Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Vegetable Garden update 1 & Nitrogen lock up

Two weeks have passed since everything was planted out in the vegetable gardens. I am pleased to say that all plants are now showing much growth.  I say now because until just a few days ago, I was really worried. Nearly all of the plants turned an awful sickly yellow, and just didn't look to me as if they were taking hold in the garden soil.  Needless to say I was sick over it! All that work, preparation, guest gardeners, and now they were going to die?  I knew it wasn't from lack of water or over watering since I have pretty much gotten the hang of that, and I knew we had cultivated in all that manure to feed our what could the problem be? Then I remembered something I read in one of my gardening books, and took much comfort in re-reading the section on Nitrogen.

Chemistry class was a LONG time ago, so I am not going to attempt to explain or diagram the actual workings of the chemicals, but I will try to put this in really simple terms:  Nitrogen is essential for leaf growth--if plants are pale or yellow and their growth is stunted then the soil most likely needs nitrogen which can be increased effectively by adding compost, or turning in manure animal or green (plant).  When we created this new garden area we turned in a lot of green manure in the form of grass and leaves and such, so I really didn't know why there would be a nitrogen deficiency...and so I read on...  A nitrogen deficiency can often occur even when there is plenty of it in the soil... the problem is that the nitrogen is temporarily "locked up" and unavailable for the plants' usage. Microorganisms break down mater slowly making nitrogen into a form the plants can use. As fresh organic material (such as the grass we tilled in, unfinished compost, or un aged manure--as I discovered that which we had delivered was in fact not aged but fresh from the barn) breaks down quickly, those microorganisms remove available nitrogen from the soil.  After one to two weeks breakdown of the material is complete and the nitrogen is again available for the plants roots.

One resolution to this problem--use certain particularly nitrogen-rich plants like alfalfa as your green manure--it is known as a nitrogen fixer changing the nitrogen from the air in the soil into a form the plants can use.  Since it was too late to do that for our current situation I had to go with a short term/quick fix to help my plants until the nitrogen in our soil was released for their use.  I could have added substances called bone meal and fish emulsion--but I was concerned about overdosing the plants and at this point I really didn't think they could handle any more trauma. Instead I used good ol' Miracle Grow plant food for Vegetables. I happen to have it on hand, and it is already balanced for general purpose feeding, so I gave it a shot.  Mixing according to the directions on the box, and soaking the soil at the base of the plant as well as wetting the foliage, I fed each and every one of my sad, sickly, little plants. Within the 2 days following the feeding, the garden was a much darker healthier green color and the plants showed signs of new growth. The weather forecast is calling for warm, humid conditions, and some rain  so that should really give them a boost as well.

 Here are several pictures to show you how things are coming along.

Our lettuce net row cover is holding up very well.  This row has yummy bug-free lettuce,  however the second row under the netting has some bug-eaten holes--did I trap a little bug inside the cover? just giving it a personal buffet--I am still not sure if I will bother with lettuce next year at all, but I will let you know.

    Cucumber plants are still small, after having struggled a bit when first moved outside.  It seems strange to see so many blossoms already on such a small plant.  The various squash plants are similar, in that they have several big blooms and small new leaves sprouting out.

Shown here are the first fruits of the sweet banana pepper and the jalepeno. Can hardly wait to make the homemade salsa!

A tiny BEAN! I think the beans might just be the easiest to grow veggie that I have in our garden.  I have decided that it is just not necessary to start beans so early in the green house as I did this year when I started all the others.  My decision is based on the following picture--showing the beans that were directly sown in the garden soil 2 weeks ago.
These beans have sprouted and grown over 6 inches tall and have really big leaves already.  Before I know it we will be picking baskets full!

For some reason I cannot get the pictures of the tomato plants nor the squash to upload so you will have to wait til the next garden update post to see how those are doing.  Although, I can tell you that last night I saw several flower buds forming on some of tomatoes and I will have to stake them up soon to keep them off of the ground.


  1. O' how lovely! Wow, you got me scared when you said you were worried (especially since I was helping you that day)! lol So glad everything is growing now!

  2. :) everything is going to be ok now, I am quite sure. I see you have caught up on my posts!

  3. you are fifth on google for "nitrogen lock up" that is good :)

  4. really? ok. Do you like the new design on the page?