The Q&A Archives: Garden Doing Poorly This Year, Always Great In The Past

Question: I've been renting the same plot in the local public garden for 5 years now. The first year I had just an average garden, with average yields. The soil is clay, so I started adding what came from the bottom of my parakeet's cage and my 3 rabbits' cages, plus whatever kitchen scraps and wilted houseplant leaves, etc. The second, third, and fourth years I had outstanding gardens with outstanding yields. I put a lot of plants into the garden, and got a LOT of food out, much more than I (and my bunnies) could eat. This year, I started (as usual) putting the contents of the slop bucket into the soil as soon as the frost was out again. I started planting the cool weather crops in mid April, when the Park District finished plowing. And I continued putting plants and seeds into the ground until late May. I rotated where I planted the various crops; if I put the beans on the West end one year, I'll put them in the middle another year, and at the East end another. The same with all the other crops -- carrots, beets, parsnips, turnips, swiss chard, kohl rabi, red and green cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale; red, yellow, and cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, peas; green, yellow, and purple bush beans, watermelon, cantelope, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow, butternut, and acorn squash, lettuces, strawberries, and several herbs. But this year, the whole garden is doing poorly. The only thing really doing well is the chard. Lettuces, beets,and purple beans are doing OK. The tomatoes and peppers look healthy, but haven't produced any fruit yet, just a few green ones. Anything from the cabbage family is having a really bad time -- most of the plants have died, and the few that are still alive are staying small like they came out of the pots.

Answer: You have me stumped. It sounds like you are following good gardening practices, rotating the crops and feeding the soil and you have had good results before so we can pretty much rule out the most obvious problems. Assuming you have done "nothing different" (new source for transplants?), and the Park District did "nothing different" (did they lime last fall?), and your neighboring gardeners did "nothing different" (spray overdrift or volatilization on a hot day?) then it would need to be caused by either the weather or the soil ( a new mulch or a drift in pH over time or a new bedding used for the bunnies?) or possibly a change in watering (such as equipment or source?) or .... To begin trouble shooting I would look for any changes similar to those I've noted, then look to the soil. You might consult with your county extension and run some soil tests to see if anything unusual shows up and also to see if they have any possible explanations. I'm sorry about your garden!

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by mcash70 and is called "Moss on a log"