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Troubleshooting Your Vegetable Garden: Common Problems Solved

Starting a vegetable patch, or getting an allotment can be sooo rewarding. Not only do you get a source of fresh food, but you get to choose exactly the varieties you like the best. However, it’s not uncommon for ‘rookie’ vegetable gardeners to run into problems.

Allotment plot

Here are some common ones and how to deal with them, hopefully before they happen :)

1. Why don’t all my seeds germinate?

There could be loads of reasons as to why your plants don’t start germinating, but they’re often basic and easy to sort out issues. Ensure you don’t use old seeds, and do your best to prevent them being stolen by animals (e.g. birds); plant them at the recommended depth for that plant; do not water too much and watch out for very heavy rainfall as this can wash seeds away.

2. What’s the best way to deal with gardening & clay soil?

Clay soil is an absolute nightmare for those who want to have a crack at growing their own and can be an incredibly daunting issue to tackle for new/first time gardeners. That’s a shame, because loads of us have it! During the summer months clay soil goes incredibly hard and very dry, whereas the wetter and colder autumn/winter months make the ground far too wet and sticky, unless it’s frost, then it freezes like brick! 

Digging sharp sand into clay soil can make it far easier to work over, improving the overall structure and opening up the soil to make it easier for moisture and nutrients to be absorbed by plants. But make sure to use sharp sand specifically designed for agricultural/horticultural use, such as the sharp sand available from LB Silica Sand to avoid salt/chemical content.  Stuff left over from a building job, or the kids sand-pit could do more harm than good!

3. Why are my vegetables sometimes very slow to grow?

There’re a whole number of reasons why your plants might seem to be growing unusually slow but, thankfully, they’re reasons that are easy to remedy so your plants are not lost. Some of the most common causes of slow plant growth include soil that’s too acidic/alkaline, cold weather and poor light, or either too much or too little watering.

One of the best ways to address these issues is to build raised beds which certainly helps warm up the soil and also makes it easier to control the quality of the soil, ph level and so on.  If you’d like to know what sort of soil you have, you can read about any easy way to test your soil in this Woolly Green ‘how to’ find out what kind of soil you have on your plot.

Finished Raised Bed

4. Why is there plenty of growth but not enough fruit?

If your plants are experiencing plenty of healthy looking growth, then this means that (condition wise) everything is going great – so why aren’t the plants yielding any fruit? The most common reason is additional shoots and buds diverting energy and nutrients; instead of being able to push for fruit growth, these extra growths ‘steal’ all the energy.

To prevent this from happening you need to regularly check between the stem and offshoots for any buds growing in between, and gently pinch these off to ensure straight growth and a good yield.

5. Why were some of the plant leaves were mottled and marked green & yellow?

If you’ve noticed that, as well as the growth of your plants being noticeably stunted, there’s a significant yellowing or yellow/green mottling of the plant’s leaves then it’s quite likely that the culprit is one of several possible plant viruses. While they’re unlikely to kill a plant, they can affect growth and result in little to no yield.

To sort this out, you need to remove and destroy all affected plants, ensure effective weeding and pest control (as both can be viral breeding grounds), and grow from seed where possible, as seeds are very unlikely to carry any kind of virus.

This Q & A was written with the help of Tom McShane, keen gardener blogger and writer for UK-based LB Silica Sand who supply the best quality silica and sharp sand for agricultural, industrial, horticultural and equestrian use. It’s tip-top for a garden plot too :)

Give us a shout if you have any other questions or need a hand, we’re at hiwoolly@wolllygreen.com, or on facebook or twitter :)

photo by: net_efekt