Gardening > Sherlock In The Garden

Sherlock In The Garden

Garden Magnifying Glass

Garden Magnifying Glass
© Cherylcasey

Growing a good crop of vegetables demands planning, attention to detail and patience. There are quite a few issues that need to be addressed between sowing and eating. Pests and diseases are obvious ones (slugs and snails, weeds, companion planting etc). Plot preparation, rotation and maintaining a weed-free, tidy garden also rank highly.

Sometimes, however, despite careful slug and snail removal, neurotic weeding and textbook planning the vegetables can begin to look a little sorry for themselves.

By looking carefully at the plants it is possible to ascertain the likely cause of the problem and to then take swift action. 

Look out for:

1/. Browning at the edges of the leaves and rotting of the stem at soil level. These symptoms can indicate wind damage. Put up a wind break or use fleece.

2/. Shoots of half-hardy vegetables (like potatoes) can become blackened by frost. Milder frost damage can show as browning at the leaf edges or yellow spotting on the leaves. In future plant later and use protection.

3/. A shortage of nitrogen leads to stunted growth of plants, pale leaves and sometimes a red discolouration. Apply a good organic fertilizer like dried blood.

4/. A shortage of potassium results in diminished resistance to disease, yellowing around the edges of the older leaves followed by scorching and a generally poor crop. Use a good organic fertilizer like rock pot ash.

5/. Poor, straggly growth with small leaves and plants which suffer from mildew and infestation of pests can be caused by too much shade. Sometimes the choice has to me made between a tall hedge or tree and a successful vegetable plot. If it is impossible to remove the causes of shade it is better to concentrate on root and leaf vegetables rather than pods and fruit (like tomatoes, peppers, aubergines etc.).

6/. Pale leaves, stunted growth and root rotting can be symptoms of water logging. This hampers proper root development because it depletes the amount of air in the soil. Plenty of organic matter needs to be dug into the soil to improve the drainage. If the effected plants are in pots make more holes in the bottom of the containers.

7/. Unhealthy looking leaves and wilting indicate too little water. Tough leaves, woody roots and dropping fruit can all result from drought. Solutions are regular watering and mulching.

If things start to go wrong in the vegetable patch don't despair - there is usually a solution to the problem. Once you have eliminated pests as the cause of plant woes do a bit of detective work using the list above, the internet and a good gardening book.