Instagram and Pinterest are filled with beautiful pictures of gardens that are green and glorious.
Social media makes gardening look so easy and you think you should be able to grow anything you want in your backyard with no problem.
But the reality isn’t quite the same. Gardening can be frustrating and overwhelming.
So today, I want to help you troubleshoot the biggest problems I see in the garden and how you can fix them to get a better harvest this year.
Fixes for 8 Common Garden Problems
1. Seeds that don’t germinate
Sometimes you plant seeds and they never grow into a plant. This can happen either when you are seed starting or in the garden when you direct sow.
Make sure and read the instructions on the seed packet for the depth and spacing to plant seeds. If you have done everything right and are still having problems, there are a few reasons they may not be growing properly.
Here are a few reasons why that that can happen and what to do about it:
- It hasn’t been long enough. In this case you should just wait a little longer and see if they grow.
- Temperatures are too cold. You may have tried to plant your seeds to early and the soil isn’t warm enough to help the seed grow. You might need to try reseeding once the soil warms up and the outside temperature is warmer.
- Soil is too dry. You need to make sure your seeds have enough water to help them grow.
- Soil is too wet. If you water too much your seeds may rot. In this case, you will need to replant and try again.
- The seeds are gone. Most likely, birds ate the seeds you planted. You will need to replant and then put some bird netting over the soil to protect the seeds.
- Seed was too old. Seeds can last several years, but they don’t last forever. If you have old seeds and they don’t germinate, just get some new ones and try again. You can also do a germination test to see if your older seeds are still good. Here is a link to a good one: https://growagoodlife.com/simple-seed-germination-test/
2. Plants that don’t thrive
There are many reasons why plants don’t thrive, and they aren’t all your fault. But as the gardener, we want to control as many aspects of the garden as we can to get a strong harvest.
Here are a few reasons why that can happen and what to do about it:
- Good soil. Plants need nourishment to thrive, and different plants need different kinds of nutrients. Get your soil tested and compare those tests to the needs of the plant in question. You might be able to amend the soil for better growth.
- Enough water (but not too much). You should water your plants every other day (at minimum) to keep it thriving. Wilting or weak plants may just need water to perk them up.
- Enough sun. Most plants need atleast 6-8 hours of sunlight a day to thrive, so put them in a sunny place for best results.
- Not too much wind or bad weather. Wind can strip plants of moisture and blow them over. Bad weather such as flooding or hail can also be detrimental to your garden. These are not things you can control, but just be aware and try to protect your plants if you are able.
- Not weeding. Weeds take away nutrients and space from your plants, so you need to weed regularly to help your plants thrive.
- Protection from disease and predators. We will discuss this below.
Many diseases can attack plants in your garden at any time. There are too many types of diseases to name here individually, but diseases show up for several different reasons.
Here are a few reasons why that can happen and what to do about it:
- Planting your plants in the same spot each year. This increases the likelihood of diseases overtaking your plants because the same diseases grow and strengthen each year. To cure this, rotate your plants so that different plant families are planted each year in the same spot. This will keep diseases (and pests) on their toes.
- Overwatering. When your soil is too wet, it can introduce mildew and disease. Any leaves that lay in wet soil for too long can get disease as well. So watch your soil and don’t water if the ground is already saturated.
- Planting in the shade. While some plants might grow in the shade, it isn’t ideal for them. The sun can help decrease diseases by keeping things warm and dry.
- Not getting rid of diseased plants. Once you have a diseased plant, pull it out of your garden immediately. Then get it out of the garden area (but don’t put it in your compost either). This will help keep the disease from spreading as fast to other plants.
- Over planting. Intensive gardening is a method of planting that encourages growers to put more plants into a smaller area. While this is great for harvest, it may not give the plants the space they need to stay safe from disease. Plants that are touching each other are more likely to contract and share diseases in the garden.
A predator in the garden isn’t necessarily a big, scary creature. Normally they would be quite harmless. Until they eat your garden down to the nubs.
Here are a few garden predators and how you can keep them out:
- Deer. If you have these in your garden, fencing and a guard dog are the most effective. I have found the “deer repellant” doesn’t work very well and is super stinky.
- Rabbits. These little guys can reek havoc on a garden. Rabbit traps, tight fencing and a guard dog will hopefully do the trick.
- Chickens. If these guys are free range in your garden, they will eat the bugs first (which can be helpful) but then they will demolish your plants. Fencing to keep them out will probably work the best.
- Insects. Having chickens near (but not in) your garden can help with insects. Organic pesticides may help as well. Keep your eyes open for new insects and kill them before they eat your plants totally gone!
- Rodents. Moles, mice and other rodents can enter your garden. Traps may work, but these guys are sneaky. Cats are great animals to have around to help get rid of rodents.
- Birds. Birds love to eat the fruit off your trees and tomatoes off your vines. You can buy bird mesh to cover your plants or row covers as well.
- Slugs. The best thing to get rid of these is slug bait. You can also remove them by hand if you see them in your garden.
Weeds are the gardener’s nemesis! Do they ever stop?
Weeds can suck nutrients from your soil, shade your plants and spread disease.
Here are some tips to keep weeds under control:
- Hay/Stray mulch. Mulching around your plants can keep weeds from growing and keep moisture in the ground for less watering.
- Black plastic. Laying down plastic and then cutting out holes to plant your seeds can keep weeds down because of the lack of sunlight to the weeds.
- Consistency. Making a weeding schedule can help keep weeds at bay and keep from overwhelming you as the gardener. Even 15-20 minutes a day can make a big difference in your weeding frustrations.
- Specific watering. Instead of overhead watering, which waters everything (including the weeds), try a drip system to each plant. This keeps other areas dry, which will decrease weed growth.
- Less tilling. When you till your garden, often you turn over weeds and spread them. So the less you can till your garden each year, the better.
Learning how to water properly for your plants and climate can be tricky. After all, plants need water to grow, but too much can be bad.
Here are some tips to keep watering under control:
- Water by hand each evening. If you have trouble knowing how to regulate your watering, the best way is to do it by hand. Then you can evaluate each day the watering needs. Also, by watering at night you can decrease the amount of evaporation that happens when you water during the day.
- Use mulch to keep plants moist longer. Using hay or stray (not wood chips) mulch will keep the soil moist for longer in between watering. This can be especially good in dry climates where it isn’t humid.
- Set up a watering system. If you can’t water by hand, the next best thing is to set up a watering system on a timer. You will need to adjust the timing as you evaluate your plants and their watering needs, especially for the first few weeks.
- Use drip hoses or systems instead of overhead sprinklers. Drip hoses and systems keep the water near the plants and don’t waste water where it isn’t needed. Many plants (like tomatoes and peppers) prefer to be watered near the ground instead of overhead, so drip hoses work best.
- Adjust your watering when you have rainy days. Watch the weather. If you are having rainy days, you need to turn off your automatic watering systems and let your plants dry out some before you water again.
- If using raised beds, don’t water until the corners of the boxes are dry. This is a good indication that the plants have soaked up the water from the soil and may need to be watered again.
7. Blossom end rot
Blossom end rot is a condition where the bottoms of the fruit (fruits and vegetables) turn brown and mushy. This is common especially with tomatoes, squash and peppers.
Here are some tips to keep blossom end rot under control:
- Water. Make sure your plants have proper moisture (not too much or too little). See above.
- Proper pH in soil. If you soil pH is too high or too low, it can cause blossom end rot.
- Fertilizer. Add calcium when planting and a balanced compost fertilizer half way thru the season. Just don’t add too much nitrogen. That can cause blossom end rot too.
- Mulching. Keeping mulch around your plants can help you plants stay moist and keep the leaves and fruit from sitting on wet soil.
8. Poor harvest
Even after all of that work, you may have a less than desirable harvest come fall. It can be so disappointing when you see others with abundant harvests and you only have a few veggies to harvest.
Just remember that gardening is a process that you learn over many years, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hit it out of the park every year.
Here are some tips to increase your harvest each year:
- Pick varieties that work for your climate. I love looking thru seed catalogs in the winter. Before I started gardening, I had no idea there were so many varieties of each plant. If you have a short growing season or strange climate, you will find a seed that works for you. These seeds will be more likely to grow in your unique situation.
- Don’t push the boundaries of the plant. Don’t plant early because you are ready or over plant because you don’t have more space. Follow the guidelines on the seed packet for optimum planting and harvest. They are there to help you get the most produce possible.
- Nourish all year long. Don’t plant it and forget it. You need to water, weed, fertilize, and protect these plants all season long for the best harvest.
- Crop rotation. As we discussed earlier, it is better not to plant the same thing in the same spot each year. This will increase diseases and pests to thrive. So rotate your crops for a healthy harvest.
- Keep records. In order to know how to rotate crops, which crops did best and how to make things better in the future you need to keep records. The best way to keep records is with a garden journal. If you don’t have one, here is a digital garden journal you can print out and reuse every year to keep your garden records straight for maximum harvest —> Ultimate Gardening Planner & Journal.
Wow! That was quite the list. If you made it this far, I thank you.
Gardening can be frustrating when things go wrong. But it is so rewarding when things go right.
So don’t give up! I hope these tips will help you troubleshoot your garden problems and make it healthier each year.
What is your biggest garden problem? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!