If your vegetable garden failed this year, don’t despair. Oftentimes, you can easily fix it next year!
As your vegetable garden winds down, it’s the perfect time to reflect and determine what went well AND what went wrong. Some years, you may stand back, wondering what your garden failed and what you did wrong.
Is it even worth trying again next year?
In my eyes, it’s ALWAYS worth trying again. Gardening is more than a skill; it’s a science and requires learning and practice. Getting the garden of your dreams often won’t happen within the first few years. It takes years of learning and applying what you learned.
If your garden failed (or even parts of the garden failed), your first job is determining the why (or whys). Nearly everything can be remedied, so don’t give up. You got this!
7 Reasons Your Garden Failed
1. Wrong Placement: Your Plants Lacked Sun
I made a placement mistake this year, and, as a result, I grew a singular zucchini.
Zucchini usually overwhelm me, but I placed them too close to my mulberry tree, blocking most of the sunlight. As a result, my plants failed.
Vegetable plants will typically not suffer from too much sunlight unless it leads to excessive summer heat. Some spring crops may require shade cloth in the afternoon. The plants will fail to grow if they lack enough sunlight.
Take a look at your garden placement and surrounding trees and buildings. They may cast a shadow over your garden. If so, you must move your garden or the plants that received the shade.
Keep in mind that some plants grow well with shade, so moving the plants around may ensure they get the sunlight they need.
2. Your Soil Lacks Nutrients
The next probable reason your garden failed is that the soil lacks nutrients. Soil is the foundation for your garden, and a weak foundation leads to failure.
Soil requires a variety of nutrients, but the three main components are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, often called NPK. All these nutrients play vital roles in your plants’ growth, but other soil micronutrients play roles as well.
Here are some tips for preparing your soil for the next gardening season.
- Use a soil test before fertilizing to determine what your soil lacks. Fertilizing won’t help unless you know what it needs; too much leads to problems.
- Add compost in the fall and spring. Rarely will you add too much compost. I like to put a layer over my soil in the fall after the gardening season and a fresh layer in the spring.
- Avoid over-tilling your garden. Tilling helps to get rid of weeds, but it also exposes microbes in your soil to the sun, killing them.
3. Weather and Mother Nature Wasn’t on Your Side
Sometimes, the weather works against you, which is a frustrating growing season. Combating the problems varies based on the problems Mother Nature throws at you. Sometimes, you must accept the losing hand and wait until next year.
Here are some suggestions.
- Mulch around the base of your plants. Mulch helps to keep the soil moist during periods without rain and regulates the soil temperature.
- Use a drip irrigation system and water regularly when temperatures are high.
- Use strong tomato cages or cattle panels to avoid plants toppling due to winds.
- Install shade cloth to give plants a break during high-temperature spans.
4. Watering Incorrectly
Everyone knows water is necessary for plant growth, but watering incorrectly damages plants.
Most plants require one to two inches of water per week, but be sure to research each plant’s requirements when planting. If you fail to deliver the correct amount of water, the plant will begin to wilt and die. Water helps deliver nutrients from the soil throughout the rest of the plant.
On the other hand, too much water is a problem, so periods of too much rain lead to gardening problems. Excessive watering leads to waterlogged roots that block oxygen from reaching the plant. Roots may start to rot in the water-filled soil.
Here are some tips.
- Install some rain gauges in your garden. Rain counts towards needed water!
- Mulch around your plants because mulch stops soil from splashing onto the plants, spreading diseases to your plants.
- Have a watering schedule and adjust it based on the rain. Watering daily is not always needed unless you have a period of excessive heat.
- Check the soil by putting your finger into the soil. If it’s dry two inches down, it’s time to water.
5. Pests and Diseases Took Over
The next reason your garden failed is pests or diseases took over. Pests and diseases take gorgeous gardens and destroy them. So, it’s important to use preventative measures before you have problems.
Here are a few suggestions to try next year to avoid pests and diseases:
- Start by planting pest or disease-resistant varieties.
- Rotate plants each year. Not all pests or diseases affect all plants, and rotating helps prevent pests from hanging out in one area of your garden every year.
- Use trap crops planted near your vegetable plants. Trap crops attract pests away from your desired plants.
- Use garden netting installed over your plants to prevent certain pests, such as cabbage worms, from reaching your crops.
- Mulch around the base of your plants. Many diseases spread from the soil to the plant when the dirt splashes onto your plant during watering.
- Avoid overcrowding plants. Plants need air circulation to avoid ample humidity around their plants. Too much humidity leads to diseases.
6. You Grew the Wrong Varieties
Not everyone realizes not all plants grow the same way in the same area. Some plants grow better in different growing zones.
If you grow plants that aren’t meant for your growing zone, they won’t thrive. Always be sure to check that the plants you grow will thrive in your garden. This is an unfortunate accident, but it is easy to fix!
If you buy plants, make sure you buy from a local-to-you garden nursery. They’ll know what grows best in your region.
7. You’re Doing Too Much
It’s pretty easy to become excited when you are a new gardener and create a massive garden – beyond your scope. If we keep in mind that gardening is a skill and a learned science, it goes to reason that doing too much will lead to failure.
Start with a small garden and gradually grow it. A larger garden requires more maintenance (and even experienced gardeners may struggle for certain years), and you must understand what you are doing.
If this sounds like you, cut back on the size next year. You may have lofty dreams to grow all of your veggies for a year, and you CAN get this. However, you won’t get there overnight.
- Start with a staple of 5-6 crops you WILL eat. Now isn’t the time to grow eggplants you have never tasted in your life.
- Plant a reasonable amount of each. No, that doesn’t mean planting 50 tomato plants.
- Spend that year recording what you did and what worked (or what didn’t work). Then, use that knowledge to reflect and grow.
- Each year, add and grow a little more.
Your garden may have failed this year, but that doesn’t mean it has to next year. Take time to reflect and decide what went wrong. Then, fix it!
Got questions? Drop them in the comments!