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Am I Expecting too Much? Toplef10Am I Expecting too Much? 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.

Am I Expecting too Much? I22gcj10Am I Expecting too Much? 14dhcg10

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Am I Expecting too Much?

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Post  jcurie 5/26/2012, 9:05 pm

This is my 2nd year growing SFG. I made my own soil using Mel's formula. I had a really disappointing crop of tomatoes. They were tall tomatoes without a lot of foliage. Each plant produced 5-10 tomatoes the whole season (except Cherries). I added more compost this year and doubled the depth of my beds. At a tomato show in March, I got several different heirlooms about 3-4 inches and planted them. In April I planted some Early Girl and Better Boy. But I look at my mom's flourishing lush tomato in a regular pot and think I'm headed for another disappointing season. Mine are 18 inches tall with little foliage, they are getting a couple tomatoes on them. I'm in Zone 22. Is my Mel's mix a dud or is something else going on?Am I Expecting too Much? 2012-012


Last edited by RoOsTeR on 5/27/2012, 11:52 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : tags)
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Post  landarch 5/26/2012, 9:16 pm

As an experiment, I have tomatoes planted in three different areas 1) raised SFG's with Mels Mix, added more compost, earthworms, compost tea with mycorhizae, and watered once with fish emulsion and 2) raised beds with good old Kansas clay loam that I have been amending with coffee grounds, leaf litter, and eggshells over the past year, and 3) in my yard with native clay loam soil amended with Mels Mix.

As I just posted elsewhere, my beets in my old soil beat Mels Mix...just waiting to see what tomatoes do.
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Post  cheyannarach 5/26/2012, 10:53 pm

I don't know what composts you used but a little bit of nitrogen may be in order to help with your foilage. You don't want to use too much though because then all the energy will go toward the leaves and not the fruits. Did any of you compost have some big fillers such as wood chips? If so those will suck the nitrogen from the ground while they compost.
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Post  1airdoc 5/26/2012, 11:12 pm

Here's a photo of my tomatoes this year - they're doing better than ever.

Prior to this year, I planted them in the ground (heavily amended soil over several years) and got mediocre results. This new bed (8x2) is in practically the same spot as I previously planted my tomatoes, but the MM is made with a great mixture of composts, including some really nice homemade compost. The tomatoes are growing so fast that at least one is nearly at the top of the 6 foot string trellis. This is WAY better than I experienced before. There are lots of green tomatoes on the vines, too (saw the first cherry tom turning red today - can't wait!).
Am I Expecting too Much? Trelli12

I don't think it's the SFG technique that is your problem, although I agree that your plants are fairly anemic (look like mine did in prior years!). What composts did you use in your MM?
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Post  Turan 5/26/2012, 11:57 pm

Seems like a soil test might be in order.

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Post  southern gardener 5/27/2012, 12:57 am

How do you put nitrogen in the soil? I have very yellow plants. Corn, tomatoes, beets, pretty much everything. This is in the pre mix from Lowe's.
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Post  Turan 5/27/2012, 1:19 am

Blood meal, fish emulsion, are both good nitrogen fertilzers. A little chicken manure should work too.

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Post  CharlesB 5/27/2012, 7:07 am

Is your soil drying out completely? Try some compost tea and make sure you don't have a full dry out of the soil. If so it could be killing too much of the microbial action you need to happen in the soil. Tomatoes in decent heat should go crazy. The compost tea with maintained moisture in the soil should super charge microbial action in the soil and boost the plants.
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Post  camprn 5/27/2012, 7:16 am

I think a soil test may be helpful. your local Extension service can help you with that.

If you have homemade or can find some locally made manure compost, top dress with that and then mulch (1'-2') your bed this would help deliver nutrients and retain water. Which in turn should improve the health of your plants. Good luck.

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Post  rowena___. 5/27/2012, 11:41 am

when i see tomatoes like this, my first response is to sprinkle some epsom salts around the based--about a teaspoon per foot of plant--and water it in with compost tea or manure tea.
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Post  jcurie 5/27/2012, 4:00 pm

Thank you for all your feedback. I dont have anyone else I know using SFG so its very helpful. I'm not sure why my Mel's mix would be so off. Only my 2nd season with it and I created it 'by the book' using several different types of composts, peat, and vermiculite. I use composts like E.B Stone which says it contains composted wood shavings, redwood compost, composted chicken manure, mushroom compost, fir bark, bat guano, kelp meal and alfalfa meal.

I like the idea of compost tea - sounds like powerful stuff. But I have no compost pile. What's the best alternative for the beginner that relies on Armstrongs and Home Depot for ingredients? Should I try products like Miracle Grow tomato foods?
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Post  BetsyC 5/27/2012, 4:16 pm

@rowena___. wrote:when i see tomatoes like this, my first response is to sprinkle some epsom salts around the based--about a teaspoon per foot of plant--and water it in with compost tea or manure tea.

Hi Rowena- please expand a bit about the epsom salts? What exactly do they do? I look forward to your response...and thank you!
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Post  Turan 5/27/2012, 4:22 pm

@jcurie wrote:

I like the idea of compost tea - sounds like powerful stuff. But I have no compost pile. What's the best alternative for the beginner that relies on Armstrongs and Home Depot for ingredients? Should I try products like Miracle Grow tomato foods?

Chemical fertilizers like Miracle gro will work, i think you can use that like a compost tea sort of.
There are organic alternatives that are easier on supporting the soil ecosystem. If your composts are not 'finished' enough you do not want to hinder that progress, but want to also support plant growth. Thus the need for extra nitrogen and then any other nutrients.
Look for Whitney organic fertilizers ( they are owned by MiracleGro and thus found in more big box stores). They are a mixture of things like bloodmeal and bone meal and alfalfa and cottonseed and kelp and feather meals. Also fish emulsion is usually easy to find and is used like a compost tea. Another brand is that I have found good.Espoma (Earth-tone, Tomato-tone etc)


Last edited by Turan on 5/27/2012, 4:37 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Post  herblover 5/27/2012, 4:32 pm

I use the Plant-Tone or Garden -Tone organic fertilizers for my garden.
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Post  walshevak 5/27/2012, 4:40 pm

My local nursery sells compost teabags. Fill a bucket with water and make tea. Or get a bag of cow or hen manure or worm castings, fill an old sock, and make your own "tea" bag. I keep a container of my 5 blend on hand for replenishing squares for replanting, top dressing around the base of plants and use it to make compost tea.

If I had my choice though, I would try to get some worm castings. A little goes a long way when made into tea.

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Post  rowena___. 5/27/2012, 4:45 pm

@BetsyC wrote:Hi Rowena- please expand a bit about the epsom salts? What exactly do they do? I look forward to your response...and thank you!

epsom salts are not what we think of as salt, they are magnesium sulfate, naturally occurring mineral. when i see yellow leaves, it is a sign of magnesium deficiency.

the teas offer nutritional boost in a form that doesn't burden a stressed plant. the plant doesn't need to become fertile right now, it needs to become strong and healthy. once it shows signs of recovery, i start to offer stronger teas and other fertilizers.
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Post  BetsyC 5/27/2012, 5:52 pm

Thank you so much!
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Post  philct 5/27/2012, 8:40 pm

I toss a handful of bone meal and kelp meal in the hole with my new tomatoe plants and they are growing like crazy... One plant already has flowers on it.
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Post  lonewolfrissy 6/29/2012, 10:37 pm

not sure if it helps but I've been following my grandmother's gardening habits. The habit was tossing eggshells, coffee grounds (used coffee grounds), and watermelon rinds around the base of the plant. As the stuff decomposes, it feeds the plant. So far my hot peppers and a tomato seem to be doing great with the mix of eggshells, coffee grounds and potting soil.
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