If you’re an old hand at vegetable gardening, then you’re well aware that sometimes the best laid plans can go awry. When gardening, we’re dealing with Mother Nature and no matter how vigilant you are, she’s bound to throw you a curve ball. Sometimes, it seems as if it isn’t one thing it’s another. Here are the top 10 vegetable garden problems and fixes you’re likely to come across:
1. Pests – I have to put pests at number one because they drive me nuts. I don’t use pesticides, so I always have something that has an unwelcome guest or two. There are certain things that can help though. Floating row covers, homemade pest spray, attracting beneficial insects, hand picking and companion planting will all help to manage pests in the garden. That said, keep in mind that only rarely in cases of severe infestation do pests do much damage. Sometimes, you just have to live with them.
2. Diseases – The list is almost endless but the basic rules of thumb to thwart diseases are to plant disease resistant cultivars when possible, practice good sanitation in the garden, avoid overhead watering, give plants enough space, keep the area around the plants weed free, practice crop rotation, and keep the plants from experiencing stress by keeping them on a regular fertilizing and watering schedule.
3. Weeds – I try to keep up on the weeds but sometimes they get away with me. Once solution is to lay down a weed barrier fabric prior to planting. Just snip a hole in the fabric to transplant the seedling. Then follow up by mulching, which will also reduce weeds.
4. Improper Water – Drought stress or sodden conditions foster diseases. Don’t water overhead and, when possible, water in the early morning. Use a drip line on a timer to make sure you are consistent with irrigation and that the water is going to the roots of the plants.
5. Sunscald – Use shade cloth or something similar to protect the plants from the hot sun.
6. Bolting Greens – Lettuce and other greens will bolt when temperatures heat up, indicting to the plant that it is time to flower and go to seed. Look for cultivars that are less likely to bolt, start seeds inside so you get a jump start on the growing season, and plant the crop in an area of morning sun with partial shade the rest of the day.
7. Aphids – Yes, I know I put down pests, but aphids belong in a special category simply because it seems they don’t discriminate and will infest almost any plant in the garden. A strong stream of water from the garden hose will damage and knock off a majority of these pests. Plants can also be grown under row covers, or if that isn’t convenient, aphids have a number of natural predators, so do your best to attract them. Plant mint, fennel, dill, and yarrow to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs to the garden.
8. Deer – These ruminants like to nibble on your prized veggies and other tender plants in the garden. It can be frustrating to go up against a hungry deer. There’s always fencing and literally dozens of suggestions from coyote urine to moth balls to deter the deer. Or you can give in and only plant annuals and perennials that deer aren’t interested in. Lists of these can be found on the internet.
9. Early Frost – When the weatherman says temps are going to dip enough to see some frost, it’s time to protect the garden. Place old buckets or milk jugs over susceptible plants. Drape sheets over stakes to cover larger areas. If you have not mulched, now is the time to. Spread 2-3 inches (5-8 cm.) of mulch around the plants or cover them with straw to protect them from the cold.
10. Lack of Fruit – Most plants fail to fruit for three reasons: frost damage, lack of pollination and insect damage. It’s important to determine what might be the reason for a lack of fruit in order to solve the problem. For instance, if the plant is lacking in pollination, hand pollinating might be in order or planting flowers nearby that encourage pollinators.