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My garden failed completely - help!  RSS feed

 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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Hi! I'm brand new to permies (first post!) and gardening. I planted a garden this year and it failed completely. The only plant that seems to be thriving is the potato, but as for the scarlet runner beans, peppers, tomatoes, cornflowers, cilantro, etc? ZIP. I mean, they're above ground, but not healthy. I think that I'll add some goat manure, and maybe a cover crop over the winter but... any suggestions? I know it's really general. Do you know of any good covercrops for around Zone 8? Thank you!!!
 
Alexandra Clark
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Location: Long Island, NY
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First, welcome to Permies!

Second, welcome to gardening!

It is definitely a learn as you go experience with permaculture, and this group is a fountain of knowledge.

Sounds to me like most of the plants you have are what is called a "heavy feeder," and this generally means that folks would fertilize them. Since most permaculture folks want to use what is on-site--aka in their yard, they generally use a top dressing (a shovel full in a ring around) of compost.

IF you do not have compost, but have weeds, clip them down and sprinkle those in a ring around your veggies. If you also have spent coffee grounds or day old coffee, you can pour that over the top of the "chop and drop" weeds and if you have some mulch or old leaves, put those over the top of that to help conserve water. Water all that to keep the mulch in place and you should be good to go. Remember not to use new wood chip mulch directly on soil as it sucks up the nitrogen that annual plants need to grow.

This is my process, and others may have different information for you, so I would sit tight and see if other great folks respond.

All the best! Alex
 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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Thank you so much! I will definitely try this.
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Click this link and it will take you to a good description of how soil works. Once you're there if you look at the top of your screen you'll see that you are in the soil section. You can click on that and there will be many other items on improving soil.

https://permies.com/t/67969/quest-super-soil

If your your plants aren't doing well, improve the soil.

If it seems that the bugs are causing problems, improve your soil.

If all of your water is evaporating too quickly, improve your soil.

If it's a slow day and you've got some extra time on your hands, go and gather some bags of leaves or grass clippings that are clean, or pop into the coffee shop for their leftover grounds, and improve your soil.

Almost all problems that are encountered in gardens, can be dealt with by improving your soil.
.......
But, if deer are eating your food or the neighbors are stealing it, you need a fence.☺
 
James Freyr
Posts: 254
Location: Middle Tennessee
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I'd like to second what Dale has said. It's all about the soil. A great place to start with your soil is having a soil analysis done by a lab, be it the local state ag extension or a private lab. It'll cost a few bucks, like $15 to $25 roughly, but it will provide the data to know if an essential element is deficient, like boron for example, or if the soils pH is off, which can sometimes affect the availability of a majority of necessary elements found in your soil. You can add things such as compost and leaf mold (composted leaves) and coffee grounds without any ill effects. Mulch around the plants to help slow the soil from drying out in the sun and forming a crust after it rains. Like Dale mentioned, it is true that almost all problems encountered in gardens can be remedied by improving the soil.
 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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Thank you for answering my question! I'm thinking that the soil may be a bit acidic, simply because the potatoes are doing well and nothing else is... but who knows?! My garden will definitely be receiving some coffee grounds today! Thanks again for all the great advice.
 
Susan Pruitt
Posts: 76
Location: North Carolina, USA Zone 7b
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Welcome to Permies Talasi!   I was new to gardening a few years ago myself, and can tell you that the lovely people who have already responded are quite experienced and knowledgeable.   I agree that building soil is the most important thing you can do, and add my two cents that enriching your soil won't necessarily happen overnight so if your soil was "dead" before you started,  then it might take a few years to achieve the abundance you'll see/read about in these forums.   Whatever amendments you put on now will need a season or three to  "percolate".    

That said, you can help your plants right now by making some compost tea (many discussions here in the forums) either for direct watering or as a foliar spray.    I would start by searching here in the forums for the specific plants that are struggling, or ask specific questions and include a pic whenever possible to get the best advice.   In my slightly acid clay soil I almost always supplement some combination of lime before planting, compost tea (with urine for nitrogen :),   Epsom salts (magnesium) diluted in water for squash and tomatoes,  and worm castings.  Then I mulch with about 4" of hay to hold the moisture in.

Also, be sure and update your profile with your location and growing zone.  Best of luck to you!
   
 
Jese Anderson
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Zone 8 is typically associated with the "south".  So I have to ask if you are dealing with clay?  If you are, then there are several reasons that your plants could be struggling.

I'd first ask if you simply made a small hole and transplanted/seeded or if you broke the clay up own deeper so that the plant could properly root?  It's common in clay for plants to in essence become "root bound" and not able to break apart the hard clay to expand.

Continuing with the idea that you may be in clay soil, you can also over-water clay.  Clay is great for holding in moisture so over-watering becomes a problem.  If you are indeed dealing with clay, then I'd personally check (visually) check the moisture level down a few inches before watering. Clay can be bone dry on the surface yet be fairly moist a few inches down.  If you are over-watering then this can also affect your plants.

As most said, it's all about the "soil".  Start amending it with whatever you can.  I'm not a big supporter of having soil samples done.  i think soil samples are great on a large scale, but for a small backyard operation they are not as important.  Sure soil samples are great to head you down the right path but not as necessary in mind my as some promote to be. 

I'm originally from the Ohio river valley where soils were nearly perfect.  For the past 6 years I have lived in Middle TN and had to go about my gardening a bit different with all this clay.  Head even further south around the coasts and you end up with sand.  Those river valleys such as the Ohio and Mississippi are ideal for planting, there is topsoil there, head to the "south" and "deep south" and there is a bit of work that needs done to end up with ideal soil.

Good luck.  You are embarking on a truly fabulous and rewarding project.   Organic matter is the key, light fluffy soil that plant roots can spread through to fine the nutrients they require is the goal.  Clay has all those nutrients but it's a bit of a chore for roots to break through in their search for what they need....you have to help them along a bit doing whatever you can to help, after a few years of elbow grease and a sweaty brow you will have the perfect medium for raising a garden 
 
Keith Kuhnsman
Posts: 7
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Greetings!

A couple of quick questions, if I may:

Did you add any compost, or horse or other manure?

If so, from where did you get the compost/manure?

Is there any grass growing, but not other greenery?

Trying to rule out any tainted additives.  I don't think it's aminopyralid due to the potatoes still growing, but still.
 
Benjamin Dees
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I am in zone 7b.  If you are just starting out, you absolutely must work on your soil, especially in hot climates.  Nothing will grow otherwise, because all the carbon is gone from your soil and it's probably compacted so your plant roots don't penetrate and water doesn't percolate into the ground and isn't retained.  If you're in a really terrible climate like me, you probably have a mixture of sand and clay and nothing else.  Don't even bother with fertilizers and soil tests.  If you're in the South, your number one problem is water stress caused by compacted soil and lack of carbon.

There are several options to improve things.  One of the best is manure -- I use chicken manure or some kind of compost from chicken manure.  But you can probably find horse manure more easily.  Don't be overly concerned about insects and weeds and such.  You can worry about that later on.  And don't worry about using too much.  But do scrutinize the source and ask about any use of antibiotics or medications.  Sometimes you might not even need to do anything else but dump it on and wait.  But usually the other thing you need to do is dig up and turn over the soil, removing any large rocks and weeds.  You don't have to go overboard.  Just the depth of a shovel is enough to get started.

Those two things will help your soil to begin retaining more water, sustaining beneficial critters and improving itself.  Do them at least a few weeks before planting, or in the previous season.
 
Tobias Ber
Posts: 470
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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heya... good thing is that you ve still got enough of growing season left to start over with some crops.

if you have the room, you could dig new beds. probably mixing in a few bags of (cheap) potting soil could be helpfull to start. compost or well rotted manure would be better, if you can get it.

you could plan for a fall/winter crop to follow after the potatoes. and maybe for a cover crop in fall.

if nitrogen is an issue: have you considered using your own pee? diluted 1 to ten with water. so you could rule out the lack of nitrogen.

you could mulch your beds to help growth. and you can dig holes in the existing beds (where there s space), fill them with kitchen scraps or leaves etc. and cover with a bit soil. this will attract worms, which will improve your soil and help growth.

you really should (yes!) use the rest of the season to try out many different crops (these which still fit into the time left until winter). you ll gather so much experience for next year. this is so important. to see which plants do well in YOUR SPECIAL situation.

good luck and keep on going!
 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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So, I updated my profile. I live in Western WA, but I'm using a raised bed so I believe the soil filling it is the issue... I made sure it's organic, etc, but it just isn't working. At the beginning of the season, I added some compost and dug it in a little. I will (eventually) walk up to my neighbors and ask 'em for some goat manure (they raise goats). I went and bought different tomatoes (the last batch was destroyed by deer shortly after I posted my inquiry), beets, and some other stuff. I was about to buy comfrey, thought it too expensive, came home and did research, and instantly regretted not buying comfrey. Next time! Last year, I covered one bed with leaves for the winter, then I put some chickens in the bed to scratch around and fertilize. I might try that again, but just in case: Does anyone know of a cover crop that does well in Zone 8? Perhaps I'll try that in one bed over the winter... Thank you guys for all the help!
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My (failing) garden: Potatoes, dead carrot, flowering carrots (last year I harvested some and left others to attract pollinators), and in the back brussel sprouts going to seed.
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Just 2 plants this time (I didn't take a photo of the whole bed): Scarlet runner bean and squash. Neither are doing very well.
 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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Oh! I forgot. In the top photo, you should also see some spinach and cilantro sprouts, and LOTS of red sorrel (debatably my worst weed).
 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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And, I forgot again. Keith: I did add store-bought compost, because my pile wasn't working yet. Organic, of course. I can't remember what brand... I haven't added any manure yet.
There is greenery (see photo).
Thank you for your help!
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
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In Western North America, most bagged soil or compost mixes contain a huge amount of forestry waste. They are usually mixed with just enough good stuff to turn them the right color. Even if the stuff test neutral when it leaves the production plant, it will continue to break down and can become quite acidic. I have grown potatoes in almost pure Douglas fir waste, so I know they can take quite acid conditions. Acidity is easily controlled by lime.

There's a very simple way for those of us on the ocean to get a really good quality supply of micronutrients. Go to a nice clean section of ocean, that isn't near anything industrial, and gather up seaweed. It contains large amounts of good stuff and some types also make a pretty good mulch. I like to dry it out on hot asphalt and then run a garden roller over it, to produce a granular product.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Thanks for the photos. The tall spindly plants indicate to me that the garden isn't getting enough light.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5827
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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In Western North America, most bagged soil or compost mixes contain a huge amount of forestry waste. They are usually mixed with just enough good stuff to turn them the right color.


I was just reading pdf about ingredients in commercial potting soils that I found while looking for a good explanation of 'organic' and usda Organic labeling as used on bags of potting soil and compost, etc.
I did add store-bought compost, because my pile wasn't working yet. Organic, of course. I can't remember what brand...
  A lot of products say 'organic' ...not always the same as usda certified Organic.

http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/repositoryfiles/ca4011p6-62981.pdf

Here's a little of what's available in the pdf...


potting-soils.JPG
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Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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Dale, I did have a feeling that my soil was too acidic... Thank you for warning me about compost mixes! Joseph, you're probably right... Seeing as I'm in the PNW, I don't get a lot of light anyway, and I'm guessing my beds aren't in the right spot. I'll try planting some shade plants and see how that goes. Judith, I don't think that the compost was one of those brands, but I'll definitely have to check. I can't wait to read that pdf! Thank you all for your support. Oh, and Tobias- does animal pee work as well? If so, which types? Thanks again!
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2590
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Talasi, welcome to permies, 

Kola Lofthouse and others have given you good advice so I will add this, take the time to do a sunlight drawing of your property you want to put gardens in, that will show you how many hours of sun the spaces receive.

Cover crops can be anything from buckwheat, clovers, winter cereal rye and many others, what you want is lots of green growing mixed in with nitrogen fixing plants. These all get cut down and left to rot come the beginning of spring.
Just move the new "mulch" to the side to plant when it is time.


Redhawk
 
Tobias Ber
Posts: 470
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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i think, if the animals manure is safe to use, then the pee is it also. but probably stronger on nitrogen than the manure

comfrey: i grew it from seed last year. and then found out, that it grows along the road to our allotment. and even in the inner city under a tree.

is that sorrel edible?
 
Talasi Caslin
Posts: 9
Location: Western WA, Zone 8b
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is that sorrel edible?
Yes, I believe so, although there isn't much literature about this particular kind. I think it's also called sheep sorrel? Does anyone have any experience with it?
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 765
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Talasi Caslin wrote:
is that sorrel edible?
Yes, I believe so, although there isn't much literature about this particular kind. I think it's also called sheep sorrel? Does anyone have any experience with it?

Yes it is one of the weeds here in western Washington that starts to mediate struggling soil. I took a picture of a mat of it for another request about ground cover for low light area although it dose well in full sun this patch is in.
It has a delicious lemon flavor and the size of the leaves is a good indicator of improving fertility in the soil.  So I recommend letting it grow, harvest it and observe it as an indicator of what amendments are improving your soil.
We are in for a hot dry summer so some shade is not bad for many vegetable crops.
You could plant some buckwheat for a summer cover crop. Plan to plant broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts toward the end of August; They will have 2.5 moths to grow, if they have not produced heads by then and we don't have extreme freezes they will produce in January/February.
We are far enough north to have long summer days but moderated by water bodies to not have severe winter weather. I had enough over wintered Kale so that I will have a pound or more of seed as well as eating the leaves all spring.
If you have figured out the PM feature on this forum message me and I will send you some seed.
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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forgot to put in a picture..
lemmon-flavore.JPG
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One of my soral patches for salad use.
 
James Landreth
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Hi Talasi,
I agree with the advice that people have given about building the soil. But I'd also like to add, as someone who lives in western Washington, that (at least for me, where I live) the weather wreaked havoc on some of my plants. It seems that every year the weather is a surprise. Even seeds that people have saved year to year are struggling to adapt, since each year is so different. Now that it's consistently sunny my plants are doing better. Just do the best you can to build your soil, save seeds, and buy seeds from sources that should do well in your area, and your garden should improve next year
 
trinda storey
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Location: kent, washington
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Welcome! What's your ph? Without a balance ph your plants cannot absorb nutrients
 
Tobias Ber
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what about trying a seed mix and see what does well this year?
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Talasi Caslin wrote:Dale, I did have a feeling that my soil was too acidic... Thank you for warning me about compost mixes! Joseph, you're probably right... Seeing as I'm in the PNW, I don't get a lot of light anyway, and I'm guessing my beds aren't in the right spot. I'll try planting some shade plants and see how that goes. Judith, I don't think that the compost was one of those brands, but I'll definitely have to check. I can't wait to read that pdf! Thank you all for your support. Oh, and Tobias- does animal pee work as well? If so, which types? Thanks again!


You could plant shade loving plants... you could also take a chainsaw to the surrounding trees. An easy step that can add a lot of light is "crown lifting", where you cut low branches back to the trunks.
 
Ken W Wilson
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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I think your soil probably is too acidic. That could even be the only problem, but how much sun does your garden get?

 
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