thumper
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soil issue.

Last spring I went to my local mom'n pop garden center. I asked them what type of soil they would suggest to attempt some container gardening with. After asking, she pointed me to this organic bagged soil. Normally I don't do the organic thing... Regardless it was 15 dollars a bag. The soil was very loose, providing excellent drainage and overall looks and feels like any other high quality commercial bagged soil.


So I purchase several bags of this soil and took it home to start loading pots, bins and an above ground garden area. Turns out i bought just enough to fill everything up and had about 2 shovel full left over. I dropped in some Watermelon, Canteloupe, Honeydew, catnip seeds. I then purchased a couple Strawberry plants. This is when everything went all wrong. Normally I could just drop my seeds and not have to do any other steps like using peat cups. Normally everything sprouts right up except maybe one or two which I would just drop in a couple seeds to make up. Anyways, this year I had trouble. Germination rates took double the time.

Eventually I got what I wanted to sprout. Everything was growing so slowly than in past experiance. During the day, even though I provided ample water all my plants would wilt. I changed watering, and experimented to make sure I was not doing something wrong.. No matter what I did, as soon as the sun hit my plants they would wilt. the wilt would start within 15 minutes of direct sun hitting them. My plants were yellow with brown spots. I thought the soil was not giving them somthing and blamed "Organic" as the culprit... So, I used a little miracle gro and asked for a miracle. Nothing happened. My plants did continue to grow but all the leaves were a yellowish color.. I would hit them with more nitrogen and it seems to nurse them along. The brown spots them toruned into holes, like the leaves were smoldering like a piece of burnt paper. The Cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew all died.. I performed a mercy killing. One plant did start to make a honeydew melon but I knew it would be no good. The strawberry is technically alive, green. It has not grown at all. I am surprised how old these leaves are and are still looking ok. But no strawberries either,

In response I took all the soil out, put it in a huge bin and added in compost and other common additives thinking the soil was deficient. Same results again. Today I finally tackled what I think it may be... The symptoms seem to match a nematode (root-knot). Although I did not pay attention to the roots when I pulled the plants, I do remember how they were bunched at the top of my pots and nothing really in the middle and the bottom had very little. I didnt see any knots, but I wasnt looking for them either.

My catnip plant I think has fallen victim to the same issue I think. Its the same soil. I have parts of the plant that is super healthy and normal yet on the same branch there is another portion and that dying away. Sun makes it wilt, growth has really slowed down to a crawl. I am about to mercy kill it as well. Actually, tomorrow I think I will because I am so frustrated at this whole situation. I have never had this happen.


What are my options? Can I do something with the soil to kill the problem? do I just attempt to throw it all away? Are these thing highly contagious? I am a little concerned because a few months ago I did throw some "scrap" soil into a flower bed and my compost bin. Does this even sound like a correct diagnosis? I do have pictures if need be.

I am so sorry about the long post... I have a real issue articulating whats on my mind and doing it efficiently like normal people. I try really hard to condense, but as I stated earlier I seem to have issues. Anyways, growing sweet things is one of my hobbies and passion. I also live in florida if that helps for location of diseases. thanks everyone.

imafan26
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Re: soil issue.

A few things to consider. What did the bag say was in it? If is said garden soil, it was never meant to be used as potting soil. Potting soil is lighter and drains better.

When you planted your seeds did they sprout or did they fail to sprout or turn yellow and die off shortly after?

Was the soil very wet or did water puddle up and take a few minutes to drain?

This was a cold year and in the beginning of the year I had problems germinating seeds especially warm season seeds of eggplants and peppers. they don't like to germinate when the night temps are lower than 70 degrees. They like 80 degrees even better.

What you describe, the poor growth yellowing and weak root system is usually what happens to me when the soil stays too wet. It is also why I only use a handful of vermicast in my potting mix and no compost or manures which are good for killing my plants. I use 50/50 peat moss and perlite. It drains well and gives the roots good support. All I add to it is vermicast when I have it and slow release fertilizer. I pot up a lot so it is worthwhile for me to buy 3.8 cu ft bags of peat moss and 4 cu ft bags of perlite and mix my own. I have to water more in summer because this mix dries out quickly but my plants won't end up drowning when the rains come.

Some people have been using cocoa and rice hulls, and coir because it is more sustainable. Cocoa and rice hulls are not readily available here, even though just about everyone eats rice and we have cacao farms. Coir is available, but I tried it for the orchids and it holds more water than peat moss and sphagnum peat moss drains better. It clogs the hydro table and turns the media to mud and it stinks when it is constantly wet and the roots rot.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: soil issue.

Yes, you keep saying "soil." I don't know if that is just a wording choice. But ordinarily for containers we do not use soil, we use soil-less potting mixes. Imafan's peat & perlite mix is one. I make a homemade potting mix of mushroom compost, rice hulls, and coconut coir for sustainability. A more traditional version of that would be compost, perlite, peat moss. But no dirt!

If what you bought was organic topsoil, it would have been great for your garden, but not for containers. You should look carefully - often bagged topsoil says on it somewhere (not necessarily prominently) "not for use in containers."

The trouble with soil (whether organic, with fertilizer added or whatever), is that it is too dense and moisture holding and tends to pack down over time and exclude air. That's what all that stuff like rice hulls and perlite is for, to keep the potting mix loose, with air pockets and channels for water drainage.

"During the day, even though I provided ample water all my plants would wilt" The trouble is plants can wilt from under watering OR from over watering. When plants wilt from over watering, they look a lot like under watered plants and so people add more water to try to fix it, thus aggravating the problem. Plants drown when they stay too wet, because there aren't enough air pockets. Eventually in those conditions they get root rot, which is a disease, not a pest like nematodes. If root rot has struck, the roots will be dark and kind of mushy.

Image
https://www.kiwicare.co.nz/assets/Upload ... tering.jpg

The caption with this picture says: Plants in overwatered saturated soil or compost will wilt and yellow as the roots are starved.

Unfortunately adding compost to the topsoil would not have helped the situation. Even though I use some mushroom compost in my mix for nutrients, mushroom compost is lighter and fluffier than regular compost AND it is only 1/3 or less of the mix. I don't put my home made compost in because it is too dense and moisture holding. "added in compost and other common additives" I don't know what the other common additives were.

There may still have been something else going on, why your plants were so sun-sensitive. You said "yellow with brown spots." Yellowing is most commonly over-watering, staying too wet, but brown spots sounds like something else. It's hard without pictures. But if you really meant BROWN spots, that sounds like some kind of fungal disease (fungal diseases thrive in conditions of too much humidity and not enough air circulation). But if you meant TAN spots kind of thinned and papery, that is sun-scald, from too much sun when the plants aren't used to it.

I had trouble finding a good picture of sunscald, how it looks in my experience.

Image
https://www.bifurcatedcarrots.eu/wp-cont ... _scald.jpg

sunscald can be more tan or more pale to whitish, but eventually it progresses to brown and crispy.

does any of this help?
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

thumper
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Re: soil issue.

Firstly thanks for the replies. I have downloaded a picture from my phone, but I don't think I am able to upload it direct to the forum to show a picture of the plant. I will create a flicker or the like and try to link in a picture. My thoughts are all over the place, let me just make a list of the facts that I know to be true.

1) The soil is potting soil.
2) nothing is in ground, or touches bare ground. By above ground, I mean huge wooden box and pots.
3) Soil provides excellent drainage.
4) Seeds had trouble germinating. out of four (in this soil) I would be lucky to have one sprout. (other type soil 3 out of 4 would)
5) Watering habits are something I learned 2 years ago. I also own an electronic device that tells me moisture content if im in question. Although, I do not claim to be pro at anything, like you all I am always learning.


A picture is worth a thousand words, let me take the steps needed to get this one attached.
Attachments
canteloupe.jpg

thumper
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Re: soil issue.

here is the catnip plant. I removed it from the shade location and it was just starting to wilt. The soil is moist, I checked it really well and used the hydrometer. Notice where there are cuts, These are the areas that just died and i removed the dead branches. First the leaves go and as you look at the branch the death brown travels it.
Attachments
catnip.jpg

imafan26
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Re: soil issue.

Your soil looks like it has enough aggregate in it to provide enough irregular surface area to keep the air pockets open. You catnip looks a bit like my lemon balm. My lemon balm is getting too much water.

I can't do much about my lemon balm except move it since it is in the ground and the ground just drains poorly.

Your plant looks fairly big, but I find plants with gray or gray green leaves like to be able to dry out a bit. Since, I have to water just about every day, I get that by making sure the pot is not too big for the plant and there are lots of drain holes in the pot.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: soil issue.

I didn't reply, because you made it a real mystery. Despite your hydrometer, I am leaning with imafan to it being some kind of watering issue. The clue is the seeds that didn't sprout. Seeds do not need nutrients to sprout, they come in a package with their own. People frequently start seeds in sterile (nutrient-free) seed starting mix. So their not sprouting is not related to any nutrient issue. That pretty much only leaves water issues and temperatures. Seeds can fail to sprout if too dry or too wet, so I can't say for sure which, but given the difficulties the adult plants had, I'm leaning towards too wet. There are a variety of "moisture control" potting mixes on the market these days, which I find very difficult to use, because they hold too much moisture. You say you have a good routine for watering, but if your routine is based on a different kind of soil, it may not be appropriate for the soil you have.
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

imafan26
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Re: soil issue.

Different plants, types of pots, and media require different watering. Until your plants get used to it, it is hard to water plants based on your routines. It is better to base watering on the needs of the plants rather than on a routine.

I water nearly every day. It is bad for orchids in plastic pots and bark media, so I put most orchids in baskets with hapuu, rock, large bark or no media and they are hung up in plumeria trees so they dry very quickly. Orchid near sprinklers get virtually no media and if they are in plastic pots they get extra holes. Some of my orchids are watered every 4 days which is more normal. Those orchids are in plastic and bark, but I am not used to that schedule or media and sometimes it goes longer. My succulents are off to the side away from sprinklers and I don't water them everyday and when I do I just sprinkle and don't water them very long. Seedlings, cuttings and large plants in pots need to be watered every day. The media I have is 50/50 peat-lite and it dries in a day.

In short, if you want to water based on a watering routine. You need to know your plants and how much water they need and how fast the media and pots will dry out. You need to adapt the plants to be able to tolerate your watering routine by selecting pots and media that dry at the right rate, separate your plants into sections with like watering needs, and if you have a routine, you need to know which plants get watered daily, every other day, biweekly, or weekly. Plants in the shade dry slowly. Put more holes in the pot, use clay pots that breathe or use the finger test to find out how quickly the media is drying and adjust your watering schedule. Remember too, that you will need to adjust the watering for the seasons. Hot, dry, windy days will require more frequent watering. When it rains for a week, I actually have to bring the succulents in under cover or they will rot and turn off the sprinkler system.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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