Fertilizing....

catsgurleygirlMay 18, 2014

Our square-foot garden seem to be doing kind of okay. But I feel like I need to boost fertility in the soil. We brought in pro mix soil blends (leaf mold, sand, etc.) and we put a deep layer of chopped, starting to decompose, leaves at the bottom of our 15 inch raised beds. However, I have two yellow squash plants that I'm about ready to pull out throw away because their growth is extremely stunted and they look yellowish no matter what I do. In my bean plants, the lower 2 leaves look lush and green, and the more adult leaves have come in a lighter shade of green--and are staying that way as they grow. So, from what I'm seeing, I feel like I want to fertilize my soil. I have some of that Garden tone stuff by Espoma I put down on a couple of things, but I know it says I need to work it into the soil and I am kicking myself because I put a layer of mulch down on most of the beds and if I work that in, I'm going to bind the nitrogen and have even more trouble on my hands. I'm wondering if I can just put a bunch of compost on top of the mulch and it leach down, but I think that won't give it enough oomph . I'm afraid to put bloodmeal and fishmeal down, because we have some woods behind our house, and my neighbor said that she put some bloodmeal in one of her pots and raccoons came and dug it up and we've already had raccoons in our yard eating our dry cat food. I already worry about the Gardentone because that stuff is stinky is as well. I was just wondering about using miracle grow on everything this season and then next season really heavily amending with more compost and stuff like that. I know miracle grow isn't supposed to be very good for the soil, but I didn't know if it would be so damaging just for one season. Don't know where to go from here, I just know that my garden needs some fertilizer and it needs it now. I have some chicken poop in the composter, but that's probably going to need another month or so to break down. I also have ongoing access to tons of rabbit poop, it's very heavily mixed in with straw though so I have to give it quite a bit of time to break down and decompose. Thanks!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

How about we define what your nutritional supplementation goal should be and work from there? It can easily be described as, you, working toward ensuring that all the nutrients plants normally secure from the soil are in the soil (solution) at all times, in the ratio at which the plant actually uses the nutrients, and at a concentration high enough to ensure no deficiencies yet low enough to ensure the plant isn't impeded in its ability to take up water and the nutrients dissolved in water.

The question now, is, how do you achieve that end? The answer is, you can't - w/o first knowing what your existing soil provides, in relation to both deficiencies and excesses; and if the nutrients are present, whether or not they are available for uptake. That's going to entail a soil test.

You could GUESS ...... In most cases, mineral soils are most likely to be plagued by a deficiency of N or Mg, or an excess of Ca, but that's a NATION-wide overview - and by the sound of it, you're not actually dealing with a mineral soil.

Unfinished compost is going to immobilize N, and finished compost isn't much of a fertilizer - it's value lies in what it does for the soil holistically, and since OM already has a significant representation in your soil, it seems compost is going to make much difference.

W/o a soil test, you're relying on a 'best guess' strategy. I'd make tracks to your co-operative extension agent and confer with him/her about getting the help needed. I think you'll find it serves you so well that you'll make it a regular part of your gardening strategy.

Saw your post pop up on the "most recent posts" box when I opened GW & thought I'd add my comments. I hope it helps.

Al

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 11:26AM
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catsgurleygirl

Okay, thank you for your response. I am sure I will have to do a soil test which will take at least 7-10 days. Maybe I could just bandaid with miracle grow until I get my results back and go from there. Sigh. I was hoping to avoid this by bringing "pro" soil mix. :-P

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 11:36AM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

For what it's worth, my beans looked that way too as they came in but now that they are vining up their trellis they are looking better. It may just be the conditions - I think it was still getting cool at night and most everything in my garden was moving slow. But it's all getting going now that its warming up!

Also, beans in general don't want fertilizer - they are nitrogen-fixing plants, meaning they bring nitrogen from the air into the soil - often you plant them between other crops that need lots of nutrients to reinvigorate the soil. So no miracle grow on beans - that is my understanding anyway.

Are you getting enough sun? Consistent water? Good temperatures?

I would say resist the miracle gro but I totally understand the urge. I got some Fish emulsion which is supposed to be mild on the plants (i.e. if you're not right in your assessment at least you haven't harmed the plants - chemical fertilizers can be harsh)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 12:51PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

also there are soil test kits available at most garden stores and online that are cheap and will give you an idea of your situation. like the one below...

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil Test

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 12:53PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

BTW - if you are fertilizing and the soil temp is still below 55*, you might be seeing some ammonium toxicity symptoms.

Al

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 12:57PM
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