The Q&A Archives: Can Compost Make Soil To Heavy?

Question: I have been enriching my vegatanle garden for 9 years with compost. The materials I use are Oak leaves,hay,rabbit manure,ash and grass clippings. I live on long Island and the general make up of my soil is sandy. The oak leaves make my soil acid but I adjust the P.H. with lime each year according to the veggies I will grow. My garden gets between 6-8 hours of sun each day. Mostly morning sun. The reaccuring problem I have is that many of my veggie plants don't grow. They start off good and then are stunted. I have this problem especially with all types of squash,melons,corn. Tomatoes,peppers,beans and cucumbers grow excellant.Someone suggested to me that my soil was to heavy and the roots of the plants could not spread out and flurish. Is this possible? I know it isn't insects or virus causing my problem and I am getting frustrated.Zucchini once grew terrific in my garden now it barely gets a few leaves before it turns yellow and dies. Any suggestions would be greately appreciated.

Answer: Compost would not make the soil too heavy, in fact it helps to hold both air and water and improves soil structure. I would take a look at several factors in trying to decipher the problem here. First of all I would have the soil tested for both pH and fertility both in problem spots and spots that are apparently okay -- it is possible that the pH has somehow gotten out of whack (wood ashes for instance can have an effect on pH in addition to the lime you have been using) or that the nitrogen level is too low to sustain intensive plant growth. Next you might investigate if there are tree roots in the garden soil that are robbing it of nutrients and water, and make sure that whatever watering system you are using is functioning correctly. After that I would look for any patterns to the problem. I am a bit mystified because you have problems with say some of the cucurbits but not cucumbers, and your warm, rich soil lovers such as tomatoes are fine but the melons are not. For instance, is it possible that there is in fact a disease at work but it is showing up only as plants are rotated through a particular area of the garden? Are you experiencing an infestation of say squash bugs or other insect acting as a vector? Finally, I would suggest you take a sample or two to your county extension and see if they can identify the problem based on a visual inspection of the plants. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.

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