A bafffling problem in one of my gardens

Slimy_Okra(2b)July 13, 2012

I have several gardens scattered around town. One of them is a raised bed garden situated next to a large American elm that shades it from around 11 am to 2 pm. So it gets morning sun and late afternoon sun. I have elm roots creeping into pretty much all the beds.

I planted cucumbers, cantaloupes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant here in mid-June. The cucumbers took off like crazy. The melons are doing OK. The solanaceous crops look like they are barely surviving. They've lost all their lower leaves, look stunted, and have started fruiting prematurely for their size. The eggplants look particularly bad.

I thought it may be soil temperature, but it is quite warm and the melons are doing much better than the tomatoes anyway. Then I thought it may be the elm sucking out water and nutrients but it has been raining frequently, and again, the cucurbits look dark green and healthy.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what is wrong? TIA.

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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Are you positive the tree is an American Elm? Your description of the plants involved makes me think of Black Walnut toxicity which affects tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and isn't much of a problem for melons.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 1:57PM
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that was my line of thinking - nature girl -

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 2:05PM
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I'm not 100% proof positive it's an elm but I know it's not a walnut because they're not hardy here. I do wonder if it could be a tree secreting related chemicals.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 2:11PM
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do you have pictures?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 4:13PM
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Elm trees are allelopathic, similar to walnut, but not as bad. This is likely your problem.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 11:00PM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

Your peppers, tomatoes and eggplants probably would like more sun. I have a similar problem, but for a different reason. Living near the ocean, we have had a lot of early morning fog, which doesn't clear until almost noon.

Later in the day, a tree cuts out the latter day sun, and my poor solanaceous plants are not happy. Fortunately, we are now going into our "real" summer weather, so these are beginning to perk up.

I'd try to find a bit more sun for your struggling sun-lovers.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:03AM
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Congratulations on the large elm specimen. I guess the very cold zones are outside the beetle zone. It's been so long since I've seen a mature Elm tree not sure I would recognize it!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 6:51AM
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My cousin's DH said he saw a young one, 30 ft tall, under a dead one on our back acreage (they were out picking wildflowers in our back meadow - they live in front of us, or to be more accurate, our land extends behind their 5 acres). He wants to move it - I think anything 30 ft tall, regardless of how big/small the canopy is, is going to have such a large root system that it will die if we try to dig it up (not to mention it will require an excavator, I don't think he can move a 30-ft tall tree in an 8ft pickup as he claims, and we have all ledge so it's probably growing in the cracks). He says it's just going to die for lack of light.


Sorry for the hijack.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 7:48AM
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Interesting that the U of GA list (link) lists American elm (Ulmus americana) in the top list of offenders, but the literature citation is from Pakistan. Do we know that little about our native trees?

Here is a link that might be useful: U of GA allelopathic trees

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 8:24AM
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Smallish elms like that are common. No point in moving it since it will die from the disease anyway.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 10:46AM
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