Thursday, May 31, 2012


I can not figure out the cause to some of my garden failures this spring.  I am honestly asking these questions hoping someone out there will know what might be the problem.  I'd like to not continue having the same issues over and over as it seems I am having.

Why are my lettuces that were planted on March 17th, 2.5 months ago still tenny tiny?  This is the second year in a row that this has happened.  They are in a different spot this year than last year, and this is a brand new bed.  Unless it's the source of my soil/composted manure I am at a loss for what the problem is.

Why are some of my seedlings turning red and dying off?  This happened earlier in the spring and is happening again.


  1. My lettuce did the same thing and we planted ours the same days as yours. They have since taken off, or at least the ones that germinated have, but it was VERY slow going. I am guessing the wacky weather patterns with the Spring we had?

    Some of my Chard did the turn red and die off thing too.

    1. I would like to blame it on the weather although two years in a row make me suspicious. I am not glad your chard had the same fate, but I'm happy to know its not something crazy that happens just to me.

  2. Now I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert, but allow me to make an analysis of the pictures. I would say that in looking at the first pic of your raised bed, the first thing that caught my eye was the dark line along the board on the right side of the picture. The second thing is in the center of the pic and it appears to be a somewhat continuous crack on a diagonal path going towards top left corner to bottom right corner, although not all the way.
    In the second pic, there appears to be a crack going from the right lobe of the red leaf straight to the top of the pic. To me, based on visual evidence in both of the pics, the soil is way too dry. That's why the fissures have formed, and that's why it has pulled away from the board. That is almost certain death for seedlings. The soil looks as if it might contain a large amount of clay. If so, you may need to water a couple times a day to keep it moist for seedling survival. If the soil is sandy and the water drains quickly through it, maybe a mulch would be helpful is keeping the soil more moist by slowing the evaporation. When I grew my buttercrunch lettuce, even though my soil was good, when I saw that it had that really dry look on the surface of the soil, I got out the watering can and watered thoroughly but not excessively. Just enough to prevent that dried out look, and the lettuce flourished. I think of it as when that soil is shrinking and drawing up, it is probably squeezing the little stems of those new plants and choking them. Also, when the soil does crack, it allows more soil surface to be exposed to the air and dries it out even faster. Lettuce is a tender plant in my opinion and I would definitely be watering it within reason twice a day if the sun was bearing down on it for the longest part of the day. Moist but not saturated is what I try to go for. Are those wood chips I see on the top of the soil? If a lot of that is in the compost material, I would either look for a more completely composted material and eliminate or modify that source of compost. Wood chips in compost can last for years and years. I don't use them at all. That's just my preference and opinion and I'm sure there's people out there that would say differently, but I'm just trying to help you with what I know through my own experience.

    Lastly, if that doesn't help, I would do a composite soil sample and pay the Cooperative Extension $10 or so for an analysis. I would pay the extra $4 or $5 for an organic content analysis as well, given the appearance of the soil. That could be worth its weight in gold if your soil breakdown is off for lettuce production.

    I hope this is of some help to you.
    Good luck with it!

    1. I definitely agree that I need to do a soil test. You are right that the ground was cracked, but that's because I gave up watering a couple of weeks ago, otherwise I watered very thoroughly for at least two months before I gave up. The wood chips are from around the bed, when we get a hard rain some of the small mulch pieces around my raised bed get bounced into the beds. Thanks for you input!