Sunday, July 14, 2013

Massive Soil Testing: No nitrogen!

My northern, and to a lesser extent, my western garden beds have been suffering terribly.  I've put in dozens of tomatoes that died.  Plus many beet and green bean seeds have been total duds.  The shallots in the West bed are very sad as well.

Here are pictures from my north bed, where so many tomato seedlings have died.  The chard and parley are from last year.  There is one okay eggplant in that bed that is a start from a nursery this year.  Plus some of my cinnamon basil starts have survived.  Those things in yogurt containers are months old tomatoes that I started, like in February!  

I've been wondering if I've contaminated the bed with a persistent herbicide like Picloram because this fall I used horse manure that I composted in the bed before I knew about the issue.  I spoke about that some in this link.  But I was also hoping it was something like a pH issue.  In my compost pile use a ton of coffee grounds that I get in big bags from Starbucks, so I was wondering if perhaps the pH was just off.

On Friday I went to a good local nursery, Walter Anderson's, to gather advice.  I explored the send-away soil test options but the people there weren't selling it to hard, saying that the results were confusing, even for them to understand.  I'd heard that home test kits were iffy, but they seemed fairly confident in theirs.  So I came home with a new home test kit in addition to the pH probe I already had.

This weekend I did a lot of pH and NPK tests from these beds. I used both my pH probe and the pH that came in with the NPK test kits.  The probe gave readings about 0.5-0.75 lower than the test kit, but all were acceptable.  EVEREY SINGLE nitrogen test I did was ZERO!  The P and K were in the slightly low, to normal, to slightly high range.  So I'm averaging that out and calling the P and K good.  Here are my handwritten notes:

So how is it that my organic beds, amended with homemade compost and homemade worm castings has zero nitrogen??!!

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