My tomatoes did not do well crop almost failed. No diseases but a lot of rain so cool.
We live in the Pacific Northwest Vancouver Washington and We have slugs that seem to stick around that is our biggest challenge and the reason we love to garden is for the food and to watch the foliage grow
I use a shallow dishes like a pie pan, place them on the ground here and there in your garden and pour beer into each dish. Do this in the evening and go back out in the am and expect to find a dish full of dead slugs. Dump this into a small bucket to be certain all are dead and refill the dishes with fresh beer. This may take a few days to rid your garden of slugs. If you stop refreshing your beer dishes because slugs seem to have stopped coming to your bait and you see another slug appear, just start over with fresh beer. Good luck Tracy
I have a lot of tips for slugs here: https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-pest-control/how-to-get-rid-of-slugs-and-snails/
Try using sugar in your water and water the garden with it.About 1/2 cup of sugar per gallon will do the trick. If it rains you”ll have to do it again. I’ve been doing that for 5 years now. I don’t see too many of them around anymore. They used to strip my garden right to the bone. Hostas used to be stripped right down to the stock. Last year I did not spray them with sugar and yet they did not touch them. Maybe there is enough sugar in the soil that they don’t bother coming around. @ years ago, I had planted different kinds of tomatoes. I had several plants of sweet one hundreds. Some of my tomatoes were being attacked but not the sweet one hundreds. Near fall I decided to pick the rest of the tomatoes and pull the plants out. Under the sweet one hundred vines were thousands of slugs sheltering under them!. They cannot eat anything that is sweet but it is ok to use as shelter I quess!
I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a few years and it was a challenge to grow tomatoes there because even though the growing season was much longer, it just didn’t get hot enough for them. So yes, a cool year can be hard on tomatoes and too much rain doesn’t help – they need moisture, of course, but they need to struggle a bit to become their best.
Always had a garden now part of a community garden sharing what we know and helping each other with watering while on vacation.
Melibug and too much heat were the biggest challenges for me.I had to frequently spray the medicine Imitub which is available.As a result my plants became weaker. In Bangladesh here temperature is 31/32 c now.My rose plant has almost become burn!I am worried about my tomatoes as when it grows up , becomes rotten……😢
A short-term control for mealybugs is just spraying them off with a hose. Neem oil can work well. Insecticidal soap works too, but may harm some of their predators. A longer-term benefit is planting a lot of herbs, which will attract predators of the mealybugs. And don’t use too much nitrogen, as that attracts them. The best solution is to do all of the things you can to improve the health of your plants, at which point the pests will go away.
As for heat, what’s most important is choosing plants that can handle the heat, having a good mulch or cover crop on the soil, perhaps having shade cloth over the plants, and watering properly. You don’t want to overwater, and you usually don’t want to water every day, but plants do need more water in the heat. Liquid seaweed sprayed on the leaves can help them deal with heat and drought.
I have two raised planters with strawberries. I have cleaned the plants and replenished the soil with fresh raised bed planting mix each of the last three years. They get plenty of water and sunshine in the inland area of Southern California. However, every year I am disappointed by the small size of the fruit and low yield. What am I doing wrong?
Pests in the garden were my biggest problem, worse in July when plants were getting stressed from the heat. Took your advice and decided to start from the ground up this year. I had my soil tested at CSI in the fall and have started adding the minerals etc they recommended. Hope to see some decline in the harmful insects this year.
Thanks for sharing, Kelly. CSI is a good choice!
As you probably know, if you’re growing everbearing/alpine/wild strawberries, they will be much smaller than grocery store strawberries – it’s just how they grow naturally. But if you’re growing June-bearers, which can be bigger, small size could be due to several things. The first that come to mind are: weird weather that stresses them or scares away pollinators; overfertilization with nitrogen; the annual soil replenishment could be disrupting the plants or at least not providing much value if the planting mix isn’t great (good compost may be better).
1. Amending the soil in all 21 raised beds. 2. Health and sustainability.
The hardest thing has been spider mites. A garden is important to me because marijuana is my medicine.
Put Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth in an empty dish detergent bottle so you can poof it on the spider webs to coat them. It took me 3 years to figure this one out, but it works. I know it’s tempting to get a stick and take down all the webs, but wait at least until the next day. BTW, it rinses off your produce real easy and it’s edible. ‘;D
Biggest problem was squash bugs and squash bone borers. Gardening is importent because we eat what we grow so it’s all organic.
The method I used for squash bugs last year is “Trap Crops” and daily inspection. The trap crop method was very successful until the trap crop was completely done and it was getting close to the end of the season. I should have planted a few in succession and maybe a little further from the main garden. As for the daily inspection, I put on the gloves and squished the eggs on the leaves. YUK, but somebody’s got to do it. ‘;D
Here’s my list for squash bugs: -Crop rotation. This can help with squash bugs, and choosing resistant squash varieties can help. -Floating row covers. This helps during the beginning of the season. They need to be removed for pollination. -Switch varieties. Plant butternut and other C. moschata species instead. And in general, planting several varieties can help because the bugs may very well choose one over another. -Timing – early or late. Warm up the soil early with a hoop house or by other means and plant early so the plants are mature by the time the eggs are laid. Alternatively, plant late (like July) once the adults have already finishing laying eggs. -Cleanup. Removing all organic debris at the end of the growing season and tilling the garden will remove their homes. Unfortunately, in organic gardening, we mostly want to increase our organic debris (mulch) and decrease our tilling in order to improve the health of our garden, but sometimes pest control gets in the way of best practices, especially if the pests are causing a lot of problems. -Diatomaceous earth. Works against the nymphs (ie. when they’re young), but is also harmful to beneficials, so use it sparingly. -Hand picking eggs. In the spring you can remove their eggs from the underside of the leaves. But, and this part is a little tricky until you get some experience, if you notice that some of the eggs look different that others, often being darker, you should probably leave them because they’ve probably been parasitized, which is when certain species of wasps and flies lay their eggs right inside the eggs of the stink bugs and then eat their way out – we want to let those eggs hatch, do their thing, and then reproduce. -Hand picking the insects. If you just go out every morning (or evening) and toss them into a bucket of soapy water, you’ll take care of a lot of them. This is unfeasible on a farm, but in a small garden, it can be a good solution. -Trap crop. Rodale found that sunflower worked well as a trap crop. If you can surround your squash bed with sunflowers, I wonder if it would help divert the stink bugs on such a small scale? -Companion planting. The sunflowers also attract ladybugs and other predators of the stink bug eggs and nymphs. Plus, as I find myself saying a lot in these comments, plant a diversity of herbs to attract their predators – this may be the most important step. -Garlic. Crush 1 clove of garlic and blend it with 1 quart of water. Optionally add any or all of the following before you blend: 1 teaspoon of dish soap, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of chili powder or pepper flakes or 1 small hot pepper. Optionally let it sit for 24 hours before using. This won’t get rid of them, but may slow them down. -Kaolin clay. Is a clay powder that, when applied to the leaves, will agitate the stink bugs. Can work very well. -Insecticidal soaps and neem oil. Can work when the bugs are young.
Here’s my list for vine borers: -Rotate. Be sure to rotate the plants every year because the larva overwinter in the soil. -Remove. Get rid of the vines as soon as you’ve harvested the fruit in the summer/fall. Some people burn them, but personally, I would be okay with hot composting them. -Fertilize. Calcium and phosphorus deficiencies are often a big contributor to most insect and disease problems, so applying 1 pound of calcitic lime and 1/2 pound of soft rock phosphate or fish bone meal per one hundred square feet can really help in the long term. Liquid calcium and phosphorus fertilizers sprayed directly on the plant can help even faster. -Parasitic wasps. They can be a big help at controlling the borers for you. You can attract them by planting an abundance of various herbs among your squash. You can also buy the parasitic wasps online if you want, but make sure you’ve planted the herbs first so they stay around. -Cover. One of the most effective solutions is to cover the squash with floating row covers so the adults can’t get to them to lay their eggs. This won’t work if there are already larvae in the soil from last year, which is why rotation is so important. And yes, they do need to be opened for pollination, although you could hand-pollinate. -Switch varieties. I’ve found butternut squash and summer crookneck squash to be not as susceptible. Thanks to Mari for the other suggestions. -Timing – early or late. Warm up the soil early with a hoop house or by other means and plant early so the plants are mature by the time the eggs are laid. Alternatively, plant late (like July) once the adults have already finishing laying eggs. -Hope there’s something in there that helps you!
I live in Vermont, short growing season. Weeds so over whelming, have bought your products but it encourages Hugh weeds.
Time to update the mulch?
According to Dr. Elaine Ingham of Soil Food Web, weeds thrive in a bacteria dominant soil environment. Vegetables need a little of the fungal soil organisms. I would suggest looking into the subject of Mychorraizal fungi. Available at Amazon.
Thanks for sharing, Sheila. Mycorrhizal fungi are great for plant health (I sell them here: https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/mycorrhizae-for-sale/ ) and over time, they could have an impact on weed pressure.
Voles tunneling all through our lawn and garden beds and raised beds. Eating vegetables and tunneling through roots destroying plants.
Growing a garden makes me feel happy! It’s relaxing, rewarding, and great exercise!
Here are my tips on voles: https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-pest-control/how-to-get-rid-of-moles-and-voles/
1. My most challenging situation right now is to get communities in Antigua/Barbuda doing community-based Composting/and organic gardening using Bokashi composting that I just discovered as a method. I have been doing traditional composting demonstrations on a small scale helping schools, mainly to start composting in their gardens. I have also been preaching climate change mitigation and adaptation through waste diversion from landfill via composting and recycling but I want to involve the entire country in my composting/organic gardening methods. I will use a combination of Bokashi and traditional composting. My overall aim is also to help protect and conserve terrestrial and marine ecosystems through reduction of impacts of climate change such as ocean acidification and eutrophication and waste and pollution on marine ecosystems through the link of composting and organic gardening. I want to help farmers to produce nutrient dense non-GMO foods. I want to keep pollution out the marine and other environments. I want to create jobs for people by involving them in composting and organic gardening for food security and ecosystem resilience.
2. Why is growing a garden important to you?
I feel connected with myself, my life and with my God when I am in a garden as I get time to do free lance unstructured thinking about life, about living and to think about what I can do to help humanity. I don’t have much of a garden right now but I have about two acres of land right in my backyard and all the other amenities ready to do big time gardening but I am just now organized. I feel I can do something big for people through some connection with climate change, ecosystem-based adaptation, food security, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation and just gardening in general. Not that I know much about gardening; I have been puttering around gardening in different ways for a long time but I have not really achieved anything substantial. Because I have no structure. I do things haphazard with no consistency. My biggest challenge now is that I am trying to change that.
Thanks for sharing, Evelyn!
Backyard garden, with 3 story, west-facing house wall bouncing sunshine and HEAT for up to 8 hours in summer. Thermometer on house says 120 degrees farenheit many afternoons. How to protect crops is a challenge. Mulch keeps water in the ground OK, but the heat seems to somehow stunt growth anyway…?
Why do we garden? We are Mormons, and prophets have urged us to grow at least some of our own food – so we do it. Oh, yeah, and it’s fun, and provides my 5 dietary requirements: QUICK, CHEAP, & EASY NUTRITIOUS AND DELICIOUS
Ya, 120 is hot for most any plant. Shade cloth or a trellis may be your answer here, as it cools things down substantially.
Weeds have taken over. I can’t keep up w/it
I live in the Knoxvlle TN area (zone 6). I’ve planted a few plants with very little success: 2 peony bushes & one lilac bush & one forsythia bush. I made sure not to plant the peonys too deep because I know they won’t bloom if planted too deep. These 2 plants sprout, then slow down at about 10″ out of the soil, they get a few leaves but act as if they are really unhappy with TN weather?? I get no flowers at all
The lilac bush is three years old now and has about 7-8 branches – it’s about 14″ high and has never had any flowers. This past winter and fall we’ve had a tremendous amount of rain and the lilac looks a bit better. I have always watered it when the weather here was hot & dry.
The forsythia bush is supposed to be blooming like everyone elses, but it isn’t! It is planted in full sun but I think it’s just been way too wet for this plant. It has been in the ground two years and no color or blooms yet.
Please help – I’m really frustrated because back in Chicago I could make just about anything grow!
Hard to tell from here, but other than the heat, it feels to me like a soil issue. How is the soil to work with?
It’s hard red clay which I’ve amended before planting all of these plants. I’ve only amended the soil with topsoil though. I have fed all 3 species which helped a little. Very frustrating!
Sounds like you may want to dig up the plants, amend the soil thoroughly with compost and then replant. When you’re planning future beds, you may want to consider sheet mulching to help soften up that clay: https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-soil-management/sheet-mulching/
My biggest challenge is Johnson grass. I just can’t seem to get rid of it. The part of the garden that I’m rotating out is covered in black plastic so it isn’t growing there. We have an organic garden and lots of compost in it. The part that I’m planting in this year already has a little Johnson grass so I’m diligently digging it our one rhizome at a time but it’s hard to keep up with. We already have tomatoes, onions, squash, peppers, and corn in the ground. The lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale are doing well since last fall. I’ve kept them covered in the event of a freeze and just a little incandescent light bulb on a timer seemed to keep them growing and warm enough so the freeze didn’t affect them. All the fruit trees (except the apples) have flowered and we are seeing baby fruit so that’s a good sign. We are all organic and heirloom so we are having a garden each year to stay healthy. Neither my wife nor I have any illnesses that an oil or herb can’t remedy.
Johnsongrass does best on soils that are compacted and low in organic matter and calcium, so if that seems to be the case for you, adding some good compost and calcium carbonate may help long term. Of course, tilling these things in is often a good idea and would also relieve some compaction, but would unfortunately spread the rhizomes, so probably isn’t a good option. In part of the garden, you may want to grow a grass cover crop this year that will compete with the weed. Johnsongrass is a big problem in farming, so I expect if you search around online, you’ll find some farmers talking about it.
I’m in Raleigh NC. I have garlic seedlings all over my garden and hate to pull them but they get in the way of organizing my garden in the spring. Can I plant around these garlic plants or pull them out to be more organized? I love the wonderful tastes of organic plants and know their health benefits. Also, to the person who has voles, if they would connect to the overlighting Deva of the Voles, they could ask the voles to leave and they would leave. It has worked for me. Read Machelle Small Wright’s book called , “ Behaving As If The God In All Life Mattered”.
I also have garlic come up all around my garden. It’s certainly okay to pull some to make room for other crops, and it’s nice to leave some for all of the benefits it brings. That’s what I do each year – a little of both.
I have tried several times to grow garlic in my apt. and it pops up real fast, grows fairly tall, around 6 to 8 inches, then they just keel over. No production and they just die. Also, my potatoes I try un five-gallon buckets do that. Grow the greens fast, then just die. Could this be from using Garden soil from the bag, instead of potting mix? I fertilize them as tells on the bottle/cartons.
Yes, but it could be a lot of things – soil, light, water, temperature, fertilizer, seed/bulb source, etc. Sometimes it requires some experimenting to figure it out.
Insects — how to get rid of organically. Right now I have a big red ant colony slap dab in the middle of one of the sections of my garden. Everything i’ve tried has just moved them to another spot.
Ya, there are plenty of remedies to get rid of red ants, but like you say, they’ll just move elsewhere. What I would do is research for what are the predators of red ants and then plant a bunch of things that attract those predators. It’s the only thing I can think of that will decrease the population of ants throughout the garden.
A wonderful crop of barley last year! We always put the soft type of straw in the garden to help with moisture and weeds. Works really well! Usually. We bought 18 bales and spread it everywhere, talking and laughing and NOT paying attention to the fact we inadvertently bought the right type of straw except it was not the one with the seeds removed. Two weeks later we had a gorgeous green field of barley! What a weeding nightmare! I can guarantee it will be this year also! Oh well, my bad. I helped it along as I used your products last year and most of our plants did better than they ever have! I had a summer long crop of leaf lettuce and arugula! Thank you for all the great products you sell!
I think I’ve used hay instead of straw before too 🙁 You may want to pile a layer of mulch on top of it this year to help control it. Otherwise, if you keep on it, you’ll get it all eventually.
Hi! I’m thinking about solarizing the big garden this year and just using the raised beds and the pots. That should take care of the barley plus. Thank you again for your gardening methods, advice and products. My plants have never done as well as they did last year using your products! You sure must stay busy between your own gardening, your business and all of us. Thanks! Vicki Amatuzzi
Thank for sharing, Vicki!
It wasn’t your fault you didn’t see the seeds in the straw. I would blame the farmer who didn’t adjust the threshing of his harvester properly – he didn’t see that his barley seeds were falling out and mixing with the straw. Next time make sure you find a source of straw that doesn’t have seeds in it.
That’s my plan. We live in the Adirondack mountains, so farms that sell straw are not common. We usually buy it at a farm store. You can be sure that I will take a bale apart to check next purchase! This year I think i’m going to solarize the big garden and just use the raised beds and the pots. Thanks for your vote of confidence!! I feel a little less stupid, lol!! Happy gardening! 😊
We love gardening because we enjoy being outside and we enjoy watching everything grow. Each year is a new beginning and a new adventure. A huge bonus is keeping everything organic and watching the bees and butterflies and birds enjoy everything along with us. We live in upstate NY in the ADK mountains, so our growing season is short and challenging but part of the adventure!
Biggest challenge is waiting for the ground temperature to get warm. Started plants in-house in the basement with LED grow lights. It stays at 65 to 66 degrees there all year long. Just the wait is the biggest job, The chickens are doing a fantastic job in the garden beds; scratch and dig, looking for bugs etc. Love to watch them at work.
Don’t the chickens eat all your seedlings and garden produce plants down to bare dirt?
When it is time to have plants I put a four foot net around the raised beds.
I forgot to hit the email notification button. I DO want to know of any and all replies! Thank you!
My biggest challenge for the last few years has been nutsedge in my front lawn. I haven’t wanted to use horrible chemicals, but I am beginning to realize that other than removing my entire lawn, including the soil down to about 8 inches, herbicides are the only answer. I’d appreciate any ideas.
Ya, I don’t know of any way to get rid of nutsedge in a lawn short of overhauling the whole lawn or learning to love the plant (it isn’t an unattractive plant – just not what we were going for in a lawn).
Biggest challenge: flavor. We have added some good things to the soil. We had the biggest yield of winter squash ever last summer! I was excited to try it, but read that the sweet flavor takes a few weeks to develop, so we waited a short time. Every one we have tried has no flavor (the seeds are good though). Getting discouraged! Why garden? Healthier food…chemical free, non GMO
Flavor is a complex subject with multiple cures. In general flavor is enhanced by having mineral rich soil. Begin by adding a rock flour (it is ground so fine that it looks like flour) like Azomite. Some plants respond to manipulation, for example flavor (sweetness) is improved in tomatoes if you withhold water after they fruit. Give them just a little and they become sweeter.
I agree with Max. Sometimes it’s overwatering, but often it comes down to nutrition. Plants can still do a lot of things even when the soil isn’t great, but flavor isn’t one of them, especially when it comes to sweet flavors. I propose bringing in some good compost this year, and Max’s suggestion of rock flour/rock dust is a good one, and fertilizing at least monthly with a broad-spectrum organic liquid fertilizer such as ocean water or liquid seaweed, which will bring in many dozens of different nutrients.
Thanks for your message and video. The biggest challenge I have now is familiarizing myself with organic container (pots) gardening on a balcony (12ft. x 5ft.). I’ll have 14 herbs in two 3ft. long boxes on the railing. I don’t see any real challenges to growing them except providing them with the right liquid fertilizer at the right time. As with the tomatoes and peppers, I’ve decided to grow them in large 24″ pots to make sure the roots have enough space to really grow well. And will use LeafGro compost in them because all the (org.) potting soils I’ve looked into seem inferior.
Another big challenge will be watering the pots correctly and monitoring how well the plants can be hydrated by filling the 3-4″ tall saucers under the plants with water. I’m wondering whether I could add liquid fertilizer to that water to help the lower roots assimilate nutrients quicker once the plants become larger and start blooming. For the most part, I wish to apply the liquid fertilizers on the plants and the soil surface.
Why is gardening so important to me? To study the relationships between soils and plants (particularly regarding cultivars and herbs) and knowing the right nutrient balances and applications for them, esp. in consideration of “heavy feeders” like tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cukes etc.
Also important is observing and cultivating my relationships to plants, soils and their “living” (energetic) properties – how to improve my connections to, and awareness of, them. Knowing that all living things are connected to each other.
Thanks for letting me share, Hanson
I forgot to mention that I just simply enjoy growing healthy and good-tasting vegetables and to see plants thrive when using the right nutrition and understanding the proper conditions they need to grow in.
Hi Hanson, a few years ago, I put together a simple series of container gardening lessons ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-vegetable-gardening/organic-container-gardening/ ), just the basics. It sounds like you’re quite keen to do a thorough job with yours this year, so if you have any interest in adding to my lessons, whether throughout the season or at the end of the season, you’re welcome to do so. Doesn’t have to be video – written and photos are good. And no pressure at all – I just thought you might be into it. If so, whenever you have something to share, you can email me and I’ll add it, attributing it to you. Again, don’t feel obligated, just judging by your comments and emails, it seemed you’d be a good person to do it 🙂
I have plants growing indoors, as I live in an apartment complex. I plant them in good potting soil, water them very well. place them where they can get light, even have a small plant light. I have had potatoes in five gallon buckets, and garlic in pots. They grow the tops like crazy, all nice and green, very tall, then they just fall over and die. Why? Is it from too much water?
Could be water, but more likely is insufficient light. You may want to look into some dedicated plant lighting.
My home is in the panhandle of Florida and the soil is mostly sand. My biggest problem here has been finding good top soil to add to the sand. I have been purchasing bags of soil from HD, Lowe’s & Walmart. That can become very costly as your garden grows.
Ben, Why not try to find some nearby farmers who might let you take some manure from their animals; cow, horse, chickens, rabbits, etc, to amend your sandy soil. And do you save and compost food scraps? Have you used diluted fish emulsion ? Finally, you can try raising worms in large plastic containers. Their casings make wonderful compost to add to your soil. Good luck!
Ya, topsoil doesn’t do much to help sand. What you really need is compost. And yes, it’s still the same challenge – finding a good source of compost and not spending too much money. You may want to start making it yourself. Rake up all of your neighbors leaves in the fall and use them in your own compost. And actually, some of them can be used in compost, but most of them can be used as mulch on the gardens and just mowed onto the grass where it will gradually become part of the soil.
Make some liquid clay along with compost to amend your sandy soil. Desert Control.com does that in the desert regions where it is mostly sand.
My biggest problem this spring has been yellow lettuce and spinach. Just started using your products on a weekly basis. Hopping veggies will green up.
I garden for therapy/stress relief and for the healthy benefits I receive. Organic food tastes better!
Yes, my products should very much help with yellow greens!
My biggest gardening problem has been time management. First, adjusting my gardening calendar according to the intermonsoonal rains rather than the monsoons which have been failing for more than four years now. Thanks to your advice to mulch, I have been managing with less piped water (I live in a city) during the dry periods than I otherwise would have. Second, finding the time has been an additonal challenge. I love to garden because I like to look out on to a beautiful garden with lots of colourful flowers.
Thanks for sharing, Ramani.
For me it’s the crazy amount of weeds that completely take over my garden in the winter. Not sure how to remove prior to planting in spring other than pulling them up one by one.
Have you “Solarized” your beds? When spring temps begin to rise water your bed and cover it with clear Visqueen (polyethylene sheeting). Weight down the plastic to seal in the bed. When plants emerge because it is warm they have no oxygen. And some plants only emerge when photo activated so they sprout because of the light and suffer the same fate. Recycle the plastic for next year.
Just how long do you leave the plastic on / how so you know when to take up the plastic? Carol
I leave the plastic on for at least 2 weeks and longer if I have no immediate need to plant that particular bed.
Hi, I am from India. It is start of summer here now the temp is 27deg centigrade and slowly in 3 months it will climb to 45 deg centigrade. I try to do container gardening sind last one year , I have horticulture plants including Rose hibiscus and jasmine, tomato, chilly plant etc. I am facing challenge of yellowing of leaves and stunted growth and slow dying of plants. The leaves are not green enough, the plants appears struggling for survival . The yellowing of leaves are in old leaves mainly. Sometime after the plant has given off most of its leaves new leaf growth appears but it does not last ling enough. The PH is generally 7. The soil is mostly organic a mix of old manure 50% and some organic fertilisers and loose earth soil. The plants gets sunshine 3/4 hours daily .The water is borewell having higher salts I water once in a week or as required on moistre check. I sometime use epsom salt foliar spray as well as direct application. Used dolomitic lime once in 6 month with water. I cannot undergo extensive research on soil but it it bothers me to see the plants dying slowly. Can you help?
It’s hard to tell from here. When older leaves are yellowing that often means nitrogen or magnesium deficiency or sometimes a micronutrient deficiency, but it’s usually more complicated than that. It could also be too wet or too salty. 50% manure may be too much – I’d go more like 25%. 3-4 hours of sun is also not enough.
I think your water may be too salty and you may have drainage problems (soil stays too wet). Like Phil said, you may also have a (micro-) nutrient deficiency. Manure can also carry/promote diseases esp. when not well rotted/decomposed. Try using more compost.
Fungal diseases, clay alkaline soil, and Japanese Beetles. I fight these problems so hard, but its ongoing and discouraging.
John Dionne- My garden soil is getting old and tired. I need to bring in mature manure but I don’t want to use manure ten years old or not, as it bring in weeds and medications that I don’t want my plants exposed to, including diseases. So I’m thinking of a lot of peat moss as I have done in the past and compost that I have made. it’s quite potent so I have to lay it very thin. I don’t feel that’s enough peat moss. Another problem I have is that I will be leaving my garden alone for a week or two. so I’m thinking a lot of beat moss on top will do two things for me. It will lighten the soil, hold humidity longer and keep the weeds down. I have some raised beds that I need to rebuild so that they will hold more water. I failed in the last two years but I think I’m getting better at it. At 76 years old, I need to slow it down a bit so I’m sure if I’ll get it all done this year. I have found more perennial plants to put in this year. My cultivating space is getting smaller every year. Lots of winter onions growing and about 100 cloves of garlic ready to bounce out of the soil as soon as we get rid of the snow. Tomatoes, little garlic clones, sorrel, and pompous grass growing in my little greenhouse in my shop. By May they will be ready to go to the big greenhouse which i reroofed last fall. If the weather co-operates I should be in fine shape.
Hi. My main garden challenge here in Georgia ( I am from England ) is the weather . Heat, wind, rain, tornados, below freezing, too hot, too dry, too wet, fungus, ants, ……..
I garden because it is my space with nature. Each flower is a miracle. I love to cut blooms and have them in my house, I love the fragrances, . They are my babies.
Hi Maggie, weather is a challenge and it seems to be more so lately.
Hi John, peat moss often causes more harm than good. Once it dries out, it can be very hard to get wet again – I don’t think of it as being great at holding moisture. I would just stick with your compost and perhaps you can find some leaves this fall to use as mulch.
Tomatoes did not do well last season, as it was too hot (90 degrees for many days) but the fescue lawn did well. Like to know the secret to growing tomatoes. Blueberries provided a bumper harvest of sweetness. Persimmon tree died, don’t know why. Virginia Beach.
This is a follow-up to the biggest problem I submitted in 2017. In the summer of 2017 I had an infestation of voles in my garden that ate mostly everything I planted including the vegetable scraps I added to my compost pile. That fall I made a decision not compost during the winter because I live in northern Connecticut my compost pile freezes solid and makes it impossible to mix the vegetable scraps into it. That winter I checked the web for an organic solution to my vole problem with no success. When I started planting in the spring I planted only a few vegetables as a test to see if I would still have my vole problem. As the spring advanced I was surprise to see that nothing had been eaten and I hadn’t seen a single vole. I went ahead and planted my pole beans which the voles devoured 3 plantings of the previous season and not one plant was eaten. As the season progressed I realized my garden was vole free and came to the conclusion that the voles had been using the vegetable scraps I had been adding to my compost pile the previous winter as their main source of feed and without it they had picked up and left. This year I plan to go back to composting but will leave vegetable scraps out of the mix.
Thanks very much for sharing, Richard!
Where to plant my veggies so deer can’t get to & will get sun & water hose reaches.
My gardening days have ended when my wife died and I left the our home in Peterborough for a high rise apartment in London, Ontario, where I have relatives. Twenty years ago I had been gardening on a three-acre lot near Ilderton, north of London. Now my gardening is going to be limited to a few containers on my south-facing balcony. But I will try some small tomatoes, lettuce as well as flowers.
I’m sorry for your loss, Roger. Thank you for sharing. I’ve done some balcony gardening and found it quite enjoyable – even just a few plants.
I get a white powder on my squash plants , Live in MN , I just a sustainable healthy food source.
Mildew is one of the most common diseases I see, and often it doesn’t cause that much of a problem, but here are some tips: -Water. Powdery mildew thrives in warm, dry weather, so wetting the leaves can actually help. Downy mildew, on the other hand, likes it cool and wet. -Spacing. Most plants need airflow, and sometimes we plant them too close, which can create better conditions for disease. -Sunlight. Most veggies need a lot of sunlight or they get sick. -Nutrition. Too much nitrogen often leads to mildew. And there’s generally an associated deficiency of calcium and phosphorus, so applying 1 pound of calcitic lime and 1/2 pound of soft rock phosphate or fish bone meal per one hundred square feet can really help in the long term. Liquid calcium and phosphorus fertilizers sprayed directly on the plant can be helpful even faster. -Compost tea. Well-made, aerated compost tea can prevent and even suppress powdery mildew and many funguses. -And there are many homemade and purchased fungicides that can help: -1-2 Tbsp of baking soda (start with the low end) or baking powder per gallon of water. Even better is to mix it with an equal amount (1-2 Tbsp) of liquid dish soap. Potassium bicarbonate may work even better than baking soda or powder, if you happen to have that around. -Garlic. Crush 1 clove of garlic and blend it with 1 quart of water. Optionally add any or all of the following before you blend: 1 teaspoon of dish soap, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of chili powder or pepper flakes or 1 small hot pepper. Optionally let it sit for 24 hours before using. -Vinegar. 2 Tbsp of any kind of household veingar per gallon of water. -Milk. 1.5 cups per gallon of water. -Neem oil. 2 Tbsp per gallon of water. -Serenade. This product is a specific strain of the bacteria Bacillus subtilus, which helps suppress a lot of fungal diseases.
I have been using your advice for several years now, and am happy to report that I have very few problems! I have also, in those same years, added a plastic hoop house to my zone 3 garden which is a wonderful thing! Due to deer, hares and voles, I also put up a fence. My crops are healthier, tastier, and prettier since following your fertilization recommendations, especially the rock dust and foliar feeding. I gave away my tiller, and plant in compost spread over the top of my beds. My main problem is figuring out how to get more time in the garden! I work, and our children are producing fine crops of grandchildren, who live far enough away that it is a big deal to get to them. But great fun! Why do I garden? Gardening provides great medicine: organic food; exercise; vitamin D; fresh air; and joy! “Every minute outside is a good minute”!
Thanks for sharing, Stephanie!
Heavy clay soil, This is my fourth year with my raised bed. I’ve covered it each fall with six inches if shredded leaves and two to three inches of fresh home made compost every spring after turning in the leaf compost. Still the clay is just big globs that I can’t seem to loosen up. What am I doing wrong or not doing?
Sounds like you’ve added plenty of organic matter. The other side of the equation is the chemical balance. I would send a soil sample to a good, organic soil lab and they will tell you what you need. For example, if you have too much magnesium and potassium and not enough calcium, that clay soil will probably stay clumpy regardless of how much organic matter you add. On top of that, planting cover crops each fall may help to break up the clods, as will tilling or digging them in each spring. I’m on clay too and it has its downsides, but does hold a lot of nutrition for growing nutrient-dense foods.
My biggest problem for the last three years has been EARWIGS. Never had a problem with them in all my years of gardening until now. They shred everything green in the yard leaving only little lacy leaves and any new seedling are gone in a day. Not only garden plants but ground covers, perennials, etc. Have tried all the recommended remedies. DE, small saucer traps with oil and different kinds of attracting bait, nothing keeps them down. I have always planted marigolds to deter pests but now they eat them down to the ground. Eventually later in the early summer they stop somewhat and I can get some thing growing again. They don’t seem to like tomato seedling for some reason. Everyone in my area are having the same problem now. Sure would like to find something to get rid of them. The reason I have a garden is mostly to grow veggies we can eat without pesticides and preservatives in or on them. PS: I have lost my recipe you gave for using your products in planting potatoes. I still have most of them left and they worked so good would like to mix up your soil drench and between potato rows (potash, bood meal and bone meal) mix. Thanks for your products. Planted potatoes yesterday with your inoculate in the hole with them. If I get your reply on the between row amounts will get that done, weather permitting. Snowing today with a lot of rain expected next week. Glad the spuds are in the ground now. Mary Ann
I’m not sure where I had a potato-planting recipe. Any idea where I had that? I had an article on potatoes last year ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/heirloom/potato/ ), but not much detail on planting.
As for the earwigs, it sounds like you’re more an expert than I am at this point and yet nothing is working yet. It sounds frustrating!
Hi Phil, Glad to see you’re still smiling away! So, to answer your questions, I garden because I think what you can learn in a garden is inexhaustible, and it truly is magical to watch things spring out of the ground EVERY YEAR!!! Wow! The diversity of plants, edible, medicinal, beautiful or just fascinating is amazing! I love gardening, and it seems the only thing to do on this planet that makes sense, makes life worthwhile! On to the greatest challenge in the past year: I am moving and have been trying to dig new beds on my new property prior to living there. Basically I am dealing with a depleted hayfield–I have great hope in restoring. I have been trying to move my existing gardens that I have been tending for over a decade, but everywhere I dig and transplant, becomes consumed by sheep sorrel–I suppose I should just embrace the sheep sorrel, but I don’t want to! I have been reading Charles Walters’ ” Weeds, Control Without Poisons” over the winter (FASCINATING!!!), and learning about compost tea from you and soil scientist Elaine Ingham’s You Tube videos, and it seems getting the soil biology/microbiology intact (or, BACK intact) is going to be key. I wonder just what is the microbiology that my garden needs? Plant “feeding” is not at all what I had thought–in truth it seems more a process of continuous chemical reactions than an input of nutrients–though the nutrients need to be in place to allow this magical chemical process to perpetuate!
Sounds like you’re on the right track, Seedy, and that you’re figuring out both biology and chemistry are important – not just compost tea and not just fertilizers. Thanks for sharing!
I have weeds you cannot get rid of by pulling. They just break off at the root and regrow. They also send out runners to spread. I don’t want to poison them. What is my alternative?
I garden because I get better produce and because we need to know how to produce our food.
It depends on the weeds, but if they’re in your garden, a thick mulch can do wonders to control them. Max mentioned solarizing up in the comments above, which is a drastic but often effective technique. Last, in a garden, cover cropping can really help to control tough weeds like this if planted every fall for a few years.
My biggest challenge is keeping as much water as possible on my small property. I have two 200-liter tanks that fill up with rainwater from the roof. Once they’re full, the water runs off into the river down below. Ideally, I would like to guide the runoff water through my garden, so I don’t need to water as much.
I garden because I like to know where my food comes from and enjoy having a larger variety of vegetables than is available in my local grocery store (I live in a rural alpine village).
Thanks for sharing, Milena. Do you have room for more tanks? You can connect them all together.
My biggest challenge last year was bugs on my butterfly weed and milkweed plants. Hosing them off doesn’t get rid of them. I am looking for a non-toxic solution to prevent them from taking over the plants. I love to garden, have been doing it since childhood. There is something so satisfying about working the soil with one’s hands, as well as the thrill of watching things grow into food for the table, or ornamental flowers for the garden as well as the table.
Some ideas: -Garlic. Crush 1 clove of garlic and blend it with 1 quart of water. Optionally add any or all of the following before you blend: 1 teaspoon of dish soap, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of chili powder or pepper flakes or 1 small hot pepper. Optionally let it sit for 24 hours before using. This also won’t get rid of them, but may slow them down. -Insecticidal soaps and neem oil. Can work when the insects are young. -Herbs. Interplant other herbs in with your existing plants to attract a diverse group of predators.
My plants get the sun in the AM, and the light all day, and even a Plant light to stay on them. They thrive while growing in the Green stage, but after they get up about a foot or so, they just die.
First things that come to mind are something to do with water, pest/disease (perhaps in the soil), or nutrition. Sometimes it’s hard to know, so you have to experiment. I would try some new ones in some different soil and see how it goes.
Spider mites, aphids, moths and fungus gnats everywhere. Trying to figure out how to soil test for deficiencies and ph levels , without spending big bucks for sending to university of Delaware. We had had a horribly cold winter this year, with temps fluctuating temps of 30 degrees, on some occasions. Gardening does something for my soul, it hasn’t been too soulful as yet, but I am still hoping for that break where I have the correct soil, watering, and fertilizing schedule to bring that to fruition. I am totally obsessed with trying to reach that goal, I look at all plants daily and have done massive research. We live in the woods and those trees have shown many signs of insects, disease, fungus, so not sure if I’m fighting an endless battle.
There really aren’t any affordable home soil testing kits that work. There are some affordable labs like Logan Labs ($25), and then you can learn to interpret the results yourself with the help of the book ‘The Ideal Soil’.
Keep going! You’ll see improvements over time and your goals will gradually change to work with what you have on your property. That’s part of the fun 🙂
My biggest challenge as a container gardener is keeping the soil nutrient-rich! I had success last year using worm castings but it’s pricey. This year I’m going to add sea compost soil, some more coir. I might try to find some fish fertilizer too. Not sure about adding sheep manure too.
Great article and good timing as we are building more compost areas. Thanks so much. Madgie
Hi Phil I have enjoyed your blog and articles, and I have purchased a few of your products as well, my biggest problem has been weeds I purchased this place 2 years ago.it at one time had a good sized garden an a 26 tree apple orchard, a long time dream of mine, but by the time I got to the garden the first year the weeds were 2-3 foot tall and also some small trees had grown up in the garden as well. So my brother in law brought over his brush hog and knocked down most of the weeds. In the short time after that I had been watching Paul the guy with the wood chip garden and thought that would be the best route to help keep my weeds at bay. So a friend of mine was able to get me a couple loads of wood chips and a skid loader and I cleaned the rest of the garden up and put in the wood chips. I ended up planting later than normal and none of my plants did well at all. And I have 3 weeds that are a big pain thistle,mint and Houttuynia cordata,or fish mint, all have been relentless growers. So I put myself on a mission to try to eradicate these menaces with not much success. Replanted this year and bought probiotic seaweed menirals to try to help the plants but they are still not looking very healthy. I have not started my compost bins yet but I am planning to start a bin in the very ne’er future. Any help with the weed removal would be appreciated thanks, Allan
For those weeds, which are really difficult, you may have to commit to more involved measures such as solarization, but I also encourage you to pick up a copy for ‘Weeds – Control Without Poisons’ to learn more about how to make the soil conditions much less favorable for your specific seeds. If you can tweak the soil chemistry/biology/physics appropriately, those weeds will have a much harder time surviving.
I reticently purchased neem oil for a pest (potatoe beetle ?)on my tomatillo. Received the product however no instructions on how to best use it.
Would like information, soon!!
Hi Phil, I’ve enjoyed reading you articles. I stated reading Acres USA in the 80’s. The place I was working at had a little library of their material. Amendments were added to the land but they mostly did tissue tests during the growing season to correct immediate nutritional deficiencies. Have you had any experience with tissue tests? I’m interested in finding a way to do my own tests at home. Any comment? I’ve had CSI do several soil tests, both my land and my greenhouse. I’m longing to start working the land as soon as I fix my tractor. I mostly grow in the greenhouse. I’ve had CSI do the Lamotte test a couple of times. I do have a LaMotte colorimeter which I still need to learn its functions so that I can do my own LaMotte tests. I also have a big LaMotte testing kit from ebay which I probably have to upgrade some of the reagents. Do you have any experience with a colorimeter? I was studying the CSI test results and I have a question. On the CEC (and it says Mehlich 3 in parenthesis) my sulfur is low. I’ve added some sulfates like zinc and copper and elemental sulfur. Its still a little low. Do you know if plants can utilize the elemental sulfur from the sulfur burners that are used for mold control to give a boost during the growing season? Also, I’ve never paid that much attention to hydrogen which was 0 which I’ll have to research. Thanks again for your good info.
I haven’t gotten into tissue testing myself, although it can apparently be quite worthwhile. And I’ve actually never heard of a colorimeter. For your sulfur, I’m not sure about the sulfur burners (I wouldn’t be surprised if they have toxins of some kind in them, but perhaps not). You probably need to look at calcium sulfate (gypsum), magnesium sulfate (epsom salt) or potassium sulfate to increase your sulfur and hydrogen. Which of those fertilizers you choose will depend on which minerals are high on the CEC test. Michael Astera, who wrote ‘The Ideal Soil’, says “Alkaline soils can do fine with much higher levels of Calcium than are considered ideal for a more acid soil. 80 to 85% Calcium, 8 to 10% Magnesium, and 4 to 6% Potassium is a good cation balance for soils with pH > 7.2. One way of looking at this would be to say that the percent of Hydrogen+ that would be found in an acid soil would be replaced with the same percentage of Calcium in an alkaline soil.”
This summer, due to an overabundance of rain and crowded plants, my tomatoes developed what I think is mildew. The leaves started getting spots and then turned yellow & brown. I started pulling off leaves and then branches (throwing in the garbage). Now, the mildew has spread to my zucchini and other plants. My garden is as organic as I can make it. What can I do?
I’ve also read that the mildew can live through the winter. I had a little bit last year, but it seems worse this year. Each year, I have plants that grow volunteer–especially cherry tomatoes. Am I in danger of this destroying my garden next year? What can I do after this season is over to protect my garden? Thank you!
Here’s an (admittedly long) article that answers your question: https://www.smilinggardener.com/15/gardening-organically/
In short, some mildew is always going to be around – the question is, will your plants get it. If they’re healthy enough, they won’t get it, so rather than spending much time trying to kill the mildew, I would focus on improving soil and plant health. That includes using microbial inoculants such as effective microorganisms and organic fertilizers such as liquid seaweed or sea minerals (all of these can be combined and sprayed on plant leaves, which can sometimes help with mildew simply by improving plant health). On top of that, there’s good compost, proper watering, mulch, etc. The article above explains in more detail 🙂
Thank you for your reply. I still have so much to learn about gardening!