Monday, August 1, 2016

10 Vegetable Gardening Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

You toil in the hot sun for hours together hoping for a big yield but when you don’t see the rewards for the efforts you have put in, it can be quite frustrating. A lot of gardeners lose hope when things go wrong. In fact successfully growing vegetables in your garden can be quite a daunting task not only for the beginners but also for some experienced growers. Listed below are some of the most common problems and solutions you can count on to tackle a few obstacles in the way of having a great yield.

Problem #1. Not preparing the soil well

Garden soil lacking nutrients
Garden soil lacking nutrients
One of the most common problems that gardeners run into are nutritional deficiencies in their plants. Plants take nutrients from the soil and if your soil does not have the adequate nutrients for it to grow, they fail to thrive. All plants need three things to grow – water, sunlight and nutrients. Nutrition is often overlooked and the deficiency of which results in unhealthy plants, discolored leaves, less yield and smaller fruits.

Solution:

Prepare your soil 4-6 months in advance before planting, keep adding organic matter or manure every 2 months. Organic fertilizers take around 2-4 months to break down and become available to the plants while synthetic fertilizers are immediately available to plants. So keep this in mind and prepare your vegetable beds well in advance of your growing season. Also if possible invest in a good soil testing kit to know what nutrients your soil lacks and replenish it by making amendments to your soil.

Problem #2.Letting container plants go root bound

Root bound container plant
Root bound container plant
This is one of the worst things we tend to overlook in our garden especially if we have lots of containers. What this means is that the plant has the vigor to grow and has all the nutrients it needs but it doesn’t have any space, it is severely limited and constrained by the size of the container it’s growing in.

Solution

Check your plants that are growing in containers every 1-2 years. If necessary, repot them into bigger containers. While transplanting, free the roots up, you can even prune the roots a bit and add fresh potting mix and slow release fertilizer to the container it will be transplanted into.

Problem #3.Insufficient calcium for tomatoes and pepper plants.

Blossom End Rot in peppers
Blossom End Rot
Tomatoes and peppers are likely to suffer from one common problem which any gardener would not want to witness, blossom end rot where the bottom part of the plant or the fruits rot due to lack of calcium in the soil.

Solution

Controlling blossom end rot requires maintaining adequate supplies of calcium and moisture when the plants are setting fruits. Add calcium, via fertilizers or use crushed egg shells which must be added months in advance or you can also use calcium supplements to enrich your soil. Make sure you water the plants on a regular basis and keep the soil moist.

Problem #4.High nitrogen, crowding and insect damage

High Nitrogen and Insect Damage in Radish
High Nitrogen and Insect Damage in Radish
This common problems plagues all root plants like radish and carrots where we add a lot of nitrogen in the soil in the form of manure. Too much nitrogen in the garden soil can cause an excess of green leaves with little to no fruits or vegetable production. 

Overcrowding effects plants in many ways hampering the production of fruits and vegetables. The plants compete with each other for nutrients, light and are more susceptible to insects and fungal diseases like mildew. They impede the growth of each other which often results in poor yield.

Insects feeding on your produce is a fact of life for all gardeners. Caterpillars, worms, earwigs, snails and slugs often chew holes through the leaves and make the plant vulnerable to diseases.

Solution

Monitor soil nitrogen levels and avoid high nitrogen fertilizer for root plants. To avoid overcrowding, thin your plants on a regular basis. Inspect your plants regularly for insect damage and take appropriate steps to tackle them like spraying your plants with neem oil. I’d recommend going through this blog post which goes through some steps you can take to keep snails and slugs away from your produce.

Problem #5. Over-watering 

Over-watered onions rot
Over-watered onions rot
It’s easy to worry that your plants are not getting enough water that you tend to overwater them zealously. But that affects root plants and tubers especially when they have started forming bulbs. Onions for example can rot if the plants are over-watered when they are producing bulbs.

Solution

It’s best to water your plants early in the morning or if you are a late riser that you can water them in the late afternoon or evening. For onions and other tubers, stop watering 1 – 2 weeks before harvest or water rarely maybe once a week prior to harvest for healthier bulb production.

Problem #6.Premature harvesting

Premature Harvest of Garlic
Premature Harvest of Garlic
Knowing when to harvest can be a nightmare for some, especially the root plants like garlic and onions. A lot of us including me are guilty of harvesting veggies early only to realize they had some more time into the growing season. Harvesting veggies earlier than its maturity time can result in smaller bulbs or unformed fruit and vegetable production. 

Solution

Wait for the correct time to harvest. Research depending on the plant variety on when is the appropriate time to harvest. Look for harvest readiness in plants, root plants like example onions and garlic can be harvested when their tops die off and the greens look brown, shriveled and droopy.

Problem #7. Cauliflower woes

Cauliflower damage & buttoning
Cauliflower damage & buttoning
Cauliflowers are great to grow in your garden but two problems that commonly affect cauliflowers might discourage you from trying to grow these in your garden. The first one is insect damage due to aphids, infestation can result in shriveled leaves, undeveloped cauliflower heads which are tiny in size.

The second problem with growing cauliflowers is the buttoning of heads i.e. very tiny head formations. It usually happens if the temperatures go high, cauliflower is a cool season crop and does not withstand higher temperatures. The other reason that causes buttoning is high nitrogen content in the soil. 

Solution (for insect damage)

Monitor your plants for insect damage and spray the leaves with soapy water or neem oil to kill and deter aphids.

Solution (for buttoning)

Plant cauliflower when it’s cooler in your zone, make amendments to your soil if it’s rich in nitrogen. Water your plants adequately and regularly.

Problem #8.Growing plants in shade or not enough sunlight

Watermelon plant not getting sunlight
Watermelon plant not getting sunlight
Most plants need about 6-8 hours of sunlight every day to thrive. Plant actively photosynthesize sunlight and water into energy which helps them grow leaves, stem and roots. 

Solution

If you notice the leaves are falling out or look faded and the plants are not healthy, you can try supplementing natural light by using artificial grow lights indoors. Outdoors, make sure you grow them in an area which receives lot of sunlight. 

Problem #9.Not planting in the correct season

Radish grown in summer heat
Radish grown in summer heat
Sometime we get anxious for gardening season and plant something out too early only to realize that the plant is not productive. And then you wait to start the entire process of germination all over. Not planting in the correct season will result in decreased to no yield at all because a vegetable needs either warm or cool weather to grow. 

Solution

Sort plants into two categories cool season crops and warm season crops. Grow them as per season the plant variety is suited for. Check your zone map for the plants you can grow in your area during that season. Seasonal plants not only grow well, they even taste delicious.

Problem #10.Not buying seeds from a trusted source

Purple Radish turned out to be Yellow
Purple Radish turned out to be Yellow
You may be tempted to buy cheap seeds from third party/foreign ebay sellers and end up growing something which wasn’t as advertised. Know the difference between heirloom, hybrid, organic and non GMO when buying seeds and never compromise on quality.

Solution

Always buy seeds from a trusted source.  Here are some links where you can shop for your seeds

1. Amazon
2. Seed Savers
3. Baker's Creek Seeds


To watch all these tips do watch our video from this blog post


A gardener learns more in the mistakes than in the successes – Barbara Dodge Borland.

1 comment:

  1. I believe sometimes buying from Amazon also is not a good idea, not 100%, 50-50 success and fail. i had some failures from AMAZON like 90% especially in terms of buying seeds/plants.

    Rest Other is always Good and Recommended more than 100% in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete