Gardening is a rewarding hobby that is also therapeutic. It is an exercise that rewards hard work and patience and seeds a passion for nature. Not everyone is born with a green thumb, though. And, some gardening problems that arise are not within your control. We all started as beginners! There are some common issues you need to watch out for when taking up gardening.
Think back to the day you had the seed packet in hand, the excitement to start planting, and watch the seedlings grow. There were so many dreams of a bountiful harvest. The garden was all planned out. There were new raised bed gardens or a brand new window garden, and the soil was ready. Throughout the whole process, you maintained a disciplined gardening routine, watered as needed, enriched the soil with compost, and gave all the flowers and vegetables love and care.
You did everything right, but something is still wasn’t right. The veggies and herbs weren’t flourishing, and your flowers looked gloomy. We have all been there before, don’t worry. When you learn how to identify these problems, you can fix them and avert disaster. Struggles with plant and vegetable growth can be a thing of the past, and you can have the garden of your dreams!
This article will cover the top garden problems of plant growth, and garden problems home gardeners experience and give you some expert tips so that you can keep an eye out for the issues we all have faced.
Here is a visual guide
to identifying the most common problems faced when you start your own home garden
Insufficient soil preparation
Signs: Seeds don’t grow, root rot, wilting.
Plants prone to these problems: azalea (needs damp, acidic), Japanese painted fern (needs rich, moist), Gerbera Daisy (needs good drainage).
The soil is the foundation of a successful garden. It provides nutrients for young plants to grow. Without properly preparing high-quality soil, the plant will not create the root system that is required for it to thrive. There are many different soil types, including chalk, clay, loam, sand, silt, peat, and more. They have different levels of drainage and different amounts of nutrients. The consistency can vary greatly, as well as its pH level (acid, neutral, or alkaline). If you want your garden to thrive and grow beautifully, you’ll likely need to do extensive research about the soil conditions in your area. There are soil test kits and pH detectors to help determine the quality. Depending on the desired pH level of the soil, limestone may be needed to raise it, while sulfur can be used to lower it.
Not enough sunlight
Signs: pale yellow or green leaves, dropped leaves, small leaves, extreme stem growth looking for a source of light.
Plants prone to this problem: Jade, aloe vera, snapdragon flower, and purple coneflower all enjoy ample sunlight.
Conversely, plants that don’t get enough sunlight cannot grow properly. So if you notice your young plants have grown extremely long and skinny, this is a common sign of insufficient sunlight. Your plant is using all of its resources to try and stretch itself and find the sun or a source of light. It will not use its resources to make sugars to grow leaves until it has enough sunshine. To combat stretching and leaning, turn your plant periodically to make sure all sides get an equal amount of light. If your plant is turning a pale yellow, this could also be a symptom of not enough sunshine. Sunlight helps produce chlorophyll, which is the pigment that produces a vibrant green color that is seen in a healthy plant.
Not enough water
Signs: Dried leaves, wilting, dry soil.
Plants prone to these problems: bananas, impatiens, hibiscus, and most grass species need a lot of water.
When starting out gardening, you may be confused about how much water your plants need. The last thing you want to see is your beautiful garden drying up and wilting. In addition, if given too little water, the plant can create shallow roots as it tries to utilize what little water it gets. Shallow roots will not survive drought conditions, and will soon die. Without sufficient watering, some plants can go beyond the point of recovery.
To avoid these problems, you can test the soil’s moisture using a gauge probe that sticks into the dirt to report moisture readings. You can do this easier, but less accurately, by pushing a finger into the soil to see if it is dry beneath the surface. This may be obvious to some, but gardens require more frequent checking to prevent the soil from getting dried out during the summer season or heat waves. It is also useful to research the best time of day to water (e.g., early in the morning) to increase absorption and decrease water loss due to evaporation. Drip hoses are useful for preventing water evaporation as well.
Planting at the wrong time
Signs: seeds never sprouting, repotted or transplanted plants dying.
Plants prone to this problem: columbine, penstemon, morning glory, and sweet peas are seeds that are harder to germinate.
Starting your garden at the wrong time can ruin your garden before it even starts. To make sure you have a top garden, you need to know the frost dates and strictly abide by it. A frost date is the calculated average date of the first frost of fall or last freeze of spring specific to the area you live in. Frost dates vary greatly throughout the country. They are especially important for getting your gardening started without having to worry about the cold temperatures. The first average fall frost date is also time to harvest the crops before the freeze or move intolerant plants indoors to avoid cold damage. Planting too early or too late in the season can be the difference between germination or not. Planting or repotting at the wrong time of year can prematurely kill plants.
Signs: yellowing, browning, wilting with wet soil, root rot.
Plants prone to these problems: succulents, ZZ plant, pothos, begonias, agave, poppy, and sage.
Beginning gardeners can read about the importance of watering and overdo it, which unfortunately kills the plants. Overwhelming water levels prevent roots from breathing and can lead to root rot from sitting in water. Eventually, nitrogen leaches out of the soil, preventing the root from effectively absorbing nutrients. By having the root system compromised, the roots won’t be able to hold the plant upright, and it may fall over. As in the previous section, it is important to periodically check the moisture levels of the soil. If the soil is wet to the touch, it likely does not need more water.
Choosing a soil that allows effective drainage will prevent root rot. If your plants are in pots, terracotta is a great material to use due to its porous foundation that does not trap water inside the container. Terracotta dries fast, which prevents the roots from drowning and creating root rot.
Lack of or No fertilizer
Signs: yellowing, wilting of lower leaves, browning on leaf tips, and root rot are signs of too much fertilizer. Stunted growth, necrosis, trouble growing, and small leaves are signs of nutrient deficiency in plants that may need fertilizer.
Plants prone to this problem: broccoli, corn, cucumbers, pepper, tomato, potatoes, watermelon, etc. are known as heavy feeders and heavy producers that need a large amount of fertilizer.
The purpose of fertilizer is to help plants get the important nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur) they need in order to grow green, healthy leaves, or flower and bear fruit. Fertilizer comes in different forms, including organic, synthetic, dry, liquid, slow-release, granular, spikes, manure, and more. Regular fertilizing is especially important if you’re gardening on a plot of land that already has had vegetation. The previous crop may have already taken the nutrients from the soil. In order to have a thriving garden again, you must replace the nutrients in the soil using fertilizer. However, exercise caution when fertilizing your garden. Common gardening mistakes include using too much fertilizer that leads to excessive growth, inefficient root systems, and possibly fertilizer burn.
Too Much Sunshine
Signs: Wilting, browning, yellow color on the stem and/or leaves, flowers and/or leaves fall off.
Plants prone to this problem: Bromeliad, peace lily, pothos, spider plant, peacock plant, and peperomia don’t need very much sun.
The amount of sunshine you give a plant may seem like gardening basics, but even advanced gardeners struggle with the right balance. Believe it or not, plants can get sunburnt just like we can. Although they don’t get pink or red, they display discoloration such as brown or yellow. This process is called leaf sunscald, and this usually occurs when a plant is moved from one area to another. If you want to transfer some indoor plants outdoors, be aware of acclimation.
Acclimation is necessary for any plant that has been indoors its whole life and has not been experienced direct sunlight. Without this, they can easily burn to a point beyond recovery. If you have potted plants, be vigilant moving them indoors or into a shaded area if you notice discoloration and signs of leaf sunscald.
Humidity & Climate
Signs: wilting or dying plants.
Plants prone to this problem: snake, aglaonema, dracaena, monstera, spider, and air plants prefer high humidity, whereas many succulents and rubber plants prefer low amounts of humidity.
Plants with very thin leaves transpire and lose water easily, making humid conditions unbearable for them, causing wilting and eventual death. Other plants with thicker wax-like leaves, such as cacti, do just fine in dry climates. Tropical plants grow in high humidity conditions and require frequent misting. Without the introduction of water to these fragile plants, heatwaves can kill them. If your plant is indoors with the air conditioner on, it can also result in lack of moisture in the air
You may have seen the words “Hardy Zone” on the description of some plant tags at the store. The hardiness zone has to do with the temperature a plant prefers, which you can match with the hardiness zone you live in and where your garden is. Hardy zones are a standard system used in the US that help gardeners determine if their plant will survive the extreme temperatures in the summer and winter in their unique environment. Hardiness zones generally follow this rule: the higher the zone number, the warmer the climate. You can look up your hardiness zone by entering your zip code in an online database. This will give you a range that you can look for and match up with the plants you buy the next time you’re plant shopping.
Spacing Different Types Of Plants
Signs: weak flowering and fruiting, frequently dry soil, overcrowded flowerbeds, and/or gardens.
Plants prone to this problem: corn, eggplant, alfalfa, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, peppers, sweet potato, artichoke, need at least a foot of space between each plant.
Plant spacing is another important component to consider when designing your dream garden. Planting too close will create competition for resources that plants need, such as sunlight, nutrients, and water. By keeping in mind the amount of anticipated growth of the plants and their surrounding neighbors, you can easily avoid overcrowding when everything is fully grown. Plant spacing can also prevent the spread of certain diseases that are contracted if they are too close in close proximity to each other. It is true that not all seeds will germinate and grow, but planting too many in one spot will only lead to many weak, crowded plants instead of several strong ones. Vine plants (peas, passionflower, tomatoes, morning glories, cucumbers, grape, summer squash, pole beans, etc.) are usually the most efficient with their space. Due to their ability to grow vertically, they can maximize their space while still getting the amount of sun they need.
Signs: black spots on leaves, rot on roots or leaves, powdery mildew, mold, scabs, unusual leaf curl, rust discoloration, wilting, nematodes, deformations.
Plants prone to this problem: roses, squash, cucumber, lettuce, onion, beans, cabbage, apples, tomato, carrot, spinach, celery, corn, peas.
Similar to humans, plants can catch nasty diseases and spread them to others in their proximity. There are many different diseases plants can suffer from. Diseases can have fungal, bacterial, or viral origins that range in severity. Some can be prevented; others can be caught and treated. If the disease is a serious one or has progressed to rapidly or intensely, it can result in plant death. One of the top ways to prevent diseases from wreaking havoc in your garden is to find species that are naturally resistant to the diseases commonly experienced in your area.
If you find symptoms of diseased flora in your yard, you should swiftly remove the affected leaves and plant parts. Once removed, be sure to throw all of the affected leaves and parts far from your yard. Composting diseased parts can reintroduce disease back into the environment once the compost is absorbed.
Signs: Failure to sprout.
Plants prone to this problem: oregano and thyme should be placed on the soil surface. Lettuce, kale, basil, lavender, beets, and carrots should be planted less than an inch into the soil, whereas cucumbers, corn, okra, and bush beans should be planted at least an inch or two below the surface.
When planting seeds to germinate, depth is important, and the ideal depth for successful seed growth differs greatly depending on your garden. Are you growing vegetable plants? Tomato plants? Each plant requires a different seed depth.
Planting seeds too shallow can increase the chance of it drying out before it has even sprouted. Shallow planting will also lead to an insufficient root system due to its unstable nature. It will not be able to hold the flora up once it has sprouted. Planting seeds too deep will make it harder for the seedling to break free to the surface. A general rule of thumb is the larger the seed, the deeper it should be placed in the soil.
Weed Control & Weeding too late
Weeding frequently while the weed root system is small has numerous benefits for you and your garden. Not only will it save energy due to the ease of removing a small weed versus a large, deep-rooted one, it also won’t disturb the surrounding plants by unearthing a large weed that takes the nearby sprouts and plants along with it. Weeds with a strong root system will compete for precious resources that should be used to making a healthy and beautiful yard.
This is when mulching comes into play. Mulching is when organic matter is spread on top of the soil to encourage moisture retention and discourage weed growth. It also introduces nutrients into the soil as the organic matter decays. Mulch regularly to prevent the growth of weeds, and don’t wait until it’s too late! Try to avoid herbicides due to their harshness to the garden and the ecosystem as a whole. If necessary, try to make your own herbicide with as many natural and organic ingredients as you can before whipping the big guns out.
Buying all of your favorite plants
Different plants like different conditions. A common experience of a beginner gardener is buying all of the plants you’ve ever wanted all at once. No one, not even an advanced gardener, would try and stuff their garden with several different plants. If you end up buying a ton of different varieties, it will be increasingly harder to keep track of everyone. Especially many vegetables such as broccoli or eggplant that require a great amount of attention compared to other varieties. It is wise to start out with a couple of “brown thumb” plants such as jade plants, lucky bamboo, and devil’s ivy. These are plants that do not require a ton of skill and knowledge by the gardener. Being too ambitious with your plant selection is one of the most common gardening mistakes that people make.
These are some of the most common problems beginner gardeners run into when starting out. Although it may seem like a long list to some, soon this knowledge will become second nature, and you will be able to add more and more facts and tidbits to your gardening arsenal. Check your yield from your vegetable garden this year compared to last year. Always continue to improve yourself, and don’t give up even when things get hard.
Our top piece of advice is to enjoy yourself and have fun on the journey. Plant food so that you can share a meal from your garden with your family. Encourage your family to participate in catering to your vegetable garden. Try to have everyone be involved and have a good time. If you aren’t enjoying gardening and making great memories, then these gardening tips will just not be as effective.
Remember, you first need to master the gardening basics before challenging yourself with gardens that are more difficult. Happy gardening!