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Tomato and Pepper Help

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2006
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by LandOfOz on May 01, 2006 04:13 PM
Hello! [wavey] This is my first post and my third year gardening, and I've got a 10x20 foot of ground I'm working in. This used to be grass and sand burs aka our lawn, but I dug it up and cleaned it out. I have grown tomatoes and peppers (Anaheim, jalapeno, bell) in all previous years, but these plants do not seem to produce very well. The varieties I have tried include, brandywine, better boy, early girl, grape, and celebrity tomatoes. I have a sneaky suspicion that my problem is my soil. It is very sandy and tends to wash off of the tops of the roots. To prevent this, I put my plants in furrows. I usually work in some 10-10-10 before planting and every few months afterwards. Last year I used mulch, so I now have a lot of mulch worked in. What else can I do to feed my poor plants better? This year I am planting roma tomatoes instead of the larger varieties, will this help production? I don't know if it matters or not, but I am also growing pumpkins, corn, yellow squash, cucumbers, and cilantro. Oh, and I'm in zone 6a, I think... Any advice, suggestions, anything would be helpful!!

Thanks!
Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by PAR_Gardener on May 01, 2006 06:50 PM
Sarah,

Welcome to the forum. If you soil is sandy, then you probably don't have a lot of nutrients in your soil, and water retention is probably an issue.

You need to build up your soil. I'm an organic gardener, so my recommendation is to add compost and other organic matter. You can also add top soil, and till deeply. Compost will put nutrients into your soil, and it will help with the moisture retention.

The problem with most chemical fertilizers is that they are water soluble. That means that it will dissolve and wash away with watering, really not good with your sandy soil.

Mulch is usually left on top of the soil to retain moisture and prevent the top layer of soil from baking into a hard crust. What are you using to mulch? Most commercial mulches are wood fiber based. For example, cypress mulch is a common commercial mulch. It takes a long time to decompose, so it will last a long time as mulch. It's organic matter, but not good for amending your soil. The decomposition of wood fibre may actually rob your soil of vital nutrients. I you were using leaves or grass as mulch, then this is good organic matter that will break down fairly quickly.

It sounds like you're growing a lot of stuff in a small space. Corn and pumpkins can be heavy feeders of nitrogen, and if your soil doesn't have enough nutrients to support tomatoes and peppers, the corn and peppers may not do well. Another thing about corn is that you have to plant a lot of it (rows and rows) to get proper pollenization. I hope I'm not sounding negative.

If you have already planted your garden, you won't be able to amend as I suggested above. You could side dress all of your furrows with finished compost or aged/composted manure. That or you'll probably have to fertilize frequently to get good results. Good luck with your garden.

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Composting is more than good for your garden. It's a way of life.
by comfrey on May 02, 2006 03:42 PM
I grew up in Kansas and when I save sand burrs I knew what the problem was...you are right it is the soil or lack of....you will have to build up your garden area as mentioned, with compost, top soil, well rotten manure and anything you can get your hands on to build up some soil in order for your plants to do well.

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by LandOfOz on May 02, 2006 04:36 PM
I got my garden planted on April 10th (we've been having record heat here), so everything is already set and growing. I used cedar mulch last year. I mainly planted the corn to serve as wind break. Here in Kansas, it isn't unusual for there to be a constant 30-40 mile-per-hour wind, and unfortunately my garden is out in the open. Plus, the sandy soil makes it easy for my plants to be blown over. [Eek!] And YES!! I have a huge problem with water retention, I water twice a day just to keep my plants from drooping!! My husband is a strong believer in the "compost smells bad theory," so can I buy it instead of making it?? What, if anything, should I be looking for in a compost? Apparently I am much more clueless than I thought!! Thanks for the help! [thinker]

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Longy on May 02, 2006 10:35 PM
My husband is a strong believer in the "compost smells bad theory," so can I buy it instead of making it??
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I agree with Par gardeners post. And a good post it was too. Your husband is wrong, compost only smells bad if it isn't aerated properly. You can buy it sometimes though and that may get you thru this season. It should have a sweet smell, like the leaf litter on a forest floor. Should be blak or very dark chocolate in colour and moist.
If your watering twice daily your soil definitely needs more organic matter. You can also buy water retension crystals to add to the soil but these are not as effective as compost and mulch. I use bales of hay around my beds and as they break down i add them to the soil as mulch where they are constantly adding humus to the soil. These also aid as a wind barrier too.

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The secret is the soil.
by melcon6 on May 02, 2006 11:15 PM
quote:
And YES!! I have a huge problem with water retention, I water twice a day just to keep my plants from drooping!! My husband is a strong believer in the "compost smells bad theory," so can I buy it instead of making it?? What, if anything, should I be looking for in a compost? Apparently I am much more clueless than I thought!! Thanks
YOU NEED WORMS!!!! Check out this topic for some different ways to raise worms for compost!! My worm bin has NEVER smelled bad, people don't even know I have a bin in my kitchen during the winter unless I point it out to them! OR you can have an outdoor one!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY CINDY!!!!!!!
by LandOfOz on May 03, 2006 02:23 AM
First off, I've never seen a worm in my garden, and I am digging around in there quite a bit. I thought that was wierd... I now have a mole digging under my garden, what is the best way to get rid of him??

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by johnCT on May 03, 2006 02:27 AM
quote:
Originally posted by LandOfOz:
First off, I've never seen a worm in my garden, and I am digging around in there quite a bit.
That's a problem. Not enough organic matter in the soil then. You need compost. Tell your husband he's wrong about compost piles smelling bad. Leave the mole, they eat bugs. Just pat down their tunnels.

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John - Zone 6
by njoynit on May 03, 2006 02:54 AM
and the mole will till 'downunder'too.

you can grow in some peas for nutrients it will add nitrogen to the soil.I do eat a few of my peas being i'm the only one who eats them around my house.

I'd say your best bet is to keep adding compost this season.maybe grab a few bags of manure& being you furrowed add it in the walkways area& try turning it in some & this fall rake your leaves so you can mow them into smaller pieces& spread over your garden area& keep the garden area turned this winter&add your weeds as mulch covering.We get hot as hades in TX and we need to keep them beds mulched as well.I have sandy soil also so know some of your problems.in the spring when tilling rake some out to edges of garden plot.My soil tests richer in center and weaker in outer area.a color differance as well,but gotta live with it cause is full of plants(but know where to concentrate on)Also.....setting your plants deeper will help root wise for moisture and wind.Hurricane rita did small damage to my gardenbed.my deeply planted tomatos were able to be set to rights when re staked,but the seedy volenteers were ripped out& a section of fenceing helped(though could use help removeing them posts it was on)
my compost only smells when add fish guts and then only about 3 days& that last time was cause added ALOT of fish guts.A neighbor shared his guts with me cause heard I used them& tossed his dead minnows to boot.I've composted 6-7 years.now my scrap bucket IS a smelly matter& is cause I never think to toss in a piece of newsprint.

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I will age ungracefully until I become an old woman in a small garden..doing whatever the Hell I want!

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by LandOfOz on May 04, 2006 05:16 PM
Thanks for the help! I think I'll probably buy a few bags of compost/manure and try to side dress my plants with that. I've already arranged for a bunch of fresh goat manure and "composting straw" to be dropped off--so my future compost pile will be off to a good start. And my hubby has been dying to go fishing, so I think I'll make him pick up some worms for me [Razz] and make him save me the fish guts too! Hopefully I'll have a good batch of veggies this year, and a marvelous bunch next year! [grin] Thanks so much!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by johnCT on May 05, 2006 12:35 AM
Well, if you put those "fish guts" in the pile, then it's definitely gonna smell and will most likely attract pests. I'd just stick to the worms.

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John - Zone 6
by Shawn M on May 05, 2006 02:45 AM
My mother used to swear by fish guts for her tomatoes. I am a catch and release fisherman, so I can't say, but I agree it would smell like something else unless you "planted" the fish very deep.

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