Q: Greetings Dave-
I am new to gardening, and know enough to be dangerous. This is a detailed message in hopes you can best assist with my issue. I decided to grow peppers, tomatoes, and some herbs in a raised bed garden this year. My peppers started out great and began to flower and bud quite well, but in the last week, some of my peppers have developed yellow leaves on the base that are brown around the edges, curling, and some have brown/black spots that develop into holes in the leaves. Here’s a more detailed explanation of what I have done so far: I am located in the southernmost tip of South Carolina – Beaufort, a coastal town. I live on an ancient sand dune, so the soil underneath is sandy, and has excellent drainage. The climate reflects northern Florida’s, and we are in zone 8 or 9 on the US growing chart, depending on whose publication you refer to. I have a 23’ x 3’ raised bed built with cinder blocks. The first layer of fill was aged manure and compost mix from Lowes. On top of that I placed premium top soil, also from Lowes. The ratio was 1 to 1 manure to top soil, but my first mistake was not tilling the two together before planting. The contents of my garden are Habaneros, Thai Ornamental Hot, Cayenne, Jalapeno, Tabasco, Sweet banana, Red/Green Bell, Yellow Bell, Orange Bell and Purple Bell. I also have three tomato plants in the center of the garden, and herbs – Lemon and bee balm, chives, sweet basil, and tarragon on the other side of the garden Additionally, I planted Foxy foxglove, snapdragons, Tiger Lilies, and a couple of other flowering plants to aid in attracting pollinating insects. Irrigation is from a shallow well that has a high sulfur smell to it suggesting it is filled with brackish water. Also, I believe the well is bringing up sand with it since there is a layer of sand that has accumulated on the surface of the garden. When I planted the garden, I watered it 15 – 30 minutes a day every day in the evening – I’ve also learned this is a mistake, and should water in the morning. With the recent surge of rain storms, I stopped watering – duh. The bed receives at least 6 hours of full to partly shaded noon to evening sun. Sun amount increases as the summer continues, and the earth shifts.The garden has really taken off, and all the pepper plants have multiple buds. One of the cayenne peppers grew in a corkscrew shape, and I found it black and dead today. I have noticed no bugs or slugs, or other pest insects on the leaves of my plants. The Habanero, Thai, Bells, and all other plants show little to no signs of a problem. Only the cayenne, Jalapeno, and Tabasco are showing these signs.I tested the soil today and found the PH to be close to 7. The NPK tests all showed up with very little of any contained in the samples. I have not fertilized the garden since its installation. Given the results of the test, I intend to fertilize with a 5 – 10 – 5 mix of garden fertilizer. I also found that the garden may be over watered, therefore I intend to water once a week – 30 minutes.
What should I do at this point? Does my plan of action have some truth to it, or am I set up to kill everything in my garden? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. If this email is good enough for your site, please feel free to post at your leisure. Thanks for your time, patience and consideration.
A: Hello RH:
It’s very difficult to diagnose problems long distance, but I’ll try.The fact that just some of your chiles are having problems leads me to think that their position in the garden is somehow responsible for what’s happening. From your description, I’d say that the manure’s too hot (not aged enough) or the water you are using is poisoning some of the plants. Sulphur smelling water doesn’t sound too great to me, so you may want to use tap water instead. If I were you, I’d remove the affected plants from the raised beds and plant them in large pots using just commercial potting soil with no manure. Make sure the pots and planting medium have good drainage and fertilize with a mild solution of 20-20-20. Hope this helps.