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What is up with my garden bed?! Weird fungus, unhappy, yellow/crispy plants--why?!  RSS feed

 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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So, this winter I made a lazagna/hugel garden bed between my fruit trees (http://www.permies.com/forums/t/50364/forest-garden//Raised-Garden-Bed-Hugel-Fruit). I was pretty stinkin' excited about it. I used manure and bone meal and leaves and sticks and random veggie scraps. And, because I thought my soil was dysfunctional, I bought NuLife Organic Topsoil for the top 2-3 inches.

At first, I thought everything was going well. Old potatoes I'd thrown in there were sprouting and happy and my peas and radishes sprouted quickly and looked healthy, though bunnies kept eating them.

But, now things don't look so grand. The tomatillos I transplanted in there look sad with crispy yellow leaves. The daikon radishes are full of holes and yellow. The green onions that sprouted so nicely now have yellow tips. The potato plants look happy, but have a really weird red fungus by them.

What is going on?!

Below I've attached some pictures comparing the same plants (tomatillos and daikon radishes) in:

(1) My new "apple tree" bed, which is the one I'm asking questions about
(2) My keyhole garden (which was built much the same as the apple tree bed, but with my native soil mixed with NuLife Soil Amendment--instead of topsoil--and a deeper layer of soil)
(3) My tall hugel (made with just my native soil over alder and hemlock branches, with a thin layer of duck bedding applied 6 months ago as mulch)
(4) My Trench Garden, which is just native soil over horse manure, planted with daikon radishes as a cover crop.

Any ideas? Is it a deficiency or overdose of a mineral? Something else? Thank you so much! (And, I can post a top view comparison of the tomatillos, if that helps)
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Fungus-Green-Onion-Beets-copy.jpg
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Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2549
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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First the yellowing is telling you that you have a deficiency in trace minerals, if it is a manganese (this will cause yellowing leaves that can go crispy) deficiency some Epsom salts dissolved in water, 1/4 cup in a gallon and a half of water should be about right for each group.
One other thing that can cause this is low K (potassium).

The red fungus looks a lot like Sarcoscypha austriaca (Scarlet Elf Cup) or Sarcoscypha coccinea (Ruby Elf Cup) both are hardwood rotters but harmless (and in fact helpful) to garden plantings.

If you try the Epsom salts and that doesn't show improvement with in a week, it may be that you have other trace mineral deficiencies. At that point a soil test would tell you exactly what is going on.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
The red fungus looks a lot like Sarcoscypha austriaca (Scarlet Elf Cup) or Sarcoscypha coccinea (Ruby Elf Cup) both are hardwood rotters but harmless (and in fact helpful) to garden plantings.


That's great and reassuring to know. I haven't noticed any stink at all, so it's likely one of the other Elf Cups. It's comforting to know it's helpful and not harmful to my garden!

Bryant RedHawk wrote:
First the yellowing is telling you that you have a deficiency in trace minerals, if it is a manganese (this will cause yellowing leaves that can go crispy) deficiency some Epsom salts dissolved in water, 1/4 cup in a gallon and a half of water should be about right for each group.
One other thing that can cause this is low K (potassium).

If you try the Epsom salts and that doesn't show improvement with in a week, it may be that you have other trace mineral deficiencies. At that point a soil test would tell you exactly what is going on.


I was wondering if it might have been manganese, but looking at all the diagnostic pictures and infographics was getting rather confusing, and I didn't want to cause an overdose by giving it something it didn't need. But, reading up on it, it seems that lots of organic matter can inhibit the uptake of manganese, so it makes sense they'd have a hard time getting that mineral once their roots got down to the layers of manure. We already have Epsom salts, so I'll go mix up a gallon and water the bed.

... Wait, it is magnesium or manganese? I'm reading that epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Does Epsom Salts also contain manganese?
 
Tee Jay
Posts: 11
Location: Zone 6a
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I'd try the Epsom salt idea for the yellowing leaves. I use a little bit of that every year with my tomato and pepper plants. Works great!

Another possible cause (hopefully not) could be chemical lawn spray. I've had this happen with similar symptoms.
It turned out being a neighbor, 2 doors down, had been spraying his lawn with some kind of weed and feed poison on a windy day and just enough of the fine spray made it to my garden to cause a very similar result on some of my veggies without killing them. Once I figured out the cause, I sadly destroyed the effected plants because it wasn't worth the risk. I'll give you one guess as to which neighbor did NOT get an armful of veggies hand delivered to them in the Fall like the rest of them them do every year.

Best of luck with this and let us know how you make out. I'm curious to hear if the Epsom salt works for ya.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Yes Nicole, Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate but a lot of times if manganese is low so is magnesium.
Here is a cheep trick, especially if you take a daily vitamin for your own health.
I use 4 multi vitamin tablets (check your bottle for what is in it) dissolved in a gallon of water.
I then dilute this solution at 4:1 (water to vitamin solution) and use that to water plants.
The trace minerals in most multi vitamins are usually the same ones your plants need, so it works for them just as it works for humans.

By diluting the solution you make, you are not going to have to worry about overdosing if you only water them once a week with the dilution.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Thank you, Bryant! I went out there today and mixed up the vitamin & epsom salt solution. It took 3 gallons to water the whole bed with my watering can (just sprinkling over every area once, quickly). It then rained, so nature diluted it a bit more.

Thank you so much for your help! I hope my plants can perk up now .
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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It seems to me, that tomatillo leaves may turn yellow for the same reason that poinsettia leaves turn red: As a means of attracting pollinators. Flowers and yellowing leaves always seem to go together in the tomatillos.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Location: Victoria BC
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In the hugels I've built, yellowing has been due to nitrogen deficiency, or at least that's how I interpreted it, since it went away after judicious and ongoing applications of (rather a lot) of Human Liquid Fertilizer. (Important note: this is urine, not liquefied bodies!)

It's possible that some other trace element from the HLF was the real savior, though.

Even though I included manure in the hugels, it was overwhelmed by the woody component sucking up nitrogen. I think this might be especially noticeable in the PNW climate as the wood in a PNW hugel decays *fast*, so it's sucking up nitrogen fast while it does so.

My hugels have been loaded with various fungi, unsurprising given all the decaying wood in there. I've left them alone and trusted them to do the same for me; so far so good.


I too have observed yellowing leaves to be a common sight on tomatillos at the fruit-ripening stage, perhaps for the reason Joseph suggests, but I would have thought yours weren't far enough along for it to be normal...
 
Nicole Alderman
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I just wanted to say, thank you all for your help! The garden bed has finally turned around! Weeds are actually self-seeding in there (I knew there was a problem when not even weeds would sprout in it!). It's fascinating, too, because a lot of seeds that I planted are just now started to pop up, months after I planted them and their fellows sprouted. I guess they were just waiting for the right conditions.

As for what I did, I added the epsom salt and prenatal vitamins (like Bryant suggested). Applied as much coffee grounds as I could find. Applied dried kelp that we had. Watered with liquid manure (I brewed it from bindweed, comfrey, nettle, horsetail and catfish poop water) for soil organisms and nutrients. Poured some antiquated spirulina that I found over it. And, sprinkled soil from my woods over it, in hopes of giving it more happy soil organisms.

The results? The beets are doing great, and the few broccoli plants that lucked out months ago are now huge and making florets. The scallions/green onions are doing great and are delicious! The bunnies also finally stopped coming around (or got eaten by local predators) and I finally have green bean plants growing. I've planted more peas, beets, carrots, green onions and broccoli in the areas that weren't fertile enough months ago to support plant life.

It took a lot of work to rehab it, but it looks healthy now and I hope it will stay healthy for many years to come!



The only thing that didn't do well is the tomatilloes. The plants all look healthier now, but they never actually go to fruit. I have no idea why. But, the same applies to the the ones I planted in my keyhole garden and hugel mound. They look healthy and make flowers but none turn into fruit--except for the one I planted in the Trench, which has multiple tomatilloes forming. Maybe they just need more nitrogen, or don't like growing near wood. I don't know...

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Picture without flash (I need to be better about taking pictures when it's not dusk!)
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Picture with flash.
 
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