Are your garden crops dying?
It’s the hardest thing to nourish your plants from seed only to have them not thrive.
- Maybe some of the leaves are turning yellow.
- Perhaps you have a bug or pest infestation.
- Your crops are stunted and looking a little worse for wear.
- Have your peas have been producing for over a month and you’re not sure when you pull up the plant?
Why are my plants not growing? Can anything be done?
This is a common gardening question and problem!
It’s important to tend carefully to your garden and help things grow but understanding when it’s the right time to remove your failing crops also makes for a successful garden.
When some of your crops fail you can sometimes nourish the plants back to health. Other times however it’s better to sow fast-growing vegetables instead of trying to keep a dying plant alive and get little (to no) harvests. How can you tell?
Top Reasons why your Garden Crops are Dying
- Older plants are more susceptible to pests and disease than younger ones so if they’ve been in the ground and been producing for awhile (such as beans or peas for example) you might be better pulling them up. After a couple of months of producing crops they start to run out of steam and will put their energy into going to seed so the crop quality and flavor decreases (example tender spring peas versus tougher peas mid-summer).
- You can troubleshoot nutrient deficiencies and help give them a boost but sometimes there isn’t enough time left in the gardening season to make it worth your while. Sometimes you’re better to pull up the plants, add some compost and sow fast growing crops.
- If your cool season crops (like leafy greens or radishes) start producing a flower stalk and begin to taste bitter than means your plants are bolting. This will happen with summer heat or plant stress (cold to warmer temps) and it’s better to pull up the plants and sow new crops. You can also leave some of them to flower for the bees if you wish.
- Rogue funky looking plants? You might have old seed, seeds that weren’t pollinated properly (squash and pumpkins are bad for that) or maybe you tried saving seeds yourself and the varieties cross-pollinated with a crop in the same family. If that’s the case, pull up the plants and sow something else. I’ve had this happen many times with squash, even store bought seed unfortunately, and it means the seeds ended up cross pollinating and not getting the desired crop variety.
Funky looking fruiting crops could mean blossom end rot.
- Lack of pollination & flowers to produce fruiting crops. Certain crops like peas or beans are self-pollinating and the vegetables will grow from the flower. Others require pollination, and if you lack pollinators in your area then your fruit might not set. Look into attracting beneficial insects and pollinators and increasing biodiversity in your backyard.
- Plant diseases will make many crops not grow normally. If you notice plants looking strange, don’t leave them in the ground. Below you can see garlic that started growing strangely with stripped leaves and not forming well. This ended up being a garlic disease which spread through most of the garden bed.
Troubleshooting Plant Deficiencies
Sometimes your plants just need a ‘boost’ because your soil doesn’t have the required nutrients to help your plants grow & thrive.
Take a look at how much time left you have in the season for those crops to grow.
Say it’s the end of summer and your tomatoes or squash are doing terrible, chances are it’s too late to help them produce adequate harvests for the season. If however it’s the beginning of the summer or you have a long season you might still have time to replenish the soil or fertilize the plant and allow time for the crops to mature.
Plants that are severely diseased, or completely full of pests should always be pulled up.
Make sure you don’t compost diseased plants, as that keeps the diseases around.
Plant Deficiencies to Watch for
Although we work hard in the garden to keep plants alive, plants that are too old or that are failing aren’t worth keeping around.