New to gardening... Advice?

Jill916June 19, 2012

Hi! my name is Jill, and i live in Massachusetts, which apparently is not always the best environment for gardening as we dont always have consistently hot weather.

A little about me... i grew up in an apartment with no one who ever gardened so i really knew nothing about planting (plus i am deathly afraid of worms...weird i know). Currently we still live in an apartment however we have a small area we can plant, and i have a ton of planter boxes. For the last 3 years i have attempted to grow my own vegetables. They would develop large leaves but no vegetables ever grew. i had tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and cantaloupe. the same thing happened with all of them.

this year i decided it was my last attempt, if nothing grew i was giving up.

on may 18 i planted tomatoes, cucumbers (2 sets), green beans and watermelon. all but the watermelon are in planters, the watermelon is planted in the ground.

i am proud to announce my green beans are starting to grow! my cucumbers have big leaves but thats it, my tomato plants are a few inches tall, but they havent moved... and my watermelons... the plants are about the same size as the palm of my hand, but those as well seemed to have stopped.

any advice to hopefully get tomatoes and watermelons this year? any reason they would just stop growing?

thanks so much!!!

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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Hi Jill. That's a shame for you about the worm thing. However, if you're mostly container gardening it shouldn't be too much of an issue at all.

I strongly suggest you head over to the Container Gardening thread. They're usually very kind to newbies, so don't worry about asking questions - or lurking until you pick up more.

Just from what you've said - it sounds like your plants are too well fed to bother with making flowers. If there's slow release fertiliser in your growing mix that should be enough for a while. When you do next feed - use liquid tomato fertilizer on the leaves and on the soil, as it has more potash than nitrogen and that could encourage some flower action.

What's your weather been doing? If you've had serious hot spells it may be that your tomatoes and melons are dry further down in the container. You could try watering twice - with about 30 minutes between. Sometimes water can just rush through and out the drain holes without stopping for the plant at all. If there are water crystals in the mix they may need time to rehydrate.

See what happens after twice watering. Check down in the container with an enquiring finger. If it's evenly moist, water only enough to keep it so. The water shine on the top of the mix that you get when you water needs to linger for a little before soaking away. If it sits, and sits, there's either a crust on the surface or a drought below. Loosen the surface with your usual cultivation tool. Add one DROP of dishwash detergent to your watering can. It helps to break the 'skin' on the water and then to stick to the soil bits.

Are the plants getting at least six to eight hours of sun a day? Or are you growing plants that are bred to perform in fewer sunlight hours?

Do they need some wind shelter? Or their own private 'glasshouse' by way of plastic or glass cloches until they get going? So they get extra warmth. You'll need to be on top of your watering if you do that - but it could be what they need.

When your last lot of melons and tomatoes got bigger - did you take off their growing tips, or those extra side branches that tomatoes put out from their axils (the part where the leaves spring away from the stem. It starts as a little tuft of leaflets, then grows on to be a stalk. Gently pluck them out to leave fewer stems)? That's done so they stop roaming the world and settle down to production.

And, most importantly, do bees visit your growing area? Any sort of bees. Preferably with hairy legs to move the pollen from one flower to the next. Moths and flies of various sorts will also do this. They're essential. If you have enough room also plant up some bee fodder flowers. They're fond of Dahlias (and you can get short bedding ones), Tagetes marigolds. Phacelia. Melissa. Preferably the old-fashioned and quite small-flowered ones as the hybrid ones may not be as yummy for the bees. If you use herbs - thyme and sage are great! Chives are good, too.

If there are few or no bees - you'll need to get yourself a smallish artist's paint brush and do the bees' work of moving the pollen around from the anthers where the pollen is produced, to the sticky stem in the middle. It won't work until the tip of the centre stalk is sticky. You'll know it's worked when the petals start to die. They've done their job of attracting your attention. The plant now has to produce 'fruit' around its seeds.

You might find you get a better quality of crop if you do this as well as letting the bees do their work.

Hope some of that helps.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 5:26AM
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