Oranic Garden problems

Rob48December 1, 2013

I just put in a 16'x16' 12 inch raised vegetable garden. I had 10 yards of organic composted garden soil brought in. I then planted a variety of seedlings, mustard, tomatoes, cauliflower, turnips, brussel sprouts, mesclun, onions, etc.

Nothing happened! I did get an amazing volunteer crop of various types of mushrooms, but the seedlings yellowed and did not grow. Lowe leaves died and fell off. The seeds I planted sprouted, but never got past their initial leaves sprouting.

The soil did smell of manure when it was delivered. I was also told that the Carbon Nitrogen ratio may be out of whack and to provide liquid fertilizer, which I did using a combo of fish emulsion and kelp liquid. I just replanted and reseeded a lot of the garden.

Anyone know what might have happened here?

Rob in Central Florida.

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You have composted cow manure, reeking of NPK salts, far too much for seedlings to tolerate, and chock full of the nasty inputs used by commercial dairy industry in florida. We used to buy that stuff too, until I got a good look at a nearby dairy operation (in Paisley, now moved upstate).

The only way you can begin to use that stuff is to till it into the sand at least 50-50. We got one season of production out of it that way. Commercial manures and composts (including mushroom compost) are a terrible investment, even if they don't kill your plants. I've been experimenting with how to increase fertility in florida sand for years now. If you want to take advantage of my advice regarding spending money on inputs, here it is: azomite and GA young humate.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 1:05PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Organic gardeners participate a lot at Soil, Compost and Mulch Forum - GardenWeb.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Wish I had a dollar for every post by someone who bought "soil" and nothing would grow in it. Tilling it in to the native soil, as Pat suggests, sounds like the best idea.

Get your native soil tested. Work on improving it depending on what it needs, and add organic matter each year. It can only get better from here on in!

    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 8:05PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

And be sure to check out the Organic Gardening forum here too.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2013 at 8:57PM
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I kept up my mother's garden in Mobile for three years, and absolutely depended upon Black Kow and a similar locally-made product to keep fertility levels high enough for vigorous annual plants. The sandy soil, warm temps and heavy rainfall required a liberal application of the composted manure before I planted anything. I used it for topdressing, too.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 7:23AM
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Right, it is possible to keep fertility high with junk like black kow, but it's very expensive and will quickly lead to pest problems as well.

Especially in florida sand one must have a big rotation, many seasons of legumes and covers for every one season of a non-legume fruiting crop. The advantage is that in central fla one can get in three full seasons per year.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2013 at 8:00AM
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Thanks for the input. This is so weird. A few stray seeds landed on the area outside the garden and sprouted and grew. In side the garden, most plants are just not doing anything. I was advised to hit it with fish and kelp emulsion, which i did, repeatedly.

The conundrum is is it too much N or not enough? Is all the N being bound up in the decomposition of the organic matter or, since I could smell manure, is it an overload of salts? I've had gardens for years and never seen anything like this. Other than tilling the whole thing under, any suggestions?

What I think happened is that the dude that supplied me with the soil, and it did take a long time for him to deliver, didn't have enough and made up a batch, hot, and green. Jeez. He states that he is a certified organic soil company. Now that I think about, why would a few stray seeds do just fine in soil that had nothing added to it and the plants and seeds in my rich organic soil turn yellow? There is a lesson here.

What is GA green humate?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 7:12PM
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Rob, you've have gardens for years in florida?

IMO, for sure that stuff is overloaded with N-salts. Massively, from your description. I would mix it into as much sand as you can, plant a legume or cool-weather cover and forget that patch for now. When it calms down you will probably get some good crops out of it.

Young humate from a mine in southern GA. Apparently one can drive there and buy it on-site, I bought mine through a dealer and it was drop-shipped to me in one ton totes. It is extremely active and dense OM (about 10k years old) from a bog that was covered by sand. For sandy soils with less than about 1.5% SOM (which describes most sand soils in FL), it confers notable benefit to crop vigor and health. It does not replace fertilizer, but reduces the requirement. A good dose will have effect for many years, unlike any sort of manure or compost you can buy.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 9:50AM
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Thanks for the feedback. I talked to a guy who has an organic gardening website here in Tampa today, who knows the guy who provided my soil. His take on this is that the soil I received is still going through it's composting process and the nitrogen and other nutrients are bound up. He recommended using fish emulsion every day for a couple of weeks, along with kelp and some molasses. He assured me that they do not use manure, which I found hard to believe, since I could definitely smell it.

As I mentioned, a couple of seeds from a lettuce mix fell on the lawn around the bed and are doing fine, with nothing added. In past years in Florida I just tilled the soil, added organics and planted.

It's either what you suggest or what he suggests. Probably your suggestion to just plant some cover crop, let it run it's course and wait until the next season makes the most sense. Dang.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 6:55PM
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The thing is, if conditions are so "hot" that tiny seedlings croak, how is a bunch more expensive stuff going to help that? What does he mean, replant and then use that stuff? Seedlings don't just die in the first week or two from lack of N, or lack of any nutrient - they may fail to thrive, but they don't die. They die from drying out, or frost, or hostile soil chemistry (rare, but sounds like what happened in this case).

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 9:21PM
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I would have to agree with brown. Soil makers sometimes incorporate manure from animals gazed on herbicide treated field into their compost. The herbicide residue in the end product is quite persistent and plants especially seedlings react very badly toward it. The symptoms include stunted growth and curled leave(without apparent reasons). And if you could smell the manure then it is not ready for your plants yet too. It is recommended to leave your store bought soil on the ground for some period to buffer the damage of both the herbicide and unfinished compost.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 3:28AM
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I have no experience with Florida, but I have tried sprouting seeds in crappy potting soil before. I bought some Ace hardware store brand potting soil, put it in flats, and everything sprouted turned yellow, then died. Same seeds from the same packets planted in a different potting soil (compost and perlite) did fine. Same flats, too. I dumped the Ace potting soil and will never use it again. I am not sure what is wrong with your soil. It is a dilemma. But since you said it smells like manure, I am thinking it is "too strong". So I would vote for some form of dilution, too. Till in some native soil, or let the rain dilute it a bit for a while.

Anyway, I hope you get it straightened out.


    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 12:03AM
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Sprouts turned yellow and died, sounded like chemical burn to me.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 2:34AM
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I have also had seedling failures with cheap "potting" soils. They are typically very crude mixes of nasty stuff high-N OM, sludges and manures. A large mature plant can handle it and even make use of it, but a seedling cannot, unless it is massively diluted.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 9:30AM
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