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New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil

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New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil Empty New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil

Post  Hmgentry 7/18/2021, 3:38 pm

I read the book and found someone on FB marketplace to make 10 8x2 ft raised cedar garden beds for me. She also sourced the compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. I put everything together and planted all my vegetables from seed (direct sow) in June. I was late starting but wanted to go ahead and plant everything and see what grew my first year of gardening. Most of the seeds sprouted quickly, but then failed to grow anymore and the leaves of many of the plants- squash, zucchini, watermelon, beans, broccoli, etc turned yellow and then black. I let everything stay that way for about 3 weeks before doing anything about it. During that time only the beans grew a little and I planted asparagus crowns that grew very quickly. 

I finally tested the ph, water, and nutrient levels. The ph was in one 7.5-8 range, the soil was very dry, and it was defieient in NPK. This past week, I added organic fertilizers and watered more. I tested again and N and K were sufficient, but phosphate was low. I added more organic fertilizer higher in phosphate and just finished adding a top layer of black cow manure compost. 

So what I did wrong that I’ve already figured out- vermiculite is not coarse, I did not wet peat moss, and I only used cow and mushroom manure compost and there was a ton of wood in the compost. The woman who purchased for me said using only the cow and mushroom manure would be fine, but in addition to only being manure compost, it seemed very poor quality. 

What can I do now? I added a better quality compost to the top, but was afraid to mix it in much because the plants are so tiny and I didn’t want to disturb them. I bought about 8 different organic fertilizers, but want to build better soil versus having to keep adding fertilizers. I started a compost in May, but it hasn’t turned over enough to use. 

The soil seems very dry despite soaking them twice a day- may have used too much vermiculite and peat moss vs. compost. Do I have to did up and start over or can my soil be fixed? I have donkeys, chickens, and goats so I’m adding all that to my compost  to use next year.
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Post  markqz 7/18/2021, 3:56 pm

@Hmgentry wrote:I read the book and found someone on FB marketplace to make 10 8x2 ft raised cedar garden beds for me....
The soil seems very dry despite soaking them twice a day- may have used too much vermiculite and peat moss vs. compost. Do I have to did up and start over or can my soil be fixed? I have donkeys, chickens, and goats so I’m adding all that to my compost  to use next year.
Welcome Hmgentry!

With those chickens, goats, and donkeys, I would expect that you could make some really great compost. And if you turn it regularly I would expect it to be done in 3 months. But we have some real compost aficionados here, so let's see what they say. Meanwhile, I'll just ask what grade of vermiculite you used? And how often have you been watering?


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Post  OhioGardener 7/18/2021, 4:31 pm

@Hmgentry wrote:So what I did wrong that I’ve already figured out- vermiculite is not coarse, I did not wet peat moss, and I only used cow and mushroom manure compost and there was a ton of wood in the compost. The woman who purchased for me said using only the cow and mushroom manure would be fine, but in addition to only being manure compost, it seemed very poor quality.

It seems that you have highlighted the main problems you are experiencing: Not soaking the peat before adding it to the mix; and used only two types of compost, which may have been poor quality.

What can I do now? I added a better quality compost to the top, but was afraid to mix it in much because the plants are so tiny and I didn’t want to disturb them. I bought about 8 different organic fertilizers, but want to build better soil versus having to keep adding fertilizers. I started a compost in May, but it hasn’t turned over enough to use.

The first problem is going to be getting the peat completely moist so that it quits sucking all of the moisture from the plants. It takes a lot of water to get peat completely moist, and if it gets totally dry it tends to become hydrophobic (repels water), which complicates problems. To correct this you will need to repeatedly deep water the bed to get the peat and vermiculite soaked. Use a soil moisture tester to check the level of moisture in the soil before each watering.

The second problem - using only two types of compost - will not be as much of a problem if you have applied and worked in organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is slow release, and will become available to plants as the soil microbial life breaks it down. Give it time to break down while you are getting the soil mixture moist.  Meanwhile, try to collect some high quality compost to top off the beds with. Your own home made compost, with all of those manures, should be all you need.

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Post  Hmgentry 7/18/2021, 9:18 pm

I don’t know the grade of vermiculite- I would guess medium or fine. I was watering twice a day, but not soaking it. I started used a moisture meter a meek ago and it said the soil was dry even minutes after watering. So I’ve started soaking it twice a day until the moisture meter says it’s very moist, almost to wet. It is dry again by the next watering.
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Post  Hmgentry 7/18/2021, 9:29 pm

Thank you for the replies- it is very helpful. Any ideas on finding high quality compost until mine is ready? I started mine in may, but it wasn’t doing much of anything as far as breaking down until recently. I didn’t have it wet enough to start and then I don’t think I had the right mix of stuff. It wasn’t getting hot at all. I found that mushrooms were growing and it was stinky. It seemed I may have been putting too much of the donkey straw along with the manure in as the straw wasn’t breaking down very well. I added regular dirt for microbes, watered it more, added more grass clippings, and started chopping up leftover vegetables and fruits to help break down faster. It now smells earthy and is breaking down faster, but I may have several more months to go before it is ready. I use a large Aerobin and it is not supposed to need turning, but I still turn as much as I can every other week or so.

How long after fertilizing should I leave things alone before adding more fertilizer? I was going to give it a week or two to see how my plants respond. If they still aren’t growing, would you do a more in depth soil analysis or something else? I apologize for all the questions, but I was so excited at the promised results of square foot gardening and am frustrated that I made so many mistakes. I live way out in the country and all my neighbors row gardens are absolutely bountiful- zucchinis bigger than I’ve ever seen! But my pretty raised beds have diseased looking plants barely growing in them!
Hmgentry
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Post  Hmgentry 7/18/2021, 9:29 pm

Thank you for the replies- it is very helpful. Any ideas on finding high quality compost until mine is ready? I started mine in may, but it wasn’t doing much of anything as far as breaking down until recently. I didn’t have it wet enough to start and then I don’t think I had the right mix of stuff. It wasn’t getting hot at all. I found that mushrooms were growing and it was stinky. It seemed I may have been putting too much of the donkey straw along with the manure in as the straw wasn’t breaking down very well. I added regular dirt for microbes, watered it more, added more grass clippings, and started chopping up leftover vegetables and fruits to help break down faster. It now smells earthy and is breaking down faster, but I may have several more months to go before it is ready. I use a large Aerobin and it is not supposed to need turning, but I still turn as much as I can every other week or so.

How long after fertilizing should I leave things alone before adding more fertilizer? I was going to give it a week or two to see how my plants respond. If they still aren’t growing, would you do a more in depth soil analysis or something else? I apologize for all the questions, but I was so excited at the promised results of square foot gardening and am frustrated that I made so many mistakes. I live way out in the country and all my neighbors row gardens are absolutely bountiful- zucchinis bigger than I’ve ever seen! But my pretty raised beds have diseased looking plants barely growing in them!
Hmgentry
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Post  OhioGardener 7/18/2021, 9:30 pm

@Hmgentry wrote: So I’ve started soaking it twice a day until the moisture meter says it’s very moist, almost to wet. It is dry again by the next watering.

It will do this until the peat becomes soaked. It is pulling the moisture from the rest of the soil mixture and storing it. Once everything, including the peat, is moist it will stabilize. Keep on keeping on!

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Post  OhioGardener 7/18/2021, 9:38 pm

@Hmgentry wrote: I found that mushrooms were growing and it was stinky.

When compost becomes "stinky" it generally indicates that there is too much green (high nitrogen) material, and not enough brow (high carbon) material. Adding things like grass cpippings only makes it worse. Add high carbon things like pine pellets, dry straw, dried leaves, etc.

How long after fertilizing should I leave things alone before adding more fertilizer? I was going to give it a week or two to see how my plants respond.

I would suggest not adding any more fertilizer until the moisture issue is solved. There is probably plenty of nutrients available in the soil mixture, but microbes can't move around in the mixture unless there is adequate moisture. If microbes can't move around, they can't break down the organic fertilizers and make them available to the plants.

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Post  Hmgentry 7/22/2021, 8:56 am

New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil C06c1710New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil C06c1710New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil C06c1710
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Post  Hmgentry 7/22/2021, 8:58 am

New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil 9fedb310
New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil 41afcd10
New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil 26832410New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil 9fedb310
New SGFer with nutrient deficient soil 41afcd10
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Post  OhioGardener 7/22/2021, 9:58 am

Looks like the new leaves are showing promise. They are a darker green, indicating that the soil is stabilizing a little.

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Post  Hmgentry 7/22/2021, 10:22 am

Yes! I’m feeling hopeful about turning this around. 2 of the zucchini plants flowered today!

Regarding the compost- if I let grass clippings brown before adding to the compost, is it considered a brown or still a green?
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Post  Hmgentry 7/29/2021, 9:45 am

A big thank you for the advice. I soaked the beds for several days in a row and it appears that the peat is finally saturated. The beds are staying moist now and I only have to water once a day, if that. I did another soil test and the nutrients were again depleted- maybe from soaking the bed with so much water?- so I refertilized and the plants are taking off. Tons of squash and zucchini blossoms, everything coming in green and finally growing!
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Post  OhioGardener 7/29/2021, 10:00 am

@Hmgentry wrote: I did another soil test and the nutrients were again depleted- maybe from soaking the bed with so much water?- so I refertilized and the plants are taking off. Tons of squash and zucchini blossoms, everything coming in green and finally growing!

Glad to hear that things are improving, but be aware that soil tests are next to useless for organic mixes and/or organic fertilizers.  Soil tests only test for the available N-P-K, which is provided by synthetic fertilizers. They have no capability to test for the nutrients provided in the compost and made available to plants by the microbial life in the soil.

The  only exception to that is a pH test, but even that is seldom necessary. As compost is broken down by the microbes, it tends towards a neutral pH, which the vegetable plants love.

Don't overthink your gardening, trust the soil food web to take care of your plants.  In other words, don't feed the plants, feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants. Good quality compost will do that for you. Adding fertilizer should not be necessary.

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Post  AtlantaMarie 8/5/2021, 8:34 am

Hi HMGentry.  I'm sorry I haven't seen your posts before.  Looks like you've been taken good care of.  :-)

Welcome from Buford, GA.  I love your beds...  What a nice set-up!
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