A Garden Mystery

One of the garden projects I was most excited about this Spring was the cantaloupe project my daughter and I were supposed to be working on together. We were going to test three different cantaloupe varieties to see which grew best in our yard. This bed was full of butterbeans up until January when I pulled the last one, mulched with straw which had already begun to decompose. Then I dumped 10 square yards of rabbit manure on top of the decomposed straw. I raked the rabbit manure into hills, added a few scoops of fine potting soil on the top of each hill, and deeply mulched between the hills with spoiled hay. Elizabeth helped plant the seeds when they got here. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. No seedlings.

After two weeks I started to get worried and poked around in the beds. We did have a light frost during this period, but there were no seedlings to freeze. The soil surface seemed undisturbed. Some seeds were there but were broken open and empty. Most of the seeds were just gone. I chalked it up to birds and re-planted, patting myself on the back for keeping back some of the seeds from the original planting “just in case”.

lonelysprout

This time after two weeks only four of the seeds have sprouted. Two of the six hills have no germination at all. So this time I dug down even deeper in one of the hills and pulled back the rabbit manure and old straw… and the sandy soil underneath was seething with tiny black ants. Are the black ants the reason for the seeds not germinating? Should I try to get the ants to move by disturbing the nest? Should I just give up and plant something else?

frontbedHere is a photo of the whole bed with six hills of rabbit manure on top of rotted straw, mulched by spoiled hay. I planted the back edge of the bed against the house with multi-branching sunflower seeds three weeks ago and not a single sunflower has come up yet, either. Most of those green plants you see are either oxalis or betony, which I have given up trying to eradicate.

Suggestions welcome, even if it’s “give up and plant something else”.

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