9 Gardening Challenges & Solutions You Might Face in 2021
There are a few common challenges that all of us gardeners face in our lives. Sometimes we learn our lesson the first time, and some of these challenges are out of our control, and we have to take them on as they come.
Here are 9 common gardening challenges. If you struggled with any of these in the last year, don’t let it discourage you from trying again. We’ve got simple solutions for all sorts of botanical blunders!
1) Planting Too Early
We totally get it. Come January 2, you’re itching to get your garden started. You’re ordering seeds, or you’ve already ordered seeds, and you just want to start them. Or you picked up some bedding plants on the first lovely weekend of the year. What can it hurt to begin planting early? As it turns out, quite a lot.
Planting too early can result in spindly plants because of too little light, they can be more prone to bolting, and you’ll also have to transplant them up in pot sizes more times, which means your house will be very crowded until it’s warm enough to start hardening plants off. Check our Seed Starting Guide for more info on when to start seeds.
If you put bedding plants out too early, they may not have the right temperatures they need to establish well, and they could turn in
2) Proper Plant Spacing
Spacing plants appropriately is one thing that many of us struggle with for our entire gardening lives. When we start planting our bedding plants in the garden, it seems like the recommended spacing is way too generous. “There’s no way they’ll get that big,” we think as we tuck them in 2-3 inches closer than they should be.
But they will get that big. And having plants too close together can cause lower yields at harvest time, require more watering, and make it easy for pests and disease to spread through the garden fast. If your plants were too crowded last year, take a ruler with you this year when you plant.
3) Buying Too Many Plants
This is another one many of us fall victim to each year. It’s easy to get carried away and just add a couple more of your favourite plants when you’re shopping, and it’s fun to spend time tucking them all into the perfect places when you get home.
But in a couple of weeks, the weeds are out of control, you don’t have time to water everything, and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Ideally, you should know the size of the space you’re going to plant and have a plan to determine what you want to grow. But that’s easier said than done.
If you got overwhelmed last year and had plants die or couldn’t get the weeds under control, keep this in mind when you go plant shopping this year. Start small. You can always come back to the garden centre to get more plants if you need them.
4) Managing the Weeds Before They Take Over
Weeds are the bane of gardeners’ existence. Getting them under control is challenging, and once they get too big, it can be overwhelming to tackle the problem.
There are three secrets to weed management:
- Start early
- Do small sections
- Be consistent
If you start early in the season, your weeds won’t have a chance to get established. The more regularly you weed, the more you’ll keep it under control. Don’t attempt to go out and weed the whole garden in a day. Pick one raised bed, or one row, or one type of plant, and weed for 5-10 minutes a day. You’ll be surprised how much weeding you can get done in 5 minutes.
5) Protecting Your Plants from Pests
It is so discouraging putting a bunch of effort into planting and caring for your garden, only to come out and find that pests have gotten into and destroyed your hard work. Again, this is something every gardener faces. While pests are sometimes unavoidable, attracting some of their natural predators to your yard, like birds, can help alleviate the problem. Keeping deer and bears out of your yard is also an important garden consideration.
If your garden got attacked by pests last year, whether it was aphids, slugs (turns out slugs like our coastal climate as much as we do!) or any other pest, spend some time researching the bugs you struggled with last year and have a plan for dealing with them this year.
Last but not least, check your plants frequently for pests, so you can catch an infestation early before it gets out of control.
6) Identifying and Treating Plant Diseases
It seems like there are just about as many plant diseases as there are plant pests. Some plant diseases, like powdery mildew, are more of an inconvenience than anything. And some diseases, like blossom end rot, are caused by care inconsistencies. Blossom end rot happens when plants are watered inconsistently. Don’t let them dry out too much, but don’t overwater them either.
Same as pests, if your plants had a disease last year, do some research this year to find out how to prevent the disease, and check your plants regularly for signs of disease. If you’re not sure what is affecting your plants, take some close-up photos of the problem, or cut off a leaf and seal it in a plastic bag (so it doesn’t infect anything else), and swing by Mother Nature. We can give you a hand identifying some of the common diseases and provide you with advice on how to deal with it.
7) Overwatering or Underwatering
Watering, too much or too little, is a balance that can be hard to achieve. It’s one of those gardening skills that takes practice. For our outdoor gardens, this can sometimes be difficult to control since we get quite a bit of rain in Powell River.
The best solution is to check your pots and gardens every two days during cool weather and every day during hot weather. Feel the soil with your hand. If it’s dry an inch down, you need to water. On hot days you may need to water potted plants every day. Early in the season, when your plants are still babies, it’s a good idea to check the soil every day since they’re much more susceptible to water stress.
If your garden gets oversaturated and your plants drown or rot, consider relocating your garden if possible. If that’s not possible, you’ll want to invest in some significant soil amendment and possibly install drainage trenches to keep your garden from flooding.
8) Soil Lacking Nutrients
In the short term, fertilize your plants consistently through the summer. Especially plants like tomatoes and peppers that need tons of nutrients. In the long term, amend your garden soil with compost, and consider following a crop rotation routine, so you’re not growing the same kind of plant in the same space and same soil every year.
9) Planting Location Matters
While we can’t control the amount of sun we get here in Powell River, we can do our best to plant our plants in an appropriate location for their lighting needs. Always check your plants’ labels or ask the staff at the garden centre, so you know how much light your plants will need.
Another thing you can do, which could be very helpful if you’re new to gardening, or if you’ve moved to a new home, is to create a sun map of your yard, which will give you a diagram of where your yard has full shade, part shade, and full sun, making it easy to plan your planting.
Whatever challenges your garden presents you, don’t forget you can always give us a call at 604-485-9878 or stop by the garden centre to ask questions. We’ll do our best to help you find a path to gardening success.