What are these little holes? In the leaves? And… Why does a flying cloud of white dust erupt from the bunch every time you water it?
Most amateur gardeners aren’t trained horticulturists. And when the pandemic began, lock-down was mandated, and grocery stores were the scariest part of our lives, many people across the country began their victory gardens, doe-eye and optimistic with visions of Emersonian self-sufficiency.
As we waddle through the mid-July humidity, many spring plants are ready to be harvested. But some of them may not have performed the way you imagined.
The garden bed may seem like dirt, seeds, roots, stalks, and flowers. But in reality, it’s a micro universe. An ecosystem. Its own thriving, active biome.
And everything in its environment affects it – air quality, soil nutrients, seed ages, pollinator population, and more.
The doldrums of July and early August can affect your veggies and suck the hope and vigor right out of you.
Maybe weeds are choking your vining plants. Maybe your eggplants are forming, but the growing stops there. Maybe everything is green and growing, but none of the vegetables are popping up.
There are some easy remedies and tips to help you keep your vegetable garden in tip-top shape – and if it’s too late to fix, don’t worry! Mid-summer planting for fall harvest is right around the corner.
Let’s explore ways to be more careful garden stewards…
Remember that cloud of dust we were talking about before, that rises up as you water certain plants?
They’re called whiteflies, and they’re what’s leaving holes in all of your leaves. They’re pretty tiny, so you’ll really only see them if there’s a big group.
They like crucifers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, okra, and sweet potatoes.
To get rid of them, first spray the plant with a hose so that they scatter.
Then, get yourself a spray bottle. With 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, and 1 part liquid soap (think Castile vegetable-based soap), and spray the leaves, underneath and all.
Repeat if necessary!
And don’t forget – ladybugs eat whiteflies! Your local nursery probably sells them.
Stunted plants can be caused by a nitrogen deficiency. If everything is growing but the edible bits, there’s an error in communication. Nitrogen helps plants make proteins, amino acids, and even the very DNA in its cells. Without it…
Leaves are small, the stems are weak, and the plants can’t produce. Buy a nitrogen test from your local garden nursery or hardware store. Then, if your levels are low, try this…
Add coffee grounds to the soil. Plant peas or beans in the nitrogen-lacking soil. Or you can purchase compost, and mix that in with the soil! Avoid anything that’s non-organic. The last thing you want is to cause an imbalance somewhere else!
If your stalks are wilting, there are a few common causes.
For one, you may simply not be pruning the lower leaves enough. When you prune, you remove the need for the plant to expend energy on that extension. You want to do everything possible to encourage and train the plants to spend energy in its roots and in the fruits and vegetables themselves.
Similarly, you may want to stick a pole in the soil next to the stalk and lightly tie it to the stalk with twine. The less energy the plant has to use holding itself up against heavy winds or heavy fruit, the more it can spend strengthening itself and growing.
Plus, you should probably water it more!
Crucifers Planted Near Each Other
Oftentimes, when you plant cruciferous vegetables near each other, they don’t thrive. The reason for that is they attract the same kinds of pests and suffer the same kinds of afflictions. Flea beetles love crucifers, for example. Planting them near each other gives beetles the chance to snack on everything all at once.
Crucifers are also susceptible to club root, whereby the roots swell and stop absorbing water, killing the plant.
Not only that, but diseases like club root can remain in the same soil long after the plant it infected is gone. Even growing plants susceptible to the same diseases in the same area where remnants of the disease can linger on will ruin a crop.
We’ll keep talking about common vegetable ailments in the next few weeks, with an eye toward organic and home-bound remedies!