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Questions about fertilizing

Posted by prairiemoon2 zone 6a/MA (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 10:17

I did post earlier in the season when we were constructing new raised beds. The beds are done and we are just finishing up the last trellis today. All the beds are planted and ready to go. During the construction of the beds, I had to hold my seedlings longer than usual for the beds to be ready and being distracted, the seedlings didn't get a lot of attention. I did purchase organic tomato starts from a nursery that grows organic. So that's where I'm at.

We purchased organic native soil that had been mixed with organic compost and a small amount of peat. They also amended the soil with organic fertilizers, like bloodmeal, worm castings etc. Some of the beds have this mix and some have the soil from my old vegetable beds. I did add Alfalfa Meal to the beds with my own soil, but nothing else yet.

So, I've given the plants a chance to settle in. The brassicas and lettuce seedlings were planted on May 3rd. In my own soil and have done pretty well and we're still eating daily Romaine, Bok Choy and Kale.

Beans, Cucumber, Dill, and Cilantro were all direct sown on June 1st. The pepper plants were added on June 2nd, and the Tomatoes didn't go in until June 7th.

I'm not concerned with the Brassica/Lettuces. They did okay, not perfect but okay. As soon as they come out, I'm planning to do a cover crop there.

The direct sown beans are just starting to climb and I had good germination with the cucumbers. The color looks pretty good on them and they are also growing in a bed that is all my own soil, that was not amended this year with anything beyond a little Alfalfa Meal.

Here is how the Kale looks--->


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Here are the first crops from the garden --->


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

So I was satisfied with the results of Kale and Lettuces and Bok Choy, but I had trouble with the broccoli and brussel sprout plants which I am not going to worry about, because there are just too many variables for why that is. Especially that they were planted so late. I would still like to do the cover crop and let the bed settle for next spring. I think the Kale could be a darker color and I did put some unfinished compost in the bottom of the bed that I would like to allow to break down all the way.

The Beans and Cukes in my own soil could be a darker color. But the new leaves coming in are darker. So I am unsure whether to add fertilizer or not. Normally I cover crop, and work in grass clippings and chopped leaves in the fall and use Liquid Fish Emulsion/Seaweed through the season and that has done okay for me in the past. This year, I am considering adding a second organic fertilizer but I don't know what.

This is what the beans and cukes look like -->


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

And the cukes, which look again, look like they are okay, but could be darker green, to me -->

So, would you feel by looking at them, that I need to add more organic fertilizer? Or just use the Liquid Fish Emulsion/Seaweed?


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Then there are the other beds that have the purchased soil in them. Here are the pepper plants, which are undersized and pale but a couple of them are doing better than the rest, color wise and growing quicker. They are all different varieties, so not sure that is a factor or not.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

This one has a paler color but is growing --->


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

And I started squash direct sown and these are growing in the beds with purchased soil ---->

The color looks okay to me, should it be darker?

So bottom line, I have newly filled beds, so the soil has been disturbed in a big way and I assume all the biological activity has too. The soil I purchased was also a mix of top soil and subsoil and screened, with amendments added. My thinking is that it's going to have to work that out and little I can do about that but keep adding organic matter which I won't do until the fall. Since they added amendments, I feel I should just allow the plants to grow without adding more for this year. But I'd really like to hear some input.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Oh…and here are what the tomato plants look like --->

They seem happy enough since being planted out. They are also growing in the purchased soil. This is the latest I've ever put tomato plants in the ground. lol


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Some plants have tomatoes on them.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Um, good looking plants. What's the problem, and what's the question?


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Okay, so to you they look good? I was thinking they were not a dark enough green and debating whether to add fertilizer.

I'm sorry, I realize it's a long post. The fact that I purchased soil to fill some of my beds and that soil is very different from my own has me wondering how to treat these plants through the season. I grow organically, so I would like to have opinions about whether to fertilize, what to use organically and how often to fertilize this season? Since the soil had compost and amendments added to it to start with, will I still need to use additional fertilizer?


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Your plants look fine, and your soil sounds rich. I assume things are actually growing, and not just looking good? That being the case, fertilizer won't hurt, but maybe you're looking too hard for problems?

Peppers love the heat, and you just may not have had much yet.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Thanks Dan, yes, the plants all seem to be growing. Perhaps with getting them in the ground so late, I'm expecting too much. I thought they looked fine too, I just have seen photos online of vegetable starts that do look a lot darker green than mine do, so I wondered if the reason was because others were fertilizing more than I do.

I have felt in the past, that I haven't always kept up with building the soil enough and that my plants at times have underperformed. And the only thing I could explain that with is the fact I rarely fertilize and then only with the liquid seaweed/fish emulsion, compost here and there and a thick layer of organic matter for mulch.

Since I have three times the size of my old growing space, I can now grow crops that I haven't been growing for awhile, so I want to get off on the right foot and settle any lingering questions about whether what I'm doing is working as well as I can expect.

Thanks for your input, and I'm sure I will be posting as the season goes on if my plants aren't growing as expected.

And if there are any organic growers who use other commercial fertilizers I'd love to hear about what you use.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

A couple of suggestions, since you are asking...

I would keep the soil surface cultivated, but be sure not to disturb roots. You can top-dress with a half an inch of well-composted steer manure, and that will help. If you space your plants such that their leaves just touch when they are fully grown, that will keep the surface from drying out and siezing up around the stems of your plants.

Alan Chadwick's lectures on Fertilization for the organic garden are helpful. You can find them here:

Alan Chadwick Lecture Index

Here is a link that might be useful: Alan Chadwick


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Animal manure needs to be applied in the fall or extremely early spring because there is a 90 day/ 120 day (depending on the crop) waiting period before edibles are harvested to avoid those things like e coli.

I'm sure a Google search will confirm that or one of the regular posters may have a favorite link, so I'm not going to re-invent the wheel.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

I think the animal manure thing depends on what you're top dressing with. If you're talking fresh animal manure, I could buy into concerns about ecoli. It's never recommended to put that in your beds until it's fully composted. But steer/chicken manure compost that you buy at the stores in bags is already fully composted and does not require a waiting period.

Prairiemoon, your garden looks beautiful to me. The plants don't look pale enough to be worrisome, IMO, but if you feel they should be darker, I believe that comes with nitrogen. You could provide regular doses of fish emulsion or an equivalent 5-1-1 type fertilizer.


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The risks of e-coli from animal manure are vastly reduced with proper composting. For uncomposted manure, of which it is estimated that 20% will contain bio-pathogens, the accepted guidelines for in situ composting (as in, plowing in fresh stuff and waiting) is more like a year.

Of course, you should just wash your veggies, and your hands, and make sure you get your composted manure from someone who really knows how to compost.


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

Thank you Carlo for those suggestions. I normally mulch my vegetable beds with a mix of grass clippings and chopped leaves, but this year, I am all out of leaves and I can see that I won’t have enough grass clippings to mulch all my beds, so I am experimenting with mulches this year. We also had some ‘witch grass’ roots in the soil we purchased, despite the fact they screened it, which I was concerned about, as we have had unhappy experiences with that. So we sifted it again before filling the beds. At that point, I wanted to allow whatever weeds were in the soil to sprout so I could get a look at what I will be dealing with. So far, I’ve had enough weeds sprout to ease my concerns. Nothing looks bad at all. So now I am weeding and mulching. Also, this new soil does not drain quite as fast as our own. We’ve used so much organic matter that ours drains really quickly. So the mulch will slow down the water from running off the surface with the new soil.

I’ve also stayed away from manures in my vegetable beds and prefer to use compost that has not had any manure added. But I did see you said ‘well composted’ and I’m sure there are people who have used it all their life and had no problem with it.

The spacing suggestion, I can certainly use. I have a tendency to plant too close, and I am glad for the reminder that the plants can act like a canopy over the soil to keep the moisture in and the weeds down perhaps. Even using mulch, I still need that suggestion.

Oh…and thanks very much for the link to the lecture on Fertilization for an Organic Garden. Exactly what I need!

Thanks Plaidbird and Loribee for the reminder on the safety of manures. I have considered raising chickens and using that manure, but I really don’t have the size property to do more than a minimum of composting and really I think that ship has sailed at my age. lol

edit: And Loribee, thanks for connecting the pale color to not enough nitrogen, that will help me to know what to add when it is like that.

Thanks Loribee, I am ready to start using my fish emulsion again. I’ve been too busy getting the garden finished and the plants in to think about it until now, so that’s a job for tomorrow. And I may find with a couple of applications the color will darken. And I may as well try that first before deciding I need something more. And in the meantime, I'll read Carlo's link.

Dan, I agree, in different circumstances, I would learn how to use manures in the garden. It’s just one less thing to worry about for me at this point.

This post was edited by prairiemoon2 on Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 16:03


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

".... I had trouble with the broccoli and Brussels sprout plants ..."

They aren't summer vegetables. When did you sow them? And what went wrong?


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Yes, I realize the brassicas are cool weather crops and I didn't get them in the ground until May 3rd, which is pretty late. Probably at least 3 weeks late. Between the weather and constructing new beds, that was the best I could do.

What went wrong, was, first one then another started falling over. And when I pulled one out, the root system seemed to be negligible. At first I thought the squirrels were digging them up, but I am now wondering if the bed has too much unfinished compost in the bottom, in addition to cardboard to keep the grass from coming up in it, so it's staying too moist. Everything else was growing well. But I'll be happy to pull everything out, sow a cover crop and mulch it with chopped leaves in the fall. I think the bed will be just right by next spring.

edit: Floral, thanks for asking about the broccoli plants. I will try to take a photo of them tomorrow. Who knows, I'm just guessing what the problem was, maybe someone can tell more by looking at them.

This post was edited by prairiemoon2 on Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 18:49


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RE: Questions about fertilizing

I'm doing broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts as a fall crop this year because they've never done well in the spring even when I get them in in early April. Brussels sprouts are actually supposed to taste better after a frost, so I'm taking my first frost date and going back 90 days to get an idea of when to plant. Will probably aim to get them in by July 15 here.

Oh, and your cukes and peppers look just fine to me. Mine are about the same color and are forming cukes already.


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Thanks Caryltoo, that's good to know. I'm going to take photos of what I have left tomorrow to post. I imagine I should be able to leave the brussel sprouts plants for the fall, if I have any left. And thanks for the confirmation that the color is okay on the cukes and peppers. This week is supposed to be hot so maybe that will help them.


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