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Square Foot Gardening Forum
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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  jjc 7/5/2013, 10:25 pm

This is my first year with a sfg and something seems to be very wrong.  My carrots, cukes, tomatoes, yellow beans, peppers and onions seem to be hardley growing and are all looking either sickly or pale green.  My cukes stopped growing at 2 inches and have flowers.  My wifes garden which is a traditional one is only 8 feet away and is doing much better than mine even with some of the same plants that we split up.  I'm wondering if I need to add fertilizer as it seems they may be lacking something.  My MM should be ok but  2 of the 5 composts had similar ingredients but couldT that cause such a poor result as I'm getting.  Some of the plants I started indoors, some I bought from stores and some sown directly in the garden.  If you think I may need to fertilize can you suggest something I may be able to use?  Thanks, John
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Post  Triciasgarden 7/5/2013, 10:34 pm

It does sound like your compost. Try to find an organic fertilizer for vegetables and follow those instructions. I would do it right away so your plants can start getting the nutrients they need. Then if you can, get your own compost going and add a big variety of ingredients. When you have some done and if you still have plants, I would add it to the sides of the plants kind of like a mulch. As you water, nutrients will soak into the soil. When a square becomes empty, take out the bits of left over plant and roots and add a generous scoop or two of your homemade compost into the square and mix it is really well and then you can plant something new. Someone else may have something else to change or add. Good luck!
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Post  camprn 7/5/2013, 10:39 pm

jjc, I have a few questions before I can give you a good answer.

What kind of compost did you use? And you did use 5 different types?
Have you added anything to the Mel's Mix besides compost and peat and vermiculite?
How much rain have you had this past month?
Do you have any photos of your garden?

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Post  sanderson 7/5/2013, 11:04 pm

Tricia +1

I agree it could be the compost. What composts did you use and what were the main ingredients in each? If any or all of them had peat moss as an ingredient, it could have thrown the MM off by having the peat moss (non-nutrient 1/3) be way more than the 1/3 maximum. This could make the 1/3 compost part as little as 1/6.

I bet that most first timers had problems with the compost portion, so you wouldn't be alone.

I'm a first timer and my 1/3 compost was commercial, mainly Kellogg's. The plants started out great and then stopped. I made some emergency amendment of Starbuck's coffee grinds, kelp meal and worm compost bought off of eBay, and 100% composted steer manure that I had to screen to remove the sticks and rocks in it. Hummm? 100% cow manure? I added a handful to each square just to get through the summer crops. Meanwhile I am making some compost that should be ready in 2 months after cooling and settling.

This is what I mixed for my compost cage:

Large quantities:
3 Medium bags of Starbuck’s coffee grinds, screened
Half bag of old Kellogg’s red stripe, screened
Half bag of better commercial compost, screened
4 bags composted cow manure, screened
5/8 cube of wood shavings (critter litter)

Medium quantity:
2 bags of Heat-steamed grass clippings with a few jasmine leaves
2 bags of chopped produce culls and juice

Small quantities:
Kitchen scraps, chopped (gallon)
Garden trimmings, chopped (gallon)
Worm castings (3 ½ quarts)
Kelp meal (1 quart)
2 cup 16-16-16 fertilizer
1 1/2 cups ground oyster shell
¼ cup pulverized egg shells

I don't know what experienced composters think of the mix but at 5 days at 135 degrees 6 inches inside, it is luscious. Certainly better than what I bought at Home Depot!

Don't discourage. I'm reading Mel's "Answer Book" and I think I just read what Tricia said. If you absolutely have to add fertilizer, use a good quality organic fertilizer. I can't find the reference but maybe some one else can.

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Post  jimmy cee 7/5/2013, 11:26 pm

This was my first year also, I had the chance to pick up compost at our local recycle center.
Asked the MGR what was in it, he told me leaves and brush from last year.
I added the following chicky doo doo, mushroom compost, horse manure, 1 other organic additive, cow compost.
Added enough of these additional items to make 1/2 of a 5 gal container. The other 1/2  I filled with this recycle compost to make my 1/3rd portion.
I never had a garden looking like this before, beyond description
I believe it was the additional items added to the compost.
I now have compost ready to go and wont need any other.
Whether or not the extras I added helped is another question, just explained what I did.
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Post  landarch 7/5/2013, 11:39 pm

I agree on the compost as well...this happened to me with my first SFG...plants were stunted and yellow until I added organic fertilizer (chickity doo doo and fish emulsion)...and things came around nicely. 

The problem is that purchased bagged compost can sometimes be of poor quality (not actually comost).
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Post  batmap 7/6/2013, 5:15 am

I am rather new, but I remember reading a post about certain plants needing more acids or bases.
example: blueberries like acidic soil and the pH of Mel's Mex is near neutral. Peat Moss is acidic and so you could add a higher proportion of peat moss to the MM. Ideal pH for blueberries is 4 to 4.5 and it needs to stay at this level throughout the life of the plant. You would need to have the soil tested periodically to check the pH and make adjustments as necessary.
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Post  camprn 7/6/2013, 9:31 am

In this article it explains pretty clearly what pH is and is not and why you need this information.
http://gardenrant.com/?guest_post=please-stop-liming-your-soil-based-on-the-ph

If you choose to have your growing medium tested you have one of the best labs in the country right there in Amherst, MA. Choose the greenhouse soilless mix test. Turn around time is about a week.
http://soiltest.umass.edu/ordering-information

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Post  jjc 7/9/2013, 9:45 pm

Thanks for all the great info and encouragement everyone. I don't remember specifically what each type of compost was but I know I had mushroom compost, composted cow manure, composted chicken manure, and there were 2 others but don't remember the specifics.  I know that 2 of them had similar ingredients.  The compost made up 1/3, vermiculite 1/3 and peat moss 1/3 for the MM.  I thought I did everything rite with the possible exception of 2 similar composts.  I will try some organic fertilizer and see what happens.  I have pulled what was left of my lettuce, and I'm going to pull a bunch of stuff that's stunted and plant a fresh round of bush beans in the open squares as I would like a good batch of beans for cooking.  We have had a bunch of rain here this spring and I sure could use a few more hours of sunshine but even that at this point wouldn't help.  I think you guys are rite, it has to be the compost, maybe there was too much peat if there was any in the compost bags which I didn't even consider and just not enough good important ingredients overall.  I haven't put any pictures on the site yet as I haven't looked into how to post them.  John
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Post  grownsunshine 7/10/2013, 1:26 pm

Sometime a little patience goes a long ways too. I was in a similar situation as you. My plants weren't growing as nicely and quickly as I would have liked...I came to same conclusion. My compost was weak (store bought). I purchased worm castings and made tea. Watered with the tea and added some fish fertilizer. In about 2 weeks my plants really started taking off. You may try this if you haven't already pulled your plants. It may save you a few weeks of replanting and waiting.
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