Stunted Veggie Seedlings

BocaBrianDecember 4, 2011

On October 1st, I started an organic vegetable garden in a community garden in Boca Raton. This is my first attempt at gardening in South Florida. The garden provided the soil for our raised beds and I added some Black Kow amendments. I have heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower and beans that are doing pretty well. I have sown seeds of carrots, beets, leeks and radishes which all sprouted, but that's as far as they have gotten. The seeds were sown around the first of October. My radish seedlings looked great in the beginning and eventually yellowed and died. I tried sowing them again and the same thing happened. My leeks are looking ragged. The carrots are hanging on and showing a small sign of improvement, as well as the beets, but very little growth. I water daily, but wonder if I should add more amendments to the soil and re-sow the seeds? Any advice for a novice South Florida gardener just trying to grow a few veggies?

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I *think* I figured out how to upload some pics.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 1:08PM
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I'm certainly no expert in raised bed gardening, but they are very stunted. They should be much bigger at nearly 9 weeks. One obvious problem is that they are planted too densely, and they are competing too much for nutrients. This is a common mistake for new gardeners and I've done it myself. You need to thin them out. Pulling them up and transplanting them might work but you will likely damage root structure and set them further behind.

Even still, I'm surprised they aren't bigger. You may be overwatering them, and the radishes may have been killed by "damping off."

It's tough with young plants, which is why many gardeners sprout the plants indoors where they have better control over conditions. Once they are growing well they are moved outdoors. This is particularly true in October where it is still really hot, humid, and buggy. The bugs and disease will really get the weak young plants, and the last pic shows some kind of disease along with a couple chew marks. This will really stunt them.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 2:03PM
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whgille(FL 9b)

Hi BocaBrian

The community gardens that I help sometimes planted on free compost, I suggested that they put some black cow and fertilizers. They also planted them too close and it was too hot but they still got some veggies going.
To add any amendments you should have the soil tested with the Extension office around your area and after that plant again. I find that it is easier to start over than heal sick plants. Find good quality transplants that look free of disease and bugs and put fresh seeds for the other veggies. Pull out any plant that looks diseased, add more organic material. For beets, radish, carrots you need a soil that has no rocks or big pieces of wood like I see in the picture. There are organic liquid fertilizers in the market or maybe you can get some compost tea. Seedlings have to be kept moist not wet. Inspect daily for bugs.
If your other crops are doing well, then the compost is fine but they are warm season crops and they would not be affected but the high temperatures.
Wish you the best with your new garden!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 2:43PM
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Thanks slopfrog and Silvia for the quick and helpful responses! We did have an unusually warm and humid October and maybe I did keep the seeds too wet. I will try them again in peat pots at home first and then transplant them when they have grown a bit. I've been thinking of having my soil tested, you just confirmed that I should. I knew this was going to be an trial and error process, but that's part of the fun. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 4:02PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

My 1st thought on seeing the above pix was 'too much wood' which can make soil too acidic for many veggies & also encourages fungi.

Hay or straw mulch is best for veggies, BTW.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 10:46AM
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Hi Carol, thanks for your response. Believe it or not, that is not mulch, but just wood chips from the soil the community garden provided. They have 'floated' to the top, when I dig into the soil, it's not woody. I have added composted cow manure to the bed since those photos were taken. Good to know about the wood causing the soil to become acidic and encourage fungi. What's the best way to rectify the acidity?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 4:49PM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

The cure-all for many organic gardeners is compost - it should help to buffer soil pH & you can use it as a mulch, rather than mixing it in.

& you could try removing as much of the wood chips as possible - couldn't hurt.

BTW, this is all info I picked up over time @ the excellent Soil & Compost forum here @ Gardenweb


    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 9:50AM
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Sure looks like my seedlings when I didn't want to wait to buy new bags of compost. The seedlings are so tender in the beginning, I think they need "softer" soil on top and not hard wood chips. I added a lot of compost and peat moss to my sand soil and so far so good. Best results I had compared to my other patch, where the soil still has more wood chips on top with less compost. I also see the sand in you pics, since we're basically neighbor, I imagine close soil conditions. This sandu soil gets hard easily in the sun and seedlings don't like that either. And that sandy soil has an awful lot of root knot nematodes where I am, that can cause stunted plants as well. And they hate organic matter. Mixing the sandy soil really well (at least 18 inches deep) helped me a lot in my new patch. I also learn constantly from my mistakes as a FL beginner gardener...

    Bookmark   December 9, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Carol - Thanks for the info. I look forward to checking out that forum. Off to add more compost now! :)

Subtrop - Thanks for your response. I will make sure all those wood chips are removed and keep adding compost & organic matter. I have found gardening to always be a learning process, but since I've moved to SoFla and began gardening, it's like I'm starting from scratch! But, that's part of the fun. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2011 at 8:54AM
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