.

There are a few others in there too. I just ordered garlic and plan to start lettuce and broccoli soon.



My main bed is 4 x 8, with trellis on 2 sides, north & west side. I have another small one(about 2 x 3) with the squashwith a large trellis. The potatoes were in trash cans. The det tom is in a short barrel and is being replaced with a sweet potato and delecata squash (late for these but it is an experiment). The cantloupe was in the ground in gopher baskets in compost.

I set up a drip irrigation system with automatic timer which goes daily for 30 mins. The drippers ar almost all 1/2 gph. When very hot (over 100) I also hand water another time in late afternoon. We have had rain only day(.4") since early may.



My compost is manure based. I have primarily goat and alfalfa compost. I added horse and yak compost from a friend. Most of my garden and vegetable refuse is cycled thru the goats. I think I bought one bag of cattle compost. Not too many leaves here but I also add coffee grounds and egg shells to the compost. And I add milk( I have lots of extra raw goats milk) to my compost pile in limited amounts. I add way more than a trowel full of compost to a square - I add what is needed to bring the level up to when I started, probably more like 2 gals.



I am pleased and looking forward to next year. And enjoying watching a neighbor start up a large row garden. He is spending HOURS every day hoeing weeds, trapping gophers and watering.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  1airdoc on 8/19/2011, 10:48 am

Thanks for the responses. Here are a few answers:

1. Location - North central Tennessee

2. Weather - We had a wet spring, which delayed my first planting -- too late to put in traditional spring crops. Although the early season was wet, we ended up with a hot, dry summer.

3. Water - I didn't need to water early on, and perhaps that lulled me into a false sense of security. Once it got dry, I began watering with a drip hose 2x/week. See comment on tomatoes below. I suspect that I have underwatered.

4. Nutrients - I suspect that my Mel's Mix is a bit deficient. Many of the plants were fairly yellow early in the season. I had thought the Mix was complete nutrition, but I finally broke down and gave the plants some Miracle grow and they greened up. I have been creating my own compost this summer, and just used it for the first time, adding a scoop or two to each square that I recently replanted. In redigging the squares, I did note a good bit of peat in the mix, so it may be true that some of the purchased compost I used for the mix had a lot of peat in it.

5. Soil test - I'll take the advice to have my mix tested - can I get the kits at Lowe's/Home Depo/CoOp?

6. Roots - looked good on the plants I've pulled to replace

7. Beans - flowered, but not excessively. The japanese beetles had a hay day for about 2 months.

8. Other plants - The cantaoupes are now producing about one fruit per plant. I've harvested about 2 bell peppers per plant. Cukes got wilt from the beetles and died, but had been producing very well prior to that. Brussels got eaten by caterpillars, but the spouts were sort of spindly. Herbs did great - had to cut them back because the basil and sage were shading other plants. Chard - did fair, but we really didn't use it, so I won't plant it again. Sweet potatoe: vine is taking over the garden, but I don't know what the tubers are doing yet. I grew tomatoes and squash in a more traditional garden setting, just for space. Tomatoes did great until it got hot and dry. Once I began watering more frequently, they started flowering again.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  Chopper on 8/19/2011, 12:23 pm

@1airdoc wrote:This was my first year for SFG, and I was fairly disappointed in the production. After all I'd read, I'd expected bushels! All I got was a small basin of veggies, though. My garden is 4x12 and I worked hard to get the right Mel's Mix made. The garden is in full sun for about 10+ hours. I grew green beans, bell peppers, cantaloupe, jalapenos, brussels, onions, leeks, and cukes. I'm afraid cucumber beetles got the cukes, and some other insect got the brussels -- my fault. But I didn't get many green beans or bell peppers, and the onions just didn't grow. Herbs were OK, and cantaloupes now have about 3 fruits. I've pulled the nonproductive stuff and am planting some fall seeds this week. Any suggestions as to how to optimize my output for next year?

As others have pointed out, it is worth comparing to local amateur growers to see if they had the same problems. Sometimes it is just the year and your locale.

Onions need to be planted in the fall. Brussel sprouts need cool weather and do horribly - esp insect-wise - if planted at the wrong time. I have found that melons only produce one or two per vine.

So some may have been timing, some this year's micro-climate. Compare to neighbors. In the meantime put some great compost on the top and prepare for the fall garden. My output was great last year on most things and if it wasn't working it got pulled out and replaced. I was not able to plant for the summer this year until about a week ago and we had such a wonderful wet spring I am sorry I missed it. But get some peas in and watch out for fungal infections and see if you can have some nice sugar snaps soonest.

I find that Mel's perfect box that feeds four is a great idea, but needs perfect timing and perfect production. So I ended up with 8 boxes and dedicated one to herbs and one to flowers and had more veggies than I could handle and the first decent peppers I have ever grown. So, it isn't magic, but it is a heck of a lot more productive that row gardening (how many plants did you plant of each variety? How many would you have planted in a row garden?) I think you may need to go to the books - or internet - and see what kind of production you can realistically expect to get from a given plant and then use that to figure out how many of each plant you need.

I know sometime I would come in with a small handful and be disappointed but over the season it was actually quite a lot. At times I was feeling pressured to eat!

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  Mamachibi on 8/19/2011, 4:06 pm

1. Location - North central Tennessee

Well, if you're anywhere near Nashville, I can tell you part of the problem: many fruits and veggies don't set fruit if the temp never gets below 80°, including tomatoes and peppers. I learned that one in this heat spell. Tons of flowers, no fruit. It's just been too scorchingly hot.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/19/2011, 5:34 pm

1 & 2.. This explains a lot of your problems, as others have mentioned.

3.. 2x/wk when weather is that hot won't cut it. Water retention in MM is outstanding, but it's not impervious. Remember what Mel says...you CANT overwater MM. I skipped TWO days in a row in that heat and my tomatoes almost died...all of them. My beans succumbed to disease/bugs because they were stressed. And, I overwater 99% of the time....just not those two days...lol. I brought that horrible harvest on myself, and I admit it. The MM was fine....I wasn't.

4.. If you mixed your MM correctly (by the book), it's not deficient. Look up Boffer's thread on his soil test and save yourself the money. The peat thing could be true, too.

5.. save your money.

6.. this is a good indicator, actually, that it is not the MM..it was the weather.

7.. Hmmm, pests.

8.. If you've taken 2 peppers from each plant, you are about 30 peppers ahead of me. I have had one, and another got nipped by an animal right before I could get it. So, I guess I got 2, technically. And, I have two strong plants....so, I'm at 1/ea. Cukes, more pests. Actually, the more I read, the more you mention pests.

My summary is that this has nothing to do with the garden itself. It has everything to do with weather, pests, and not making the proper adjustments to what you were watching.

No one was going to get a good garden in your location. The weather and pests did a number on you. Don't lose sleep, or confidence. Instead, get revved up for fall. It may make all things better when the freeze comes. And, with what you've learned, you will likely put that practice to good use and have better to show for it.

Keep Chuggin'!

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut on 8/19/2011, 6:13 pm

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:
My summary is that this has nothing to do with the garden itself. It has everything to do with weather, pests, and not making the proper adjustments to what you were watching.

I 150% agree. I think there is a nugget of wisdom there. While it's hard for seasoned gardeners to "make the switch", they bring with them the knowledge of how to recognize different growth concerns and how to address them. Those of us who have zilch in the garden knowledge base (and who rely on all of you heavily) are having to learn how to recognize pests, underwatering, results of weather patterns, etc. and then know how to attempt to address such. It's not something we can learn in one year. While Mel gives us every tool we need, the one tool he cannot give us is experience. I am trying to be patient and realistic with my goals. My husband reminds me "It's more than you had last year, dear!" and he's right (but don't tell him I said so). Smile

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Disappointed in output

Post  sherryeo on 8/19/2011, 6:41 pm

This is my first year square foot gardening, too. And while my garden hasn't been wildly successful, it's been much, much better than any of my few row gardening attempts.

I still have much to learn. I've planted too early/too late. I didn't do the best job at gathering/mixing my first Mel's Mix. I didn't know what bugs to pick off my plants because they were harmful to my veggies or which bugs to leave and encourage because they control the bad bugs. I didn't know at first that it's best to be on the lookout for the first signs of powdery mildew and zap it early to ensure best results at defeating it. And we've just had such a hot summer and, while not as bad as some areas, some drought.

I'm learning lots, thanks especially to this forum, and I should do better in coming years. But the truth is that no gardening system, not even square foot gardening can ensure complete success. There are too many variables - human error, weather, seed quality, unhealthy transplants, bug invasions, plant diseases, bad composts, busy times we humans have when we can't pay as much attention to the garden.

There will always be some years that just aren't as successful as others. That's just reality. But it's also a reality that I don't have to bother with hardly any weeds in my sfg. It's also a reality that gardening gives me a deep down contentment that I just don't find anywhere else. It's such a stress reliever to walk out to my garden to tend my plants and see what's new in the garden. And the more experience I get at gardening, the better results I expect to be able to obtain - barring extreme weather and so many of those other uncontrollable factors that can occur.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  1airdoc on 8/22/2011, 12:15 pm

Well, now that I'm watering more often, it seems that my production has increased! I've been getting more green beans daily, and the cantaloupe and honeydew vines have set a few more fruits. I went ahead with the soil test out of intrest; I'll post results, probably in a separate topic.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 8/22/2011, 1:21 pm

@1airdoc wrote:Well, now that I'm watering more often, it seems that my production has increased!

Well, imagine that. Glad you are getting better production.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  1airdoc on 8/24/2011, 9:42 am

Took my MM to the CoOp and they sent it to the lab for analysis - the lab refused to run it until I dug down and got a "better sample" with "soil" in it! They said my MM was a "potting mix."

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  1airdoc on 9/13/2011, 4:36 pm

Finally, here are the results of my soil testing for the SFG:
pH = 6.6 (desired range) - buffer pH = 7.0
Nitrogen = 15 ppm (low)
Phosphorus, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium = very high (for all of them)
Micronutrient levels = all normal

I guess my observations about the yellowed leaves early in the season actually could have been related to the low nitrogen, after all. I will add some blood meal to help my fall greens and peas do well. Otherwise, it looks like the MM is just about "practically perfect in every way." I already blended in about 2" of homegrown compost (which I was already concerned might be low in nitrogen).

This is in GREAT contrast to my yard soil, which I had tested because I need to reseed a large area of bare ground where we recently had construction work. The ph was very low, as was the phosphorus levels, and the other macronutrients were mid range at best.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  stripesmom on 9/14/2011, 12:06 pm

Thank you for posting your analysis of your MM, 1airdoc. That is what I was wondering about the yellowing of the plants in spring. I also added Miracle Grow and my plants greened up.



My produce results, while not disappointing, were not what I have gotten from row gardening in the past. I did, however, get way more than most row gardeners in my area. So, I am pleased after all with the production. In fact, I was kind of shocked at how poorly the row gardens have done. I have to wonder what the price of food will be this winter. It seems the weather has not been good most places in the US.

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  1airdoc on 11/30/2011, 2:45 pm

LATE update - I think that all the advice I received was on target. As I posted earlier, providing more water definitely increased my output. I did add some blood meal to increase nitrogen, and will probably do so again in the spring when I add in more of my compost. Before frost came and I pulled them out, I had LOTS of bell peppers and tons of jalapenos. My fall lettuces were beautiful and abundant (I still have some, but they are looking frostbitten), and I have far more arugula than I can possibly use. Peas came up well, but I think it was too late for them to bloom and bear. They are still nice and green, but not growing much (does anyone know if they will make it through the winter in 6b?). I have definitely learned a bit that I hope to apply to next spring's crop!

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  littlejo on 11/30/2011, 5:50 pm

I don't know if the peas will make it thru your winter, but they make it here if planted in January, gets down to the single digits in February, and the peas seem to be sweeter. I'd leave them and hope for the best! Jo

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Re: Disappointed in output

Post  plantoid on 11/30/2011, 6:15 pm

@Mamachibi wrote:
1. Location - North central Tennessee

Well, if you're anywhere near Nashville, I can tell you part of the problem: many fruits and veggies don't set fruit if the temp never gets below 80°, including tomatoes and peppers. I learned that one in this heat spell. Tons of flowers, no fruit. It's just been too scorchingly hot.

From an old book from the early 1960's I have.
You might try a very fine hose pipe mist spray on & mist into the flowers without damaging the plants with cooler water about 1/2 hr to 3/4 before sunset when diernal and nocturnal pollenator insects are still flying , to " set " the flowers of not only the self pollenators but those plants that need outside pollenators .. They will come to drink the slightly nectarized artificial dew

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