Help! Raised bed issues

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Hello there,
I’m wondering if anyone can answer my question. Why is lettuce doing well in my raised bed but beets germinate but won’t grow at all?

Raised bed is 4x8 and 6 in deep. It faces S and gets full sun 5-6 hrs per day w/ dappled sun another 2 hrs—that’s only in winter. In summer it’s full sun 8 hrs/day. We built it by putting paper down as a weed suppressor (Bermuda grass was there before). Then we followed advice for a “lasagna garden” in which we put leaves and used chicken coop bedding (pine shavings plus manure—not composted) about halfway up, then filled the rest with store bought (Home Depot) garden soil. We did this on Aug 28. Then we seeded it with beets, lettuce, and chard. The next day we got 9 “ of rain in 24 hours! We irrigated it with a soaker hose when it dried up again and didn’t get rain again until Oct. Sept is still very hot in Dallas—90-95+ F most days—so the lettuce germinated but didn’t do much. But when the weather cooled in Oct, the lettuce took off. It’s still thriving. The beets and chard didn’t germinate at all (messed up by the heavy rain?), so I replanted beets by seed in Oct. These did germinate, but since then have not grown at all. We have had nights in the 40s-50s and days in the 50s-60s since, with two nights down to 34 (I put frost cloth on at night then). This is supposed to be ideal beet weather.
Soil tests in Nov revealed alkaline pH and deficiencies in N, P, and K, so I added the recommended fertilizer and amendments to lower the pH to neutral. And no change. Lettuce remains happy and beets are a failure.

Anyone have thoughts as to why this is? I’m hoping for a great garden come the spring, but I am rather discouraged. Is the uncomposted material under the soil the problem? Is the store-bought soil the problem? Will the uncomposted manure and pine shavings be broken down or aged sufficiently by spring?

Thanks.
 

Meadowlark

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Howdy,

My guess is that your bed selection is simply too shallow for beet roots or any other root type crop. Your description of your lasagna garden showed at most 3 inches of soil, possibly even less...just not enough for most root crops.

I have a long running experiment on raising veggies in Hügelkultur containers and have definitely seen that even with several inches of soil more than your bed, beets do not grow the root nearly as well in containers as in ground planted veggies. Lettuce, on the other hand, does spectacular in my containers, better even that ground.
 
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My guess is that the lettuce managed, in the rain, to put roots down past the leaves layer, whilst the beets & chard did not.
If that is the case, it may be that your lettuces managed to get below the layer of nitrogen sequestration for the decomposition of leaves, but the beets did not. (Chard is leaf beet)
This would mean that the beets had a localised nitrogen deficiency.
This will sort itself as the leaves decompose.
Adding more depth will help, as Meadowlark has suggested, but if the material has not composted, this problem could repeat.
 
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Chicken manure can be a bit 'strong' sometimes, the store bought soil will not have a lot of micro organisms in it. I would recommend a good dig come Spring to mix op the store soil and the composting leaves and manure and bring up a bit of the natural soil. I don't know Bermuda grass, but I reckon any sort of turf that has been buried under that lot that long will be dead and another useful organic element. The garden soil will contain plenty of bacteria and fungi, and losing the structured layering may well help. Some plants find differences in soil like that a barrier that they have real trouble penetrating. That can really show when plants are planted out from pots if they are just stuck in the ground. They will not make it past the pot shape and become potbound without a pot when the same thing that has been planted in a hole that is back filled with a mixture of soil knocked out of the pot and garden soil will do fine.
I reckon Meadowlark has a good point there, even when it is all good stuff there has to be a degree of mixing, worms would do it eventually, but a fork is quicker.
 

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