User avatar
ID jit
Green Thumb
Posts: 340
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:00 pm
Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

Have a 20' x 40' garden. Base sort of water washed glacial till, almost alluvial in nature. Since then it has had a lot of organic matter added into it. Soil went from grainy, tan dirt to a brown soil. past few years it has seen 2"-4" of compost tiled in in the spring and the fall. It also get the fire place ashes from about 2 cord of hard wood each year, and 2 bags of pelletized lime each spring. Soil is very dark brown and almost spongy now.

Root veggies, carrots, beets, and radishes specifically, grow some amazing tops, but not much root. All three of them seems to go to seed very early.

Am GUESSING that it may have something to do with really high P and K values from the wood ash, or possibly something to do with the tilth of the soil. (I know a soil test....)

Thinking about doing a 8" x 8' x 4' raised bed in the garden to get some off the plants out of the potentially high P and K. I have about a yard of somewhat mulchy compost and 1/4 to 3/8 yard of screen stuff and a practically infinite supply of almost fine bank run gravel.

If I use a 1/2" to get the big stuff out of the local dirt and then a window screen to get the uber fine stuff out. Would mixing the resulting material 50/50 - 25/75 with the compost and then filling the bed with that mix give the root veggies a better chance of growing more root?
I don't believe we can resist the things which make no sense - I believe.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

Without a soil test, the one thing you really need to know about your soil is its acidity (pH). You can buy a pH meter.

Carrots do not grow well in very acid or in alkaline soil. They need pH between 5.8 and 6.5, i.e. slightly acid. Wood ash is very alkaline, so probably your soil is alkaline as well. You would need to know the pH of your compost. Ideally finished compost balances itself out to neutral, but some composts are alkaline also, especially if you were adding wood ash to the compost pile. If your compost is alkaline, adding it to your soil won't help. If soil is alkaline, you need to add some sulfur compound, along with the compost.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

bri80
Senior Member
Posts: 282
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:12 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

I would do a soil test. Blindly adding amendments/guessing will lead to problems over the long-term.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11231
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

Agreed your soil may be on the alkaline side. A lot of wood ash, possible alkaline compost,and lime. Your base soil is glacial till probably with a lot of sandstone, schist, and shale and carboniferous rocks. It probably has a high water table so when it is wet it stays wet for a long time.
I am guessing based on your description and location that your soil is similar to this. Soil mapping has been done throughout the US and it helps to know the properties of your base soil. https://nesoil.com/images/pittstown.htm
I am very familiar with the big tops and no root phenomenon. I get it all the time.
If you grow nice fat leafy vegetables and your corn is tall then you have a lot of nitrogen.
Most root crops like beets like a sandy loam rich loam that is soft and the roots can easily penetrate. I think your amendments have created such a loam. Most crops like a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Cabbages can stand it higher and beets do fine even if the pH goes up to 7.5.

Heres the thing about root crops, timing of nutrients is very important. If you want good root growth, you have to make sure you don't have a lot of excess nitrogen in the soil. You told us your amendments, but none of that would generate excess nitrogen. You must be adding fertilizer and the type of fertilizer matters for certain crops. Compost would actually suck up nitrogen as it decomposes.

I suggest this. Before you plant your next root crop, plant a scavenger crop like rapeseed, clover or radish as a cover crop to scavenge any excess nitrogen. Crimson clover or mustard should be planted thickly and tilled in when they start to flower. This will trap excess nitrogen in the crop residues and it will be released slowly back to the soil later.
Plant your beets and carrots. Beets 4 inches apart and carrots 2 inches apart. Do not fertilize until plants are 2 inches tall. We used sustane and bone meal. 4 parts sustane and 3 parts bone meal, but vegetable or plant tone by epsoma should work. You want something that is low nitrogen and high phosphorus. You only need about a teaspoon per plant. We made a thin line of fertilizer along the row. When the tops mature at about 5-6 weeks of age, the plant should be ready to start bulbing up, we gave it another shot of fertilizer. You can use epsoma garden tone or bulb tone instead. Bulbing plants need nitrogen to get good leaf growth in the beginning but to encourage bulbing there can't be a lot of excess nitrogen. So, the soil should be scavenged first of all excess nutrients that are left over from previous crops. When the plants are ready to bulb up is the next time they need a boost of fertilizer and some nitrogen, but not too much. Nitrogen will help with the phosphorus uptake if they are band fertilized. Getting the ratio right takes trial and error since a lot of that will depend on what is already in your soil. As a cheat I would use the garden tone for the first feeding and bulb tone for the second since bulb tone would have a higher phosphorus the second time around.

https://www.growing-life.com/shop/pH_and ... chart.html

If you get black rings in the beet flesh, it is a boron deficiency usually from a soil that has a high pH. Lowering the pH and adding micros will help.
https://customers.hbci.com/~wenonah/min-def/tablbeet.htm
https://www.ipni.net/publication/betterc ... %20p11.pdf

A soil test would be better since knowing your levels of phos, potassium and pH are important in terms of what fertilizer you use. If mother nature created your grow beds it would automatically be balanced. When humans start mucking around, thats when it gets messed up. A soil test takes the guesswork out so you will know exactly what you need to do to balance the soil again.

If I were to grow beets, I would need to use a scavenger but I would only add small amounts of nitrogen at the proper growth stages and no phosphorus at all since I already know my levels are way to high to add any more. My beets and root crops grow better in the alkaline plot pH 7.4 than the acidic one pH 6.0 mainly because the alkaline plots make nitrogen a little less available. On the other hand, the tomatoes are much happier in the acidic and nutrient rich plot. Leaf crops do equally well.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
ID jit
Green Thumb
Posts: 340
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:00 pm
Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

Thanks for the info.

Posted a reply yesterday. Don't know why it didn't stick.

Any suggestions on where to get a soil test?

As for the question, going to take it as as "Maybe, if you want to experiment blindly."
I don't believe we can resist the things which make no sense - I believe.

PaulF
Greener Thumb
Posts: 780
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2010 10:34 pm
Location: Brownville, Ne

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

Check with your State Extension if your State has one. Some States Extensions do soil testing some do not. Then you can do a internet search for a soil testing lab in your area. Most simple soil tests for home gardeners are pretty cheap, $10-$25. Even the simple tests are comprehensive enough and much more accurate than using a store bought instrument. Even a $50 pH meter doesn't compare with a $1500 machine the labs use. Most, if not all soil tests come with recommendations. One test every two or three years will be sufficient.
Paul F

bri80
Senior Member
Posts: 282
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:12 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

I've used this company and liked their service:
https://www.loganlabs.com/get-started.html

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11231
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

I get mine done at the agricultural extension office. Most extension services are based at a land grant university. Google your state's master gardener and they should be able to tell you how to take your sample and where to take it. If you want organic recommendations ask for it. Take your sample about a month after you mix everything up. Don't add anything more until you get the results otherwise the results will be off.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

User avatar
ID jit
Green Thumb
Posts: 340
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2016 2:00 pm
Location: SE New England: zone twilight or 5b... hard for me to tell some days.

Re: Need a Logic Check from people who know more than me.

Thanks for the info. Plants came in yesterday and will be taking up my free time until I have the containers set.
I don't believe we can resist the things which make no sense - I believe.

Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”