Raised bed garden failure

Asked February 6, 2016, 4:52 PM EST

We added raised beds last year to our garden for gopher, deer and squirrel control. We ordered topsoil from our local supplier (river area supposedly) and were then given some horse manure which we were told was aged. We added some to our beds and had a gigantic mess. Almost everything was stunted, and the tomatoes had curled leaves and little to no fruit. The beans started nicely, and at about 6 inches just stopped growing and turned yellow. The zucchini did poorly, though they did get blossems as did the cucumbers. The only thing that did well were the peas and radishes, and I suspect it was because we planted before the manure. Though, to be fair the native soil that we added the manure to grew nice corn. So, I'm suspecting a combination of the top soil and manure. I am willing to test, but unsure where to go or even what to ask for testing. Can you advise? I don't have any pictures unfortunately. It was way too depressing. Apologies. We did not seem to have a lot of insects though.

Linn County Oregon raised bed gardening horticulture soil and fertility issues

1 Response

Topsoil has no legal definition in respect to gardening. It can come from farms or construction sites or the bottom of a hole. We do not recommend it for the garden. There is always the possibility of pesticide contamination, especially herbicides. This sounds a lot like that. A broadleaf herbicide would not affect monocots like corn. If the manure were heavily mixed with bedding there could also be nutrient tie up for quite a while. The symptoms sound most like herbicide. The question is whether that toxin will break down readily on its own or not. Take some of the soil and put it in a planting flat indoors where it is warm. Plant beans in it. If the beans germinate and grow normally, it is probably OK. If not, the soil may not be suitable for the garden. Beans and tomatoes are super sensitive to weedkillers. Good luck.