stunted growth in my sq ft garden

organic_tx_gardenerMay 20, 2009

Planted my first 4 x 4 square this season, as well as my adjoining non-square foot garden. The sq ft garden has 6 cu ft of Mel's Mix and 3 cu ft of a commercial organic soil (Rose Magic by Ladybug brand). The regular garden has very heavy native clay soil, in its second year of being improved with amendments, mainly compost.

Plated most of the things in the sq ft garden on March 22, and seed germination was very good. But growth has been very slow, and many of the leaves are yellowish. The bush beans are only slightly bigger than some of the same type planted in the regular garden on May 6. The vine plants are likewise slow. For example, here is a cucumber (Spacemaster) from the sq ft planting of March 22 (photo taken on May 16), with leaves about the size of quarters:

In contrast, here is the same variety of cucumber from an April 19 planting in the regular garden, with leaves about the size of a peanut butter jar lid:

As another contrast, here is a squash from the regular garden, with a planting date of March 29 and leaves the size of my hand:

I could point out similar contrasts for the other plants, including chard, melon, and several herbs. The plants in the regular garden are generally doing far better in terms of growth.

Both the square foot and regular gardens get the same watering regime. I would have thought that the sq foot garden would be doing better - the demonstration gardens at a local nursery (using Mel's Mix, Rose Magic, and other choices) are doing much better. What could be wrong with mine?

Thanks!

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ribbit32004

I had the same problem last fall. My SFG was significantly smaller than the same veggies I had in containers in general potting mix. I think I narrowed it down to pests in the soil and the two hours less of sunlight they got. However, this was all hypothetical at best.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 5:12AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

Intensive gardening can lead to smaller plants, a search will bring up this topic. How ever it could be immature compost in the mels mix, I remember this spring some one posting a study that had been done showing growth in mature and immature compost.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 8:45AM
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greenbean08_gw(PNW)

Intensive gardening can lead to smaller plants and reduced per plant yield (in favor of higher overall yield) but I can't imagine the smaller size should occur at this stage of growth.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 11:28AM
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shebear(z8 NCentralTex)

Fertilize the SFG. I know it says not to but I don't think Mel is playing with high pH water either. I had this same problem the first two years until the earthworms invaded and I started mixing in some manure and seed meals. If you want to go cheap, get some alfalfa pellets and make some alfalfa tea and try it. But don't fertilize too long.

By the way, that clay you have is some highly fertile soil. Once you get enough compost worked in and the clay broken down a bit, step back cause you're gonna have some amazing growth. Just keep putting down compost and mulch and in about 5 years the soil will be so nice you'll want to dig in it for fun. Gotta go now and play in mine cause street construction has made me move my irises.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:04PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I think I see a pattern on this forum.

New SFGs are planted and some are found to be deficient in nutrition. This is because some new mix IMHO is deficient in nutrition.

Simply add fert to fix the above problem.

Dan

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:24PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

... or they're simply dealing with a considerable degree N immobilization from the unfinished compost or other wood-based material they're using/incorporating.

Al

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:38PM
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pedmond

organic_tx_gardener, I had the exact same problem. Seed germination was fine, but basically very little or no growth. Seeds/plants planted in regular garden soil are doing fine.

As a few others have mentioned, I will fertilize and hopefully that will take care of it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:44PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

or they're simply dealing with a considerable degree N immobilization from the unfinished compost or other wood-based material they're using/incorporating.

There's that too. You'd think a commercial mix found at bigbox would be finished tho...

Dan

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 2:50PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I could be reading more into it than there is, but I figured "... in its second year of being improved with amendments, mainly compost." could be something of a clue. That, combined with all the sap/heartwood in the pics that looks like it's being used for more than just mulch (incorporated?) makes for a good chance there could be considerable N tie-up.

Al

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 8:44PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

Gosh this is all Greek to me? I have alot to learn!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 8:57PM
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organic_tx_gardener

Thanks for all the great suggestions! This weekend I'll pull out the things that are probably too stunted to salvage and add compost and cottonseed meal to fertilize the bed. Since I've been using bagged "organic compost" and decomposted cow manure from Lowe's, I'll try a different compost this time for some variety. Will then replant with things that stand a chance of tolerating our impending summer heat, and see what happens.

shebear: Hope you're right about that clay soil; sometimes it seems more suited for making bowls and pots than for growing plants! But, I will say it's an order of magnitude better this year than last year. Have already had more tomatoes this year than all of last season!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 11:06PM
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matrixman

The quality of compost can vary greatly. That's why Mel says to mix as many as 5 different kinds. Probably you compost is the weak link. Sidedress with some bone meal. Or if you're feeling squirrelly, fill a bucket with water let that sit a while, pee in it, mix it up, and water your cukes.

Joe

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 10:23AM
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matrixman

One other thought, this is also my 1st year doing it the SFG way. I have had excellent results both germinating and getting my plants to grow steadily. I feel that using 2 bags of black hen composted manure in every 24 cubic ft of Mel's mix was key.

Another words, 2 out of every 8 bags of compost were the black hen stuff.

Just a feeling, no empirical evidence though.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 10:45AM
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lgteacher(SCal)

I am new to SFG, too, but I was amazed at the growth of my veggies (except carrots). My tomatoes are taller than I am and my beans have huge leaves. I mixed Mel's mix and used home-made compost, which was mostly orange peels, banana peels, grass clippings, leaves, tea bags, coffee grounds, and vegetable waste. There were no branches or wood products.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 10:34PM
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