Reviewing the 2015 Vegetable Garden–What Went Wrong?

— Written By Carl Cantaluppi and last updated by

Reviewing the 2015 Vegetable Garden–What Went Wrong?

Any experienced gardener will tell you that it’s hard to grow

vegetables without something going wrong with the plants before

the season ends. Is it possible for the gardener to prevent some of these plant-growing difficulties from occurring in the first place? Would the situation improve if the gardener did the right thing at the right time during the growing season? The answer is yes to both of the above questions.

In some instances, it helps if the gardener understands what has gone wrong in the growing of a particular crop in order to avoid making the same mistakes again next year. The following is a brief discussion of some common problems along with recommendations for preventing them in the future:

  1. Seedlings dying shortly after emergence – This is most likely to occur with beans, peas, vine crops, and sweet corn. The presence of soil-borne fungi along with planting in cold, wet soils are the main causes of seedling death. The situation usually can be avoided by planting fungicide-treated seeds in warm soil.
  2. Broccoli flowering before heads mature – This is likely to

occur if the plants have been stunted by poor growing conditions. This same flowering problem will show up if the plants are set out too early in the spring, especially if temperatures remain near freezing for several days. However, broccoli does need cool weather for best head formation.

  1. Cabbage heads splitting – This condition is more prone in

certain varieties. However, heavy rains after the heads are almost mature will often cause splitting. Twisting or pulling the cabbage head to break some of the roots will cut down on the amount of water the cabbage absorbs – the result is less splitting.

  1. Corn ears not properly filled – Poor pollination due to hot, dry weather is likely the cause. Since corn is pollinated by wind, it is advisable to plant corn in blocks of 3 to 4 rows rather than one long row. Too much nitrogen in the soil, low potassium levels, as well as insects feeding on the silks, may contribute to the problem.
  2. Bitter cucumbers – Older plants, low fertility, drought conditions, and high temperatures contribute to bitterness in cucumbers. Maintaining adequate moisture, mulching soil, and proper fertilization will delay or possibly prevent the bitterness. Most of the bitterness can be removed by peeling off a thicker portion of the skin during preparation.
  3. Cantaloupes with poor flavor – The poor taste in cantaloupes is caused by too much water during the last week of vine growth. Try to avoid watering the plants just before harvest. There is nothing that can be done about excessive rainfall during this critical period. Contrary to popular belief, poor flavor in cantaloupes is not caused by cross pollination with cucumbers, as this is not genetically possible.
  4. Poor fruit set of vine crops – Poor pollination is the problem. Squash, cucumbers, and other vine crops produce both male and female flowers. It is normal for vine crops to produce 10 or more male flowers before female flowers are formed. Female flowers produce the fruit. Fruit set will usually start once the female flowers develop. Bees are needed to transfer the pollen from male to female flowers. Remember, flowers of vine crops are only open one day for pollination.
  1. Tomatoes flower without setting fruit – Temperature fluctuations-too high or too low – will prevent fruit from forming. Generally, night temperatures below 60 degrees and day temperatures above 90 degrees will keep the tomato plants from setting fruit.

Remember, the perfectly healthy garden is going to be hard to achieve. But learning a little from past mistakes can only lead to a bigger harvest in the future.