determinedtogrow wrote:Well, I've used Mel Barthalamew's general guidlines for raised bed gardens so it's frustrating to hear that the 50/50 topsoil/compost mix is actually causing the problem.
Mel's recommendations, if you want to stick to them, are:
1/3 peat moss
1/3 compost from mixed sources
no top soil anywhere at all
This is a well-draining, lightweight yet nutritious mix. I used it as prescribed in 2008, the first year in many that I was capable of gardening again. I made Bed #1 from scavenged cinder blocks and (silly me) believed Mel, that 6" would be sufficient.
Well, it might be in some parts of the country, but not here; that's for sure. The Bay Area sits on that famous Spanish adobe clay, against which the red clay of Georgia (in which I have also placed a shovel) is mere child's play to dig. Sadly....
I kept hilling up green beans, zukes, peas, everything that first season.
Then I just added another layer of cinder blocks. 14 inches works so much better!
Even if it *is* underlain by adobe clay. I did the "fork wiggle" into the clay to make worm channels "just in case," but all in all, the plants did much better in 14 inches of growing medium.
And, once I looked into the question of peat moss, I decided not to use it again, so Beds #2 through #5 have been mixes of vermiculite, mixed composts, and some potting soil I had laying around. They're also 10 to 14 inches deep (scavenged lumber; I just matched boards, except for the one bed that DH "had to" make from new boards), and the plants love 'em.
"Topsoil" as sold in stores is often construction fill with no nutritional value to plants; the other additions you mentioned are nitrogen rich and don't strike me as a balanced diet for plants. Also, as others have mentioned, these additions may have overwhelmed the new plants.
There is SO MUCH to learn in gardening that no one ever learns it all, much less the first season. Your father has most likely been learning stuff each season he has gardened. No doubt he will learn more this year. He understands his soil; he knows what he likes to grow and what it needs. But something will occur to him this year that hasn't occurred to him before, and he will learn new stuff.
We all do. That's part of why we keep coming back. Any true art/science is more vast than the powers of any individual to master it in a lifetime; that is the challenge! My signature for Spring 2009 through Spring 2010 was from Thomas Jefferson: "Although in years I am an old man, I am but a young gardener."
Use this experience with the next set of plants. That set will have another lesson for you, whatever it is. And on and on...
Welcome to gardening.
(Vergil needed staples yesterday when some sutures popped upon his falling down
in the a.m.3 hours of waiting in the vet hospital waiting room, he and I collapsed for the afternoon. We're still pretty worn out. TPLO right knee was Wednesday, 5/26)