wisconsindead
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Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

So I am relatively new to gardening, starting off my first real en devour. All of my plants were doing well in their seedling pots (corn, bean and pumpkin from seed in perlite/coco coir/worm castings, tomatoes, peppers, celery bought from store as plants). I, unfortunately, did not get around to preparing my bed in advance so I tilled the area free of grass, got as deep as I could in the clay and then added a 2-5 inch layer of compost, top soil and cow manure. I added 4 lbs for roughly 250 square feet of 5-3-3 (i think) espoma brand organic dry fertilizer. The recommendations were 4 lbs for every 100 square feet. I also added a pinch of that fertilizer into the bottom of every hole for each plant. I've attached images of the plants but none of them are doing well and don't seem to have grown at all since I planted them. The corn looks just like it is deficient in nitrogen but then other unhappy plants make me suspect that the problem is universal and not just nitrogen. I figure something must be wrong with the soil, but I just don't know what or how to get them better. Any ideas on what is wrong and what I can do to try to make my first garden not a total failure!!!?!?!?!? :(

Thanks,
Zach


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meshmouse
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Hi Zach - and welcome to the forum.

I assume you're in Wisconsin? What's your grow zone there?

What was the source of the compost, topsoil and cow manure? How much of each?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

The third picture, the bean plant ?, has clear and severe case of sunscald. That happens when seedlings that have been indoors or in protected situation are put into direct sun without any hardening off, gradual exposure. Usually they can recover from that. The burned leaves will never recover, but new leaves that emerge should be fine. Keep the plant moist all the time while it is trying to adapt.

The squash and tomato both are flowering while still very tiny. This can be a sign of stress. I would clip the flowers on both of them to encourage better plant growth.

The compost and cow manure are good stuff (assuming that is aged/ composted cow manure), but they release their nutrients slowly as they break down. I don't know about the fertilizer, but dry fertilizer is usually slower release than liquid. I would get some kind of good liquid fertilizer, or fish emulsion or compost tea and add to help the plants get started, while you are waiting for the other stuff to start enriching your soil.
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imafan26
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

I agree. Even when I use synthetic fertilizer with compost added to my garden, I try to wait at least a couple of weeks for things to settle in before planting. Six weeks would be better.

The plants do look stressed and are much too small to be flowering.
Yellow can be from not enough nitrogen but it can also be from too much water. How wet is the soil? A lot of times when plants don't do well people tend to try to fix it by giving them more water.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Here's something I just posted for someone else about release rates for compost and manure (releasing nutrients in to soil):

Nutrient Release Rates from Compost and Manure

Gardeners need to understand that the nutrient release from compost and manure is slow, taking years. Adding compost or manure to improve soil tilth is not the same as fertilizing.

The typical nitrogen release rates from manure is only 30 to 50% the first year (fresh manure), 15 to 25% the second year, 7 to 12% the third year, 3 to 6% the fourth year, and so on. With compost and composted manure, the release rate is even slower, 5 to 25% the first year, 3 to 12% the second year and 1 to 6% the third year.

Since the nitrogen percentage of compost and manure products is typically only 2 to 4%, the amount of actual nitrogen release to support crop growth is very small.
##For soil with 4 to 5% organic matter, the mineralization (release) of nitrogen from soil organic matter will likely be sufficient for crop growth.

##For soils with 2 to 3% organic matter, the mineralization of nitrogen from soil organic matter will not likely be sufficient for heavy feeding vegetable crops. Supplement with 0.1 pound nitrogen fertilizer per 100 square feet.

##For the typical garden soil with 1% organic matter or less, the mineralization of nitrogen for soil organic matter will be minimal. Add 0.2 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer per 100 square feet.
https://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/711.html

Over time (years) as you keep adding compost and organic material to your soil, you will have lovely soft black enriched soil with lots of earthworms, that things will grow beautifully in. In the meantime while you keep adding more organics every couple months to work towards that long term goal, you need to be supporting the plants you have with some kind of quick release nutrients.
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meshmouse
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Hey imafan and rbg -

Quick question. When you say 'synthetic fertilizer' and 'quick release nutrients', what are we talking about? MiIacle Grow? Liquid ammonia? Others? I've always avoided them as I thought they were salt derived and harmful to the microbial and worm populations.

I know I'm showing my ignorance (so what's new?), but if I were to add such, what would I be looking for (chemically, etc.)?

meshmouse

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Imafan can answer from her point of view. I didn't say anything about synthetic fertilizers. There are a number of choices of organic, liquid fertilizers, fish emulsion, kelp products etc that will release nutrients much faster:

https://www.planetnatural.com/product-ca ... ertilizer/

this is just one example. Earth-Tone and Espoma also make various formulations of organic fertilizers. Fish emulsion is also really good stuff, if you don't have too much trouble with raccoons in your yard (they love it and will dig up plants to get to it).

I don't use synthetic fertilizers, for the reasons you suggest as well as them being often petroleum products and part of the whole destructive petroleum industry.
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meshmouse
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

rbg -

Yes, I,m sorry. I did not mean to imply that you were recommending 'synthetic fertilizers'. I should have added 'respectively'. I only meant to attribute 'quick release nutrients' to you.

And while I would shy away from petroleum based products and the 'whole destructive petroleum industry', I have an open mind (not implying that you don't). In fact, mine 'leaks like a sieve' as they say.

While I generally try to produce for myself rather than purchase, I would imagine fish emulsion would stink to high heaven, and yes, there are many raccons around. My dogs keep them away pretty well, but if I were brewing fish emulsion, I think things might change. How would one even go about producing fish emulsion?

I can go a half mile from home (down to the docks) and get all the 5 gal buckets of fish scraps I could possibly use for free. But how would I use them without causing pest/odor problems? I don't think that's gonna work. Maybe I could bury a bucket full down at the beach and then dig it up a few months later, but I don't think that would be too pleasant either. Maybe I should make a geurilla style 'fish based compost pile' off at the beach and whatever happens, happens.

Hope I didn't hijack the thread, and thank you. - meshmouse
Last edited by meshmouse on Tue Jun 02, 2015 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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applestar
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Sorry about continuing to OT, but I had to chuckle imagining meshmouse, stealthily either burying the fish scraps or digging up the hopefully "finished" -- whatever that means -- guerrilla compost, and how that would look if caught in the act.... :lol:

I have a 10 gal bucket aerating out near the back of my property which backs up to woods (rather than neighbor). It was supposed to be AACT but got way past its optimum and then I needed high nitrogen boost for corn and some others so I added about 4 cups of dry alfalfa pellets and oat bran... Then couldn't apply it all that day and several days have past... merrily aerating away but now it's getting whiffy -- really kind of smells like horse manure or those really stinky mulch my neighbors get by truckloads.... :roll:

~~ Rain, rain go away so I can dump this brew in a day! :> ~~
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Susan W
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

These products available. Deodorized fish and Johns recipe. Both organic.
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Breanna.link
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

could it be Fusarium wilt?

meshmouse
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Breanna.link -

Thank you for bringing us back on topic. But since we haven't heard from Zach, I feel comfortable with where this thread is going. Who knows, it might be OT.

Susan W -

Thanks for the info. What worries me is twofold. First, how do they deodorize it? I'm guessing there is no microbial activitey. Plus, I would then be in a program where I am reliant on an industry/business to provide for my needs (and hoping that they stay in business). And at a continual cost of what 5, 10, 20 dollars a quart? If I can, I'd rather spend that money elsewhere. But that's just me.

applestar -

OK, OK, I get it. I am chuckling as well. But you have to realize that my little village (population 750 or so) is a minimum security institution. They all know me and my dogs, as I do them. They might shake their head and ask 'what in the hell is he doing now?', but it wouldn't be being 'caught' so much as it would be (yet another) curiousity. I don't think anyone doubts that I always try to keep the best interests of the village close in mind. I might not be right, but I'm not maliceous. But yeah, it sounds kinda silly to me too. Doesn't mean I won't try it, just that I'll be laughing all the way if I do.

But it begs the bigger question. It's pretty common knowledge/practice with the folks in this forum to not include meat, fat and dairy in their compost. I know that's not everyone, but most. That is what I practice as well. But, do you remember from grade school how the Indians (and I am proudly 1/8 Chactaw) taught the pilgrims to bury a fish carcass when planting the Three Sisters? How to reconcile that?

And yes, I hate that stinky mulch also. What is that about? I believe that is the same stuff that kills hundreds of dogs each year when they eat it . Why does it have that sickeningly sweet smell? How can that be a good thing? But, I could be wrong. Wouldn't be the first or last time.

Those alfalfa pellets, from a feed store? Good and cheap, right? And yes, you always have to show care for the neighbors experience of you experiments.

So (as not hijack this thread), Zach - maybe you should bury a fish head and some alfalfa pellets under your seedlings.

Thanks all - meshmouse

wisconsindead
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Hey guys, thanks for the responses!

I am in southeastern wisconsin, near milwaukee. I am not sure what the grow zone is. The weather was a bit cold and rainy last week. Some of the issues could be related to too much water and cold, transplanting shock etc.

Someone else also suggested the sun scald on the bean. I am surprised as they only received sun for light since they were seeds but they only got a few hours each day. I did leave them outside to deal with temperature variability/wind for ~2 weeks prior to planting. But again, they probably are receiving at least twice the sun that they had prior to planting (however, most of the first week was cloudy, how easy is it for sun scald to occur?). Should I set up a small shade for the bean plant? would that help? I just don't want it to die.

my mixture of top soil, compost and manure was about 1:1:1. It wasn't ideal but I couldn't get a tiller in time to mix everything up again (native clay and the other components). I did till to prepare the area, remove grass etc. but couldn't mix everything together. The manure and top soil were purchased in bags from Stein's garden and gifts. The compost is from the.... dump. A lot of people that I know think it works well and some trees and other plants that we've planted in the past seem to do fine in it. Its pretty clean. We live a mostly wealthy suburban area so I figured its probably decent stuff. I got it because it was free. I am not wealthy lol.

I added most of the soil components really for structure and not so much for their nutrient supply. I have some Earth Juice Grow (2-1-1) that I've used for just about everything. I was also surprised to see the pumpkin flowering. It was a rather happy plant so I'd be surprised it was stressed. But I am new to most of these plants so I have no real experience.

Susan W
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Zach, hard to say is the real issue there. Hopefully a few days time will help as the plants adjust to their new home.
FWIW, I use a similar blend of stuff, mostly in large containers, some in-ground, and epsoma tone products. The starts get watered with Johns, shown above, similar to what you're using.

Back to the fish and all, I use it to boost the soil and help the plants grow green. As I have a bunch of herbs growing to cut for the farmers market, like them growing! (parsley, basil, chives etc). I don't use it for the microbes that may be in it, but to help feed the soil and the microbes already there. Most of my pots and containers (100+) have a mix of ingredients, plus worms. Happy worms make more worms, which they are doing, and the same for those microbes we don't see.

On a side note on worms and fish in the Midsouth.....A fellow here, lives just outside of town, has worms. Lots and lots! He was a farmers market neighbor selling worm castings and a few other things. At that time he was trying to figure how to grind up fish. He may have figured something, but about then he got married, had a baby, and priorities changed (think wife may not have been keen on stinky ground fish?!) . He's no longer doing the market, but running a bigger business mixing worm castings, horse poo and leaf mould, bagging and selling. He delivers bags to a local garden center, so I got a couple,. It is amazing! It's dense and heavy, and I am mixing it with other things, but so fresh I've come across a few worms wiggling!

Sorry for the side track, but still in the general loop.
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Susan

imafan26
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Synthetic fertilizers are not always dirty. The bosch-Haber process for producing nitrogen creates water as a by-product but does require a high energy input in the form of natural gas to create it, so in that sense it is very costly, but less so than other processes.

Plants cannot distinguish nitrogen (ammonium) derived from a synthetic vs an organic source. The synthetic source provides it in a form though that is readily available for the plants to use. Organic sources are bound and need to be converted by the soil microorganisms before it is in a form that plants can use. The rate of conversion depends on the original form the source is in ammonia from urea for example vs nitrogen from an animal source like fish or meat by-products (protein), manure, blood meal, or plant sources like cottonseed.

Another factor is temperature. Soil microorganisms are more active when the weather is warm and relatively inactive when it is cold. When it is very cold, they hibernate, which is why compost in the fall takes all winter to convert vs compost made in summer, if balanced and turned frequently can be completed in a few weeks.

The makeup and population and health of the soil web is another. If you have a relatively small population or one that is more fungal than bacterial based, or you have heavy soggy soil with poor drainage that is not ideal, well do the math. It takes a lot of organisms to convert the organic matter into good stuff for your plants. That is why it takes years to build up a good rich organic soil.

Most of the organic materials I have looked up have very poor nitrogen percentages. Chicken manure maybe 3%, steer manure 1.5%. Blood meal and meat meal 13% derived mostly from animal protein. Fish emulsion 5%. Cottonseed meal 6%, probably the highest from a plant source. If you do a green manure with an inoculated legume, and till it in, you can get additional nitrogen fixation to benefit the following crop. Nitrogen is the hardest element to supply organically.

While some of the percentages look good, they are total nitrogen by analysis. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, only a small portion, half or less is in a form that is readily available to plants. It needs to be converted by soil microbes into a form that plants can use....hence the slow release that may take up to a couple of years.

While synthetics have often been vilified for destroying soil microbes. Most studies are not done very objectively and often with bias. Fertilizers may not be the only cause.

Mechanical tillage regardless of whether you are doing synthetic or organic fertilizer always will kill off a lot of soil microbes and always will affect the soil quality for the better or worse (especially if you try to till wet clay).

I did read a study, that measured soil microbes. Organic farms, sure they started out with a higher population of soil microbes than the conventional farms. After three months both farms increased in their soil microbe numbers. The organic farm started with more so they ended up with more in total. If synthetic fertilizer is harmful to microbial life as claimed, then their numbers should not have gone up but stayed the same or declined.

Organic fertilizers real advantage is that they help build soil by adding organic matter. But the amount needed is up to 4 times as much to get the same NPK as synthetic fertilizer.

Synthetic fertilizer users can do the same by adding organic matter as well since their soil is not barren of microbes to feed the soil. While it is common to disc in the crop, it is better to have compost made from a variety of sources instead of a single one. The second thing would be not to add more fertilizer than is needed and to divide the nitrogen requirement into side dressings. And the final thing would be to till the soil as little as possible, no til does preserve microbes.

Organic fertilizers are not necessarily without risk. There have been recalls of strawberries and spinach that were contaminated by manures when strawberries were planted in a former pasture and spinach contaminated from runoff from an animal farm. Fresh manures are known to be carriers of pathogens, e. coli, and salmonella and that is why manures should be composted first. Farmers using bone meal were identified as a risk group for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, human spongiform disease with an increased risk of getting the disease if they were regularly exposed to bone meal.

Even using good organic practices, if grass or hay is sprayed with certain groups of chemicals and the greens are consumed by animals or composted, the chemicals can persist and cause unforeseen problems down the line.
People sometimes see this with persistent herbicides. Material sprayed with a persistent herbicide is composted and the compost applied to a new planting and the plants show signs of herbicide damage.
Even composting cannot remediate everything.
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meshmouse
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Wow imafan -

I will be ruminating your post for a while. So much that I have never even heard about. Thank you.

meshmouse

wisconsindead
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Anyone know what bug this is? I found him munching on my Tomato plant. you can see the holes he made on another leaf.

Also, heres an image of a pepper plant that just got planted the other day with the off white discoloration.

Finally, here are some images of a tomato plant showing multiple types of stress.
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applestar
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

Tortoise beetle -- same as this one :arrow: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 2&p=360027
...I picked one off of a potato plant leaf today :x

Pepper white area is probably sun scald.

The tomatoes look like they were exposed to too cold temperature -- multiple days of low 40's or below, resulting in lowered metabolism and phosphorous deficiency. I have heard that giving them a weak epsom salt solution will help to green them up... But I can't rmember if it was foliar spray or soil drench -- leaning towards soil drench.... And the amount.... I'll look up my notes, but someone else may already know and post.

If it's still gets cold where you are, be sure to cover them at night. Too much of this and they will shut down and take a long time to recover. I have seedlings that were exposed to extreme cold around early to mid March that are FINALLY starting to come back to life and looking like they might make something of themselves.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

meshmouse
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

wisconsindead and applestar -

One Tb epsom salts to one gal water. Drench or foliar spray. Foliar is quicker. That's what I've heard, that's what I've done and it works well for me both ways. From what I understand, the purple color to stems and leaves indicates a magnesium deficiency which the epsom salts address.

As I understand it (and I may be wrong), the yellow tone to otherwise healthy leaves is either nitrogen deficiency or over watering. One is leaf tip to inward and the other, the reverse. I don't remember which is which, but I'm sure somebody else does.

Good luck.

meshmouse

wisconsindead
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Re: Plants looking bad in new garden. Is it my soil?

OK thanks guys/gals. I'll probably try that foliar feed.

Also, with respect to nitrogen deficiency, because it is a mobile element, you typically see a rather homogeneous yellowing from the bottom up. I think there is something with nitrogen going on here but related to a greater problem, like you mentioned the metabolism or P deficiency etc.

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