Gardening Problems, Solutions, and Update

I’ve been so busy putting together my new fall planting schedule that I’ve fallen behind on giving garden updates. As I compared the pictures to my last update, I was amazed at how much everything grew, and so quickly. This week I’ll take more pictures and you can see how things are looking today!


Here is my south-west box–from left to right I have cucumbers (on the trellis), onions, carrots, onions, broccoli (in the back), cilantro (going to seed), and lettuce. I am letting the cilantro go to seed, because I tried that last year and had so much fantastic cilantro in the spring! All my plants were small, so I got lots of cilantro before things got too crowded.


PROBLEM: Onions falling over

As you can see, some of my onions started falling over.

SOLUTION: Let them fall

When the onions start tipping over it means it’s getting time to harvest them, so I “helped” the rest. I’ll leave them this way for a week or two, until the tops are brown. That’s when I harvest them, and then let them dry for a week or two in the sun.


PROBLEM: Too hot for peas, potatoes

This garden box had my peas, but it finally got too hot for them to grow. If you look closely you can see my dead pea plants on the ground right in front of this garden bed! What’s left is potatoes.

SOLUTION: Leave the peas for shade

In retrospect, I should have left the peas in the ground. They gave the potato plants some shade, and as soon as I removed them the potatoes started falling over. Next year I’ll know better!


Here is my new Easy Garden box, and things are flourishing! On the left are beets (see below), then tomatoes and green beans. I also had some Mother’s day flowers that I planted, and they spread and multiplied a ton! The left corner that is empty is where I planted a bunch of herbs–they didn’t do as well. I think I just now have a tiny oregano plant. Well, next year I’ll start those inside!


PROBLEM: Brown beets

Check out my sad, sad beets. Every time I plant beets I have had this type of result, which is discouraging.

SOLUTION: Boron

I did a little research, and beets are relatively unharmed by bugs and disease. The only problem they have is a lack of boron. I bought some Borax and dusted it over the soil. This is supposed to help–I’ll let you know! (BTW, I found the Borax in the laundry section.)


Here is the north-east garden bed with 4 tomato plants. Looking good!


This is my middle-east garden bed. I had a “volunteer” growing in the corner, and I left it to see what would grow (see below).

PROBLEM: Tomato plants not growing well

I have noticed that these tomatoes are not as green, full, and tall as the ones in the north-east bed.

SOLUTION: Move sprinkler head

I realized that my lawn sprinklers water this and the south-east bed, which is actually inhibiting the growth of my tomatoes. So, I need to dig them up, move them, and put on different nozzles. Yep, because I have all sorts of time for projects like that . . .


So the “volunteer” plant is some type of summer squash. But I think it’s from a seed that went into my compost, because the color and shape are different from anything I’ve planted before. In the end I pulled this plant–it was blocking the sun from my tomatoes and the squash was not very good.


And here is my trellised cherry tomato plant, and 12 pepper plants. The tomato needs a little pruning, and the peppers were not thriving.


PROBLEM: Poor pepper plants

My peppers were small, yellow, with dark purple on the leaves. I fertilized them, but did not see much improvement.

SOLUTION: Eggshells

My cousin gave me this simple recipe for feeding tomatoes and peppers, and it WORKED WONDERS on my pepper plants! Last year I did this and fertilized all at once so I couldn’t tell which one was the magic. Now I know–it’s the eggs!

Save your eggshells (I saved mine all winter), let them dry out, and crush them up. Add to water (2 dozen eggshells to 2 quarts water) and let sit overnight. Water the peppers (and tomatoes) with the water, and discard the shells. Within 2 weeks my peppers were growing big, flowering, and producing peppers.


Happy Gardening!

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25 Responses

  1. Emily MySFG says:

    Too much nitrogen, not enough of the others. Fertilizer with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. See more about fertilizer.

  2. DON says:

    Something has eaten my cauliflower heads all in one day .
    the leaves have some small holes
    cant find any slugs or snails

  3. Betsy says:

    My radishes and beets are just growing leaves, nothing under ground but the slender root….last year they did great. They are in a box planter. Any suggestions? Could it be over watering?

  4. brek says:

    in mymy pomegranate plant flower do grow but does not convert into fruit. they just decay.

  5. CJ says:

    Emily, thanks for the advice, I’ll look for some 10-10-10 instant and increase frequency of watering, I have been checking and if it’s moist lower down, I generally hold off. I wasn’t able to find any 16-16-8, so purchased a couple different kinds of 5 and 7 and doubled the amount per 16/sq ft & added 1/4c ironite per bed, dug that in and then sprinkled a smaller amount over the planted bed and soaked all the beds.
    I have another concern and that is with the soil tempeature. It’s been cool in Missouri with temps below normal, but the soil in these beds is really warm already, does the soil temp get to be a problems when the weather goes from warm to hot? I imagine mulching would help some and conserve on water, curious if the soil gets too hot and plants stop producing.
    I’m starting to think that I wish I would have researched this a little better and discovered your website…… not sure why my neighbors beds are producing so much better, we’re using the same ingredients from the same sources, only difference is her beds have been established for about 3yr. Perhaps the quality of “purchased” compost has degraded over the years…
    Appreciate your advice.

  6. Emily says:

    CJ–Definitely sounds like a fertilizer problem. There’s not a great way to get the 16-16-8 incorporated, instead I’d try a fertilizer that you mix with water and spray/pour on. Try to find a 10-10-10 or something like that, instant plant food.

    How much are you watering? These plants need plenty of water, but I always hesitate to say that because you can also overwater things pretty easily. If you stick your finger into the soil all the way, and it feels moist, you’re good.

  7. CJ says:

    Need Help…I’m new to square ft gardening and put in 6 beds this spring after seeing how well my neighbors gardens did…. but I don’t seem to be that lucky. The one early bed I have planted with peas, carrots, beets, lettuce, kale, parsley and arugula have not grown. After one month the plants are just sitting there, they’re very stunted and are turning purple and yellow, very sad indeed. Can this problem be turned around this season yet if I add the 16-16-8 fertilizer I just read about? Is there anything else I need to do? I’ve invested too much to let this go belly up and I need the produce, I’m also concerned about planting the other beds. Wondering if I should rip it all out and dig the mix into the soil at this point if it can’t be turned around? Appreciate your advice.

  8. Emily says:

    It could be powdery mildew–do the oldest leaves turn yellow and then die? If it’s consistent on all the leaves, I’m thinking you have a deficiency or a virus. My suggestion is to google “powdery mildew cucumbers” and “yellow spots on squash” and things like that–find some definitive photos of those conditions and see which one matches yours the best. You can also ask for advice here, I really like this forum http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/

  9. jessica jackson says:

    blossom end rot is usually caused by calcium deficency… egg shells help alot…also make sure the soil is warm and drains well

  10. Adam says:

    I think i might have powdery mildew on my squash and cucumbers. My yellow summer squash leaves have a white residue on them and the little fruits with the flowers will come on then rot and fall off within a week or so. My zucchini doesn’t have a white residue, but rather little yellow spots, but the same thing happens to the fruits. My cucumbers get the same yellow spots on the leaves, and i’m getting plenty of flowers, but they don’t turn into fruit an eventually just wilt and fall off. Am I correct in my diagnosis? If so, how do i take care of it, and is there anything else it could be?

  11. Emily says:

    Yes, 6″ really ends up being more like 4″. :( I suggest you add mulch (a good compost mix would do the trick) where you can until they are all leveled out. Next year increase the height of your beds, and go for at least 10″ of soil.

  12. Heather says:

    I am half way through my growing season and my soil has compacted to only 4 and a half inches deep. I have a very small sfg, 3′ x8′, with two squares being bush beans. Wind, which is not even very strong here, broke off one of my bean plants that was the closest to harvest. I know I need to make my soil deeper but I’m not sure how to do it since some squares have tiny plants (my parsley is only an inch tall) and some (beans and broccoli) have towering plants. Earlier in the season I was annoyed with how friable the soil was, my seeds were getting washed into other squares, so I added peat and top soil to the top of it, but because some of my seeds hadn’t even sprouted, I only added the new soil to some of the squares. Now the garden isn’t level, to say the least. How can I make deeper soil without having “hills” all over in the garden. Also, is there any way to mend a broken stem. I almost cried to see that beautiful bean plant wither up after being snapped, I even tried tying a clothe bandage around it and mounding up dirt and watering, but to no avail.

  13. Emily says:

    Read this post about fertilizing your garden. Your soil has too much nitrogen, and not enough phosphorous. Phosphorous aids in developing good roots, and flowering (which leads to fruits). Also, the root veggies need more potassium as well–that promotes good stem and root development.

  14. Dale Anschuetz says:

    I do not have a comment but do have a question perhaps someone can help me with. I built and planted a brand new raised bed garden this year. 30′ x 6′ I filled it with brand new dirt from a dairy farm, not fresh droppings but dirt mixed with cow manure, mostly old. My plants grew well, however all of my above ground vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower did not head but grew and separated and went to seed without ever forming heads. My underground plants such as beets, raddishes, turnips and carrots grew great tops, but have produced no roots. My radishes grew two feet tall with no bulbs on them at all. I know i have some kind of soil deficience, but do not know what the problem is. Help!!!!

  15. Emily says:

    Lisa–in my opinion and experience, grass is a weed. The only success I have had keeping grass out is by installing the 6″ deep plastic dividers, and even then I have to pull out stray grass.

  16. Lisa says:

    I have built several sq ft boxes on the edge of my large garden space. My thought was that is would be nice to have grass along the outside of the box so I could kneel and weed, plant, etc… in relative comfort. The problem is that all of my lawn grass has come under my frames and into my boxes. I try and try to get all of the roots out but it keeps coming back. Mel shows grass all around his boxes – how do I keep the grass from coming under my frames and into my boxes?

  17. Emily says:

    Sounds like a lack of nitrogen. I suggest adding fertilizer and/or some organic plant boost.

  18. Rachel says:

    I’ve planted four boxes using Mel’s mix at the end of March. The plants came up quickly, but they have not grown much at all since they came up. Some of them are also turning yellow. Do you have any suggestions on how I can fix the problem. I planted peppers, cherry tomatoes, melons, cucumbers, basil, squash and beans.

  19. Tina Eagle says:

    Emily,

    In place of the crushed egg shells for the tomatoes & peppers…..try epson salt. This works great and I add this to my roses and others that turn yellow for no other reason.

  20. emilyrhp says:

    I did not have great success with corn in a square foot garden. Some things to consider: corn may need supports in a square foot garden. The soil tends to be “softer” and the shallow roots can pull out easily in the wind. Corn prefers soil that drains well, and requires regular watering. I’d suggest an automated irrigation system, if you don’t already have one.

  21. Kristina says:

    I planted my first sfg this year and I did a whole 4×4 sq of Corn. Problem is my corn only got to be about 9 inches tall. I live in Western, WA. Is there anything I should try for next years crop?

  22. emilyrhp says:

    Carmen, I’m working on a post about tomato problems. Watch for it!

  23. Carmen says:

    Any tips on how to deal with the Roma tomato blight that has hit us this year? Should I just give up and pull up the plants at this point since they’re all rotting? And should I do anything to prevent it from carrying over to next year?

  24. emilyrhp says:

    That’s what was so weird. The plant had leaves like a zucchini or summer squash, but the squash was light yellow/green. I let it grow (assuming it was not yet mature) and it got huge, but never turned darker yellow. I have grown spaghetti squash (and butternut) and they vine more like pumpkins. So I sort of suspect it was a seed from a hybrid variety of squash, because it wasn’t quite anything.

  25. Susie says:

    The squash you pulled was spaghetti squash and it wasn’t ripe yet. :)