Not a great start

Discussion in 'NEW Gardeners !' started by gooseygoo, Nov 1, 2019.

  1. gooseygoo

    gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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    Hi,
    So earlier this year I decided to dig some of my lawn to make a few small veg beds. The area of lawn had quite a lot of buttercup in it and although alongside a hedge and a few trees it gets a reasonable amount of sun. I took the turf off which is now on compost pile. There were lots of worms, my soil is dark in colour and although the faintest bit of a gritty feel in places I think its silt, it feels sort of smooth when worked between fingers, it almost dissolves when I wash it off my hands (if that makes sense!). It did dry out quickly.

    Anyway so I sowed and planted quite a few things at correct times etc(I'm not completly new to growing) but it was really slow going.
    The carrots never got bigger than say my little finger, beetroot the same, very small. In fact one beetroot sowing never even bulbed up at all, just stayed as tiny leaves.
    Salad leaves/lettuce small and just not healthy looking.
    Chard very unimpressive, just doesnt want to grow and has beet leaf miner anyway.
    The Kale and sprouts...yes you guessed it SMALL, although kale did have whitefly all summer and ended up so deformed I gave up and pulled most of them up. The sprouts have only just started forming on the stalks now and I doubt will come to anything.
    Courgette had nearly all male flowers, think I picked about 2 all summer.
    Leeks are ok , smaller than I would expect , leaves a bit yellowy.
    Runner beans actually did really rather well ...hurrah!

    And yes I did water.
    I added some blood and bone meal a few times throughout the summer and some mushroom compost...didn't seem to make an awful lot of difference.

    So not a very successful first year .
    I feel that my soil maybe lacking in nutrients but I thought silty soils were meant to be good?
    Should I test it to see what Ph?
    Do I need to build up soil structure with something/compost....so many questions!!

    Thanks for reading, sorry for loooooong post.
     
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    • Mike Allen

      Mike Allen Total Gardener

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      So sorry to hear that your efforts were somewhat dismal. I tend to suspect that the turf had taken up most of the soil's nutrients. Blood fish & bone is a well balanced organic fertiliser and probably would have aide better for your crops.
      I trust that following the removal of the turves, ( these I find are better stacked grass side down and allowed to breakdown. Composting them will IMO waste the benefits).

      Then the digging of the now exposed area. This needs to be dug to at least a spade's depth. From your description of the soil, being very silty. I suggest digging in compost, albeit from the compost heap or lawn mowings anything that has grown. Hope this helps.
       
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      • ricky101

        ricky101 Total Gardener

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        Hi,

        Runner beans are said to be gross feeders , so its strange that they have done well when others have been so poor.

        Did the veg have poor looking leaves,ie yellowing that could be indicating lack of nutrients.

        Wonder if its more a lack of water and lack of retention of the water or even lack of sun ?

        Adding compost will help, but be careful of mushroom compost as it can be quiet alkaline.
        Perhaps go for more typical farmyard manure / compost.

        A pic of the site and some of the veg might help us see the problem more...
         
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        • gooseygoo

          gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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          Great, thanks all....I will try and get some pics. I did water quite a lot so would be surprised if it was lack of water but maybe that washed any maybe already sparse, nutrients away!
          The salad rocket was a little yellow looking, as are the leeks, nothing is thriving. Anyways will get back to you . Many thanks.
           
        • gooseygoo

          gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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        • gooseygoo

          gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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          So here are some pics of site when I first dug it in spring and some today, theres not much veg left now and pics aren't very clear really but I think leeks look a bit yellow maybe. Beetroot and chard small, carrots very fine wispy tops and no actual carrot.
          20190515_142758.jpg20191104_131821.jpg20191104_140343.jpg20191104_140425.jpgIMG-20190414-WA0003.jpg
           
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          • ricky101

            ricky101 Total Gardener

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            Hi,

            The leeks do not look that bad, though they tend to bulk up if you leave them in the ground for longer, often kept in there until early spring.

            To me, looking at those pics, the grass between the beds and the hedges / tree look a bit yellow and bare, suggesting that their roots are drawing out all the moisture and goodness from the soil.

            Can you relocate the beds to the other side of the lawn away from the hedge ?

            If you add loads more water, fertiliser and compost to the beds it will, I'm afraid, just encourage the hedges and tree roots to invade even more.

            If you must keep them there then you could dig a trench the full length of the right hand side of the three beds and the grass between them, viewed from the bottom picture.

            You need to go down 18" + where you will almost certainly finds lots of roots, some thick and some fibrous.
            Cut them off and then place some strong, very thick polythene or similar the length of the trench and back fill it, so making a reasonable barrier against any new roots.

            When you originally dug the beds over, did you encounter lots of small roots ?

            Have used this method myself where neighbours overgrown bushes have similarly invaded our garden, but its something you have to redo every 3 years or so as they always go for the easiest food and water.

            hth
             
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            • gooseygoo

              gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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              No unfortunately its the only place I could put the beds as I'm in a rented property and thats where I was allowed to do them.
              So are you suggesting that the hedge/trees roots are encroaching and using up any nutrients and water therefore thats why my veg are a bit small?

              Yes when I originally dug there was a lot of small roots, plus the odd big one, I thought I had pulled most of them out when I did the beds, I've just dug down now to have look and there are a few still remaining...so they are basically competing with my veg??

              The "lawn" where I dug the beds had a lot of buttercup in it and the bare soil where the veg was has some moss growing on it ...don't know if that signifies anything.
              And the end semi circle bed was a bramble and periwinkle jungle.

              Instead of digging a trench, would making a raised bed ontop, filling with some compost etc work in your opinion? or would that just be encouraging more roots ...

              Many thanks.
               
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              • ricky101

                ricky101 Total Gardener

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                Hi,

                Well that would be our suspicion going from our similar experiences of big hedges etc.

                Afraid making raised beds would just encourage the roots more unless you put a very strong landscape fabric down first to stop them growing up for some time.

                However that means your raised beds need to be quiet high as the palnts cannot use /grow down into the soil below.

                Having raised beds means it drains very well and with the roots underneath ready to suck it all up, and we suspect it will mean watering will be almost as problematic as it is now.

                The method we used was to dig a trench as spades width and two spades deep , about 18", then line one side of the trench with one of these membranes or similar, the longer the piece the better to stop the roots pushing though any overlap joint.

                Thats our take on your problem, but hopefully other members will come in to confirm or suggest other causes.

                Inked000131_LI.jpg000133.jpg
                 
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                • gooseygoo

                  gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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                  Thanks for that, definately food for thought! All most useful info.
                  Root problem aside , does more organic matter (ie compost from my compost bin of kitchen waste, leaves, some lawn mowings) usually make soil more likely to retain water because its adding structure to the soil? My soil is so fine and almost powdery...it seems water just goes straight through it if that makes sense.
                   
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                  • ricky101

                    ricky101 Total Gardener

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                    • noisette47

                      noisette47 Total Gardener

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                      It could be that your veg lacked nitrogen, too.
                      IIRC, blood and bone meal are slow-release, so probably doing more good to the trees and shrubs! Compost and manure with a sprinkling of Gromore or other fast-acting fertiliser should make quite a difference next year
                       
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                      • gooseygoo

                        gooseygoo Apprentice Gardener

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                        Thanks...I have quite a bit of home made compost and if I mix some fym in with it that maybe.
                        Would a soil testing kit be helpful ?
                        If I add compost is that something I do over winter when beds are mostly empty or is it best to add in spring before planting?

                        Many thanks
                         
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                        • Mike Allen

                          Mike Allen Total Gardener

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                          I agree with all the help members have offered our friend. I think I may have mentioned about nitrogen.
                          It is often considered to be an old wives tale about tree roots. Tis said that the roots can grow out in a corresponding radius to that of the tree's crown. Perhaps not all, but some roots will extend far and wide. Shrubs/hedges are usually more prone to clumprooting and often the roots will be closer to the soil surface. So we can begin to get the picture of what's going on below ground.
                          As ricky says, raised beds perhaps can provide something of a solution. However, and this is perhaps a word of warning to us all, myself included. We can spend a fortune over time adding compost and nutrients to our gardens. You can almost hear all those masses of perennial and tree and shrub roots shouting. Feeding time lads. Yes such roots are so much stronger and hungrier than what we plant.

                          I have to be honest and admit. I rent my residence and have been here since 1964. Naturally I have provided well and professionally for my garden. Sadly now, I realise I have been sustaining the local trees as well.

                          Gooseygoo, perhaps you may have to consider container growing. I sincerely wish you all the best. Mike.
                           
                        • noisette47

                          noisette47 Total Gardener

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                          Certainly a soil-test should give an indication of acidity/ alkalinity. Fym can affect that, so I'd incorporate it now and then test in spring. Bear in mind that root veg don't like manured soil! Some sort of rotation plan will help ensure that each bed is improved eventually. I don't know whether 'The Vegetable Expert' book by Dr Hessayon is still available there? I found it invaluable when I started growing veg. No doubt it would be heavily revised, though, to take account of all the chemicals being withdrawn.
                           
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