susane
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Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:16 am
Location: Spokane, WA

Squash (and more) doesn't grow

Hello!

This is my third year of vegetable gardening. In the first year I had one raised bed. The squash grew like crazy and even covered quite a lot of lawn. The next year, we added another small bed and bought third-way mix to fill it with (I read in my local newspaper that that's alright for raised-bed gardening). The plants only grew about 2, 3 inches tall, MiracleGro didn't change anything.
I don't have a lot of knowledge about gardening, it's mostly learning by doing. I figured that tilling the soil should help, so before planting the seeds this year I dug up all my beds at least twice and removed dead roots. I was more careful about sowing times and watering regularly. But still the plants are not growing and have been the same size for several weeks, with yellowish leaves (these are butternut squash). I planted yellow straightneck squash in one separate hill, they've grown a bit bigger and have leaves by now, but are still not as big as some I've seen walking around our neighborhood. I'd like to add that I have another, bigger raised bed that's got the exact same soil (three-way mix) and has had varied results, the beans growing really well (so far) and climbing up on their poles, while the zucchini squash, bell peppers, kohlrabi and leek (from left on the second picture) are growing only slowly.
Do any of you have some good advice for me, so that I might still have at least a little bit of a harvest later this year? I bought a bag of MiracleGro organic soil, does it help to add some on top of the existing soil, or would I have to rake it in?
Thank you so much!
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy126/susanne-tm/093.jpg[/img]
[img]https://i784.photobucket.com/albums/yy126/susanne-tm/087.jpg[/img]

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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

It looks to me like the soil in your bed contains a LOT of woody materials -- like mulch. I suspect that nitrogen is being tied up and not being available to the plants.

Personally, I don't use chemical fertilizers. Last year, when I had a similar problem, I made Aerated Compost Tea and used it to foliar feed the plants and to soil drench. Rather than Miracle Gro Soil, adding good compost or well composted manure would improve the soil biology. Mulching with grass clippings or used coffee grounds (try coffee houses) would help add nitrogenous material to the soil. You can also make nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer by making a slurry of alfalfa pellets/meal and water, or by "drowning" weeds in 5 gal bucket of water for a few days.

Liquid fish fertilizer, Fish Emulsion, Fish Hydrolysate -- also good. I don't have solid personal experience -- I really should. :oops: I'll leave for someone else to elaborate. I tried Alaskan Fish fertilizer once and it smelled too much for my taste. Liquid Kelp will also add to the soil biology and has a much nicer smell -- like going to the beach.

susane
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Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2009 6:16 am
Location: Spokane, WA

Thank you, Applestar, just a few follow-up questions:
Since whatever I do should happen fast, I've read your suggestions in terms of which solutions are readily available to me.
Re drowning weeds in water: Can I use any weeds? And after the five days, do I use just the weeds and put it around the plant stems?
Re used coffee grounds: Same question, to I spread them around the plant stems or should I slightly rake them into the soil around the stems?

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applestar
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Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Comfrey, Stinging Nettle, Dead Nettle, and Henbit are all good, but I'm pretty sure any of them will do. I drown any weeds going to seed and have been adding this weed tea+weeds to my compost pile but you can just use the "tea" as soil drench/fertilizer. When used as drench, you may need to dilute -- at least by 1/2 water -- I'll try to find out.

Coffee grounds can clump and get moldy/dry up crusty and shed water so it's best to scratch them into the soil. If you spill any on the leaves, shake off dry leaves or wash off damp/wet leaves because coffee grounds "burn" the leaves and you'll end up with spotted leaves that look diseased. Probably best to keep them away from stems at the ground level as well.

I rake alfalfa pellets into the soil too - they fall apart when moistened, so it does seem to work better if you wet them first. As far as I know, alfalfa meal is simply ground up alfalfa pellets -- but the local feed store is always out of them and only has pellets so that's what I use.

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