Question #1 of the day: My veggies aren’t ripening on time!

December 4, 2009

Here is another question I received:

"Everything I plant seems to takeway longer to grow than any harvest times I read about. seed packets or gardenarticles.  I planted Brussels sprouts and cabbages about the beginning of September and although theplants are healthy they are just now starting to make heads on the cabbages andno sign of anything with the sprouts. Same thing with my broccoli andcarrots, peppers and peas.  Summer and fall plantings alike.  Even myradishes take up to 60 days to get to a decent size. (I won't discuss tomatoes. My tomato harvest sucked.) I even have this issue with flowers.  Iplanted marigold seeds in the spring and while they germinate and get a coupleof inches tall they actually started growing gangbusters in September!  Theyare blooming now.

I plant according to the NHGplanting dates.  You posted about an abundance of zucchinis and mine werejust starting to bloom. My mom is putting up turnip greens and mine are about 4inches tall. Things seem to eventually get there, but what's making things growso slow?

Some of the things I planted last fall grew to be about 4inches or so and then just stalled out for the rest of the winter.  I leftthem alone and in the spring they started growing again to give me an earlyspring harvest.  But that can throw off my spring planting plans.  Thatwas ok because last spring I was putting in new beds and I just shifted around. This year it won't work.  If I'm still waiting for my fall garden toharvest in the spring, I won't have space to plant my summer plan.  Orwill have to plant later. 

Iam new to gardening.  I moved to Dallas in the fall of 2007 from Houston.I attended one of your new gardeners seminars at NHG. I have raised beds infull sun with a mix of garden soil, composts, manures and lava sand.  Ifertilize with seaweed/fish emulsion in a foliar spray.  Any suggestions?"

Answers: There are a number of factors at play here. First is obviously timing. There are different times for starting seeds of crops and transplants outdoors. Make sure you're starting seed indoors in January/February for Spring crops that need to be transplanted in March...same goes for fall crops. It sounds like you're trying to follow properl seeding and planting dates, but I'd ask you to perhaps give some specifics about say, when exactly you seeded your zucchini, or your turnips. My turnip greens are also ready now as well. I seeded them outdoors in September.

Next, the most important factors are going to be temperature, rainfall/watering and your soil quality. Temperature drives development (fruit), Light drives green growth. So if temperatures are say unseasonably cool, or warm, that will effect development of your plants and change the length of time to ripening. Your marigolds for example probably needed to be started indoors in Jan/Feb to be ready for Spring planting. They like our cooler spring and fall weather here, but get a bit stunted once the summer heat kicks in. That's why they're doing great now. I recommend planting transplants of marigolds in March/April and then again in August and early September.

Your plants sound stunted and that is usually due to water management and soil fertility. Realize that "new" soil, even if it's a mix of really good composts, etc. can take a little while to become bioactive. Soil microbes that assist in the breakdown of nutrients take time to multiply. New soil is always less fertile that a mix that's been in the garden a year or so. So when you plant veggies into a bed with new soil, you'll often see stunted or yellowing plants. Amend the soil with things that are food for microbes (molasses, fish emulsion) and make sure you're fertilizing the plants. The liquid seaweed is a good instant feed, but there is no lasting effect. You'll need to put down a granular veggie food in the beds as well as supplementing with a liquid feed. Once your soil is really good, you won't have to fertilize as much. It can take a new soil mix a year or more to get really active in my experience.

We had a very hot dry summer, followed by a very wet October. That really got a lot of people's plants off schedule. It's key, during August and September, to really water those fall crops enough to get them off to a good start. They are cool season plants, but we put them out in the garden at a time here when it is still really hot and dry. This can stunt growth and development causing either a failed crop or delayed production. 

Does this help?

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