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New to SFG, why am I having to use Miracle Gro every week???? Toplef10New to SFG, why am I having to use Miracle Gro every week???? 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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New to SFG, why am I having to use Miracle Gro every week???? I22gcj10New to SFG, why am I having to use Miracle Gro every week???? 14dhcg10

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New to SFG, why am I having to use Miracle Gro every week????

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Post  bluebonnetgirl 5/30/2012, 4:44 pm

I'm new to SFGing. Currently I have two 4 x 4 raised beds. My husband and I bought the SFG book and basically went by what the book said as for as soil. We didn't do our own compost so we bought 5 different kinds of compost. My mother in a law and father in law did their SFG at the same time that we did. My husband and his dad went and bought all the stuff for the soil at Lowes. So basically my inlaws garden soil is the same as ours. The problem is their garden is growing leaps and bounds and mine looks poor if I don't use Miracle Gro once a week. The only thing that I did different from my in laws garden is I bought a bag of compost chicken litter and rice hull from a local feed store. When I dug the holes to plant the plants I put about 2 tablespoons of the composted chicken litter and rice hull. My plants did great for about a month then slowly started turning yellow. My mother in laws garden did the same thing around the time that mine did this. They bought some fertilizer called 13-13-13 and put it in their garden. Within a week their garden was green again. They gave us some of the 13-13-13 to put in ours. I did this and within a few days my garden was green as well. Their garden stayed greened after using that fertilizer and they have not had to use anymore fertilizer. Mine however, turns yellow every other week if I do not put Miracle Gro on it. My plants are way smaller than my in laws as well. So what's wrong with my soil???? Please help and let me know what I can do so that my plants will grow healthy without having to use Miracle Gro every week.

Thanks

Jennifer
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Post  Yardtigress 5/30/2012, 4:50 pm

This is my first SFG and I used 5 different composts, cow, chicken, mushroom and I forget the other 2, with medium vermiculite(I couldn't find course)and peat as required. My garden is growing like crazy and I haven't put anything else on it.
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Post  llama momma 5/30/2012, 5:10 pm

BLuebonnet, the short answer is it's the soil, the bagged stuff is not regulated, and its a shortcut way to square foot gardening until you make your own high quality compost. Otherwise bagged compost is used by a lot of folks starting out but it is a gamble. Having said that, your in-laws had basically the same, but obviously something is very different based on your outcome and theirs. How about the 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat and 1/3 mix of 5 different composts? Was your peat fluffed and moistened, then mixed with the rest? Some people find out the peat is compacted and still dry so the plants have a hard time growing. Stick your hand down to the bottom and see. I'm sure others will chime in with more ideas. I suspect your chicken litter is too much Nitrogen at the bottom of the plants and is burning them. It's suppose to be part of the 5 way mix, not used straight under the roots. I would hope that more 5 way compost scratched in around your plants would help. Anyone else have ideas?
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Post  bluebonnetgirl 5/30/2012, 5:30 pm

llama momma, my soil is the same as my inlaws. My husband and his Dad went to Lowes together and both bought the same vermiculite, peat moss, and 5 different compost. They mixed our garden soil up the same day as they did my inlaws. They did 1/3 of peat, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite. We couldn't find course vermiculite so we went with med. vermiculite. From what i've read on here some have used the med. because they couldn't find course. My inlaws garden just looks so much better than mine. I water mine when the soil feels dry. So I really don't think it's a watering issue. My garden is in full sunlight and my inlaws have some trees in their yard. I don't know if maybe that's the difference. Maybe my garden is getting too much sun? Also, I live in the gulf coast region so it is very hot and sunny here.
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Post  H_TX_2 5/30/2012, 5:39 pm

I live in Houston and my garden does not get full sun all day. If possible you want to get morning and afternoon sun and then give the plants a break from the late day sun. Eight hours of sun might work great in Pennsylvania but in Houston it's almost a death sentence in my opinion.
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Post  camprn 5/30/2012, 6:30 pm

Blue bonnet, where do you live? The Gulf coast is quite long. Do you get 6 hours of sun a day or way more? How much do you water? Is your water treated? How hot is it getting during the day? Are you watering at soil level or watering the whole plant? Stick your hand in the Mel's mix, is it moist? Dry? Sopping wet?

Let us know the answers to these important questions and maybe we can give you a better answer... We can try to help you figure it out.
I understand how disappointing this is!

Can you get a hold of some locally produced compost? Are there any dairy or horse or goat farms nearby? If you can get some of that and top dress the beds with it, I would surmise you would see a marked improvement.

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Post  bluebonnetgirl 5/30/2012, 9:40 pm

I live in Southeast Texas (near Beaumont, Tx). My garden gets more than 6 hours of sun. Probably 8+ hours of sun. I water when needed at soil level. I just watered and the soil was dry. I watered yesterday as well. My soil seems like it's getting low. I'm thinking I need to add some compost around my plants. Would this be beneficial if I did this??
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Post  camprn 5/30/2012, 10:11 pm

bluebonnetgirl wrote:I live in Southeast Texas (near Beaumont, Tx). My garden gets more than 6 hours of sun. Probably 8+ hours of sun. I water when needed at soil level. I just watered and the soil was dry. I watered yesterday as well. My soil seems like it's getting low. I'm thinking I need to add some compost around my plants. Would this be beneficial if I did this??
Oh yes, go ahead and just put the compost on top of the mix. It sounds like you need to water quite a bit more than you are currently watering. Adding mulch on top of the newly added compost will help retain much of the moisture.

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Post  CharlesB 5/30/2012, 10:15 pm

Your soil might be getting too hot and or dry and the microbial action in it might be suffering. You need living soil. How that is achieved and maintained requires a long explanation.

If your soil is getting hit by direct sunlight it is not a good thing. You want your plants spaced close together so when they get growing they form a living mulch. The soil stays cool and shaded this way and is able to keep in moisture. No moisture equals dead soil.

One of the things you'll read in the bio-intensive gardening literature is "feed the soil, not the plant". You want a living active soil that you feed organic matter to and the microbes, worms, fungus, etc. do the rest of the work for you.

I think if you keep that in mind when working out a strategy you'll get there. Just be patient, you'll figure it out.
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Post  Unmutual 5/31/2012, 8:15 am

It could be the rice hulls. Rice hulls have a large carbon to nitrogen ratio(making them a "brown") and that will require extra nitrogen to break down(sucking it away from the plants). As far as watering goes, my top inch or so is pretty much always dry(and I keep telling myself I'm going to mulch some day...), but the bottom 4" or so are pretty moist. I use drip irrigation since it saves on water usage.

If you water in the late morning/early afternoon you could be losing a lot of the water to evaporation. Try watering early in the morning, preferably before the sun comes up.

Adding a compost rich in nitrogen could balance this out for you. I'm surprised the chicken manure didn't work better. Speaking of, did that chicken manure have a strong odor coming from it? If so, that could also be an issue since it wasn't actually compost(the chicken "compost" I get is from texas, and it usually smells of ammonia).

So either you could be burning the plants from the chicken manure(if it smelled..compost should never be overpowering, it should smell earthy), or they could be low on nitrogen(from the rice hulls). Adding miracle grow(plant soluble nitrogen) might be an indicator that it's because of the rice hulls.

And only try to change one thing at a time, so you have an idea of what worked and what could have been your problem.
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Post  CharlesB 5/31/2012, 8:27 am

Unmutual wrote:It could be the rice hulls. Rice hulls have a large carbon to nitrogen ratio(making them a "brown") and that will require extra nitrogen to break down(sucking it away from the plants).

I was thinking about that as well but doesn't she mean composted rice hulls? If they were just straight rice hulls then maybe give everything a big shot of Nitrogen via some blood meal.
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Post  Unmutual 5/31/2012, 8:34 am

CharlesB wrote:
Unmutual wrote:It could be the rice hulls. Rice hulls have a large carbon to nitrogen ratio(making them a "brown") and that will require extra nitrogen to break down(sucking it away from the plants).

I was thinking about that as well but doesn't she mean composted rice hulls? If they were just straight rice hulls then maybe give everything a big shot of Nitrogen via some blood meal.

Unfortunately, composts aren't created equal. I live in Louisiana, so I might get the same types of compost. I bought some rice hull "compost" a while back and you could still see the hulls. Actually, the only 2 bagged commercial composts that I can recommend down here are Black Kow and Mushroom Compost(both made by Black Gold, a company in Florida) and they are OMRI certified. You have to further compost 2 others, and then some of the more generic ones are peat + humus, which leaves a lot to the imagination(that's assuming they even have an ingredient list in the first place!)

So basically, make your own compost.
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Post  TejasTerry 5/31/2012, 9:04 am

CharlesB wrote:Your soil might be getting too hot and or dry and the microbial action in it might be suffering. You need living soil. How that is achieved and maintained requires a long explanation.

If your soil is getting hit by direct sunlight it is not a good thing. You want your plants spaced close together so when they get growing they form a living mulch. The soil stays cool and shaded this way and is able to keep in moisture. No moisture equals dead soil.

One of the things you'll read in the bio-intensive gardening literature is "feed the soil, not the plant". You want a living active soil that you feed organic matter to and the microbes, worms, fungus, etc. do the rest of the work for you.

I think if you keep that in mind when working out a strategy you'll get there. Just be patient, you'll figure it out.

Bluebonnetgirl:

To add to this, a great book that talks about living soil is "Teaming With Microbes, The Organic Gardner's Guide to the Soil Food Web" I got mine off Amazon.

This is my first garden too this year, and I had the same issues you're dealing with, yellow leaves, dying plants, etc., because I had to use a lot of store bought compost.

At the advice of a local feed store, I used a 20-20-20 chemical fertilizer in the beginning, and my plants started turning green again within a week. But then after doing a lot of research and reading the "Teaming With Microbes" book, I've started using compost tea, fish emulsion, and am getting ready to also add beneficial fungi and microbes (Mycorrhiza)...

I've also started my compost pile so that I don't have to deal with poor store bought compost. I have ordered 50 lbs of worm castings.

Bluebonnetgirl, I am also in Texas like you, and am having to water every morning. I installed a drip irrigation system (very easy DIY), and am watering an hour and 15 minutes every morning. The Texas sun requires this, otherwise everything is wilted after 1 day of no watering.

So my garden is doing very well now, without using miracle grow, etc., hope this gives you some ideas..
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Post  walshevak 5/31/2012, 9:21 am

Interesting take on the rice hulls. In the Philippines where peat and vermiculite are not available, the locals mix rice hulls with their compost to lighten up the soil. BUT, they do what is called carbonizing. Basically, they roast the rice hulls over a charcoal pit until just before they catch on fire, like roasting coffee. This turns the hulls a nice chocolate brown. My guess is this breaks down the carbon/nitrogen issue.

Kay


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Post  RoOsTeR 5/31/2012, 9:21 am

If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone first starting out it would be: Start, Make, and Use your Own Compost right away...



The only thing that I did different from my in laws garden is I bought a bag of compost chicken litter and rice hull from a local feed store. When I dug the holes to plant the plants I put about 2 tablespoons of the composted chicken litter and rice hull.

Your inlaws didn't add these items and now their garden is doing fine. This leads me to believe that the above added ingredients are the issue.

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Post  CharlesB 5/31/2012, 11:21 am

walshevak wrote:Interesting take on the rice hulls. In the Philippines where peat and vermiculite are not available, the locals mix rice hulls with their compost to lighten up the soil. BUT, they do what is called carbonizing. Basically, they roast the rice hulls over a charcoal pit until just before they catch on fire, like roasting coffee. This turns the hulls a nice chocolate brown. My guess is this breaks down the carbon/nitrogen issue.

Kay

Thanks for this info. I have family that gardens in the Philippines and I hope to as well someday (maybe when I retire). I think them doing this is essentially making bio-char through pyrolysis. Good stuff.

No shortage of rice hulls in Southeast Asia. Very Happy
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Post  gregrenee88 5/31/2012, 12:12 pm

RoOsTeR wrote:If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone first starting out it would be: Start, Make, and Use your Own Compost right away...



The only thing that I did different from my in laws garden is I bought a bag of compost chicken litter and rice hull from a local feed store. When I dug the holes to plant the plants I put about 2 tablespoons of the composted chicken litter and rice hull.

Your inlaws didn't add these items and now their garden is doing fine. This leads me to believe that the above added ingredients are the issue.

We started our own compost piles with grass clippings back in Dec. and have been adding kitchen stuff (egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds etc.) since then. Does the compost have to be totally in a "dirt" form or can it be used while still in the process of breaking down?
Renee thinking
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Post  RoOsTeR 5/31/2012, 12:43 pm

Yes, you need to stop adding to the pile for it to "finish".

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Post  walshevak 5/31/2012, 12:47 pm

CharlesB wrote:
walshevak wrote:Interesting take on the rice hulls. In the Philippines where peat and vermiculite are not available, the locals mix rice hulls with their compost to lighten up the soil. BUT, they do what is called carbonizing. Basically, they roast the rice hulls over a charcoal pit until just before they catch on fire, like roasting coffee. This turns the hulls a nice chocolate brown. My guess is this breaks down the carbon/nitrogen issue.

Kay

Thanks for this info. I have family that gardens in the Philippines and I hope to as well someday (maybe when I retire). I think them doing this is essentially making bio-char through pyrolysis. Good stuff.

No shortage of rice hulls in Southeast Asia. Very Happy

Nope. I'm contemplating spending the winter months in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. What part are you looking at.

Kay

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Post  CharlesB 5/31/2012, 1:17 pm

walshevak wrote:
Nope. I'm contemplating spending the winter months in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. What part are you looking at.

I am looking to buy a place in Batangas. Have family in Quezon City as well though. I've already started looking for varieties of tomatoes that can survive the tropics. Smile

Universities in Florida and Hawaii seem to have come up with some that look like they might handle it.
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Post  Unmutual 5/31/2012, 5:47 pm

walshevak wrote:Interesting take on the rice hulls. In the Philippines where peat and vermiculite are not available, the locals mix rice hulls with their compost to lighten up the soil. BUT, they do what is called carbonizing. Basically, they roast the rice hulls over a charcoal pit until just before they catch on fire, like roasting coffee. This turns the hulls a nice chocolate brown. My guess is this breaks down the carbon/nitrogen issue.

Kay

Biochar! Yes, it has a trendy name.
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