Leaves of Pumpkin & Squash plants turning yellow

Clyde River, Canada

This is my second year of straw bale gardening, and year two for my bales. They are well and truly rotted inside.

I didn't have huge luck last year, but I attributed that to the fact that we were a little late getting our bales, and possibly they were not sufficiently composted to support the plants I had put in. However, that can't be the problem this year. And pretty near everything (but most particularly the squash & pumpkin) started out fantastically well - big healthy plants that I grew from seed, but two weeks into it, things are going bad. Everything is turning yellow and looking horrible.

We've had a wet spring and a fair amount of cool rainy weather, so the bales are definitely not dried out. Plus we water regularly, but not every day as I suspect the bales may be somewhat soggy. I thought maybe there is an iron deficiency - our soil is acidic, but who knows what the ph of the composted straw is.

I live in South West Nova Scotia, which has a similar climate to the NE U.S., but is actually more moderate as we are very close to the sea.

I would appreciate any ideas for a solution that any of you might have. I would really like to make this work, but I may give up if this year is a flop! Thanks in advance,

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

I'm not sure but I wonder if you need some fertilizer. When I plant my bales I always add potting mix with worm castings, rabbit manure, compost, organic fertilizer and some bio-minerals. When it rains heavy these will leech out so more fertilizer must be added. However, you may also be watering more than necessary so you have to be careful when using a liquid fertilizer. I recommend a good quality fish fertilizer such as Neptune's Harvest, if you can find it. But put your hand in the bale to see how wet it is. If it's really soggy you may want to add some dry potting mix to soak up some of the moisture along with worm castings. Once it is not overly wet then you can add the fish fertilizer or an organic granular mix.

Clyde River, Canada

Gardadore, thanks for the reply. We've been without power for a few days, compliments of Tropical Storm Arthur, so I'm a bit late getting back.

I did fertilize AND I started watering more. My bales were definitely not waterlogged, in fact, that might have been part of my problem. It does seem counter-intuitive to fertilize something that is theoretically 'composting'; however, it seemed to do the trick. I used an organic granular mix, and I plan to add a little each week, because, as you say, the nutrients are going to run right through the bale a lot more quickly than they would be lost in soil. So, fingers crossed!

Saylorsburg, PA(Zone 6a)

Straw bales have basically no nutrients. It is true they will produce nice compost but they use up nitrogen when breaking down. Next year the composted bales will have more nutrients, thanks also in part to the worms that will happily make a home in them and leave castings behind! So it is necessary to add nutrients throughout the growing season. It sounds as if you are getting a handle on the situation. We keep getting heavy thunderstorms. Today was the first in 5 days with no rain and my bales are really wet. So I am resorting to granular fertilizer at the moment for the tomatoes. I did give my squash some liquid fish fertilizer this morning since it isn't supposed to rain for another 24 hours. I should probably add some granular bonemeal as well. Keep us informed as to how things are going!

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