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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.

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Post  syrah2422 10/27/2012, 7:31 pm

This was our first year of really using the square foot garden method with a new garden. It turned out to be a complete failure. I think that the compost we ended up using had to much peat moss. Everything had stunted growth. Even the snaps peas refused to grow.

Does anyone have recommendations on what we can do for it over the winter? Or do I need to wait until the spring and if so what do I do then?
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Post  camprn 10/27/2012, 7:38 pm

I'm sorry to hear of your garden not producing? How many types and what kinds of compost did you use to make your Mel's Mix? HOw often did you water? City water or well water?

I ask these questions to get a better picture of what's going on before I can answer your question.

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Post  syrah2422 10/27/2012, 8:06 pm

I did use 5 different kinds of compost (I can't name them all but I did use Quoddy Blend Lobster Compost, Black Kow)

We had moved so I did not have my own compost to add. I should have some of our own compost to add next year.

We are on well and the beds were watered as needed. If the beds started to feel like they were drying out I would water them. In all honesty by the end of July I did give up on them and did not really take care of them as I should have.

I should note that the strawberries, potatoes and tomatoes did OK. The strawberries were grown in their own bed but used the same mix as the other beds. The potatoes were grown on potato bags from Gardener's Supply but they were also in the same mix as all the other beds. The tomatoes were grown in separate pots. They did produce but not like the ones we had in the past.
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Post  camprn 10/27/2012, 9:18 pm

Oh dear, yes I know the mid summer doldrums and dreaded garden chores. My guess.... the beds dried out down below...... It doesnt take long and if the roots below cant get the water that is only at the first 2 inches of the top of the bed, there's sure to be trouble.

Good luck next year, adding homemade compost will help.

Love the lobster compost!!! Very Happy

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Post  plantoid 10/28/2012, 9:06 am

Your third sentence of your second post says it all .

May I suggest that you obtain a cheap moisture meter off the likes of eBay or from Santa Clause Wink and use that to determine the moisture levels of your bed rather than feeling the compost and guessing how moist it is.


Put this years failures down to experience and don't repeat it Laughing

All the best for the next seasons beds .

David
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Post  southern gardener 10/28/2012, 12:19 pm

im right with you......about ready to throw in the towel. This is year 2. Well actually more than that, but year two of failure ;/
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Post  binfordmj 10/28/2012, 8:12 pm

Aww, C'mon guys...............you can't give up on gardening. If Mel did that, none of us would be reading this. We've all had failures in the garden, but we try to learn from them and move on.

I was thinking about giving up on squash. This season, my 13 plants were reduced to 4 by caterpillars before I knew what happened, then I learned about BT, now the few left just suffer from powdery mildew (or some kind of mildew). But Now I know next year to keep the BT handy for the first sign of those little buggers, and to use a hose that waters at the mulch line. Unless I learn yet another "life lesson" with squash, I should finally have a decent crop! Laughing

This is my first year trying green beans, and I can see already that I have lots to learn about them as well. Razz

Never give up! Besides, even the small victories bring joy!
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Post  southern gardener 10/30/2012, 1:33 am

oh gosh...trust me...I don't WANT to, I really want a successful garden. But after so long, it just gets so frustrating. We are on "round three" and it looks like it's failing too....I want to garden and enjoy it, not get mad Sad
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Post  Triciasgarden 10/31/2012, 11:04 pm

That must be very very frustrating! Maybe it is a water thing. I would also suggest getting a moisture meter. You can see how moist different levels are in your beds. Southern California gets hot and stays hot and you should probably give your plants a good soaking every day on the very hot days. Some people have had to water twice a day. With the moisture meter you could at least see if water or lack thereof is the problem.

If you get it moisture meter, plant something and keep track of it. You probably have some growing time left this year for something that grows kinda quick.

Good luck southern gardener!
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Post  Triciasgarden 10/31/2012, 11:32 pm

Southern gardener Lindacol wrote this from another post and lives in So. Cal. also:

Post Lindacol Yesterday at 12:33 pm
"How are you watering? I am in so CA, zone 9B I think. When it is hot I usually have to water twice a day for about 15 minutes with a drip watering system. Also if your bed completely dries out you will need to really soak it first.

I would think that if you have higher humidity in Florida than we have here you need to be careful to water the soil & not the leaves to help prevent mildew."

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Post  southern gardener 11/1/2012, 12:33 pm

Triciasgarden wrote:That must be very very frustrating! Maybe it is a water thing. I would also suggest getting a moisture meter. You can see how moist different levels are in your beds. Southern California gets hot and stays hot and you should probably give your plants a good soaking every day on the very hot days. Some people have had to water twice a day. With the moisture meter you could at least see if water or lack thereof is the problem.

If you get it moisture meter, plant something and keep track of it. You probably have some growing time left this year for something that grows kinda quick.

Good luck southern gardener!

Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. I do have a moisture meter, and use it along with my "finger"...poking in the soil to be sure I have moisture. There is a bigger issue going on, but you can PM if you'd like more details. We are trying our best Wink
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Post  Roseinarosecity 11/1/2012, 12:42 pm

Southern Gardener, if you don't have a water meter, you can take your trowel to spot check six inches below to confirm your peat moss is actually getting wet. I had trouble with one bed because I sprinkled lightly with a water hose in my rush to get a bed started. As I was transplanting, I noticed dry peat moss. I fluffed up the dirt, then I took a mini-round sprinkler attached to my hose and let it sit sprinkling lightly and soaking the bed for 15 minutes. I moved the hose with the sprinkler to repeat and to cover another area. I let it sit for a day and then I checked the the dirt with my trowel again to confirm it was completely wet. I was satisfied I wet the soil.

The water meter is fine but it only checks the bottom of the point. I occasionally check with my trowel to make sure water is soaking down to the bottom of the six inches. Don't give up--we live in sunny California; we can grow all year long!
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Post  Chopper 11/1/2012, 12:51 pm

southern gardener wrote:
Triciasgarden wrote:That must be very very frustrating! Maybe it is a water thing. I would also suggest getting a moisture meter. You can see how moist different levels are in your beds. Southern California gets hot and stays hot and you should probably give your plants a good soaking every day on the very hot days. Some people have had to water twice a day. With the moisture meter you could at least see if water or lack thereof is the problem.

If you get it moisture meter, plant something and keep track of it. You probably have some growing time left this year for something that grows kinda quick.

Good luck southern gardener!

Thanks for the kind words of encouragement. I do have a moisture meter, and use it along with my "finger"...poking in the soil to be sure I have moisture. There is a bigger issue going on, but you can PM if you'd like more details. We are trying our best Wink

This was a bizarrely hot summer. If you did not add shade I would not be surprised if things were lackluster. If you had a decent MM and kept up with the water, I would consider getting some more high quality compost and maybe add a good chunk of an organic fertilizer (like some blood, bone and kelp meal) to make up for any possible deficiencies, especially if you use store bought compost instead of your own. Make sure everything is wet to the bottom and then plant some fall crops and see what happens.

If the bigger issues are garden related please share here. If they are personal, well, I know those challenges can really take their toll and gardening should be a refuge, not another frustration.

Also, I took nothing personally. If something did not grow, it was out of there and I moved on - something I seem incapable of doing in my personal life, LOL. I got great joy and abundance from my garden, but some things did not make it. And I noticed some things did not make it one month but did great other months. I planted carrots and beets every month and some crops were definitely better than others - same soil - same seeds but different weather. This year, due to moving I did not have one but this summer was a bear. I would be interested to see how all of us So Calers did.

Just because it is SFG does not mean things won't fail, it means you have the perfect system to easily replace that square and see what does work right now.
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Post  jkahn2eb 11/1/2012, 2:07 pm

Syrah and Southern Gardener, what planting guides/calendars are you using? I'm in my second year and owe most of my success to finding good local calendars.

I've been fighting caterpillars as well - haven't been using BT because I have a pregnant wife and want to take zero chances on chemicals in the garden.

Been using lots of water and shade cloth in the summer. Like they say, I've had some things grow well and others don't under the same conditions. Like they also say: third time's the charm.
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Post  southern gardener 11/1/2012, 3:58 pm

jkahn2eb wrote:Syrah and Southern Gardener, what planting guides/calendars are you using? I'm in my second year and owe most of my success to finding good local calendars.

I've been fighting caterpillars as well - haven't been using BT because I have a pregnant wife and want to take zero chances on chemicals in the garden.

Been using lots of water and shade cloth in the summer. Like they say, I've had some things grow well and others don't under the same conditions. Like they also say: third time's the charm.

We use the Mother Earth guide, the Farmer's Almanac and the list that one of the forum people here list for our area. We pretty much can grow all year, except December and January...sometimes February. We are in a very rural area with crops growing all around us. We have awesome weather. We have been gardeners for years, but are really having problems the past 1-2 years. I have a suspicion we have a bigger issue with our mix. Looks like back to square one..........
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Post  Triciasgarden 11/2/2012, 10:05 pm

I know I have an issue with my mix in most of my beds, if not all. I've been a little embarrassed to mention it in public but I am feeling brave. No one would ever say anything negative on here because they are not that way. I got my sfg book more than 15 years ago when Mel had a seminar at a library close by here. I made most of my current MM using the old SFG book. That way included using 1/3 my native soil.

When I first started sfg I had three 4 x 4 beds. After a number of years they were falling apart because I nailed them together. I wanted to enlarge my garden and didn't have the money or ability to make more beds so I mistakenly went back to row gardening. Boy was that time consuming pulling weeds and it sure used a lot of water! I started back with sfg three years ago and I didn't know about the new way of making MM. I made those beds the old way and they just don't do as well as I know they could.

I intend and am hoping to make enough compost now so in the spring I can replace all with the good stuff. I am not sure if I can do all of them at once financially or physically, but I am at least going to do one at a time. It's kind of a shame since I did you 1/3 peat and 1/3 vermiculite. I will just move that stuff somewhere else and mix it into my clay soil.

With your mix, did you fluff up the peat before you measured it? Also, its important to wet the peat before you mix it in with the compost and vermiculite and mix it all really well. For the compost if you buy it you need to have five different types, not just different brands. That is a hard one because I have noticed a bag will say mushroom compost and it has lots of woody stuff in it and peat moss. You probably already know these things but I thought I would mention them.

When I go to mix in the spring, I will hopefully have the new book to guide me more.

Good luck jkauh2eb!
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Post  plantoid 11/4/2012, 12:06 pm

Good post Tricia ,
Very brave to air your problems ..but like the old sayijng a problem shared is a problem halved.
( Especially when you have busybodies & nosey parkers like us lot on here Laughing )

I wonder how many guys & gals will have
ISB code 7 1-59186-202-7
" All New Square Foot Gardening " 2005 edition by Mel Bartholomew
on their christmas wish list , so they can get the lastest formula right from the horses mouth so to speak ??
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Post  bakermtb 11/4/2012, 9:05 pm

Syrah
Your soil. I learned this year that store bought "compost" may have a lot of peat moss added to the mixture. This will mess up your mix and the correct growing.
I found one product "Bumper Crop". The product was a 2 cubic foot bag. It advertised some great "Compost" materials in the bag. Peat was one of them. I wrote to the company and asked how much peat was in the bag.
The answer, 72% peat moss in a 2 cubic foot bag. This truly throughs off the mixture.
Make sure you check with the compost manufactures and find out what's in the bag.
Hope this helps. Don't give up because some of my crops did not do very well in the heat this year.
Smile
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Post  Triciasgarden 11/5/2012, 8:34 pm

plantoid wrote:Good post Tricia ,
Very brave to air your problems ..but like the old sayijng a problem shared is a problem halved.
( Especially when you have busybodies & nosey parkers like us lot on here Laughing )

I wonder how many guys & gals will have
ISB code 7 1-59186-202-7
" All New Square Foot Gardening " 2005 edition by Mel Bartholomew
on their christmas wish list , so they can get the lastest formula right from the horses mouth so to speak ??

Well I appreciate your comment about halving my problems and we all appreciate the help! I will for sure put the book on my list!
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Post  dvelten 12/3/2012, 3:09 pm

Syrah,

Sorry to hear you had a bad first year. You say "complete" failure, nothing did well in the raised beds?? I always have a few failures Wink. This year they include radishes (weather), peppers (who knows) and eggplants (flea beetles). But I did have a lot of successes, despite the weather.

It was certainly a challenging summer for a first garden here in Bolton (and most of the US). It was HOT! Plus there was a lot of disease and pests. In the community garden we saw bugs that had never been seen up here, like green stink bugs and tortoise beetles, plus all of the locals: squash bugs, SVB, flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars. Powdery mildew was particularly bad this year.

Hopefully when you built your boxes, you filled them in layers, watering each box until the MM was soaked. The peat moss in the mix is usually very dry and difficult to wet. That would leave the bottom of the box dry while the top layer might feel moist. I overdid it my first year and I think I was actually over-watering things until I figured it out.

I also think it takes time for the mix to become a living soil. I always use innoculant for legumes, figuring the nitrogen-fixing bacteria aren't necessarily present in a synthetic soil mix. Adding good compost will always help, and you can supplement with organic fertilizers like fish or seaweed emulsion. When I built my last two boxes this year, I included some Dr. Earth compost which contains mycorrhizae soil organisms. It was a tad pricey but I figure I am making an investment in good soil when I add good things to my beds. So don't give up yet, next year undoubtedly will be better. Seed catalogs are coming out now so time to start planning!

You can see what happened this year in my SFG in the Bolton Community Gardens on my blog at http://davessfggarden.blogspot.com/. I'm local so you can always PM with with questions, since I'm probably dealing with the same issues in my own garden.

--Dave
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Post  Nymiko 12/3/2012, 4:01 pm

I might have done the same thing with my MM, I'm still growing since i'm in zone 10. I was wondering if there was any way to "save it" can I add some more compost as a side dress?
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Post  dvelten 12/3/2012, 4:09 pm

Wow, zone 10. Your beds probably never get a rest. Sure, you can top dress the plants with compost, and you can always apply fish or seaweed fertilizer. When you pull something out to replant, that is the time to work lots of compost into the MM.
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Post  quiltbea 12/3/2012, 8:57 pm

Its true that consistent watering makes a big difference in your garden and letting anything dry out completely before watering it again makes unhealthy and weaker plants as does too much heat.

But if crops are consistently failing, its time to take soil samples and have them tested by your state ext service or with a good PH meter. Something is obviously not right with the soil. Too much peat moss can lower the PH and make it much to acid to get any decent crops. The PH levels mean so much to your garden and can be easily adjusted, with organic and healthy means, so that you can grow productively. The state ext office provides you with the info on what your soil needs if you send them the samples.

Once you've added the proper amendments to bring your soil to a healthy PH, you can begin adding compost each time you plant something or sow new seeds and also add a couple inches at the beginning and end of each growing season to keep it healthy.

I suggest getting your soil tested post haste.
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Post  Nymiko 12/3/2012, 9:22 pm

dvelten wrote:Wow, zone 10. Your beds probably never get a rest. Sure, you can top dress the plants with compost, and you can always apply fish or seaweed fertilizer. When you pull something out to replant, that is the time to work lots of compost into the MM.

I was just wondering if miracle gro will work too, I bought fish emulsion too but I never read anyone on this forum speak of miracle gro or virogro
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Post  camprn 12/3/2012, 9:27 pm

Miracle Grow will work but will be spent in a few months; your garden mix will be better if you add more compost! If you want to top dress with compost that will help.

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