Common issues with plants in your garden

Garden issues do not discriminate and some common issues with plants in your garden will come up. The most important thing to remember when growing plants is that they are living beings, and will react to their environment. Even veteran gardeners find themselves frustrated with yellowing leaves, seeds that refuse to sprout or slow growing plants at one time or another. When these common issues with your plants begin to arise in the garden, take notes on the look of the plant and the soil. It is important to check the leaves, stem, blossoms, and fruit to get a clear idea of the problem and the cause, so then it is easier to map out a solution.

The environment, pests or disease (fungal, bacterial or viral) are a few likely causes of common issues with plants in your garden – all of which are out of our control. Yes, some of these situations are more difficult to combat than others, but the key is to stick with it.

Here are a few common issues, possible causes and solutions:

Weeds

“Garden plants are the biggest source of weeds in this country totaling 70% of Australia’s combined agricultural, noxious and natural ecosystem weeds”. (CSIRO 2005 Report ‘Jumping the Garden Fence’).

Weeds are the most common issues in the garden. They create a chore that needs to be attended to in order to keep our ornamental plants healthy and to make the garden more attractive.

First, keep in mind that a weed is just a plant out of place. Weeds are a perennial garden problem. Just like other plants, weeds thrive in the sun and rain of summer.  Even good plants are deemed weeds if they’re unwanted in your garden. If a mystery plant fits any or all of these descriptions, you may have a weed on your hands:

  • It’s multiplied considerably since last year.

• It’s sprouted up throughout the bed and surrounding lawn.

• It has been in the garden for a few years, never seems to bloom and has unimpressive foliage. (But remember: Perennials and biennials do not bloom in the first summer, and some plants need a few years to establish and flower.)

• You don’t like it. Once you decide a plant must go, keep the aggressive ones out of your compost pile or they will return. Dispose of them as recommended by your municipality. If it’s just a matter of taste, find a gardener willing to take an ugly duckling off your hands.

However, what is a weed to one person is sometimes a boon for others.  Some examples are dandelion and nettles.

Prevention is always better than a cure, so check out local weed lists (usually available form your local council office) and don’t plant them in your garden.  If they are already there, apply a deep layer of mulch in spring to foil their efforts, and when weeds do sprout, eliminate them early by pulling them up, scalding them, or spraying them with herbicide.

Water

The most common killer for plants is watering. Both over watered and under watered plants will show signs of stress if you are not watering properly.

Lack of water:

Is a major summer stress for a garden. Under-watered plants will also wilt because there is not enough water to create pressure within the cell that allows it to keep its shape. This pressure is known as turgor pressure. Under-watered plants leaves will turn yellow and then brown, and will feel dry and crispy to touch.

If your plant is not too crisped, you may be able to revive it. Move the plant into a shaded location until it has recovered, then place back in its home. Increase humidity to get moisture back into the leaves as soon as possible. Mist it thought the day to help with its recovery. Water the plant thoroughly, and make sure the soil has absorbed water. Dry soil will repel water, so you may need to water a few times before the plant can rehydrate, if your pot has drainage. If the weight is not changing then the soil is not absorbing the water. If the water comes rushing out of the pot immediately, then the soil is not soaking any of it up. Wait 5 minutes, then water again. Repeat until the soil is moist.

Using lukewarm water also helps encourage the soil, careful the water is not hot though or you may burn the roots. If your pot does not have drainage, start by adding a little bit of water at a time (amount to start with is determined by the size of your pot). Let the pot sit for 5 minutes to absorb the water, and check the soil. Continue adding water until the soil is moist.

Regularly amend your soil with compost to boost the performance and overall health of plants to make them more resilient. Mulch your garden to help retain moisture, and practice efficient watering techniques. To minimize evaporation, use drip hoses with timers, and water the base of your plants early in the morning. 

Over Watering:

Heavy rains and too much watering can be just as destructive to a garden as drought. Excess water leaches nitrogen out of the soil, leaving plants yellowing and starved for nutrients. You can’t stop the rain, but you can create the best drainage possible for your plants, and, of course, don’t make matters worse by overwatering. Over watered plants wilt when the plant absorbs more water than it’s cells require, causing the cell walls to burst. Leaves will often have blister like ruptures on the undersides of leaves. The leaves will feel soggy, and will often turn brown. Under the soil, the roots have drowned and started rotting. Rotten roots are black or dark brown, squishy, and break easily.

You may be able to save the plant if you catch the symptoms early. Gently cut away the dead roots, and repot the plant with new soil. Keep the plant in a bright but shaded area, and only begin to re-water the plant when the soil is dry enough to do so according to that plants care conditions (see below for more on when to water).

To prevent overwatering use a pot with drainage, always remove standing water, and plant plants in pots that are appropriate to the plants size. More soil will hold more water, and a small plant in a big pot will drown before all the soil has dried. If you know you are an over water-er, choose a potting soil that has contains a medium to help with drainage, such as sand or perlite.

Black Spot on Leaves

Common issues with plants

Black spot is caused by a fungal disease that occurs in warm, wet weather and affects leaves of different plants in all regions. Leaves develop black spots on the upper side, turn yellow, and fall off. To combat black spot, be sure to plant disease-resistant varieties, in locations that receive plenty of sunshine and air circulation, and don’t overwater.

Remove all infected plants and their leaves, stems, etc. from the garden and garden area. Remove all unwanted insects and weeds. This could also be caused by fertilizer or chemical burn. Fertilizer burn however does not occur in a garden that uses organic fertilizer. If you are using synthetic fertilizer, though, follow the instructions on the bag.

Powdery Mildew

Common issues with plants

Powdery mildew especially is a common issue with plants like squash, melons, and cucumbers. Over time, it blocks sunlight, causing foliage to turn yellow and, in severe cases, drop off. Fortunately, this disease doesn’t usually kill healthy plants, though it does affect appearance and reduce vegetable productivity. If this disease is an annual problem in your garden, it may be time to take action.

Pick off affected leaves and spray with a fungicide or a mixture of milk and water.  Plant something a bit shorter in front of the susceptible specimen. The shorter plant masks the unsightly mildewed leaves but allows you to enjoy the blossoms. If you want to take a more aggressive course of action, organic products are available. Do a thorough cleanup and discard infected leaves in fall to reduce the source of disease next year. Stop powdery mildew before it starts by choosing mildew-resistant varieties whenever possible. Give plants plenty of room and sunlight; sufficient light and airflow reduce the risk of the disease.

Aphids

Common issues with plants

The aphid is a tiny but prolific insect that attacks in colonies, feeding on the juices in plant stems, leaves, buds, flowers, and fruit. Aphids end up in just about every garden in all zones.

Combat them by spraying them off the leaves with water, spraying plants with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or attracting beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to your garden.

Aphids can also spread viruses and be a catalyst for common issues with plants in your garden. Remove any plant that seems to have a virus.

Blossom-End Rot

Common issues with plants

Blossom-end rot affects many vegetables, particularly tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplant. The disorder is characterized by a dark, rotting spot at the blossom end of the fruit, and it’s most often caused by a calcium deficiency. 

Check the soil for compaction. The plants may not be getting sufficient nutrients and water if this is the case. Add compost!

The plant may have a root injury caused by being planted too deep. This may not be curable at the moment, but be sure to plant at a proper depth next time.

Has the weather been wet lately and then suddenly very dry? If this is the case, mulch to even out the soil and be sure to water evenly.

What Concerns do you have with your garden?

Is it a weed or a flower?

Weeds are the most common issues in the garden. They create a chore that needs to be attended to in order to keep our ornamental plants healthy and to make the garden more attractive.

What’s wrong with my plant?

Common issues with plants in your garden come up because we cannot control the environment, so do not be discouraged. It is important to keep a close eye on seeds, plants, and fruits in order to catch and resolve issues as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Again, common issues with plants in your garden are expected. This is because we cannot control the environment, so do not be discouraged. It is important that gardeners keep a close eye on seeds, plants, and fruits in order to catch and resolve issues as soon as possible. 

Whether you’re a lawn care novice or a master gardener, everyone can use a little help around the yard. Follow our blogs for continuous tips, recommendations, and problem-solving tools that can help you tame your great outdoors.