Not Jack’s Beanstalk

Des Bagnols Bean, iron deficiency
Anemic Des Bagnol Bean

So this year all of POD’s greenery was planted in fancy organic soils, enjoyed weekly alternating feedings of fish emulsion and seaweed fertilizer, worm castings, and Garden Tone organic fertilizer and was enshrouded in seaweed-enriched mulch. Not a drop of Miracle Gro sullied its soil.

And yet, without a doubt, this was the most troublesome year this gardener has ever experienced. The bug issues have been well-documented (four stink bugs were squished today) but more needs to be said about nutrient deficiencies.

Blauhide Pole Bean, nutrient deficiencyIn the hopes of growing great quantities of beans (Des Bagnols, purple beans, and Blauhide pole beans) were sowed and only a few handfuls were harvested. Preliminary research indicates that nutrient deficiencies are to blame. Likely iron, nitrogen, and/or manganese.

Evidently beans like slightly acidic soil (5.8-6.3) and POD’s committed to springing for a pH tester next year.  Remind me what’s wrong with Miracle-Gro again? Shower POD with tips, dear readers, please?


8 thoughts on “Not Jack’s Beanstalk

  1. Sure, here’s my blog link:
    Sorry about the Livejournal ads, they’re getting to be a pain.

    The sakatas were a pleasant surprise! We had a long, cold spring, and I moved all the tomato plants to the sunniest part of the garden just to make sure we got some fruit. Everything else got shuffled around, or stepped on, and I wrote the melons off since they didn’t seem to be growing. Then it got hot, they shot up and bloomed, and bang, there were melons before I knew it.

    The Charentais sounds absolutely delicious. I’ve probably never tasted anything like it, either. I’ve only ever eaten what you can find in the grocery store, and those aren’t too bad but they’re usually not ripe yet. And they certainly aren’t a famous variety like Charentais.

    Keep your chin up about the container gardening! I know, it’s discouraging, and you have to wait six whole months before you can try again. Wound’t it be great if we lived in a warmer place? Or just had a big greenhouse. Then if something went wrong, you wouldn’t be looking at the calendar and going “Well, too late now”, you could start over right then and there!

    Good luck!

  2. I am still thinking about this, not that it’s doing much good! The more I read about Coast of Maine products, the harder I find it to accuse them of a slip-up. They’ve been doing this a long time. They SHOULD know if a potting soil has deficiencies, and they don’t seem like a company that would sling it out the door anyway, going “Meh, they can’t tell the difference.” But, what happened, happened. And I still can’tthink of anything other than writing to them and telling them what happened, or sending the soil off to be tested, or deciding never to use that soil again.

    On that note… I wonder how hard it would be for you to acquire some normal dirt someplace? Plain clean dirt, hopefully unpolluted, with all the usual minerals and worms and fungi already living in it and doing their jobs.

    Anyway, I hope you can get to the bottom of this, because you’re going to want to grow Sakata Sweet melons next year, and I think they feed heavily, even as seedlings. They did well, but I think they’d have done much better if I had hand-pollinated them, like you do with yours. I’m going to do a whole write-up about them, and I’ll let you know when it’s finished!

    1. Diana, I think I will send off a soil sample to the folks at UMass (and I will be buying a pH kit for next year, too). Of course, I’ve just stuck a bunch of lettuce into the pots for the fall growing season so that’s likely a future project. Like you, I feel pretty good about the Coast of Maine folks. The more I thought about your chlorine comment, though, the more I began to wonder if that’s not a big culprit. I had a tough time keeping up with my garden’s watering needs — the dry summer didn’t help container gardeners much, that’s for sure! (Although as I said, the OM dirt was waaaaayyyy too light and I think that its superior drainage — which is ordinarily good for container gardens — didn’t serve POD well this summer). I really need to get back on the horse and write a few more posts, one of which being a check-list of things to try for next year. Honestly, though, it’s been a bit disheartening lately. I’m embarrassed to ask this, but what’s your blog again? I’d love to check it out and I’ll be keeping an eye open for your melon post. How did you like the Sakata’s? What did they taste like? My charentais was absolutely out of sight (unnaturally orange flesh, concentrated melon taste, juicy beyond belief, and oh-so-sweet…but the aphids got to it before additional melons could mature).

  3. Hi Pod,
    I don’t know if this will help, but at a forum I follow they say organic soil and methods won’t work with container gardening. The organic method creates heavy soil, which compacts over time, and smothers plants. Well, that’s what I think they’re saying. Some of it get rather techinical.

    Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, here’s a link where they discuss what I think you might be experiencing. Don’t be thrown by the link’s title. It get into the kind of issues I think you’re facing.

    Please note: my tomatoes have stink bugs too. But come to think of it, they’ve come at the end of the season when the tomato is really struggling in its pot just to survive.

    Anyway, as someone famous once said, I feel your pain, and I hope something from this forum may prove helpful.

  4. Well first off, I’m really sorry that you’ve had such a troublesome year. You went to way too much effort to have such unlucky things happen.

    But, this is really kind of fascinating, like one of those murder mysteries my Mom loves. The dowager duchess is bedridden, and she has doctors and potions and pills, nourishing food and attentive nurses, but she just keeps getting sicker and weaker, and why-?

    At first I wanted to blame the aphids and whiteflies, because you had an absolute plague of them, and they carry loads of viruses. Even if they’re clean, they still suck the life out of any poor plant they infest, and wreck its health. But…then I remembered your Isis tomato, which really did seem to have a deficiency, and how you cured it with epsom salts. That was before the insects showed up, right? And the difference afterward was dramatic. So you had at least one plant which almost certainly had a soil deficiency, and if it was growing in the same stuff as the rest of your plants, and if the rest of your plants got sick later, then it doesn’t look good for the soil.

    Okay, so you used Organic Mechanics potting soil, and Omri pure black worm castings, and fish emulsion, and probably a couple of other things I didn’t notice when I reread your blog just now. When I think about this, I tend to zoom in on the soil as the culprit, rather than the amendments. The soil made up the bulk of the stuff in the pot, and it apparently lacked a nutrient or two, to the extent that the amendments couldn’t take up the slack. (The amendments shouldn’t have hurt anything, unless some angry employee decided to pour Round-Up into the fish emulsion, and I don’t actually think that’s likely.) Maybe you got a bad batch of potting soil, these things happen; someone forgot to add the compost to your batch or something?

    Anyway, I can think of three things you might try, depending on how much time and money you want to throw at this. (1) You can write to Organic Mechanics, tell them what happened and ask them for advice. There’s a slim chance that your plants’ problems were a known issue this year, either because of a bad batch of soil, or a bunch of viruses going around, or because your city decided to dump extra chlorine into your guys’ tap water this year. If they don’t know anything, then unfortunately you’re back to square one. (2) Dig some soil out of each pot, and ship it off to someplace to be tested. I did a little looking around, and the University of Massachusetts will test soil for just about everything, for $9.
    Of course, you may not want to do that if you’d rather test it yourself, or have already made up your mind to buy different soil next year.
    (3) You have some sickly plants, and a couple of warm weeks left in the season–so if I were you, I’d select two or three plants that you’ve already written off as losses, and dump Miracle Gro on them. They probably aren’t going to give you any beans this year, so just make them lab subjects! If they show improvement, whiteflies and all, then you know they were lacking something. If they don’t, I guess we’re back to the virus theory again.

    Good luck!

    1. Diana, I don’t know where to begin! First off, you’re totally right — it does feel a bit like a murder mystery and I’ve even wondered if I managed to slip arsenic into my tomatoes’ food. Love it! Second, thanks for the detailed response and the information about soil testing. Of course, I’m absolutely KICKING myself because I tore all the beans out this past weekend (I couldn’t bear looking at them anymore), but you’re right, I should have just used them as my little nutrient lab experiments. Duh! With the aphids and whiteflies, I feel like it was just rotten luck. I’ll try lacing the soil with recycled (cleaned) aluminum foil and dangling whitefly traps next year and see if that doesn’t detract the buggers. About the soil: Again, your assessment is dead on except that the only plant that had Organic Mechanic soil was the black cherry (white flies got that), all the others had Coast of Maine — but all suffered fairly equally from pests and deficiencies. (Although the OM drained and dried out really, really, really quickly — I likely won’t be buying it again). We’ve had a horribly dry summer and I’ve been watering 2x/day, most days. Ideally, I let the water sit for 24-hours before dumping it on the plants (allowing the chlorine to escape). Realistically, though, with all the watering that was required this summer, that rarely happened. So chlorine, yeah, you may be on to something there. Thanks again for the link and the brainstorming, I really appreciate it.

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