Teeny Tiny beets and carrots-why?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by savinggrace, Sep 18, 2006.

  1. savinggrace

    savinggrace COO of manure management

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    Hi,

    I started a new garden plot this spring, and had mixed results. I have a few things I will be trying next year, but I am wondering why my beets and carrots did so poorly.

    Not that there was anything wrong with the flavor, they were just.....so tiny!

    I passed the days-to-harvest mark on both eons ago. Just today I pulled up the last of them. Beets (detroit) were not half the size of golf balls. Mainly, grape sized.

    The carrots-hardly half of my thumb. I can't remember the variety I planted, but they were supposed to get to a decent size.

    They were planted from seed, at the suggested time for our area. As I said, the days to harvest passed long ago!

    My garden is a series of 5X5 square beds, divided by grass paths.
    It was formerly turf grass lawn.
    There are and have been no chemicals used for quite a long time.....
    I wouldn't say it gets FULL sun, but frankly it is the sunniest part of our yard-morning and day it is full sun, around 4/5pm it is then partial shade.
    There ARE black walnut trees not far from the garden. I have read they can affect how plantings do.


    A few possibilities I have come up with.

    #1. My soil. I have mainly clay soil, enriched with well composted chicken manure. Perhaps it was too compact for them to grow well? I thought I would mix sand in the plot-should I do that this fall, and next spring, or just next spring?

    #2 There ARE black walnut trees not far from the garden. (50-75 ft away) I have read they can affect certain plantings. Are carrots and beets one of those?

    #3 The carrots and beets were planted in the same plot. Along with green and yellow bell peppers. The peppers did exceedingly well! Are they possibly not compatable?

    #4 The seeds were from a national brand seed carrier; marked for 2006, purchased at the local hardware store. Is it possible they were bad?

    #5 Fertilizer? That particular bed was wintered with composted manure atop it; pine shavings. Which was then worked on by hand several weeks prior to planting. Our soil is certainly dark and rich to begin with, as we are along a very old creek and our yard was probably creek bed 200 years ago!

    Thank you. Our family likes nothing more than sweet fresh from the garden carrots! We hope to have a better crop next year for sure!
     
  2. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    It would be so nice if everyone gave such detailed report about why something isn't right instead of a guessing game!

    #1 Ideal soil for raised beds would have 15% sand, no more than that. More than that allows it to dry out too quickly. If your soil was compacted, it may have dried out more than you thought with most of the rainfalls draining off the edges rather than soaking in. Raised beds need twice as much water as normal beds.

    #2 Carrots and beets are not affected by walnut juglone. The only harm would come from the tree's shade. Peppers can stand partial shade but beets and carrots need as much sun as possible.

    #3 No problem with those plants growing next too each other unless the peppers would be shading the other 2.

    #4 All seed packages must now be marked for the year in which to be planted to assure USDA germination percentages. Since the seeds did germinate, it's no factor here.

    #5 All OK except those pine shavings. Carrots and beets need ample nitrogen to produce large tops which in turn are supported by large roots. Composted manure loses a lot of nitrogen and those decomposing pine shavings may have used up almost all of the nitrogen in the soil. Peppers do not need that extra nitrogen which would only promote more foliage growth rather than fruit.

    Martin
     

  3. suburbanite

    suburbanite Well-Known Member

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    Wow. All of that is information that I'm gonna use too, if you don't mind sharing, Grace. :D

    Thanks Paquebot. :)
     
  4. turtlehead

    turtlehead Well-Known Member

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    Martin, you amaze me again.

    I'd have guessed exactly the opposite - I'd have guessed excess nitrogen leading to healthy leafy tops at the expense of good root development. I'd have been wrong, too!
     
  5. savinggrace

    savinggrace COO of manure management

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    THANK....YOU!!!!

    But of course I have additional questions. I should also mention my beds are not raised however I was contemplating adding that feature for next year.

    Regarding the addition of sand, is there some sort of 'grab test' which can be done to determine if I have the right amount of sand added to the mostly clay soil? I would say my topsoil is at least 4 inches deep. Or, a formula to help tell me how many pounds of sand I should mix into the soil? And how many inches deep should the sand be dug into the soil?

    Would the majority of my plantings thrive if I were to add the suggested 15% sand to my clay soil in all of my beds?

    Typically, I plant

    Heirloom tomatoes, both cherry and large varieties
    Cabbage
    Zucchini
    Various types of winter squash
    Pole Beans
    Bush peas (pea pod)
    Sweet bell peppers
    Cucumbers
    Carrots, beets and occasionally radishes

    And I plant marigolds around the outside edges of each bed. Not that they seem to discourage chipmunks and others from raiding my garden, more because that's what I have always done!

    Thank you again.

    And yes, I am happy for anyone to learn as a result of my trials and tribulations! :)
     
  6. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If you have the time reseach boron defiency...laundry borax is a source for amending...
     
  7. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Too much nitrogen would have resulted in good-sized carrots but forked. That's why it's always advised to NOT use fresh manure where carrots are to be planted. Had the peppers not been mentioned, and the carrots reported with monster leaves, totally different possibilities!


    Everything will benefit from changing soil from heavy clay/silt to a loam. Clay loam starts at 20% sand. Half inch of sand tilled into the top 4 inches of clay/silt would be a good start. Or, one inch into about 8". Of course, that's in addition to organic matter which is best when maintained at 10%. Figure that at one inch per 9" of soil. Soil structure charts do not consider organic matter when it comes to determining the type. For us, nothing scientific to it as one can always start low and keep adding until it's to one's liking. That's for both sand and organic matter.

    Four inches of topsoil is not enough and plenty at the same time. It's not enough to expect 8 inch carrots as is. But 4" of topsoil tilled 10" deep would be ideal. If you only till 4", the carrots would have a hard time trying to break through the compacted sub-soil. That would also lead to stunted carrots and beets if the feeder roots can't break through some hard material.

    For carrots, I till with a spade and as deep as I can go. I fully expect my carrots to use every inch of that depth and that I have to dig them with that same spade.

    Beets are more forgiving although their roots may go twice as deep as deep as carrots. (10' for beets as versus 5' for carrots.) Since I also generally plant both in the same area, both get the same deep treatment from me. But their roots can better penetrate without having to expand as they grow.

    I would not try borax without a soil test which definitely shows a boron deficiency and then only use as prescribed. An overdose is too hard to correct.

    Martin
     
  8. Cindy in NY

    Cindy in NY Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I think carrots also need LOTS of water.

    Be sure not to plant tomatoes or potatoes near your walnut trees.
     
  9. SquashNut

    SquashNut Well-Known Member

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    The amount of boron needed in a garden is a very trace amount. If you put laundry boron in your soil you would end up killing your garden.
    instead you need to just add the recomended amount of compost on a regular basis , and the boron deficincy will corect itself.
     
  10. wilderness1989

    wilderness1989 Well-Known Member

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    First have your soil tested to see what it needs if anything, the local extension office can help you with that. Then if the soil needs amended do it then you have a base line to work with. This and lots of compost usually solves most problems.
     
  11. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We did use the borax a few years back(8years ago) and not had anything but good results since....at the time we had done a thorough soil test....and since have gotten animals so have more natural resources...and also removed a pine tree w/ a 3ft diameter from garden side of house! We have heavy rocky clay soil and get decent root crops just the same....and bumper rock crops every time we till :nono:

    A full scale soil test at your extension office is the ideal place to start... :)
     
  12. Zebraman

    Zebraman Well-Known Member

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    Hey SavingGrace;Clay soil is by far the easiest to ammend.Also clay has All the micro-nutrients but the compaction doesn't allow plants to access them.Clay usually has 40-50 percent sand so adding more is not necessary.Copious amounts of compost is the way to go.Double-digging a bed is a lot of work but will pay off in the long run.Normally you don't add compost to the bottom layer in Double-dug beds but when its clay you do.Also I add Bonemeal to any beds I am growing root crops.
    Also I use drip lines on all my double dug beds and they use a lot less water than conventional beds.Also double dug beds makes weeding a snap.-
     
  13. mistletoad

    mistletoad Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I would get a soil test - at the very least check your Ph, we have to add lime to get any kind of beet worth bothering with and carrots prefer a sweeter soil too. We have a clay soil too, great stuff once you get a good amount of OM added.
     
  14. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Clay does NOT have any percentage of sand! Clay, silt, and sand are each separate elements of which soil may be comprised of. All 3 may exist in pure forms or virtually any possible combination. Soil containing 40-50% sand would be a loam.

    www.oneplan.org/Water/soil-triangle.shtml

    Martin