Ask a Question forum: Raised Garden bed concerns

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Amy5813
Apr 29, 2017 7:53 AM CST
Recently I noticed the plants in my vegetable garden don't look so well. My sweet potato plants have discoloring on the leaves (picture 1), my cucumber plants don't look as green as when I first planted them and flowers seem to bloom and then fall off within the day (picture 2), my squash and zucchini plants looked dried up around the edges and flowers fall off shortly after blooming while many of the leaves and stems at the bottom die (picture 3), my pepper plants the leaves at the bottom have small holes and fall off the stem if barely touched, tomato plants aren't very green and don't seem to be growing much. Trying to figure out what I should do to prevent any more damage and keep the plants healthy and growing. It is a raised bed 5ft by 8ft, made with untreated cedar, it's a little more than a foot deep and my husband lined the bottom with weed paper. We put it in two weeks ago. He also set up an irrigation system that runs in the morning (rain gauge says little less than 1/2 inch). The ground around the bed stays rather damp so I've cut off the automatic watering system to monitor how much water is enough.
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Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Apr 29, 2017 8:13 AM CST
Hi and welcome, Amy. First of all we need to know what part of the country/world you are in, please. Fill in your profile with your city/state/country and then we'll know more about what climate conditions you're dealing with.

Next, I have questions -
1. Where did you get the soil you filled up your raised bed with? It looks pretty good but might have a fair amount of wood chips in it. They will break down eventually, but at the moment might be stealing nutrients from your plants. Decomposition uses nitrogen. Also, doing a soil test or getting one done at your Extension office is a good idea to know what the pH of your soil is. Too high pH can block your plants from being able to access soil nutrients.

2. Have you put in any fertilizer since you planted your plants? If so, what kind and how much? The discoloration on the sweet potato plants might be a mineral deficiency, and the fact that the cucumbers are making flowers at such a small size indicates some sort of stress, too. Veggie plants are hungry, thirsty little beasties.

3. Do you know the pH and mineral content of the water you are using for irrigation?If not, you can test it yourself Know anyone with a pool? Their test kit will do the job, or use an aquarium test kit available at pet stores. Veggie plants need plenty of consistent moisture especially as the weather heats up. They are working hard, growing fast and soon will be making fruits and that takes a lot of water and nutrients. A veggie garden is NOT a drought tolerant garden. The small, pale cucumbers with crispy edges on the leaves might be from not enough water. After you water, take a trowel and dig straight down 6in. or so to see how far down the water has penetrated.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
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RickCorey
May 1, 2017 6:54 PM CST
Hi Amt! Welcome to NGA. I hope those plants recover!

If you were watering every day, the soil in the bed might be saturated with water, especially if it has a lot of compost, peat, clay or anything else finely divided and water-holding.

I would let it dry out until the top SEVERAL inches of soil feel dryish. Then you know the problem is not water-logged roots. Perhaps watering 1-2 times per WEEK would be better. Water it enough to last several days, then let the excess water drain away so air can get back into the soil pores.

Lack of fertilizer (or excess fertilizer) are both possibilities. If the mix had wood chips, or, worse, sawdust, or a lot of shredded paper, then you actually have a healthy garden that is rapidly growing a lot of soil fungus and other microbes. Wood IN the soil is very welcome to microbes - it's like candy. They grow fast and suck ALL the nitrogen out of the soil (the N is like the "beef" in their "sawdust sandwich").

They are many times better than plant root hairs at grabbing onto soil N. So your plants may be seeing only as much N as the microbes have not yet gobbled up.

I had that one year: I turned a lot of wood chips UNDER the soil. Hardly anything grew, and when I dug it up, I had the ugliest collection of soil fungi you ever saw in one place. Next year, no problem.

Wood chips make great mulch on TOP of the soil! Putting wood or un-composted paper into soil is like burying a powerful Nitrogen magnet. I might do that if I was ever adding many cubic yards of compost to some terrible subsoil. Add the sawdust first and till it under. Then, when I added EXPENSIVE N fertilizer, the sawdust-engorged microbes and fungi would SUCK UP that N before it can leach away. Not much else other than fungi will grow well that season, but next year, the sawdust will have added C, and the fertilizer will have added N, and eventually fungi die and re-release their nutrients into the soil.

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