A garden is one of the most important aspects of a self-reliant lifestyle. They provide a means of growing your own food and gardening itself is a very rewarding activity. However, some people aren’t blessed with a green thumb and can find themselves struggling to keep their plants alive.
Here is a quick troubleshooting guide to common gardening mistakes.
Problem No. 1 – Plant Varieties Aren’t Zone Compatible
Symptoms: Perennials and biennials are not returning the following year. Annuals are not thriving despite good garden conditions.
Remedies: Make sure to carefully inspect seed packets to see if they will grow in your zone. If you grow plants outside of your zone you will need to bring them in the house, in a greenhouse or otherwise protect them in winter. Try to not grow plants that need cooler temps than your zone as it is extremely difficult to keep a plant cool vs warm.
Problem No. 2 – Plants Are Getting Too Much Water
Symptoms: Plants stop growing. Leaves and branches are wilted or limp. Leaves may be yellowed or browned. Soil is developing mold.
Remedies: Read the plant’s care instructions carefully to see how much watering it needs. If in doubt, water only a little, but often. Keep in mind how much rain you’ve been getting so you don’t overwater. If you don’t water often but are still experiencing symptoms of overwatering, you may need to mix more sand into your soil to improve drainage.
Problem No. 3 – Plants Are Not Getting Enough Water
Symptoms: Leaves seem curled, burnt, crispy and/or brittle. Leaves are yellow or brown in color. Soil in garden bed looks cracked.
Remedies: Water more! Set up a small irrigation system to water for you at regular intervals. Add shade cloth to garden beds to help reduce water evaporation. Mix more clay or soil into your garden bed to improve its ability to hold water. Adding mulch may also help plants conserve water.
Problem No. 4 – Invasive Varieties Are Taking Over
Symptoms: A plant is spreading outwards over garden bed. The plant is choking out other plants in the bed. You notice seedlings that you didn’t plant popping up in areas.
Remedies: Invasive plant species or those that are prone to taking over should be transplanted to containers or a separate bed away from garden. Strongly consider removing all invasive species from your area as they can damage natural flora.
Problem No. 5 – You Haven’t Rotated Plantings
Symptoms: Crop production is lower this season versus last season. You are having more problems with pests and disease. Plants seem to struggle to thrive.
Remedies: Don’t plant the same annuals in the same beds year after year. Rotate types of crops every year by type – legumes, roots, leafy greens, fruits, etc. If you’ve grown the same crops repeatedly, you will need to fertilize the beds to add nutrients back.
Problem No. 6 – Beds Are Over-Fertilized
Symptoms: Symptoms of over-fertilization are similar to overwatering. Plant will be wilted. Fertilizer-burned plant leaves will have the same burnt look of plants that have not been watered enough. Soil has a whitish, salty material or crust.
Remedies: Mild to moderately over-fertilized plants may be able to be saved by flooding the garden bed with water to push the fertilizer deep into the soil. Severely burnt plants may never recover, so if it’s early in the growing season you may want to compost them and replant.
Problem No. 7 – Beds Are Under-Fertilized
Symptoms: Plants seem weak or just not growing as well as they should. Leaves are mottled, limp or yellow/brown in color.
Remedies: Some garden beds don’t need to be fertilized but rather have their PH levels checked and have compost added. Use a natural and organic fertilizer whenever possible.
Problem No. 8 – Beds Are Over-Mulched
Symptoms: Shrubs, trees and plants are showing symptoms of thirst despite regular watering. The plants seem to be struggling to grow despite ideal conditions.
Remedies: Keep mulch one or two inches deep in vegetable, flower and fruit beds. Fruit shrubs and trees can be covered with two to four-inches of mulch, depending on size. If you mulched in spring, remove the mulch and add it later in summer.
Problem No. 9 – No Protection Against Pests
Symptoms: Whole plants are missing at ground level or small plants have been uprooted or trampled. Noticeable bite marks taken out of plants. Bent fencing from animals getting in.
Remedies: Set up rabbit- and deer-proof fencing around your garden. Use deterrents for other pets. If you have gophers, moles and similar pests in your area, consider building raised beds.
Problem No. 10 – Plants Are Getting Too Much Sun
Symptoms: Plants looking visibly burnt and parched. Leaves will be brittle and break easily. Similar symptoms to that of underwatering, but watering doesn’t help the health of the plant.
Remedies: Use shade cloth in the garden or move the plants if they are in a container. Consider planting fast-growing trees and shrubs around the garden as a long-term solution.
If you find you are having trouble with your garden, consider whether you’re making one of the above mistakes. It is always a good idea to consult with your local gardening center or any green thumbs you know if you are having a problem with your garden. A garden can be an extremely rewarding, relaxing activity once you have everything set up properly.