Suggestions as to why my garden just won't grow?

cladesignJune 23, 2009

Hello! I'm new to the forum and new to vegetable gardening. I live in CT and am planting a vegetable garden for the second time. I have had success growing most flowers in my yard, but my veggie garden failed miserably last year. The area gets about 5 hours of sunlight so we figured that it was the soil. We raised the bed this year (8" cedar planks), and had a 50/50 soil mix delivered. The garden is also fenced.

We started some plants from seed; others we bought. So far, I have a couple of scrawny beans, about a dozen dying squash plants that have more flowers than leaves (most of my friends' squash leave are bigger than my entire plant!), NO greens (not a one would grow - we tried lettuce, kale, and swiss chard), watermelon plants that have not grown a millimeter and appear ready to die, and very haggard cukes. I am forgiving of the tomatoes and peppers as it really has not been warm enough for them to grow. My soybeans, however, are my shining spot in the garden and seem to be doing OK.

I seem to be having the same results as I did last year (when nothing grew but just shriveled up and died). Are they not getting enough light? Do I need to fertilize? Could I have a bacteria in the soil and not realize it? Should I replant or just wait it out? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

5 hours is probably not enough sunlight...Sounds like you have good soil but even lack of sun wouldn't make something just shrivel up and die...they would grow just somewhat lanky and not produce ...are you watering the garden enough? Since my own Daughter lives in CT I know at least parts of the state have had an abundance of rain but could that be an issue...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:11PM
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Thanks. I was starting to suspect the sunlight issue. Some of the stuff (like the beans) do get a bit lanky, but the squash really does shrivel up, and so did the cukes last year. This year, half of the cukes are dead already. We have had a TON of rain, so water has not been an issue. I guess I don't understand why even some of the colder weather vegetables, like the greens, have not grown either.

I am doing a comparison, though. We had our first day of limited rain to day (for the first time in weeks) and I planted some veggies in a different part of the yard that should get more sun. I'm curious how they will grow. I suppose if they do well I'll be moving the garden next year!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:18PM
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ruthieg__tx(z8 TX)

Truthfully too much rain is just as bad as not enough....A couple of years ago my tomatoes looked beautiful but they tasted like mush...because of all the rain and some of my stuff just sort of changed from green to brown to black to mush ...there is always something when you are gardening.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:23PM
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austransplant(MD 7)

With five hours of light you should not be having problems growing lettuce or chard. My guess is that your soil is very low in nutrients and you need to fertilize. Vegetables need a lot of food. Don't assume that just because you bought soil mix it contains many nutrients. It is also possible that heavy rain is creating problems, but I doubt this is your main issue.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 11:51PM
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My beginning trouble was weed killer spray in the area, could something like that be in your area or in your soil?
I am new to gardening this year and still learning...
My sunflowers died and most of the ones I replanted. Zukes got hit but most pulled thru.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 12:11AM
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Luckily, a professional lab-quality soil test is pretty cheap in your state.

Standard Nutrient Analysis (Modified Morgan) $8.00

It won't be of any help this year, but if you're concerned about your soil's health this is your best starting point.

Here is a link that might be useful: UConn's Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 12:21AM
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what is 50/50 soil mix????

It does not sound too good.

I would have got free horse manure and paid to move it. Put it down about 4 ft deep and wait. works great.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 12:37AM
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Lots of good replies so far. I'd like to ask some more questions.

1. The 50/50 soil mix. I am not familiar with the terminology. The way I think, I would guess that you used 50 % of one thing and 50% of another. If that is right, what were the two parts? If not right, what was it?

2. Nutrients. It's already been mentioned as a possibility. Have you added any fertilizers, sprays, nutrients, compost tea....anything at all to the soil when you planted or since you planted?

3. Soil test. Also mentioned and potentially a great idea. Before doing it, it would help to know what the soil mix was and what fertilization was used. If it's one or both of those things, you may not need a test. Then again, it's inexpensive and depending on the test, it could tell you a lot of information.

Just a note about the horse manure. When I gardened in ground (before moving to a high rise, lol), I loved horse manure (because I had a horse and it was free and I had cruddy clay soil, which this helped tremendously to amend).

BUT! it needs to be composted/decayed for many reasons, including bacteria, the likelihood of burning/being too hot, etc. Most poop products do, maybe even all (I'm not a poop expert, lol).

If you read posts here on the forum (in various ones), people will debate which manure is better, which has more nitrogen, etc. But, mostly? Decomposed manure is helpful in the garden soil, it amends the soil, adds nutrients, and contributes to a rich microbial life. All good things. So, if you have it, it's great to use, as long as you're using it in the right form.

Here is a link that might be useful: FAQ on manure

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 5:34AM
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Thank you all for great advice! The soil is a mixture of top soil and compost. The ratio might not be quite 50/50. And, no, I have not fertilized and need to do that soon. I would prefer an organic fertilizer. I have a small compost pile that should be ready to use. I can also talk to a local goat farmer about her manure. I have also read that there are some good liquid fertilizers I could add at this point. Has anyone used a liquid fertilizer?

As for any type of weed killer or pesticide, we have owned our home for seven years and never used a chemical on anything. Before that, the house was abandoned for three years. So I think we might be OK there.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 6:41AM
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I read something on another post with about the same problems your having. Turns out an herbicide was used on something that the horses ate or ate some of and was in the manure. Could it be a possibilty that the company you bought the 50/50 mix used an herbicide to kill weeds in their piles? Think about it kinda hard to sell topsoil covered in weeds.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 7:50AM
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bumble_doodle(Z5 CT)

cladesign, I have a difficult time growing veggies in-ground too. My garden is in an area that had new soil brought in after a pool installation. My perennials thrive but I just couldn't get any veggies to do anything. I have since started planting in containers and have had very good results. I'm guessing the new soil just didn't have enough nutrients to sustain vegetables. Fertilizing didn't seem to help either...

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 10:19AM
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You might need to add nitrogen to your soil. Read this blog post and see if it hits home for you. It might help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Why Isn't My Garden Growing?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 1:14PM
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I use Terracycle's Liquid Worm Poop for fertilizer. If you don't already know about the company Terracycle, look them up. The company buys trash and turns it into new and helpful things. They even do deals with schools to pay the school for the students' trash. The Liquid Worm Poop works great, has never burned my plants, and comes in eco-friendly packaging.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 1:25PM
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Hi all, I was going to post a qestion about the effects of all this rain here in the northeast. At the time of this post it is raining again. Most plants seem stunted and light green, which got me reading the books (Rodale). It seems that the rain may have washed most if not all nitrogen out. Calcium and magnesium also leach away. Pulverized lime is cheap today yet so I dusted every plant late in the day. I mean all including potatoes, lettus, amaranth, cabbage, brocoli, peppers, peas, beans, onions, ect.. Everything took a leap in appearance for the better. Greener and just plain better looking. As urine is endorsed here, I saved a milk jug of the liguid, cut it 50.50 with saved rain water and tried it on the brocoli. Success, so saved up some more, you can easily get 1 gal. a day, and donated it to the the balance of the plants. It works. Dear other does not know. In short try a dusting of lime followed a day or so later with some nitrogen whatever the source. You add the lime first I am told by some farmers. Anyway it works. Best regards to all.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 2:03PM
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Thank you all for your great suggestions and support! I ordered some Neptune's Harvest 100% Organic Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer, but want to look into Terracycle as well (thanks veggiefaery). They sound like a great company. I spoke to at least one local farmer who recommended lime so I may try that first, then the fertilizer. I will also call the company where I purchased the soil and see what answers they give me.

bumble_doodle, I didn't mention that the kale I grew in containers is ready for picking, whereas the kale in the garden is stunted at about 2". I've always had luck with containers in the past. I was eager to expand, but would have no problem going back to containers as long as they yield!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 9:46PM
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When is your five hours of sun? Early morning or afternoon. I've got five hours in the early morning and it's wonderful for me, however, I've heard tell that five hours in late afternoon are not the same.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 9:49PM
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A lot of vegetables do not like their feet wet. That is why they make raise beds to provide better drainage.
If your garden area is flat and low and it rains alot (from time to time) then this could be a problem. I think a vegetable garden area sould be higher that its surrounding so that run off water will not flood it.

Another issue, as mentioned, is using herbecide before planting. I have experienced this before myself. Remember that herbecide/chemicals do not discriminate and they will kill or prevent from growing whether it is what we call "weeds" or our favorite "vegetables".

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 4:34AM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

1st be sure your garden is getting "Direct sunlight" and not just daylight. Find out how many hours of "Direct sunlight". That means when you look towards the sun there will be NO obstructions.

2nd only to (above) site selection is a soil test. We in CT are lucky to have CAES labs in Windsor and New Haven. Soil testing is FREE. Meaning there is absolutely NO reason to not have a soil test done before you begin adding dollar bills to the soil. What I mean is you could be adding things that are not needed and only serve to waste your money.

CAES Soil Testing

When troubleshooting - always begin with the basics.

Good Luck

Here is a link that might be useful: CAES

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 7:53AM
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Sounds like your soil might need nitrogen... the lettuce not growing, squash with lots of flowers but few leaves... the beans doing well despite everything else (they fix nitrogen from the air so can get by with less in the soil). Neptune's Harvest will add nitrogen. You could try some blood meal too for an easy source.

I had cukes growing in too much shade last year, and while they didn't yield all that well, the vines did grow... they didn't just die.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2009 at 1:00AM
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