This time of year – most of the questions that come to us are centered around plants in the vegetable garden – and what might be the cause of this or that symptom.  We thought for this week’s gardening post – we would cover the 4 most common questions we get asked – along with some remedies to help resolve the issues. So here they are:

Question #1 “My plants look fantastic –  They are healthy and dark green – but I have no blooms or veggies.”

This pepper plant has tons of deep green foliage, but no blooms or peppers - a classic case of too much fertilizer
This pepper plant has tons of deep green foliage, but no blooms or peppers – a classic case of too much fertilizer

If your plants are thick and full of lush vegetation and foliage – but you have little or no blooms and hardly any fruit at all – then the culprit is most likely too much fertilization. In a garden setting, you can certainly have too much of a good thing – and too much fertilizer leads to all growth in the leaves and stems and no fruit or veggies.  No matter if you use organic or synthetic fertilizers – do so only  during the first 6 week’s of the plant’s growth – about once every 10 to 14 days. This gives the plants the boost they need – but keeps the plant from using all of its energy to keep making leaves and not the coveted veggies that follow.

Question #2: “My plants look like shredded cheese but I don’t see bugs or insects.”

Classic slug damage to leaves - the swiss -heese look
The Swiss-cheese look of a plant – the classic sign of slugs

One of the biggest pests in the garden can be the common slug – and sometimes they are gone by the time morning has turned into daybreak – making it near impossible to find them.  Leaving you to wonder who or what made the swiss-cheese like holes in your plants.  The culprit is usually slugs.  To combat slugs – beer traps work well.  A small amount of beer placed in a flat saucer or lid – and the slugs will crawl in and drink themselves to death. A better way to protect though is to keep your plants pruned up off the ground to discourage easy access for the slugs to make their way up onto the leaves.  Coffee grounds around the base of each plant also really help to deter them – they don’t like crossing over them at all!

Question #3  “My plants are turning yellow at the bottom and are starting to look sick.”

Yellowing leaves - like you can see at the bottom of this potted plant, can be a sign of too much water. Potted plants can show this symptom quickly.
Yellowing leaves – like you can see at the bottom of this potted plant, can be a sign of too much water. Potted plants can show this symptom quickly.

When you begin to see the foliage of plants turning yellow – and there are no other obvious signs of stress or duress –  it is usually a case of too much water for the plant.  This can be common among potted plants that may not drain well or get too much hand watering.  We like to use rocks or twigs in the base of our potted plants before putting soil in to help leave space for water to drain away.  And for your garden, it may more than just too much artificial watering.  Some soils, especially if they are heavy in clay – hold in water for long periods of time – so if you have too much rain – it can lead to the same stress.  For that – begin to add lots of compost to your soil, or even mix in some sand for heavy clay soils.  This allows for better drainage. Remember as a general rule of thumb – plants need about an inch of water per week.

Question #4: “I have healthy plants, and lots of blooms, but I never get any fruits or vegetables to form on the plants.”

The dwindling bee population is a concern for gardeners.
The dwindling bee population is a concern for gardeners.

Unlike the problem of over-fertilization – for this you might be getting plenty of blooms – but no resulting fruit or vegetables.  It is usually a sign of  a pollination problem.  Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more of a problem around the country as our best source of pollination – the honey bee – struggles to stay alive.  The honey bee has really suffered mass losses, and many think it is due to the ever increasing use of pesticides.  Whatever the reason – a lot of blooms but no resulting fruit is usually a sign of low numbers of pollinators in the area.  There are other pollinators that can help – butterflies, other types of bees, and so forth. You can help out your chances by adding additional flowering plants and shrubs that will attract more to the area.  Or, like in our case, you can take up the hobby of bee-keeping! 🙂

Happy Gardening! – Mary and Jim!

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10 thoughts on “How To Tell What’s Wrong With Your Vegetable Plants – And Fix It!

  • June 21, 2016 at 10:10 pm
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    How long should chicken manure age before it is put into the garden?

  • May 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm
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    The tomato plants’ leaves are curling and translucent spots on leaves. Help.

    • May 20, 2014 at 8:51 am
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      Hmmm -are they in the garden yet – or are you growing from seed and in pots?

  • March 12, 2014 at 10:35 pm
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    On example 2 where leaves have been eaten—I have grasshoppers that destroy every thing
    they can find. I am hoping the extremely cold, long winter will kill some of them.

  • July 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm
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    Thanks for the post and great information. I have problems with containers because of our summers. One summer will be hot and dry and the next will be cool, damp and rainy leading to fungal problems. I try to have trays handy for the hot, dry summers so the watering is not so intense.
    I also am battling Septoria Leaf Spot again this year. I have a natural “fungicide” but with this wet weather it requires constant applications. I read on another garden site that different areas fight them and it’s very difficult to control or eradicate even with crop rotation. So, I will keep trying different techniques (mulching around the base, removing lower leaves to avoid splash back and lots of air circulation) and hope that I am still able to get a crop this year.

  • July 6, 2013 at 8:24 am
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    My pepper plants are very lush and look lovely. Some plants are loaded, others have no or only a couple pieces of fruit. I am wondering if I should thin some branches on the non-productive ones so maybe bees can “see” the blossoms? Have you ever done this?

    • July 9, 2013 at 10:43 pm
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      We thin them out at the bottom to allow for air flow – but trust me – the bees will find them no matter what :). Peppers tend to set fruit a little later too – so it might be more timing than anything – I have a feeling they will begin producing more in the coming weeks. If you fertilize them – I would stop now and let the plants natural growth take over. Hope that helps! Jim and Mary

  • June 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm
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    Do you have an idea why my tomato plant leaves are curling up? They are in a different area than last year, but they really look sick!

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