Around this time of summer, many gardeners are asking themselves why some or another garden plant is not producing. Now is a good time to make some observations and notes if this has been a problem for you. Here is a check list of things to consider:
- Did you check the length of time until production of edible parts? Even among the “same” plant, this can vary widely. Not all varieties have the same chance of success in shorter warm seasons.
- Did you plant too late in the season? Harking back to the first item in the check list, plants have inner timers of sorts. It just takes them a certain amount of time to mature. You can’t plant your tomatoes in late June and get red ones at the same time as if you had planted them in late May. Some of limitations of the weather can be overcome by protecting young plants from a frost
- Are you really aware of how much sunlight the plants are getting? Even though there are more daylight hours on average during the summer months, other plants may have grown, including trees, that are blocking more light than your realized. Don’t forget to consider fence shadows and what is growing in the neighbor’s yard.
- Does the particular plant have much of a chance in the climate you live in? Some plants need more or less humidity, for example, that no amount of watering can make up for.
- Is your soil pH suitable for a given plant? You can do some amending, but it is very hard to change the pH of soil in just a select area. The rain or the surrounding soil tend to adjust it back to average for you. If you have sectioned off raised beds, it can help some, but overall it is an uphill battle.
- Did you over fertilize? If some plants are too well nourished, they put more energy into foliage production instead of fruit bearing.
- Are you over watering? This can be similar to over fertilizing, in that the plant is too comfortable to have to worry about forming seed; or it can be the opposite problem where the plant is actually being semi-drowned and stressed so that it cannot produce well.
- Are you under watering? Plants that are struggling for survival may just give up, or at best produce stunted pickings.
- Do you have insects or other pests that you don’t know about? Some raiders are stealth eaters. You might think nothing is growing because they are getting there first. After all, they really have nothing better to do than watch and see when things are just right for eating.
- Do you have insects that you do know about, but aren’t aware how they may be affecting production? For instance, aphids on broccoli disturb flower head production because of the stress to the plant, even though it doesn’t necessarily look like they are doing anything that would cause that.
- Do you have digging pets or animal residents? Cats are notorious for using loose garden soil as their litter boxes and they don’t care if they are your cats or not. Rabbits dig amazing holes for burrows. This kind of activity can have plants keeling over or always working on building a new root system. That is a full time job. No time to set fruit.
- Are weeds or neighboring garden plants choking out your plants? If the plants are fighting for what they need from the soil and sun that is bad enough, but plants also respond to feeling other plants. If they feel another plant before they are well established, they grow in a weak, lanky way and don’t set much fruit or grow edible parts.
- Do you know what your children or grandchildren are doing in the garden? I have a policy of my kids being allowed to snack on whatever they find in the garden, but if you don’t know this is going on it could be frustrating. You might also check that younger children are not being otherwise creative with the fun balls, missiles, and rope making supplies that are growing right out there in the yard!
- Are the neighbors communists? That is, do they feel free to help themselves to your produce if it is close to a fence line or they have easy access somehow? People get funny ideas about what should be free….
There are things out of our control, like soggy springs or damaging winds. When those kinds of things happen, we just have to grit our teeth and try again next time. But there is no need to be disappointed with your harvest when it can be adjusted to work well.