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Q: Reno 911

By on August 14, 2009

A PVFS Customer Question - Staff Response:


I love your website and all the information you provide…I love your catalog too (call it a dream book)!  Up here in hot/dry/gardening-challenged Reno, my little experimental raised bed (first-time square-foot veggie garden here) has failed miserably. In spite of all my efforts to get good soil (Gardner & Bloome), good compost, daily hand-watering, nothing but the chives survived. Just today I discovered that the only tomato that emerged from my brandywine plant looks really weird on the bottom (a paler green plus a sort of lattice-looking). Each time a little zucchini blossom appeared, by the next day it had withered and there hasn’t been any hint of a little squash. Sigh. At first I thought the ‘pillbugs’ had gotten to everything, but as I patiently depleted that population by hand-picking, everything still failed to thrive. Double sigh. I don’t know whether to give up completely forever (what’s that famous Indian slogan:  “I shall fight no more forever”?), OR try to succession-plant something like lettuce and chard, or just wait til next year?

Sorry to ramble on, but just wondered if you had any ideas?
Thanks - no emergency to respond, since the damage is already done.


Thank you so much for your good feedback and support!  We sure appreciate your business.  Reno is really a hard place to garden and I’m sorry you’ve had such a difficult experience so far.  But please, don’t give up yet!  Gardening is all about trial and error, experimentation, and learning (there’s ALWAYS more to learn, even for the 20 year gardener!).
I’ll address your problems and offer possible reasons, as well as resources for you to look into for further information.
1.) Weird Brandywine bottoms-heirloom tomatoes often have lattice-looking bottoms, as well as funky ridges, it’s normal.  If the bottom develops a rot, it could be a disease called Blossom End Rot.  Here’s a good website for common tomato problems:

2.) Zucchini blossom wither-it could also be Blossom End Rot, or maybe poor pollination.  Here’s a good discussion:
3.)  I say “yes” to planting cool season crops like chard, kale, and lettuce.  Those crops are a bit easier to deal with, and they just might boost your confidence and joy for next Summers’ gardening endeavors.

I’d also like to add that square foot gardening has both pros and cons.  As far as I understand, it is a more intensive system, requiring more input and attention (yes, you can grow a lot in a little space, but only if you do it just right!).  The root systems are more crowded, and the plants are competing for resources since they are so close together, causing some extra stress.  Here’s what seemed like a good, balanced testimonial on the subject:

There are many resources and forums online, this one is specific for square foot gardening:

Organic gardening shouldn’t be viewed as a “fight” or a “war” as our conventional counterparts would have you believe.  It’s a chance to observe the patterns of nature and the cycles of growth.  It’s finding the balance between human intervention and natural systems in order to achieve both abundance and health for all involved.  Sure there are “successes” and “failures”, but the journey should bring joy to your heart.  If you find that it doesn’t, maybe then consider doing something else that will.

Hope that helps and thank you for growing organically!

  Comments (2)


“”“Organic gardening shouldn

Posted by Andrew @ Peaceful Valley on Aug. 14, 2009 at 12:50:18 PM


I read about techniques for hot & dry climate gardening some years back.  They said raised bed gardening didn’t work well in such climates and instead used gardens DUG IN to the soil to retain moisture.  They excavated an area & filled it in with good garden soil & amendments then proceeded from there.

Posted by libraj on Aug. 31, 2009 at 10:44:24 AM

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