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Wow - alarming soil test results (with plant pics)

15 years ago

My husband and I built 4 (4X4) SFG's last fall, using Mel's mix. Without having homemade compost at the time, we bought the recommended 4 or 5 types of store bought compost, including composted manure, MR compost, and "organic compost" from a reputable local nursery that they said was plant based. It sat all winter, and we planted in the spring.

I've had the uncomfortable feeling that things aren't growing as fast as they should. I've read people saying that they didn't have great growth the first year from SFG's, and I've been topdressing with some compost and I've used a couple kinds of fertilizer. (Tomato Tone and Miracle Grow for toms). Still not looking great, and my tomatoes seem stunted with curling leaves. The curling leaves made me worry that I was either watering too much (but the soil felt dry every time I watered), or fertilizing too much (I've fertilized twice in a month).

I didn't want to guess at treatment without doing soil testing, so I bought a "Ferry-Morse" home testing kit from the hardware store. Here's what I got:

Very Alkaline (the color matched the darkest green level - 7.5, but I don't know if it's right around 7.5 or even higher since it reached the test's limits)

Nitrogen - very low (on a color scale from light pink to maroon, my solution was clear to "I can almost talk myself into believing it's got a pink tinge")

Phosphorus - high to medium

Potash - very low (the test resulted in varying degrees of cloudiness, and my solution was perfectly clear.)

While I can't swear that the test kit itself was great, I have enough chemistry background to feel confident that I used it correctly. I scooped some soil out about 3-4 inches from the base of one plants for the sample.

So, I'm surprised that my mel's mix is so basic (I thought if anything all that peat would make it acidic?). I'm also surprised that even though I've fed this SFG twice in a month, both N and K are reading off-the-charts low.

And I'm bummed,

So, what do I do now? I want to leave the plants in place and top dress and fertilize to try to amend as well as I can. Next spring I'll have a lot more compost to mix in, but for now, I'm hoping to increase acidity and fertilize and salvage what I've got this year.

On a related note, I have been negatively surprised at how easily this soil dries out, and I've read a lot of people on this forum say "yup, I water just about every day". Mel did claim that the peat, compost, and vermiculite would really help maintain moisture, but my experience is that it drains really easily and needs to be watered almost every day (and we haven't even gotten summer heat yet!). I feel like I'm just washing away nutrients out of this easily draining soil every time I water.

Thanks for any advise you all have!



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