pepperhead212
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Though it's not organic, I give my tomatoes in my SIPs a "snack" of Ca(NO3)2 every 7-10 days, by adding a tsp to the reservoir. You could also spray them with a solution of it - 2 tsp/gal. This would also give them a boost of N, which may help them grow better.

You may want to look into growing tomatoes in SIPs, given your soil conditions. I have some of mine that have gotten 3 1/2-4' tall already, having been planted on 4-24, and are loaded with tomatoes and blossoms. I think I will get my earliest ripe tomato ever - usually 7-4 is a good first ripe date.

Here's a link with a bunch of info on SIPs, and a bunch of photos.
viewtopic.php?f=21&t=60946
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Sorry, but I haven't the slightest idea what ca(NO3)2 is. :)
Someone had told me how truly synthetic Miracle Gro was and made me seriously think about switching to organic. However I'm seeing how horribly expensive it'll be. I don't understand why organic stuff costs more??!! And the nutritional value is lower. That stinks, right?

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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Calcium Nitrate.


It’s important to know what the 3 numbers on the fertilizer package represents. N-P-K ...nitrogen-phosphate-potassium— these are the three major/macro nutrients plants always need. Nitrogen is what boosts Foliar growth. It also readily converts to gas and is lost.

Synthetic miraclegro (regular) has ridiculous amounts of N — so sure it boosts green lush growth, but to fruit=flower, plants need higher amounts/ratio of P and K as well as micro/mineral calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, manganese.....

Synthetic plant food is usually in immediately bio-available form, but tends to turn to gas or is leached away by water. Organic fertilizers will not only feed the plants but also the diverse micro-organism food web in the soil that helps to build self-sustaining chain of wholesome nutrient-cycle. So it’s not necessary to think you have to have pound-for-pound equivalent numbers in organic fertilizer.

I think of it like the difference between taking synthetic vitamins vs eating real food.

...that said, I believe you need to switch to something that promotes blooming and fruiting— I suppose Miracle-gro equivalent is their Tomato fertilizer — but on their website, the reviews mention it doesn’t contain calcium. (That seems really dumb. It shouldn’t be called “Tomato” fertilizer.).

FYI — Here’s Tomato-tone
Image
Last edited by applestar on Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added tomato-tone label for clarification
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Cacium is what prevents the blossom end rot, right?
I bought a box of Miracle-Gro performance organics fertilize. It reads 11-3-8. I have to use four scoops of it instead of two like the synthetic, which means using it up more and spending extra money. I'll never understand why organic costs more. I'm going to get some of that Espoma tomato fertilize- I know where I can buy some. It's not cheap either.

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Gary350
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Green sand is used in foundries to make castings. After sand has been used many times they throw it out. There is usually a pile of green sand behind the building that is free. There might be small pieces of, zinc, brass or cast iron in the sand. Look for casting companies in your area. I collected grass clippings in bags that people set out along the street to be picked up by the city to put in my AZ garden it worked good.

What is your weather like? When I lived in Phoenix AZ area my best garden was planted Nov 1st. I had ripe tomatoes first week of Jan. Last 2 weeks of Feb was usually below freezing. I planted another garden March 1st. There was no rain sometimes for 9 months garden needed irrigation 15 minutes every night at 9pm. AZ soil is 8ph water is 8ph too it was not a problem of any of the garden plants. Humidity was too low for corn to pollinate. AZ soil has no food value for plants fertilizer is required a friend lives in TX he told me the same thing about TX soil. My plants had BER really bad no lime was available for sale in any store so I bought $3 bags of cement. Mix 1/2 gallon of cement in 5 gallon bucket of water wait 2 days before pouring it on plants.

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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

My weather is awful. Winters and springs are rainy, and summers are hot and dry. Temperatures can vary. It can be cool and rainy one day, and hot and humid the next. Winter temps can be nice and warm one day and freezing cold the next. I think my weather contributes to my pepper and tomato blossoms not setting. I was checking my beefsteak plant yesterday- plant is HUGE!! Like 4- 4 1/2 feet tall! But I saw this whole empty cluster of empty blossom stems near the top of the plant. All the blossoms had died. My plants NEVER produce good for me.

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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Plants are very honest and straight forward. It’s just a question of figuring out what they need.... like a mystery or puzzle. :wink:

The new fert you mentioned is still highest in N, so you need to boost the phosphate and potassium. Can you get some hardwood ash?

I think a bloom booster type instead would have better effect.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Hardwood ash? Don't think so. Ok, you say I needed a fertilize to help ensure blossom production. But my tomatoes have no trouble producing blossoms, the blossoms won't pollinate due to weather being incorrect. They turn yellow then fall off. However, I have purchased a box of Miracle Gro Bloom Booster for flowers in the past- the potassium and potash were higher. I might look for that again. I do know where I can get the Espoma Tomato Tone, I will certainly buy some. And for calcium, I'll toss egg shells in there.

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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Eggshells - I put raw eggshells in my compost pile/bin so they go through several months decomp process. For using direct in potting mix, garden, or for the earthworms in the vermicompost bins, I save hard oiled eggshells which are obviously cooked/ oiled. I put them in quart size deli containers and smash them into tiny bits (garden/ container = deters slugs) - powder (powder for the. Vermicompost). Smaller they are faster calcium leaches out.
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imafan26
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I also think the soil is the culprit. While bagged soil isn't always the best choice, soil is not fertilizer. You have a lot of large plants in a small area that are heavy feeders.

I amend the soil that is heavy clay at least 10-12 inches deep with an equal volume of compost. The compost should have at least 5 different sources and not rely too heavily on forest products. Homemade compost would be best, but I like black gold, black Kow (it has composted cow manure), leaf mold, and peat moss. Ideally the compost should be worked in in the fall every year so it can do its thing in time for the next year's planting.

Pine trees can be a problem if the needles are falling in the garden. Pine has some tannins that are antagonistic toward some things like the onions and garlic, but don't seem to bother other things.

I have heavy red clay too so I know how hard it is to work. I do believe in adding carbon and organics to improve soil tilth, texture and to feed the soil organisms. I am not that much into organics. If you want to do organic fertilizer, you will have to supplement with compost tea, fish emulsion and other fast nitrogen especially during the early growth of plants and heavy feeders like tomatoes and corn. Whether you do organic or synthetic fertilizer (I do synthetic because I do not like to use animal based fertilizers.) Organic fertilizers need to be added about 6 months in advance and the real benefit won't show up until the second or third year since the organic fertilizer numbers are low and can take up to two years to release their nutrients. Hence, why organic needs to be supplemented. I get better results with less work using synthetics and I don't have to haul around a large volume of fillers or brew compost tea or use fish emulsion every week.

Whether you go with organic or synthetic fertilizer, I still think it is a good idea to get a baseline soil test. That way you will get recommendations for how much fertilizer you need to add. A scale would be a good idea to have too. I get my soil test from the local extension service for $12 for a basic major nutrients and pH. Nitrogen is not tested since it is a volatile element. I retest every 3 years or so. My recommendation only calls for nitrogen and nothing else. It also calls for a very small amount of nitrogen. I have a 20 lb bag of sulfate of ammonia for about 4 years now and I have only used about a 1/4 of it on my plots.

I have done trench composting using mostly grass, leaves, tree trimmings, and kitchen veg and fruit waste. I do add sulfate of ammonia to the compost to speed the decomposition. The pile is best when it is at least 3 feet wide and a couple of feet high. It still takes about 5-6 months to mature for planting. The first planting is good, but the next planting gets depleted from nitrogen quickly so a new pile needs to be started every other year. This is part of an experiment I am doing with a friend. She partially composts in a traditional pile until it is partially broken down. Then it is transferred to the garden and trench composted with about 4 inches of soil on top and sulfate of ammonia to boost the nitrogen for another 5-6 months to be ready for planting. The pile is covered with burlap but the "weeds" still break through. I have had to pull out many volunteer papaya and I now have a butternut squash growing in the pile. The compost also sinks considerably and is another reason why the garden needs to have more compost added every year. I can only do the trench composting on the large 25x 50 ft garden. It is the only one where I have space to keep parts of the garden trenched for months at a time. This is the only garden where I do plant green manures.

It is not practical to do trench compost in my 8x16 ft home garden. I add 4-6 inches of finished compost (I buy bagged compost) before I plant each cycle. Sulfate of ammonia is added after the true leaves come out. The amount added depends on the crop. I usually follow corn (heavy nitrogen feeder) with a scavenger asian green crop. I do chop and drop healthy garden residues and do a little bit of trench composting. I have a 365 day gardening year, so the garden is rarely fallow.

The alkaline plots are better for root crops since they are relatively nitrogen poor. The plants are healthy but generally shorter than they should be. The acidic garden is better for corn and fruiting crops like tomatoes and cucumbers. Root crops don't develop much root in this plot because it is nitrogen rich.Plants are taller and larger in this garden compared to the alkaline plots. Cabbages and leafy greens are the least fussy and do well in either garden. Legumes will probably be better for your garden until the soil is fixed.

Synthetic fertilizers should be added about a month before you plant. Nitrogen can be added later.
Organic fertilizers should be added about 6 months prior to planting and you will still need to supplement especially in the early stages and while the plants are fruiting since organic fertilizers are not always available in sufficient quantity at the right time.
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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I don’t really pay attention to the scientific hows and whys, so I really love it when imafan explains things in detail. I do a lot of my fertilizing and amending by “feel” — whether that can be equated to instinct or experience is completely up in the air. LOL

I actually don’t do fish emulsion (too stinky) or even compost tea that often — I’m sitting here thinking oh I’m supposed to be doing that? I do like the smell of liquid kelp and kelpmeal tea. I guess I’ll go scrounge up some finished compost and start brewing AACT (actively aerated compost tea) — AACT has lovely smell that I think of like deep forest — probably some of it is the fungal, mushroom smell. I also do spray with milk solution a lot — alternating with AACT for fungal disease preventative, but it does also supply some nitrogen and calcium, phosphorus, potassium, etc. :wink:

Based on what she just said, I imagine each time I’m “feeding” or amending the soil, I’m basically supplementing for the next year or later in the season.... but I’ve been trying to stick to organic stuff for around -wow- is it almost/around 20 years?
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rainbowgardener
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I also think your "raised bed" looks to be barely raised. Part of the idea of a raised bed is that if you have terrible soil, you don't have to try to fix all the soil (very difficult), you can just give your plants some good soil to grow in. But your plants are really growing in your terrible soil. Raised beds need to be at least 8" tall, more is better. All of mine are 12" or more. And then that has to be all filled with good enriched topsoil, amended with aged manure/ compost, minerals, etc.

And raised beds are usually no more than 4' wide so that you can reach everything in it from the outside and don't have to step on/ compact your new soil.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Applestar- I agree 100%: I don't do scientific stuff. I don't see gardening as a science. But I see that there can be fun experiments within gardening. I use fish emulsion at times. That Alaska brand smells bad. I use ferti-lome.
Rainbowgardener- yes, I'd like my garden to be deeper, but the problem is not having the money to fill it. I cannot have a compost pile, I have nowhere to put one, and I have too many mice and other pests that would try to get to it. You name it, it's living in the woods around my house.

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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Rainbowgardener- would it help if I purchased some stepping stones to place in my garden to walk on?

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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I don't use fish emulsion often. The neighbors complain about the smell if I use it too often. It is a good source of fast organic nitrogen, and I do use it especially when I suspect a nutritional issue but I cannot quite figure it out exactly what it is. Fish emulsion is a complete organic fertilizer. I used blood meal once, I will never do that again after I ended up inhaling it. Kelp is actually not readily available here. I found it years ago but not recently. I have tried EM1 in an attempt to improve the nitrogen fixing of the cowpeas, but EM1 costs about $20 for 16 oz. I also tried crumbles. I did not see a lot of difference with the crumbles. I still got short corn with only organic inputs. I admit, I did not do the weekly supplementation, though. I have brewed AACT and non aerated compost tea. It does improve plant health, but my dog also liked to drink it out of the bucket. It was a bit of work for a 5 gallon bucket that did not go that far in the garden. I prefer to make my tea using vermicompost.

I have had some better luck with bokashi, but it takes time to make it. Bokashi does not get bigger plants or yields but does support the soil microbiota and that in turn seem to keep the plants healthier.
I have seen some improvements in soil health and growth with gro power. It is just hard to find gro power now. Gro power is
mostly humus based.
https://www.gropower.com/home_garden/home_faq.htm

I admit I am an impatient gardener. I also don't like to haul a lot of poundage around, it is too hard on my already aching back.
I have tried different organics and have made some mistakes with it. The first compost piles I made were not balanced and were mostly greens with very little carbon. They were stinky, slimy and since I composted tropical weeds, they grew a lot of weeds unless I bag composted them first. Compost piles attract centipedes, ants, spiders, and pill bugs. Probably other stuff as well and it would be too close to my house no matter where it is in my yard. Trench composting is easy, fast and does not take up a lot of space so it was something I was willing to do when I had enough inputs for it. It also was a way to get rid of some trimmed leaves. There are not many deciduous trees in the tropics. The trees that do drop leaves annually are aliens from temperate climates. I don't compost grass clippings since I leave the clippings on the grass and my grass has some nasty weeds. I can only compost material that is not diseased since I would not be hot composting.

I did try to go totally organic, but after one season of short corn, it really was not worth it for me. I used compost and organic fertilizers, but I did not supplement with compost tea or fish emulsion. Although, I have been growing in the same space for many years, and the garden has been planted intensively, it was a disappointing result. It is not like I started with a nutrient poor soil to start with. I probably should have planted a legume instead in the first season instead of a nitrogen hog like corn, but I can't eat that many beans ( I really don't like beans much anyway). I did not supplement and that aggravated the nitrogen problem since nitrogen is the hardest thing to supply organically. Maybe if I could have stuck it out a couple of years and planted less nitrogen demanding plants and supplemented the nitrogen weekly, I could have successfully transitioned to organic. It is not practical to do no till. Red clay gets solid fast without the fluffing with the compost and I have a lot of weeds to deal with as well. Tilling kills more soil microbes than probably anything else.

In the end, I chose to do a combination that works for me. I add about 4 inches of compost and till in residues after each crop. I do not need to rototill, a shovel works fine now that the garden has been amended heavily over the years. I still am foolish enough to work soil too wet and get the clod problem. I try to use different composts and use a lot less Big R since it is primarily composted sawdust, which is great carbon but dries really fast and a single source so not really a good deal for the garden. So much carbon eats up nitrogen, which is not a bad idea in my garden but would be problematic in a nitrogen poor environment.

I spent a year trying to get the nutsedge out of the garden, but now I get what I can and plant over it. Keeping the garden planted is actually the best way to keep the weeds from taking over. The nut sedge still grows but it needs light to do well.
I use newspaper mulch in the garden to keep the weeds down and cut up the soil bags and use it as a mulch in the large pots. It keeps down weeds and helps retain moisture. Plastic also reduces splashing on the tomatoes.

I usually use water for pest control, alcohol is second, and sulfur for fungal diseases. Thrips, I live with it. Snails and slugs are hand picked. I buy a ton of slug bait, and I still am losing that battle. I am looking for a few toads to that job, so far no takers. Unfortunately slug bait attracts rats and birds who eat it heartily and come back for more but it is better at killing toads and frogs than at killing slugs and snails. I practice cultural controls. I cut back the host plants, I am bad about picking up all the plumeria leaves, but the rust only affects plumeria. Thrips cannot be controlled since I really am not willing to give up the plumeria, Jasmine sambac, gardenia, roses, citrus, or orchids and even these are rarely treated with anything more than water. I do have a good garden patrol and for the most part the plants are productive and while there will always be some damage, it is not enough to do anything about it.

I do test my soil every three years. I only need nitrogen in all plots (for the last 8 years) and potassium in the acidic plot to improve root crops.

I use synthetic fertilizers with micros and low numbers (below 15) and slow nitrogen. I usually use citrus food for everything in a pot, but I do use 10-20-20 for some pots and specific plants on occasion. Sulfate of ammonia is my main fertilizer and all that is required. It is best done in divided doses and I need very little of it. I use a scavenger (Asian greens) after corn to scavenge leftover nutrients. Occasionally, I might use some manure and I can only use chicken manure for the orchids and for the acidic plot. Fish emulsion for suspected nutritional deficiencies. Synthetic fertilizers are more standardized and I don't have to haul all that poundage around. I don't use urea because, it only comes in 50 lb bags, and is too concentrated and very easy to over apply. I need to intensively plant my garden to make the best use of the space. I don't row plant, except for corn and I interplant heavily. It would be hard to deliver sufficient nitrogen organically and I don't want to have to do it every week.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I'd like to be able to grow corn and have a compost pile, but too many critters. I love living in the country- but there's two factors I hate about my spot: clay, and critters. Here's a list of the vermin around here:
Armadillos
Coyotes
Deer
Hogs
Mice
Possoms
Rabbits
Raccoons
Snakes
Skunks
Squirrels

My backyard is fenced in, but stuff still travels across the front yard, and behind the fence line. I have an armadillo that digs underneath the fence and tears up the yard. I have a trap, but he won't go in it. I think he KNOWS I am after him! If I ever catch him, I'm gonna dance on his grave!!!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Re filling a deeper bed. You said you are in the country. Is there a stable near you? They are usually willing to give you free all the manure you can haul away. It may not be aged so you might have to let it sit for awhile.

If it were me I'd struggle along with the old bed, but also build one 8*4', 12" deep raised bed now. Start working on filling it. Add manure, if you can get it. Look into municipal compost. Many localities are now taking in organic stuff and composting it. Then they give it to residents free or low cost. Add that. Throw in shredded paper, pulled weeds (as long as they haven't set seed), grass clippings, fall leaves. It will be like a compost pile, but with no food scraps. Without the food scraps, it shouldn't attract critters. Keep adding to it and keep it watered. If you run across some earthworms, throw them in. Keep doing this all through the season. By fall stop adding. Next spring you will have a bed full of good soil. Then you can build one more and start filling it.

In the meantime , re the regular compost bin. Where I used to live, we had most of those critters. No armadillos or hogs, but tons of raccoons, possums, deer, and big city rats, and mice, shrews, voles, etc. I couldn't have an open compost bin. I would come out in the AM and find compostables strewn all over the yard. But two kinds worked for me: sturdy wire grid bins with four sides and a top and the earth machine style heavy duty plastic cylinders with tight lids. Again, to encourage composting, many localities sell those at a big discount.

If you aren't going to make sure you have really good soil, then gardening will always be frustrating.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

A stable? No. I do know some people with cows, but I know fresh stuff would probably burn my stuff- and smell bad. I'd have to ask them to compost it for me before I got it from them. :) Yeah, paper sounds good for compost since it doesn't smell or anything. I like to draw, so I guess I can throw my discarded drawings in my garden. :)

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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Ok, if I were to place stepping stones in my raised bed, would that help instead of stepping directly on the soil?

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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Basically you just want designated walking areas that you always trample and compact, while the rest of the bed remains fluffy and uncomplicated. After that you reach from the path and not step in among the plants unless it’s absolutely unavoidable.

Stepping stones (flagstones) will work, or bricks/blocks with a board bridge. You could also simply scoop up good soil from designated path and toss over to either side — this is what I do — paths are scooped of all good topsoil down to the clay subsoil, then I pile yard clippings and weeds and cutoff/pruned spent (undiseased) crop foliage and stems on the path and trample them into the clay. These eventually break down into topsoil and then they are scooped onto the beds again.

If the designated path weeds got ahead of me, then I lay down flattened cardboard, pizza boxes, etc. to smother the weeds

At this point, you will want to peek under the designated path area and see if the vegs have already grown roots into the area. This will dictate what you’ll want to do to some extent. Large flat surface (flagstones, boards) will not cut off/damage those roots like cobble stones or bricks would.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I might have my garden extended again this fall when I get it fixed up, so I'll see about having 'pathways' put in it! :-()

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Re: I always get runt produce?!

My garden is an irregular shape since it was formerly a rock garden by the previous owner. It is more oval 8ft x 16 ft. I partition it into three sections and I do use stepping stones. Actually, I switched to resin pavers a long time ago since it is easier to move around than concrete pavers. If you can reconfigure the bed, it is better to make it no wider than you can reach across ( 4ft) from the sides. Paths can be as narrow as 18 inches. U and T shaped beds work out well as well.

If you have the space, consider a keyhole garden. It is designed to use readily available cheap resources. Keyhole gardens have been made with stone, bricks, wood, and even metal. The central basket in Africa is made of sticks but chicken wire works too and lasts longer. The 6 ft diameter circle was designed because when watering from the central basket, it is the distance that the water from the central basket will be able to reach. The walls are 18 inches high and the diameter of the bed is 6ft (circle). It has a built in compost pile in the center that uses gray water and kitchen scraps so it makes composting easy and a no brainer. The bed itself is a type of sheet composting bed. The bottom has drainage material like large branches, sticks, and even tin cans have been used. The remainder of the the bed is layered with browns, greens, and with about 4 inches of good topsoil on top, it can be planted immediately. It is water efficient and with an optional hoop roof. It can be covered to keep out some of the pests and provide shade when it gets too hot. A lot of plants can be grown in a small space, especially if you choose the right plants. This type of bed is good for cut and come again plants, leafy greens, and some root crops. Large plants like tomatoes and vining plants can be grown in it but is not recommended since they take up a lot of the space.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykCXfjzfaco
https://www.texascooppower.com/texas-st ... -gardening
https://preparednessmama.com/keyhole-garden/
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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

GREAT MINDS @imafan! — I mentioned keyhole garden design as a possible solution, too. I really do think it’s something to consider — and this is a project design that serious thinkers have applied their best efforts to fine-tune, so it’s pretty reliable.

That said, you don’t HAVE to stick to the circular design — you could leave the shape of the bed rectangular or square and just make the keyhole access and walkway — U-shaped bed, like imafan mentioned. The point of the circular design is that distance from the outside to the inside of the bed is same from any point, and watering and fertilizing from the central compost pit/basket is equally distributed, but you could take that into account and plant less water/nutrient needy plants inherit corners, etc.

BTW one way to limit marauders’ access to the bed and compost is to wrap the entire bed with deer netting — you do have to lift or unhook, etc. the netting, or finesse the draping mechanism to access the bed yourself. My Stardome project is one way I’m going to try to build a structure for that kind of purpose.
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I'll see what I can do to my garden this fall! :wink: Now; back to the subject of my tomatoes blossoms falling off: applestar said I needed I needed a fertilize to encourage more blooms. But my tomatoes have no trouble producing blooms, the blossoms themselves won't pollinate, and they just dry up and fall off. Could it be the weather causing that? High humidity and all that?

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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

You could try buzzing the floral stems with electric toothbrush during cooler hours of the morning — this simulates bees buzzing to make the blossoms release pollen. Tomatoes/peppers/eggplants — drop pollen inside the conical structure which surrounds the pollen receptor and each blossom self-pollinates.

I have read that excessive nitrogen can cause blossom drop, too... But have no personal experience. (Like most fruit bearing plants, I think tomatoes might also drop blossoms if they are incapable of supporting fruit development.)

Maybe someone else can confirm or reassure that isn’t the case.

...just to be clear, what I was suggesting was to increase the phosphorus and potassium ratio, since you can’t take AWAY the nitrogen that’s already been applied.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Say, that's a good idea! I have a battery-operated toothbrush I don't use- I'll try that! :-() So I touch the vibrating brush to the blossom stem. For how long? Just a second or two?

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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Once you try it with a few Blossom clusters, you’ll start to recognize fresh blossoms that are ready to release pollen, that have not been worked already by bees and wasps and other insects. Hummingbirds will buzz them sometimes too, though I don’t know if tomatoes have any nectar for them — its Possible they are actually after the insects....

Tomato blossoms won’t/can’t release pollen in the dark/overcast or wet or too-humid conditions because the pollen clump up together.

When it’s working, it’s kind of like instantaneous, or just a momentary pause... not even a whole second.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I never see bees, butterflies or hummingbirds inspect my tomato blossoms. I doubt there's nectar in tomato blossoms. Course, I'm not a bee so I couldn't be for sure. :wink: Bees don't usually take interest in my garden unless I decide to grow cucumbers. I will try the toothbrush method to see if it improves my production. :D And get my hands on a bloom booster fertilize that doesn't have so much of the nitrogen. :)

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Re: I always get runt produce?!

I " buzz" the beginning blossoms of my tomato plants (as well as some peppers and EPs) every year, just to get them going quickly. Eventually, there are far more than I can keep up with, and it's no longer necessary. It does work well, as every blossom in the early clusters forms a tomato - usually, a few of those early ones drop off those clusters.
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Blossom drop is a sign of environmental stress. Under stress, the plant "decides" to put its energy into survival not fruiting. Environmental stressors for tomatoes can include: night time temps below 60, daytime high temps above 85 or 90, drought or drowning-- try to keep soil evenly moist and well drained, hot dry winds.

The good news is that once the stress is relieved, the plant will flower again.
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

The night temps are staying above 60, but there's nothing I can do about the daytime getting over 85, or control the rain. :cry: Believe me, if I could I'd have my whole house area enclosed in a temperature controlled dome! :() I like Applestar's idea about the toothbrush- and searching for a bloom booster fertilize.

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Re: I always get runt produce?!

You are in zone 8. Your temperatures are ok for tomatoes. However, if your day temps are over 85, you cannot grow most of Applestars tomatoes. I cannot grow them, I tried coyote, but it is not heat tolerant. As Rainbow said environmental stress will cause blossom drop and stressed plants will fail to set fruit just to protect themselves.

SIP containers help with water stress and BER. A five gallon reservoir worked well for me and it kept the tomatoes from wilting in midday. I also plant tomatoes in 18 gallon pots with plastic mulch. The pots are shaded by taller plants (in summer it is corn on the western side, so it helps the pots and roots stay cooler.

Your choice of variety will matter. Heat resistant tomatoes are a must. Heatmaster, Sunchaser, Solar Flare, Arkansas Traveller, Better Boy, Big Beef, Early Girl, New Big Dwarf, Heatwave II, Roma, San Marzano, Homestead, Super Sioux, Quarter Century (aka Matchless), green zebra, Celebrity, Sunmaster, Solar Flare, Pruden's Purple, Cherokee Purple, Kewalo, and Creole. Most of the cherry tomatoes will do well like sun cherry, gardener's delight, red current, Juliet, Fourth of July, sungold (it cracks), sweet 100 or sweet million, and grape. Texas Wild, Nichol's and Punta Banda tomatoes were suggested especially for Texas. You do get snow so you will need to probably start the tomatoes indoors since most of these tomatoes need 80 days. Early Girl was a surprise, it is 50+ days so it can set fruit early. It does stop producing in the heat, but when the weather cools it produces again. This may not work for you, because of your location. Snow is never and issue and technically things that you consider tender annuals can live a year or more here. Tomatoes could technically live more than a year here if it were not for all the diseases.

I have grown Brandywine successfully, even though I was told it would not pollinate well because of pollen clumping in the heat.
It actually is something to try. In Pennsylvania where it grows it can get over 100 degrees in summer. Humidity was not a problem for me. The tomato was the best tasting, but required the most babying since it has very little disease resistance. I had to grow it in a SIP 18 inches off the ground. I also had to fungicide it weekly because it has very little resistance to fungal diseases and rugose leaves don't help. Brandywine is a large tomato, so it is not as productive as plants with smaller fruit. I have a lot of humidity which makes it seem hotter than it is the temperature is 89-91 degrees in summer with a few days in August around 100 degrees (if I am in Waipahu surrounded by concrete and with Kona weather.

A lot of times, something has to be given up for disease or heat tolerance. It might be tougher skins or flavor. You will need to try out some of the tomatoes to see if you like how they taste. Kewalo, tastes ok and has good disease and heat resistance to fungal diseases but like most of the UH seeds, the skins are tough. Creole from Louisiana, is also a good tomato with good heat resistance. Florida has developed many heat resistant tomatoes, I had trouble growing them because while they are heat resistant, they did not have the right disease resistance to grow well for me. Heatwave is an older heat resistant variety that will set fruit even in the high 80's. It is not a flavor winner, but it is ok for me. It is better than no tomatoes at all. The cherry tomatoes are the sturdiest as they are prolific (good because the birds get most of the larger tomatoes), disease and heat resistant. Outdoors, tomatoes are self pollinating and are wind pollinated. Failure to set is usually from heat or drought stress.
Shading can help with the heat stress. Planting tomatoes in summer on the east side is better than a west or south face. My yard is small. My house would shade the plants in the front yard in the afternoon. Tomatoes are planted in 18 gallon pots and I only need to water them once a day. Corn is planted in summer on the west side of the tomatoes. The taller plants keep the pots cooler, while the tops of the tomatoes are still in the sun. I mulch the pots with the potting soil bags to hold in moisture and limit splashing. It is better not to try to grow anything that is not heat resistant in July-August. Just solarize the beds instead.

I don't have any of the critters you have. I don't even have mongoose. I do have mice, but they have not been a big problem in the garden. The mice like to eat the slug bait. Asian flower beetles go after over ripe fruit. The biggest pest I have are the birds and I have to get to things before they do and put up barriers. You may need to go with fencing around the garden and it would have to be tall to keep anything from jumping over. I would probably build a kennel and totally cage it. It would also be easier to put up shade cloth over the top. For me it is practical because my garden is 8x16 ft. My back yard has a depth of 15-30 ft and is 54 ft wide. Most of my plants are actually in containers. I only plant things in the veggie garden that need to be massed like corn, okra, and I usually plant herbs and a few cut and come again plants like komatsuna, perpetual spinach, chard, cutting celery, and Asian greens. I have a permanent trellis for things like tomatoes which I grow in 18 gallon pots. Citrus trees, ginger, most of the peppers, eggplant, and taro are in pots. I have a few escapees I have to deal with. I can't plant obvious veggies in the front yard because of HOA restrictions. I can plant edibles they don't know about like roses, daylilies, garlic chives, strawberries, taro, Jaboticaba, and nasturtiums. I don't plant most of them for eating, I plant them mostly because I know they are technically edible and the HOA are idiots.

https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/veg ... em-solver/
https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/veg ... HT-043.pdf
https://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/brow ... /tomatoes/
https://bonnieplants.com/gardening/how- ... t-weather/
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

My daytime temperatures during the summer can go well up to 90-100 degrees. Most of those varieties you named are hybrids, and I am an heirloom lover because I save my seeds. Not only do I grow plants for myself, but I grow for other people and sell my plants to friends, family and town locals. So I need to keep plenty of seed in my supply, and hybrid seed is expensive.


I don't have problems with critters getting into my garden because my backyard is fenced in. I have an armadillo(whom I hate with a passion) dugs underneath my fence and tears up the yard. He doesn't mess with my garden. I've been trying to trap him, but I think he knows I'm after him- and he refuses to go into my trap. If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's a smart pest.

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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Well, after work today I did some shopping! Got a bag of Espoma Tomato-tone, Miracle Grow Bloom Booster(too bad there's not an organic in that) and some more Miracle-Gro Performance organic.

imafan26
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

If you want to do an "organic" bloom booster, use bone meal or bat guano. You can also use super phosphate if you can find it.
I think the way phosphorus works is by inhibiting the nitrogen. Michigan did a phosphorus study since it was thought that high phosphorus promoted bloom. What they found was that is was not so much the high phosphorus but the relative low nitrogen that promoted the bloom. They could get better blooming with lower amounts of phosphorus as long as the nitrogen was limited.
Phosphorus is not very mobile so it is better added early on. Nitrogen is highly mobile and you do need more nitrogen for early growth, but less when you want plants to bloom, otherwise you will see rank growth at the expense of blooms and fruiting. Potassium also promotes root and bloom and overall health of plants. Wood ash is a good source of potash, but you do have to be careful with it since it is very alkaline and will affect pH as well.

It is still better to test the soil since excess nitrogen and phosphorus can be toxic to the environment regardless of the source. Plants grow best in a narrow pH range.

I would get runt produce in an intensively planted garden as well. That is why I use synthetic fertilizers and compost. Otherwise I would have to trench compost or green manure a bed for five months to prep for every planting and that can only be done if I don't need the space. My soil test says I only need nitrogen and sulfur for the alkaline plots. I really don't need anything else. P.S. my alkaline herb garden is very poor in nitrogen so it still gets sulfate of ammonia even with the trench composting. How do I know it is nitrogen poor... I know because the plants are shorter than they should be. They are healthy, but much shorter than expected.

I have tried to add as little phosphorus as I can to my soil over the last 10 years. My phosphorus started out at 2100 the lowest was about 1000. There is some phosphorus in compost that cannot be avoided and I use mostly sulfate of ammonia which is really all I need since everything else in my soil test is adequate or high. The phosphorus now ranges between 1600 and 450. Since I only need 37 ppm for what I am growing, I won't have to add any more phosphorus for a few more years. I only use complete fertilizers with low numbers in my potted plants. I use 6-4-6 for most things and it is a slow nitrogen fertilizer with micros as a preplant fertilizer. Although my potassium is adequate on my soil test, I get better root crops in my alkaline plots and not much root development (unless you count the cabbage crops) in my acidic plot. It is probably more because the acidic plot also has the highest amount of available nitrogen. My soil test does not specifically test for a mobile nutrient like nitrogen but there is an obvious size difference in crops grown in the acidic plot vs my compost heavy alkaline plots that are very alkaline pH 7.8 despite getting sulfate of ammonia as well. I found that the soil wants to go back to its baseline, no matter what I do, so now I just use peat moss for the alkaline plots instead of the alkaline composts. I use the alkaline compost on my acidic plot.
My soil is high in aluminum which binds phosphorus so even though the total phosphorus is high, much of it is bound.

Leaf crops grow well in all of the plots, except the herb garden which is especially low in nitrogen and needs the most nitrogen supplementation. Root crops do better in alkaline soils and tomatoes and other acid loving plants do better in the acidic soils and nitrogen rich soils. I only apply a very small amount of nitrogen except for corn which gets two side dressings and the amount is based on my soil test recommendations. The compost trenched beds take 5 months to mature for planting and they grow really well for one planting but deplete rapidly for a second planting so need more fertilizer for the second crop and the beds need to be redone every two years. I also do some green manure with buckwheat and cowpeas, it does help the first crop but again the benefit wears off rapidly.

https://ag.umass.edu/cafe/fact-sheets/f ... phosphorus
https://www.growveg.com/guides/top-3-re ... ing-fruit/
https://soil.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads ... E-2904.pdf
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Well, I'm no where near a bat cave, so that leaves out the guano. LMFAO I know where I can get bone meal: I burned my marigolds with that years ago. :oops: As for phosphorous, I'm not sure where I can get that- is that sold in bags?

imafan26
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

You can get it on Amazon. It was more prevalent in stores, but since people are more aware of phosphate contamination of water systems it is not sold as much anymore. It does boost bloom, but you need to be careful not to use too much.
Bat guano is usually sold in the organic section of the garden stores but you can also get that on amazon as well.

Phosphorus is a relatively immobile element so it is best added in the beginning or banded near the root zone. While plants need it in relatively large amounts, it takes a long time to get rid of the excess and it will leach into groundwater over time. It is still better to get a soil test first to determine if you really need it. Imbalances of nutrients and pH in the soil will actually cause more harm than good.

You can improve your soil by adding a blended compost (made up of 5 or more sources). Compost however, is not fertilizer and has low nutrient value since most of the nutrients were used up to feed the organisms in the composting process. Compost does improve soil tilth, moisture holding capacity and improves CEC of the soil. Native clay soil is usually nutrient poor since it is probably a weathered soil. However, it has the capacity to hold on to nutrients (CEC) if it is provided.

Organic gardens take about 3 years to be balanced enough to be able to compete with conventional farming. It requires adequate and continuous organic inputs in relatively large quantities.

It is hard to guess how much you will need to add to improve your soil just by looking at it. A soil test is invaluable in getting you on the right track. You will get exact recommendations if you ask for organic, on how much and what nutrients you need to add.

Green manures by adding nutrients, biomass, and feeding the organisms in the soil. Some cover crops will actually help soften and break up the harder soils.

I takes time (3 years) to build up the soil community to a point where it is self sustaining and can sustain a good crop too. It requires constant inputs to remain that way. If you start with a relatively poor soil to start with, it cannot be rushed.

Nitrogen has always been the most limiting factor of plant growth no matter what crop you plant. Organic nitrogen is the hardest thing provide in adequate amounts to get the max yield. Plants need more nitrogen when they are young and actively growing to be able to provide a good harvest. Nitrogen in organic inputs are not always readily available and you need to supplement usually weekly with a fast nitrogen like fish emulsion, blood meal, or kelp fortified compost tea. Organic farming takes more work in terms of volume that is needed. A pound of sulfate of ammonia = 40 lbs of chicken manure (approx. half of the available nitrogen from organic sources will be available in a short time, the remainder will be slowly released by the soil bacteria over a period of up to two years. The soil bacteria will also consume some of the nutrients). Chicken manure contains more than just nitrogen. It has a lot of calcium and will in effect alkalinize the soil. Over time sulfate of ammonia will do the opposite and acidify the soil. Blood meal is another fast organic nitrogen source. It would still take 2 lbs of it to equal one pound of sulfate of ammonia but would cost a lot more.

If you choose to grow high nitrogen demand crops when the soil is deficient in nutrients you will always get runt crops.

I think, part of the problem you are having is that although you have been adding things, you may not have added them in the proper quantity and given the organic nutrients the time they need to release. You cannot add a bag of organic fertilizer today and get immediate results. By the nature of the organic fertilizer, most are not readily available to plants and must be converted by the soil microbiota first. It will take a relatively large volume of inputs of the organic fertilizer vs synthetic (which is plant available immediately in a form the plants can use. I still like to add it a couple of weeks before planting to get it to dissolve first.)

Organic gardening takes patience. Nutrients and amendments need to be added up to 6 months before planting. The soil must be fed and the soil community must be built up first before the soil can feed the plants well. It requires constant inputs of organic matter to be sustainable. First crops should be more legumes, and crops that do not tax the limited resources of your soil and you will still need to supplement with the weekly fast organic nitrogen. Once the system has built up the soil microbiota and the organic matter previously added adds nutrients to any organic fertilizers added in the present, does the system become relatively more sustainable. You still will need to continue to add organic matter to feed the soil and select and rotate crops to balance out the nutrients in the soil. In other words, if you want to grow tomatoes, corn and other high nitrogen crops, you need to provide enough nitrogen and have a well developed soil environment to support good growth and yield. The other elements are also important but more easily gotten organically and they are still relatively not needed in the volume that nitrogen is required.

Plants will be stunted when any of the major nutrients are deficient or the pH is less than ideal. The goal should be to optimize the growth of the plants not just focus on one thing like failure to set. Most plants will bloom when it is the right time to do so. Plants require adequate resources to make seed. The goal of a fruiting plant is basically to reproduce. Making fruit takes a lot of energy and plant resources. Plants need enough leaf volume to make sugar, carbs, and produce energy. Stunted plants don't do that well. If you chop half the canopy off a citrus tree, it won't produce fruit for years until the canopy is replaced. Seeds will remain dormant in the soil until the proper conditions for growth exist. In heat and drought conditions, plants will not waste energy producing fruit and seeds that don't have a chance to survive in that environment. Plants that provide abundant fruit will normally experience June drop anyway, they will cull excess fruit so energy will be concentrated on the remaining fruit. Stressed plants will either go to seed and try to reproduce themselves before they die or they will not waste energy trying to set seed in a hostile environment. Remember, mother nature always tries to do the right thing, it just may not be what you want her to do.
You cannot control the weather. There are some years where I get terrible results, but usually others are having the same problem too. However, if I am the only one having these issues while others are getting a better harvest, then there is something I need to change to make it better. Guessing the hardest way to fix things.



https://agronomy.unl.edu/FarmingSystems ... rganic.pdf
https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/mauisoil/c_placement.aspx
Excess phosphorus can interfere with micronutrient availability and it takes a long time to correct.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Wow, you sure are smart! I wish I were even half as smart as the people on this forum. I want to learn to crossbreed tomatoes like Applestar. For my first try, I thought I'd attempt to mix my Yellow Brandywine and either a Blue or Black Beauty this fall.

Sounds like organic gardening is tough, not to mention expensive. But the gardening I'm doing now is expensive- I bet I've spent enough money on potting soil, garden soil and fertilizers over time to have bought a good used vehicle. :eek:

Tell me, imafan- do you have the tomato hornworm in Hawaii? This morning I noticed some of my Big Bertha bell pepper plant was missing!! :shock: Examining closer, I saw all these round piles of poo... :> and then found the culprit: a big fat hornworm! I picked him off and put him out my misery. Rest in pieces you nasty pepper plant muncher. :x

By the way, Applestar- if you are reading this, I had the cover taken off my greenhouse. I also had taken the shears to my mystery tomato. :cry: It's doing OK, so I guess it stopped the splits.

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applestar
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Yep, I’m following. Glad to hear about the splitting plant.

Things are getting hotter here, too. Even more so for you I imagine.

So greenhouse cover is off ... As long as you have the frame structure handy, you might consider putting up a shade fabric over it that might keep them going for a while longer as long as they get the water they need — I wonder what % shade would be most beneficial?
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TomatoNut95
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Re: I always get runt produce?!

Yeah, I left the frame up. I need a new greenhouse for next year as the cover on this one was falling apart. The front door zippers were messed up; the right zipper stopped zipping up completely. Crummy, cheap plastic. I've got my heart set on a bigger one for sale on eBay for cheaper than these $200 Tractor Supply things I've used.

Right now my digital thermometer reads 94. We are predicted to get some rain tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday. Which is good for a change because my rain barrel is getting low.

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