Is this the result of over watering?

s_arthur123April 20, 2011

I started my first container garden this year. The plants are currently located in the garage (where it is warm) and I am using compact flourescent 100 watt bright light bulbs. The seedlings were transplanted into large containers with many holes drilled in the base for drainage. The planting medium consist of leaf compost, composted manure and hummus, peat moss, vegetable garden soil from Miracle Gro, all-purpose sand, and top soil. I tested the PH level prior to planting and the range was from 6.0 - 6.8. I have watered them 1-2 times a week since being transplanted over the last 2-4 weeks. The beans and cukes were transplanted 3-4 weeks ago and the peppers over the last 1-2 weeks. They have been doing very well until yesterday when all of the sudden they started wilting and the leaves turning yellow. The cukes and beans have been hit the hardest. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Sounds like either a damping off problem (look to see if the stems look rotted or constricted/collapsing at soil level) or inhibition of root function due to compaction or hypoxic (lack of air) soil conditions. Chances of these being the issue go up dramatically if you can eliminate over-fertilizing or ammonium toxicity (what is the mean soil temperature and what are you fertilizing with) as a potential cause.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 9:30AM
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Hello Al,
Thanks for the quick reply. I have examined the plants again and a few of the cukes that have wilted are collapsed at the soil level, however I do not see this issue with the other plants(pole beans, various peppers, and tomatoes). I checked the soil temperature and it is around 60 degrees. I imagine it has probably been pretty consistent as the garage is heated and the temps outside have not been too extreme lately. I live in southwest Connecticut. The soil does not seem compacted and between the sand, peet, and composted manure; I would think the drainage and aeration should be good. I just fertilized the plants for the first time last night as I wanted to rule our a nitrogen deficiency. The seedlings were planted in either jiffy pots with Miracle Gro seed starter or in a Jiffy Greenhouse with the seed starter pods. They have been transplanted over the course of the last 4 weeks. I have a Burpee PH and fertility tester and the fertility is on the ideal range according to this meter. I will post some images if I can figure out how to do it on this forum. I would be happy to email some images if you are willing to take a look at them. Thanks again for your help.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 10:27AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Please do send the pics - a N deficiency is a possibility. You'll need to send me a note through my user page, since you don't have an email link on yours. I'll reply & then you can mail directly.

Don't be offended, but it sounds to me like you're likely to have compaction/water-retention issues in the soil you described, even as the season progresses. It just has a lot of fine particulates, which directly impacts water retention.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 5:05PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

As I read what you were doing with your plants, the results you are getting is exactly what I would have expected. Please do take Al(tapla) up on his offer to help you directly. He has helped many of us "one on one". Al

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 10:02AM
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Hello Al,
Thanks for your feedback. I am brand new at this and apparently going about it all wrong. I did take Al up on his offer and per his request I sent him a message so that I can get his email and send images of the plants. I am just waiting for a reply.

I just got back from picking up pine mulch and perlite. I intend to replant all of my containers incorporating these into the mix. Do you have any tips or suggestions for re-planting? How much of the original mix do you think I can use? I was thinking of the following mix.

50% pine mulch
35% original mix
15% perlite

I am trying to keep the expenses down as I have already gone way over budget on this. In total my containers have approximately 50 cubic feet of soil mix so it is quite a lot to replace. I just purchased 24cf of pine mulch and 8cf of perlite. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks


    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 2:52PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

You could save even more by upping the pine bark fraction and also end up with a superior soil.

When you use a lot of fine ingredients along with the bark & perlite, the mix tends to favor the water retention of the finest ingredients. Read this copy/past from another thread to get a better feel for what I'm talking about:

Use your mind's eye to picture what happens when you mix sand into a jar already filled with marbles. You can fill a jar with a quart of marbles, but still pour a pint of sand into the jar ....... so did you ACTUALLY fit 1-1/2 quarts of material in a 1-quart jar? If you envision this arrangement, sand and marbles, what do you think the drainage characteristics would be? There's a quart of marbles but only a pint of sand, yet the drainage characteristics AND height of the PWT will be exactly that which it would be in pure sand. The only thing that changed by mixing them together is the o/a volume of water the mixture CAN hold.

The same can happen with the bark/peat/perlite mix. If you start having to add significant fractions of fine material (over about 1/6 of the whole) to increase water retention, you end up reducing drainage AND increasing perched water. This is precisely why adding a little bark and perlite to peat or bagged soils won't work as well as starting with a favorable size bark when building soils, and why adding a lot of peat to large bark doesn't work well either.

I think this is probably the clearest example (I've offered) as to why particle size is so important to how container soils function.

Questions/comments welcomed.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 4:28PM
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I totally get what you are saying. I read your posting on water retention this afternoon. It was very helpful. I just emailed you some images. Please let me know if you think there is anything else happening here other than the compaction. I am mixing up new planting medium right now. Thanks


    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 5:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

OK - I'll get to it asap - my mail is really backed up right now, but I won't forget you.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 6:10PM
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