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Pretty discouraged Toplef10Pretty discouraged 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

Pretty discouraged I22gcj10Pretty discouraged 14dhcg10

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Pretty discouraged

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Post  karental 4/5/2012, 10:50 am

I used Mel's Mix. I planted according to the directions. I only planted plants I've grown before and that I know worked well in my container garden.

But its not working. I've already lost peas (OK, I planted them late, so it was probably too hot) but also several squash plants. My cucumbers are now withering away. The string beans which have always thrived are turning yellow. Two tomato plants withered and died. Even the plants that are surviving are not thriving. They are barely growing - after 6 weeks they are still only slightly larger than they were when transplanted. I planted leftover plants in the few containers I had left and they are growing like gangbusters. It is so discouraging I am considering removing my raised beds and just going back to containers. Yes I'm watering enough. Yes I used the right percentage of items in the MM. No I haven't seen pests. Sad
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Post  chjbr63 4/5/2012, 11:05 am

Sorry to hear you are having rough time with your SFG.
DON'T GIVE UP
If you could give more details as to what varieties of compost you used and pictures of the plants. I'm sure many of the more experienced members can help you.
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Post  llama momma 4/5/2012, 11:15 am

Let us help you.
We need to know what is in the mix and at what percentages, then we can discuss it, and possibly explore other issues. This system has worked for decades. Let us help you.
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Post  karental 4/5/2012, 2:21 pm

Ok, I bought peat moss and vermiculite which I ordered from the local feed store (I trust them and have used them for years). I got compost locally, also from a company I trust. I combined the mix and put 1/3 of the mix in each of my 3 boxes (neither of which is doing better or worse than the other - nothing is thriving in any of them). Hopefully the picture will show up:

This is cabbage in the container.
Pretty discouraged Cabbage2container

Cabbage in the SFG planted the same day:

Pretty discouraged Cabbage12012

Sick, atrophied beans:

Pretty discouraged Beans22012

Squash in the container:

Pretty discouraged Squash2012container

Squash in the sfg planted the same day:

Pretty discouraged Zuke2012

I also planted peppers - they seem healthy but are tiny. The surviving tomatoes seem healthy but are tiny. Lettuce, which I can usually grow with no problem, is not growing. It's not dying, but it's not growing either. It is exactly the same size as when I planted it. Obviously it's the soil, since the container plants are doing fine, but I followed the Mel's Mix recipe and it's not working.
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Post  llama momma 4/5/2012, 2:25 pm

Since compost is the source of your nutrients the problem is right there. What did you use?
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Post  llama momma 4/5/2012, 2:42 pm

Hi K-

This was the result of one morning in my first summer garden in 2011. Click onto: https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/gallery/Personal-album-of-llama-momma/Personal-album-of-llama-momma-cat_u2275.htm

My mix was 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 fluffed up then measured peat, the compost was a little homemade stuff and the rest was aged llama manure. My compost portion was suppose to be 5 different sources of ingredients but the manure was what I had on hand. Obviously from the picture the nutrients worked out ok.

If you used compost that had filler like peat, then your proportions are going to be messed up. If your compost was from a municipal source, then you could easily have contaminants like herbicides, pesticides, etc. in it. Your mix looks like there are chunks of wood or something, thats not going to help either.

Some things to think about, definately identify your compost
source(s) and I bet we can get to the bottom of this. cheers
llama momma
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Post  karental 4/5/2012, 2:44 pm

It is bulk garden compost from a landscape place nearby. We've used them for several yard issues and they are knowlegable. I think the compost is from yard waste. I don't know how to alter the soil to make it better for the plants, and it's probably too late to save anything, anyway.
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Post  llama momma 4/5/2012, 2:57 pm

Yeah, unfortunately the yard waste source is suspect for the reasons I listed above. There have been others just like you that go through all this good effort only to find out later there were contaminants like herbicides in the compost.
Ok, so now what to do about this?? I would rather toss this over to someone who has been through this and has a successful solution.

SOMEBODY PLEASE CHIME IN PLEASE??
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Post  The Cat's Other Mother 4/5/2012, 3:04 pm

Oh dear, now I'm a bit worried about my two latest boxes, which are mostly compost from a landscape company. I did add vermiculite and peat moss, along with a few pounds of hen manure and cow manure. Now I'm thinking to work in a bag of GardenTone before planting. Maybe that or another brand of organic fertilizer would help? Btw, what did you use in your containers?
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Post  karental 4/5/2012, 3:39 pm

It's just potting mix in the containers, and old mix at that. It's the 3rd year for this batch, and the 4th "season" - 3 summers and a fall planting. No additives, no fertilizer, no covers.
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Post  Squat_Johnson 4/5/2012, 3:41 pm

I went through this with some bulk compost. I suspect the compost isn't "finished". Those yellow smallish plants need nitrogen. I would side dress the plants with vermicompost or maybe some fertilizer.
The end of last year I started using the fish emulsion spray. That might help as well.
Some of those might not produce, but there is hope for peppers, etc. that take some time. I remember some tomatoes that looked dead in spring that took off with the right nutrients.
Some potting mix will have fertilizer added.
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Post  TejasTerry 4/5/2012, 4:42 pm

I went thru the same thing this year, my first garden ever. I went by the book concerning 5 different composts (local llama farm, local bunny farm, worm castings, black cow and chicken purchased manures, cotton burr compost, mushroom compost).

My plants were sick, yellow, dying. I went to a local nursery and the guy there looked at my pics and said he thought I was iron deficient. I got some green light 20, 20, 20 fertilizer and started treating everything. Within 2 days I could see a change. A few weeks since then, I am having great results.

So despite the fact that I followed all the rules, I am going to keep fertilizing this year until next year when I will have my own home-made compost.

I was very frustrated like you are, but I hope next year will get better results. I had to buy new tomato plants and start my squash over too as I lost all those.

I know that using this fertilizer is going against "organic" gardening, but it was either take extreme measures, or lose the whole garden.
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Post  givvmistamps 4/5/2012, 8:57 pm

You can find organic fertilizer, most sources now offer this since many people want organic gardens. They're usually a mix of several organically produced items like blood meal, fish emulsion, etc. If you go this route, consider giving a lighter dose of it to your containers, also, just to ensure you have a complete set of nutrients in there since you haven't been replenishing that soil.
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Post  landarch 4/5/2012, 9:24 pm

I too am discouraged with my lettuce and spinach crops this year using SFG and Mels Mix. Last year when I direct seeded lettuce and spinach in my raised beds with clay-based amended soil the went gangbusters right from germination. Now with MM, I'm noticing hardly any growth after germination (about 3 weeks). Chard and cauliflower don't seem to be doing much either.

I used Mels Mix in the proper percentages and my compost blend was mushroom, cow, cotton boll, shredded leaf litter, and coffee grounds. I did use a small bit of organic fertilizer (chickity doo doo).

Basil, carrots, beets, sugar snap peas, and onions are doing well. Chard and cauliflower are holding on.
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Post  martha 4/5/2012, 9:59 pm

Landarch, unfortunately, I don't think shredded leaf litter and coffee grounds count as compost. They are wonderful things in a compost pile, but if they are put in the SFG beds as is, they aren't yet compost.
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Post  snibb 4/5/2012, 11:32 pm

This whole thing is strange. I don't know what to think or what to add. I can't even give a simple line of advice. My gardens have been in for 13 years now. I stuck to the rules-to a tee. I used the commercially available compost(and the one the Foundation used to support)that I think is the best available. It has about 10 things in it. I've never had anything but success with my SFG. I make my own compost. I have no pests to speak of. One group of people will say they follow the rules and it works great. Another group of people say they follow the rules and it doesn't work at all. How can that be? I'm no master gardener so I don't know any of the complex stuff-you say your watering enough, but it looks dry to me. I don't know...
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Post  AZDYJ2K 4/6/2012, 12:42 am

I know you said water is not a problem. however you may want to double check by digging into the MM to ensure the mix is getting saturated. I was also having problems in one of my beds this winter where the plants were struggling. Turns out the mix below the surface was dry due to a crust that formed on the top.
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Post  sceleste54 4/6/2012, 1:01 am

Just keep in mind the weather for the last couple of years.. My garden experience is out the window...I'm in the panhandle of Florida.. and nothing is by the book..I have 2 inch fruit on the tomato vine.. yet my garlic and onions are not doing anything...I think Mother Nature has the trumping vote.. and we just have to scramble to adjust....
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Post  landarch 4/6/2012, 1:14 am

the coffee grounds and leaf litter was composted from last year.
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Post  Chopper 4/6/2012, 4:53 am

My gut says that either there was something lacking in the compost, or worse, added. Municipal compost can have herbicide residues that can be harmful

Other than that, try adding a broad spectrum food to make up for possible deficiencies. Normally this is not needed, but hey, s*** and compost happen. I use an organic feed occasionaly that is a mix of blood and bone meal plus kelp and a few other things. Don't need it anymore, but did on one of my boxes the first time around.
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Post  BillOcala 4/6/2012, 9:31 am

I am also suspicious of your compost, but I almost made two mistakes, and maybe you should check these things too:

(1) I am wondering if you mixed the mel's mix components well enough. I found I didn't get a good mix going until I got in there with my hands and worked it all together. Until I did that I had pockets of mostly peat or spots of heavy vermiculite etc. and those spots would have given me real trouble later I am sure.

(2) I also found that after I thought I was done watering the first time that if I dug down - the mix was bone dry underneath! It took A LOT of water to ge that stuff truely wet the first time. It holds an incredible amount of water.

I am new too but these are two errors I caught myself doing. My stuff is growing good now and I am in the same region as you.
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Post  duhh 4/6/2012, 11:13 am

I find that my boxes do better the 2nd year. Some of my garden is just starting on it's third year and it is doing amazing!

The very fist year I mixed my own mix and used some not all composted stuff that really effected my plants. When I expanded the 2nd year, I used mels mix from the bag, but that part of my garden was still just ok. I think that this was do to there not being any microorganisms in the soil from the bag. Your soil needs those bacteria, bugs, fungus to support healthy plants and who know how long some of the stuff in the bags sits there. This may be why your container gardens are doing so well they already have all those good things in there.

Things I have done to help have been compost teas, added iron, calcium, and some organic fertilizers to help the plants until the soil could support the plants.

My advice, hang in there, it will get even better, until then, reread the book and learn as much as you can from everyone here!!!
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Post  karental 4/7/2012, 8:45 am

There is plenty of water. The temps here have been in the high 80s, low 90s already and the garden gets full sun during the day so the top dries fast, but I use the middle finger method (no, not *that*!). I put my middle finger into the soil and if I can feel damp soil at that depth I know the ground is moist.

I added some organic bloodmeal in the hopes of saving some of the plants. I replaced the ones which had already given up the ghost, adding fertilizer to the holes before adding the new plants. It is very late to be adding plants, but it is too sad to see the empty spots. The directions for the bloodmeal fertilizer said to continue adding twice a week. Maybe that will help.

Thanks, everyone for your suggestions and encouragement. I'll keep trying new things. There's a good chance this garden is history, but its always a learning experience, right?
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Post  karental 4/11/2012, 10:34 am

I think the nitrogen infusion is working! Two of my squash plants are turning green again. The eggplants have started putting out new growth, the lettuce has new leaves and even the tomatoes are starting to flower. The cukes that I thought were too far gone to save have grown some, turned green, and one has a flower. I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but I can definitely see improvement. thanks
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Post  1airdoc 4/11/2012, 11:26 am

I was discouraged last year with poor productivity in my first SFG. I posted my frustration and got lots of excellent feedback and suggestions, much of it the same as you have received, regarding the compost component of MM and other issues. The advice was spot on.

I do see apparent chunks of bark or wood in your MM, and those always suck the nitrogen out of your MM, which explains the yellowing plants. My MM last year was similar, and I sent it for testing and found it deficient in nitrogen. I ended up fertilizing my garden last year and using blood meal, and afterwards I got much more productivity.

The use of 5 different composts is important to get the full variety of nutrients. Much landscape compost, municipal compost, and purchased compost contains lots of wood and bark chips, which don't contribute nutrients to the mix at all and are not really fully composted. These composts are not very balanced in their nutrient content. After the advice I received about that, I learned to read carefully the components of any purchased compost and to avoid bags that have "woodland" compost and peat in them. This year, after incorporating a lot of my own homegrown compost, chickety-doo, worm castings, and other compost into my MM, my garden is going gangbusters.

Chalk this year up to a learning year in which you develop your garden as you learn from the excellent gardeners on this site who are so willing to help. Also, start a good compost pile that includes a variety of materials and a good mixture of greens and browns so that you don't have to rely on the commercial products so much in the future. There is a lot of very good info about that in other posts.
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