Help with soil issues

planecrazy29June 20, 2011

I have containers (18g rubbermaid) that I am using for my garden. I have been using a soilless mix that I buy at my local green house and it works very, very well. Good drainage and excellent plant health. This year, I added 2 raised bed gardens that are 8'x4'x 11". For them, I used a mix of compost and topsoil that a local place sells by the yard. I planted tomatoes and peppers in the 2 large raised beds. They are not doing well. The tomatoes are stunted and deep, deep green and the leaves are leathery. The peppers are stunted and yellow-ish. The peppers did suffer from sunburn, but are recovering. New growth is green to yellow green on both peppers and tomatoes. I have checked the pH in both types of beds and they are approximately equal. I bought another soil test kit today and the results are inconclusive at best. It appears that there is very little nitrogen and an excess of K and P.

So, my question is: What would be in commercial compost that would cause these kind of issues? Or in the topsoil for that matter? I have the same plants in both types of containers, purchased and the same time from the same source and the smaller containers in the potting soil are vigorous and the raised beds are stunted. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.


Oh, sun exposure is equal on both and they get full sun, 12-14 hours. No shade.

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Your compost is most likely not broken down enough, and not breaking down fast enough to provide the nitrogen your plants need. Typically, for starting a new garden, organically that is, you want to make the beds and mix in your compost the year before, and then every year after. Just mixing up topsoil and compost, then popping plants in isn't going to work, because your compost has had no time to break down. You may want to use chemical fertilizer this year.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 11:13PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I agree - unfinished compost or uncomposted organic matter incorporated into the soil pretty much guarantees N immobilization. pH issues are a possibility as well, if micronutrient deficiencies are coming into play (leathery leaves possibly a boron issue). You might wish to consider using a high-N fertilizer like 30-10-10 or even a granular fertilizer formulated for quick lawn green-up (like 27-3-3, eg). Blood meal is another possibility.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 11:28PM
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Boron deficiency

Stems stiff; terminal buds die and growths die back; lateral shoots developed, giving plant flat top; leaves highly tinted purple, brown and yellow.

i think it more a nitrogen problem.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:46AM
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Well, that pretty much matches my soil tests then. Zero nitrogen, high phosphorus and normal to high potassium. Thank you for your replies. I'll get some high N fertilizer. I added Guano that is 10-2-.5 tonight, but I'm not sure it will be enough.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 10:30PM
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