Raised bed HELP

newtoucanApril 14, 2011

I have a nice 16" high raised bed. It is full of compost from Singh Farms which I found out about on this site. The problem I have is that nothing is growing in it. I have seedlings of tomato, pepper, beets, radish, carrots, beans, and tomatillos right now. They are all only about an inch high, except for the tomato and peppers which were transplanted from 4 inch pots from the nursery. Everything I'm putting in the raised beds just stays the same height, and doesn't get any larger. Doesn't get worse though. They look healthy, just not growing at all (except for the radishes and beans which died). I put some of the same beets in the Earthbox at the same time and they are full size already. The Earthbox is on the south side of the house and raised bed is on the East side. I believe both are properly irrigated.

Any ideas on what to do?

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Not that I'm the greatest expert but more information would be helpful. Something is wrong so hopefully someone will be able to help you. The tomatoes I started from seed are all 3-4' tall right now and growing 1-2" per day. However the tomatoes I planted three weeks later from transplant are only growing about .25" per day. Once the roots get established I'm sure they will take off. The important thing is that they remain healthy.

Beans and radishes tend to survive even under poor conditions which makes me think there must be something wrong.

So here come the questions.....

When did you plant all this stuff?

How and when do you water?

How often do you fertilize and what with and in what proportions?

How much sun are the raised beads getting?

What are you mulching your beds with and how thick is the mulch?

Have you had any pest problems? Did you spray for pests? Did you ever use a herbicide in that sprayer?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 2:07AM
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Beets, radish and carrots are all going to have a real tough time growing in our heat. Those are generally grown in the winter/early spring months and harvested up until May at the absolute latest. When did you seed those?

Singh makes great compost if used correctly. The problem is it's VERY woody and tends to leach nitrogen. Application of a nitrogen fertilizer at planting time is essential because of this. Even then, it still might take a while for the microorganisms to make the N available to your plants. Is your bed 100% compost? I use his compost in one of my 16" high raised beds mixed 50/50 with native clay. I also turned about 6" of it into the ground for all my other beds. I add an organic fertilizer made primarily of Alfalfa meal to compensate for the woodyness. As thisisme said, more info and pictures will better help identify your problem.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 3:50AM
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I think that it has been too cold for beans. The soil needs to be warm for them to germinate.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 4:12AM
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I planted this stuff over about the last month or 1.5 months (after the last chill). I planted the tomatoes and peppers first, and then the rest.

I watch the plants everyday around 7am and water the seedlings everyday, except for when it rained and the soil was obviously wet.

The plants are on the East side and starting from around 10am, get full sun for say about 6 hours. It's very bright in Phoenix, so gets some some sun light the rest of the time.

I'm using 100% Singh farms compost, and after the comment about being "woody" compost, I went out and noticed that it is indeed very woody compared to my own. This is a new raised bed so it's fresh soil. What can I do to fix that? I don't have very much of my own compost. I do have fish emulsion and citrus fertilizer on hand.

I don't have any mulch. I have no pest problems or weeds, and have never sprayed. However, I did notice that after last week's rain, the tomato plant now has yellow leaves spotted leaves on the bottom. Maybe some soil got splattered on the plant during the rain causing this. The top part is a lot more green.

I have lime and was told that it was not necessary here in AZ to the alkalinity of the soil, but it was used in the Earthbox and the plants there are doing great so wondering if the lime would help.

Any help out there?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 7:47PM
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I think you have to mix soil with the compost. Compost is not a growing medium, but is designed to enrich the soil with nutrients over time. That's my best guess. Are your things that are growing well growing in 100% compost? Compost is an excellent additive, but is not intended to replace the soil.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:03PM
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I did the same as you... raised bed with Singh compost. Transplanted both store bought and self seeded tomatoes. After an adjustment time, they are doing great. My expectations may be less. I am also having anxiety vs patience. I expect everything to SPROUT as if by magic.

Some of my direct sows, that is seeds I have planted directly are okra, bush beans and lima beans. The bush beans and okra all came up on schedule. Lima beans package must have been old since not many have popped up. Zuccini and squash seeds all came up. Took a tad more time, tho.

I planted some 4'oclock flowers because I like them. They haven't popped up like I expected. Yep. Maybe just not warm enough, long enough. With our cool nights. See. that patience thing again! ;-)

For me in S. Chandler. So far. So good. Except for last week's finch frenzy when they ate all of my remaining broccoli heads. :-( I am keeping a watchful eye on those little buggers!

Patience?!?! and maybe a beer.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 9:22PM
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I would say that your problem is both over-watering and nitrogen deficiency. The yellowing leaves on the bottom of your tomato plant is an indication of this. Watering every day is too much. For almost all vegetables, deep infrequent watering is much better than frequent shallow watering. I have been watering twice a week. My drip is set for 1.5 hours at 1gph. Frequency will increase as the days get hotter but only slightly. Put your finger into the soil a couple inches, if it's damp don't water.

Using 100% Singh compost is probably not the best idea...eventually it might be a great growing medium but for now all the nitrogen will be locked up as the microbes try to break down the wood. I would apply the fish emulsion and some alfalfa meal or a high nitrogen fertilizer. It will correct itself over time. For next season I would personally add some clay to the bed and mix it in...it has great water retention qualities and is rich in many nutrients.

Since you're growing in compost, your PH will most likely be close to neutral. You DO NOT want to add lime. Our native clay soil is extremely alkaline, so again no lime....if anything, sulfur is used in our soil to lower the PH. For your raised bed though, I would not add either until you get a soil test.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 10:40PM
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Thanks for the advice. Who knew that the clay would actually help. Of course, I have tons of that. Since my bed is already in, I guess I'm going to have a hard time this year. That's why nothing is growing.

AZbookworm, did you just start your bed this year?

I'll cut back on the watering. I actually wasn't watering the bigger plants everyday, but I was watering the little seedlings to keep them moist.

I've got tons of worms in my compost bin. Maybe I should put some in the raised bed along with the fish emulsion and alfala. Maybe in the bare patches, should I dig out the 100% compost now and mix it with clay. Maybe that would help this year.

Yes, I thought doing the 100% compost, I would get tons of great growth. No patience either.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:25AM
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Toucan, Yes I started my raised bed this spring. I used cinder blocks ( 8X8X16) to make raised beds... 2 cinder blocks high. I pull back my cinder blocks to see if the soil is wet before I water to gage the water needs instead of poking my finger. Ok. Sometimes, I poke a finger to see if the soil looks dry on top but moist underneath. I look at different locations along the 3 beds I have.

I have sprinkled water where I planted seeds. But not deep watering. Not till the plants get bigger, I figure. Different growing environments in each bed.

After reading all the container gardening threads I figure having all the bark in the Singh soil is not really bad. Surface area, particle size, and the like to give the plant roots something to grow around. The roots need air too!

Thanks for all the input. I will keep an eye on my plants for their Nitrogen and micronutrient needs. Did someone say Beer? Isn't that the same as the rye flour mash someone or another tried a season ago? Without definitive results. Alas, I hear an experiment in the making!


    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 12:54AM
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I wouldn't worry about mixing any clay in this season. If you're doing it in little patches it has the chance of just clumping up. Next season take a little and turn it into the compost, spreading it evenly across the whole bed.

Putting worms in is a great idea...as long as you can keep them cool - moist soil and a maybe a straw/hay/leaf/pine needle mulch. The worms will definitely speed up the decomposing process.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 7:04PM
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I agree with others that watering every day is to much except for when germinating seeds and while the seed grown plants are very young. I also agree with the need for mulch. I realize the soil you are using is more like a mulch but mulch should sit on top of the soil to keep the soil cool and shaded.

As an experiment try this. Go to a Home Depot and pick up a 2cuft Green and White bag of EarthGro Potting soil. Spread 1" of the potting soil under and around several of your plants and water it in. My bet is the plants you do this to will respond and grow quickly. If they do then you can decide on what kind of mulch to get for your garden.

Also keep in mind that watering with a hose will compact your soil over time which is not good for the plants. Drip irrigation is the preferred method.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2011 at 2:33PM
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Thanks, I'm going to go do just that, get the potting soil and incorporate it. Only I think I will pull out some of my seedlings. It's a big bed and really not growing and it's embarassing how little is growing. They seedlings are way too small to think they are going to do anything. Most are under an inch over more than a month now. I planted beets and they are only about 1/2" right now. The beets planted in the Earthbox are now 10 inches high. Big difference. I heard tomatoes are okay with replanting anyways. I pulled one out the other day that only grew 1 inch in a about 2 months and put it in the Earthbox. It's already grown noticeably in a few days. We let you know how the soil helps.

Hope they have EarthGro at A&P or Home Depot.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 1:38AM
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This was exactly my problem. I am using some "garden soil" I got at H.D. that has a lot of wood chips. Everything is stunted. I got some blood meal today. Wondering how often you use it on new beds with a lot of wood chips. It gets better the next year?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 3:20PM
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dorothyroeder Blood Meal is high in Nitrogen and Iron. If your soil is not lacking in Iron a little fertilizer will do the trick. Blood Meal is good too but is more expensive.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 6:00PM
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I have been using liquid seaweed, but that was not helping much.

Would alfalfa be better than blood meal?
Couldn't find that at Desert winds. Have to go to the feed store, I guess.

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 3:36PM
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dorothyroeder I have not used Alfalfa pellets yet but have been told it can be used as a safe slow release fertilizer. However I worry that if too much Alfalfa pellets/meal are mixed into the soil during the summer their decomposition will heat the soil and damage the roots of the plants I want to fertilize. During this time of year I would only use it as a lightly spread mulch or scratched into the soil 1-3". In the Fall before my next planting I plan to till in a small amount of Alfalfa pellets into my soil beds when any added heat will be beneficial. I also plan to use some to help decompose the chipped wood that will be delivered this Friday. If your plants need nutrients right away chemical fertilizers are better.

In the little bit of reading I have done here are some excerpts I have found that might be of help along with two links you may find helpful.

"Alfalfa meal (or pellets) is made from fermented alfalfa and is considered a slow release low nutrient source with an NPK of 3-1-2 (generally). Its biggest plus is the naturally occurring growth hormone it contains, tricontanol, as well as the microbes that are present as a result of the fermentation process - these factors are reputed to encourage larger, more profuse flowering and increased cold and disease resistance. Rosarians do swear by it, especially if applied in the form of alfalfa tea."

"This is the first year I've used alfalfa pellets on the roses and it is really amazing. Just don't do what I did and put it on too thick - it ferments and stinks - I didn't know how much to use so I put about a half bucket down around each rose. I later read to use a cup or two. I get it at any place called a feed store - there are feed stores in the suburbs, anywhere people have horses."


Here is a link that might be useful: ALFALFA MEAL

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 7:13PM
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By the way Mesa Feed Barn has 80lb bags of Alfalfa Pellets for $ 12.50 a bag. I did not call around so I don't know if thats the best price out there but its closest to me so I will go with it. One bag should be enough to fertilize my garden, my trees my lawn and speed up the decomposition of my compost heap so I'm a happy camper.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 8:16PM
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Sound about right for us in AZ?

"Application to plants are: half a cup per plant for new plantings; 1/2 to 1 cup to a depth of 4-6 inches deep around each plant; vegetables and flower beds need 2 to 5 pounds to 100 square feet."

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 2:03PM
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I just call the manufacturers of the "garden soil" I used. Didn't get much help from Home Depot when I bought it. Kellogg's said it was supposed to be mixed with my soil.The soil here is so alkaline and hard to mix I didn't think that was an option. But I guess I could try it.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 5:17PM
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dorothyroeder did you plant in pure Kellogg's Amend?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 5:27PM
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mister_gin(z9 AZ)


To me those products shouldn't be called garden soil. I used both Kellogg's Garden Soil and N'rich when I built my beds. It's convenient given the size of the bales. I couldn't tell you the difference between the two products. They look the same to me. I can tell you that they need to be mixed into the soil though. I think I shot for a 50/50 mix when I built my beds. Our soil is definitely hard to break up. It's easier to get a spade into if it's watered a day or two in advance.

Here is a link that might be useful: Latest garden pics...

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 8:46PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Everything looks great mister gin, I especially like the pic of the Sweet 100's. Your gardens are well organized and appear prolific. Good job!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 9:28PM
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I second that; very nice mister_gin.

I'm starting to worry about my raised bed vegetable garden. I have been waiting two weeks now for a local tree service to drop off a load of chipped wood. They keep making one excuse after another. I know its free but when your whole family sets aside time to move 10 yards of chipped wood and it doesn't show up it kind of messes up your weekend. Not to mention my plants are suffering.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 9:57PM
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Not Amend. It says "garden soil" on the pkg.


The one in the lower right hand corner.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 10:00PM
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dorothyroeder I watched the video on the soil amendment you purchased. It sounds like some really good stuff. I have never been to that site and I have purchased Kellogg's products before. Nearly every one of their products is meant to be mixed one to one to as much a three to one with the native soil. I guess this information is included in the small print on their bags. I guess I just never noticed it and was lucky that I always mixed their products with other soil.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 1:17AM
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Thanks for your help. You are right. It does infer that in the package. I didn't read it very carefully. Too bad the clerk I asked at H.D. didn't know anything.

I spent 2 hrs this morning emptying my 22"sq containers and refilling them with 1/2 soil. 4 more to go.

Kellogg's is refunding my money. I am sure their stuff is good, if used right. They mix in a calculated amount of the high nitrogen stuff to take care of the wood content.

I transplanted my tomatoes into the new mix. I was going to compost them, but they are sure trying and putting out new shoots. Maybe they can get going enough to make it through the summer and put out something in the fall?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 2:42PM
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Best of luck to you dorothyroeder. Tomatoes are fairly resilient if they have not been infected with something so they may well come back.

The company that promised free mulch will not be delivering again. First they made excuses. Then they said "Our trucks are not going out because we just advertised and we are doing bids. We can bring it over if you pay us $ 40.00 though." From the time I said I would wait rather than pay $ 40.00 which I did not have they have been totally none committed. They are less than three miles from my door and they said the truck was full three weeks ago. Every day they drive right by my house to service the vast majority of their service area. If the truck was full and they are busy then why not drop it off? Don't they need the truck empty so they can continue working? I'm right on their way.

I'm beginning to think the truth is that they seldom ever give any mulch away for free. The mulch offer is just a hook for a bait and switch where they charge $ 40.00. No $ 40.00 no mulch. Once you say no they don't want to ask again or it would be to obvious so they just continue to make excuses until you go away.

Very disappointing. Time to go out and work on the tomatoes again. Man those things grow fast.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2011 at 7:06PM
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