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Even the most seasoned gardeners encounter problems with their vegetable patch from time to time. Everything from yellow cucumbers to split tomatoes can turn your harvest into a heartache. Here are some common issues you might encounter, along with ways to identify, avoid, or manage them.
Related: How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden
Blossom end rot
If you’ve ever noticed brown or rotting matter forming on the bottom of vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and squash, then you’ve experienced blossom end rot, which Kelly Funk, gardening expert and president of Park Seed says, says. occurs when plants are in calcium deficit. To solve this problem, she recommends checking your soil’s pH and salt levels, managing fertilization according to the needs of the particular plant type, and checking its humidity. “Irregular watering could be the culprit,” Funk says. “Use watering systems or create a schedule. Blossom end rot can start if the roots are damaged or weak and cannot provide healthy nutrients to the fruit.”
The yellow leaves could also signify an imbalance in the ground, notes Funk. Nitrogen or iron deficiency, watering problems, insufficient sunlight or pests like whiteflies or aphids are the most common culprits in this case. Funk says to start with the best soil possible when starting your plants from seed and test your soil before making any changes. You can also install sprinkler systems or create wells if your plants are dehydrated. “Companion plants such as the cosmos or edible nasturtiums help repel some common garden pests.”
There’s nothing quite like ripe picked tomatoes, but a sudden thunderstorm can split and crack your previously perfect tomatoes before you can pull them off the vines. “When plants are inundated with moisture at a time when they are acclimating to dry conditions (and have more crystalline cell structures), they literally burst,” says Lindsay Springer, manager of plants and nutrition at Gardyn. “These spiral or radial cracks in the skin of the fruit are not only an aesthetic nuisance, but also make the tomato more susceptible to microbial infections.” To combat this, Springer suggests maintaining consistent humidity levels. “Choose tomato varieties that are less prone to cracking,” she says, adding that each variety responds to environmental stressors differently.
If your kale plants are full of pinholes, or your Swiss chard leaves are covered with black spots or half-eaten leaves, you may be dealing with a pest; Flea beetles or caterpillars could be to blame, according to Funk. To resume your garden, she recommends adding companion plants like radishes or other spiky leaf iterations. Your plants could also be struggling with burns. “Water early in the morning or late in the day to prevent sunburn,” she says. “Water acts like a magnifying glass in the sun and can ultimately scorch the leaves.”
Have you ever waited anxiously for your plants to begin their transformation from flower to fruit, only to find that absolutely nothing is happening? You may have a pollination problem. Some vegetables and squash (like pumpkins) frequently fall prey to this type of problem, in part because there is only a six-hour window during which the flowers are open for pollination, Springer explains. “This is the window for bees and other pollinators to get pollen from a male flower to a female flower – after that, they are closed for good.” Plus, your soil could be the problem. “Fertilization rich in nitrogen can cause excessive vegetative growth (shoots and leaves) and lead to changes in the allocation of resources within the plant, leaving fewer resources for pollinators of developing fruits to obtain pollen from a plant. male flower to female flower. “