My first garden troubles

Discussion in 'Fruit and Vegetable Gardening' started by Lostmind, Sep 8, 2007.

  1. Lostmind

    Lostmind Member

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    Hey Everyone...

    So this year was my first crack at a veggie garden. I live in port moody, bc.

    I have a very small lot so there wasn't much room for a garden. I built a 12' x 3' plot along my fence, it gets sun for the majority of the day (I've not actually taken the time to figure out what direction it's in). The garden is built with 2 rows of allen blocks to keep the wife happy (she likes it when things look good). I also dug down 18" removed most of the dirt (it was thick clay, took me 14 hours to dig out that plot... ugh) Put in a mix of compost, peat moss, vermiculite and garden soil on the recommendation of a friend. It's easy to put a rake handle about 2' down, after that it hits tough clay again.

    First lesson learned. The garden isn't big enough. I never realised tomatoes can grow 8' tall. So this fall I plan to widen the garden and perhaps turn it into an L shape to follow the shape of the fence and give me another 6' (length) of growing space.

    Second thing I found out... my tomatoes get this disease - or perhaps multiple diseases - where the leaves turn yellow then the stem turns black. Not fun, lost 6 full plants with tons of tomatoes due to this :( I read that some locals recommend covering the tomatoes on the coast here, so over the winter I think I'll build up a PVC frame and figure out a way to clip on some clear poly. I'll probably have to paint the PVC black so it doesn't look horrible...

    Any reason I should not build a cover?

    Third thing I found out... tomatoes get heavy. Chinese Bamboo may be strong, but tomatoes and rain = broken bamboo. That was a waste of $30 in bamboo sticks. Lost the majority of my biggest tomato plant due to that - this early girl variety was going great with tons of fruit... Anyone got any recommendations on how to support tomatoes? My metal "O" ring things didn't help either, glad those only cost me $8.

    Fourth thing... tomatoes grow fine in big pots. Except the fruit all got blossom end rot (black soft spot on the bottom of each fruit,I read it may be due to a lack of calcium?).. I guess I should actually fertilise plants in pots? I was trying to avoid fertiliser.

    Fifth thing... my zucchini was going great. Then all the fruit started to get soft when they hit about 5-6" long and then rot from the blossom end inward... Apparently you have to hand pollinate? How do I know what to pollinate too?

    Sixth thing... now my zucchini leaves are turning kinda white and drying up. Guess I got another disease?

    Seventh... I read beets are good and easy to grow. Mine are alive, but after being in the ground since april, they have little bulbs smaller then my thumb...

    Eighth, growing daikon/lo back/giant white radish sucks... I love the veggie but it just grew a GIANT stem with nice blue flowers and the root part never got past the size of a pencil. Awesome. What did I do wrong there?

    Ninth... my onions all sucked. Some wilted right above the bulb after getting no larger then a ping pong ball... and my shallots are still all the size of blueberries.

    Speaking of blueberries, I bought 3 bushes and all of them made some nice and tasty blueberries. I think next year I will buy more of them. More strawberries too, as those actually grew and tasted good as well.

    Tenth, none of my lettuce grew. Or arugula. Heck even the carrots don't seem to be doing well.

    Eleventh, my cilantro turned yellow after a couple weeks, got a bunch of flowers and then tasted nasty and died. Guess I got a bad variety or maybe it just doesn't do well out here?

    Twelfth, none of my peppers are ripening, I guess maybe the coast doesn't have enough sun to ripen them? Will I get lucky and have some ripen even though summer seems to be over?

    Thirteen... this is the worst. Everything that is growing well is being eaten... by MICE! I live in a new area, right next to the forest on the mountain here. I keep my yard clean but I guess the mice don't respect that (they probably appreciate the clear path to the tomatoes). They are brave enough to come right up to the plants in pots on the porch and eat them... Even though I have a mini dachshund who is on that porch regularly. Doh. I even bought a sound device from rona to scare the mice away, but they don't seem to care.

    So, a big learning year. Pretty costly too, considering the negligible amount of veggies actually eaten. Some good news though, beans grew well and taste pretty good. Berries seemed to work well. Italian parsley grew to a giant size and was used quite often until just a couple weeks ago when it turned yellow and got a bunch of flowers too. Rosemary has tripled in size and is pretty tasty (if a bit mild). Ummm.. I think that's all the good stuff :)

    Next year I gotta plan this out a bit better I think. And perhaps start plants indoor earlier... I think I need to plan what to plant as well. I just sorta randomly picked stuff. Anyone care to give some local suggestions? What grows well out here? I managed to get my tomatoes rather large (In my opinion at least, never having seen a full grown tomato plant before in all actuality), but so far I've only eaten a couple tomatoes due to the above problems...

    If next year is no better then this year, I think I'll plant flowers :)

    Thanks for reading my novel. If anyone has some suggestions for me, I'd really appreciate it.

    Shane
     
  2. Lostmind

    Lostmind Member

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    Oh heck, I totally forgot to mention that I lost a ton of plants in the beginning due to slugs. Then I bought the slug poison and put it in dishes around the garden (didn't want it to get into the dirt and contaminate it, I have no clue what's in that stuff). I read you can use beer? But, I think I'd prefer to drink the beer... Any advice there ? :)
     
  3. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Can I suggest you go to the library or bookshop and get a vegi growing volume that should also include tables for what time of the year to grow what. Internet probably has something as well.

    I am not much help in that direction as I am in Aust. and I assume Port Moody is somewhere in the northern hemisphere. :)

    Re tomatoes, If you can get them, good hardwood stakes. We have eucalypt stakes here. I would get 6 feet tall and put about foot into the soil. As the tomatoes grow remove some of the side branches (usually pop out where leaves join the stem) and tie the main stem securly as it grows. A circle of wire with a stake also works well. Tomato can be placed in center and pruned and tied as it grows. I use wire that has large squares.

    Let zucchini grow out from the edge of your bed onto a straw or mulch area that helps it to stay dry. Needs lots of sun and water so fruit grows sweet and full. Don't water leaves. The grey leaves usually come at the end of season and I think can be caused by leaf watering.

    Beets are winter vegetables here so are usually planted in late summer autumn

    Try picking lettuce such as the oak leaf ones instead of struggling with the heading variety.

    Most of all don't give up and get your beds ready for next season.

    Liz
     
  4. skeeterbug

    skeeterbug Active Member

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    I don't know much about your climate as we are much warmer down here, But I understand that part of BC has fairly mild winters. Some of the vegies you mention may grow better in the winter there-- like lettuce, beets, radish, onions--they are winter crops here. Broccoil and cabbage are also good winter crops. I agree with Liz on the leaf lettuce, I grow a gourmet mix that has simpson, red and green oak leaf and bibb-- I love it

    I use concrete reinforcement wire to make tall cages (about 6 ft) for my tomatoes like Liz mentioned and it often helps to stake the cage so they do not tip over.

    As for pollinating your zucchini, you will have male flowers and female flowers on the same plant ( males do not have a small squash at the base). Simply take a small paint brush and rub the pollen from the males and transfer it to the female flower-- there is a sticky stem in the middle that is called a pistil-- that is where to pollen need to go.
    Squash flowers usually only open in the morning.

    Skeet
     
  5. Lostmind

    Lostmind Member

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    Thanks Liz and Skeet for the advice an encouragement :)

    I'm not giving up yet, but it's pretty discouraging to walk out to the garden every morning to water and see more and more death...

    Just yesterday I was fed up with the mice eating my tomatoes. I wouldn't care if they took one or two per night... but no, they have to sample 10-20 tomatoes each night. So I bought this sticky mat stuff to trap them. Put out 2 small squares last night, caught 4 mice. It was disgusting. Something ate all 4. From the looks of it, it was other mice.

    To top it off, my 2 remaining roma tomato plants are doing quite well with some of the biggest roma's I've ever seen... they are just starting to turn orange... well, I pulled off 8 more of them this morning cuz the mice half ate them. And countless more grape tomatoes are missing.

    Even if I get the disease thing figured out.. .and all the rest, it seems like I'm just working to feed the mice. ugh. why don't these noise pest repelling things work? I don't want to kill mice...
     
  6. skeeterbug

    skeeterbug Active Member

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    Down here our big tomato pest are the stink bugs. I try to avoid using pesticides unless I have to and the way I can do it with my tomatoes is to pick them as soon as there is the slightest blush. They will fully ripen on their own inside. You may be able to do the same with the mice if they are waiting until they start to change color to eat them.

    Skeet
     
  7. Durgan

    Durgan Contributor 10 Years

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    Lostmind.

    I loved your story. It would be a good read for Stuart Maclean on the CBC. It takes a few years to learn about growing vegetables. There is a lot more than just dropping the seeds into the soil. You cannot beat the climate economically, and just have to adapt to what area in which you are located. With all the problems encountered a move to a better climate might be in order, if possible.

    http://www.durgan.org/Blog/Durgan.html
     
  8. Anne58

    Anne58 Active Member

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    It called blight and is the scourge of all tomato growers here in the Lower Mainland. Yes, do build a cover for your tomato shelter and next year make sure you keep the leaves of the tomatoes as dry as possible, it's the rain and sprinkling that seems to activate the airborne blight spores that land on your plants.
    The garden stakes that are available from places like Revy or Home Depot should work okay. One thing you might want to try is keeping the shoots (those are the branches that sprout from between the main stem and the leaf joint) to a minimum. There is countless debate whether shoots should be removed but if you plants are getting unruly it's the best solution to keeping the plants smaller.

    I don't usually need to hand pollinate, bees seem to do the job okay. If you think you want to, you can tell the male and female flowers apart easily by looking at the base of the flower. The female flowers will have a thicker stem shaped like a miniature zucchini where as the male flowers have a thin uniform diameter stem. You will need to rub the pollen from the male flowers onto the parts in the female flower.
    This commonly happens as the summer ends and is called powdery mildew. It is usually the result of the leaves being wet for a prolonged period and not being able to dry out properly. I know that it can be tough to keep them dry when we have rainy weather but also, when you water the plants if you must use a sprinkler, do it in the morning so that the leaves can dry in the sun as soon as possible rather than sprinkling in the evening when the leaves will remain damp overnight.
    It might depend on the variety and you soil conditions. I have never had any luck with the globe beets but have had much better success with the cylinder variety. These ones grow long and fat (up to ~ 2" in diameter) and can be 8 - 10 inches long. The seeds are available at all the garden shops in the spring.
    Wish I could help here but I've never been able to grow radishes either :o(


    Sometimes peppers will ripen on the plants, it depends on our weather. You can however, dig the pepper plants up, move them into pots and then take them indoors and let the peppers ripen.

    Hope this helps you out with some of your other questions.

    Anne
     
  9. Lostmind

    Lostmind Member

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    Durgan - your blog kinda inspired me earlier this year to get out and do some gardening. For some strange reason I've always wanted a garden, ever since I was a kid. At thirty now and a total computer geek with a demanding small business to care for, I dunno why I actually took on the garden, although I did find it somewhat relaxing and rewarding at times. I love working in the yard and growing flowers just never seemed to appeal to me. Although I do admit they can look stunning....

    Anne - thank you very much for the detailed reply. I appreciate it. Can you share what veggies you have had success with out here?
     
  10. skeeterbug

    skeeterbug Active Member

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    Have you tried growing radishes in the winter-- that is when they do best here, beets and carrots too. In fact, all of the root crops except sweet potatoes do best in winter. Irish potatoes are planted in winter (Jan), but finish growing in May/June.
     
  11. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Lostmind, it's a first step to know what time of the year to plant things. eg your radishes. That is why I suggested you go to library or if you have a local area person you can ask. Certain things are winter vegetables and others are summer. As you are in the northern hemisphere I can't really give you any guidance but people like Durgan who has a wonderful web site are a very good source. Anne who has given you some excellent information. Also I suggest you start out modestly even confine the sowings to large containers if you are short of time to maintain a patch (I have same problem am self employed) Things like the picking lettuce , parsley, spring onions, are all good container items. Tomatos are also a good one to grow in containers. Try the small ones like "Tom Thumb" instead of varieties like Grosse Lise. Strawberries are also happy container items. I am currently growing Kipfler potatos in a tyre tower to keep them nice and contained

    Liz (Vic Aust)
     
  12. Anne58

    Anne58 Active Member

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    Not a problem :o)

    Just so you know, I like to grow stuff that doesn't take too much effort and is relatively immune to pest problems.

    Onions - I grow from the sets that I purchase at Garden Works. They seem to need quite rich soil and so far mine are just reaching the size of the 'boiling' onions you see in the supermarkets.

    Garlic - pretty simple to grow but also need fairly good soil to produce nice big bulbs. I plant these anytime from August until late October. The plants seem to do best when they get a bit of a head start the year prior to harvesting.

    Leeks - another easy veggie to grow and any that aren't harvested die back and then start regrowing about this time of the year. They sit dormant over the winter then come back to life in the spring. I'm sure rich soil would give the massive ones like in the stores but mine get big enough (maybe 3/4" in diameter) to give me a good feed in the spring before they go to flower.

    Potatoes - pretty hard to go wrong with these. Keep the wood ash out of the area where you plant though or you will get bothered by scabs on the potatoes.

    Collards/Kale - this I grow as a winter crop (that is I wait until November before picking it. Both of these greens attract aphids but if you wait until the cold weather, they are bug free!

    Beets - mentioned in my previous post

    Beans - I grow both bush beans and pole beans (bush beans are the purple variety - easy to see for picking and Blue Lake for the pole variety - no strings!). I grow both because in my experience the bush beans are ready first and as they are starting to dwindle the pole beans start coming. It give me a nice long harvest.

    Tomatoes - under cover of course and I take the shoots off but usually let them grow as tall as they want. Some books suggest nipping the tops after 3 sets of flower trusses have set to ensure all the tomatoes ripen - matter of personal preference.

    Zuccchini - I don't mind having a glut of this veggie. Mildew is a problem later in the year as the nights cool down. I don't usually have a problem with production but this year the little zucchinis aren't growing as robustly as they have previous years - as you mentioned was you problem too.

    Corn - It takes up a bit of space and I certainly don't get the big cobs like you see the pickup trucks selling along the highway but it is nice to have it straight out of the garden. Another crop that does well in good quality soil but I manage alright with my 4 - 5 foot plants.

    Peas - both the snow peas (or sugar snap peas) as well as the ones that need shelling. I haven't had any problems with major pests in my peas (caterpillars and 'worms') but I may just be lucky in this area.

    The worst of the pests for all of these veggies is of course the snails and slugs. Aphids will sometimes infest the beans but lately that hasn't been much of a problem.

    Hope is helps you out :o)

    Anne
     
  13. anituchka

    anituchka Active Member

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    For the slugs, I finally found an organic thing, it's called Escargo, and you can buy it on www.gardensalive.com. They sell all kinds of organic stuff.

    For beets and carrots, I put a lot of composted manure and sand, so that the carrots can grow long.

    My zucchini also died, big disappointment. I think I got the same disease, not growing them again-waste of space.

    Cilantro actually turns into coriander, I didn't know that either, so was really surprised by the change in taste.
     
  14. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    A saucer of beer at strategic spots will catch yr. snails and slugs too :) Another trick with carrots besides the deep bed you are doing. I always had trouble getting them even to grow. 1. Make sure you have good fresh seed. 2 Mix the seed with fine sand and sprinkle in furrow then cover with a sprinkling of soil and pat down. I was planting too deep.
    Liz
     
  15. Dave-Florida

    Dave-Florida Active Member

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    Powdery mildew is a big Pacific Northwest problem. My understanding is that it has to do with dew at night, which moistens fungus spores that haven't been washed off the plant (thanks to no rain). Under this theory, it's a good idea to hose down the plants periodically.

    At least in Florida, evening rain does NOT seem to cause mildew problems.
     
  16. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    The discouraging onion crop is probably a combination of planting them too late and not enough fertility. I start my (spanish) onions here in Feb inside, and plant them out in April so they get a good start. Abundant nitrogen (seed/alfalfa meal, for eg) is necessary to get good tops, which produce the good "bottoms" = bulbs. Sometime in August they inevitably collapse the same as yours, (maybe it's even earlier)...so they have to grow early and fast to have a decent bulb on them. It seems like either/or downy mildew or onion smut that attacks the tops and ends their growth each summer here.

    The cilantro is another timing problem. If you sow it like many people on Victoria Day weekend, it will grow very little and flower at a tiny size...good as someone said for producing coriander seeds but not for the greens that many of us like. Have to start it early, or later in the summer is easier as it tends to sit thru the long fall here and allows more leisurely picking. Must have for the homemade salsa!
     
  17. AlexH

    AlexH Active Member

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    I can sympathize with the tomato problem. Last year when I was renting in Vancouver, I grew them beside the house where they were under the overhang, and they did amazingly well.

    This year I'm in Port Moody, but I am borrowing some space at my in-laws for the garden, and I got 0 tomatoes from 4 plants. They all got blight and rotted.

    Re the slugs, I use a combination of 3 things:

    - copper strips
    - eggshells
    - marigolds

    The copper strips are the first line of defense, they don't like crawling over the copper, it reacts with their slime. Apparently eggshells are like barbed wire to slugs, so I put a line of them around the raised beds. Marigolds are a last resort, since the slugs like eating them, they'll go there first.

    This year I only saw one marigold plant damaged by a slug, nothing else was touched.
     
  18. Anne58

    Anne58 Active Member

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    I've also read that hair clipping, like you would get from a barber shop or hair salon will keep them at bay also. Seems the hairs get stuck to them and they don't like it.

    Anne
     
  19. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Saw dust anf ash from fires will also work
     
  20. 1950Greg

    1950Greg Active Member

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    Digging your bed into the clay could cause a problem with drainage. A layer of road fill or other coarse sandy mixture 6" deep under your top soil is a good idea. A little clay in the soil is a good idea it has a lot of trace elements and holds fertilzer and moisture in the soil.
     
  21. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Many of us... but not all of us! http://www.ihatecilantro.com/
     
  22. Stickman000

    Stickman000 Active Member

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    Don't get discouraged! The same thing happened to me at first. I planted elephant ears, which are supposed to get a lot of water, and we had a drought. They didn't grow for half a year, but I kept watering them, and they're still in "full bloom" (even though elephant ears don't get flowers) and growing good! I'm about to plant some peaches, and I kind of expect the same result. Anyway, you could probably find a place online to get help with the diseases, (I don't know what the climate is like up there) but I do know about fertilizers. If you want a slow-acting, chemical fertilizer that keeps out bugs and maybe mice, you need a store-bought type. If you want a fast-acting fertilizer, use compost. You can make compost by putting leaves and hair and other things in a round trash can, water it, and leave it in the sun. Get worms and put them in there, and you'll have lots of great compost next year. One last thing. The clay was probably one of the reasons you had such an unhealthy garden this year. Dig that away, put the compost in its place, and you'll have a great garden.
     
  23. Stickman000

    Stickman000 Active Member

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    Oh! I almost forgot! Mint leaves, cinnamon, and salt keeps out slugs, ants, and hopefully mice.
     
  24. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    If you compost in a bin in full sun you will have fried worms :) Or at least down here you will.

    Semi shade will work well. My house hold compost is in a bin with a hole directly onto the soil and a lid. I have some air holes drilled near the top. I layer household scraps with wood shavings straw and leaves. Full of worms.

    Liz
     
  25. alabama

    alabama Active Member

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    I have found that the best thing for tomatoes is manure. I have some rabbits and the manure from them is great for tomatoes. Manure also helps break up clay soils. I have smapathy for you. I just moved to Alabama from Indiana and my garden was a disaster. No rain, hard rocky soil, tomato blight, rust, and wilt just to name a few. In fact it got so bad that the farmers could not even grow hay for the cattle. Learn all you can and try again next year. All gardeners have bad years, it goes with the territory.
     

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