The Q&A Archives: Wilting leaves in Veg garden

Question: I recently planted a garden consisting of zuchinni, pumpkins (both is raised mounds), tomatoes, a tomatillo plant, red & green peppers, lettuce, cucumber, and a few herbs. All plants, in the last 4 days or so, are looking simply 'tired'...that is, their leaves are wilting on all heights of the plants and are curling as well. The garden location gets full sun all day and I think it drains well. We dug several bags of composte into the soil before planting and used root stimulator in the holes before placing the plants in. There is a large pine tree to the right of the garden, and a friend of mine suggested that the debris from that tree might be throwing off the soil make up. Could this be true or could it be something else? We water every other day right now with a hand held hose. Should I consider some different nutrients for the soil, a different method/frequency for watering, or both..or something else completely. Thanks so much for your help.

Answer: It sounds as though you've been trying to analyze all the angles... First, since you amended the soil with organic matter prior to planting, your soil should be perfect for your veggies. It will drain well and have lots of nutrients for the roots to soak up. As for the close proximity to a pine tree, I don't think that will affect your plants. Pines drop needles which, when they decompose, can acidify the soil but not to the extent that veggies will be affected. I think the real answer is simply the heat of the sun. All the veggies you've listed, with the exception of lettuce, will thrive in full sunshine providing they received adequate water. The wilting of the leaves in the hot afternoon sun is simply the plants' way of keeping cool by conserving moisture. As long as the leaves recover overnight, the plants should be fine. Your watering method may be responsible for additional wilting - hand watering every other day will only get the top inch or two of soil wet. Since the roots of your plants are much deeper, you'll need to deeply soak the entire garden once or twice a week in order to supply enough moisture to the plant roots. Either set a sprinkler up in the garden or dig some trenches that you can flood, or build watering basins beneath each and every plant. Whatever your approach, you'll want to provide at least one-inch of soil per week to your tomatoes and even more than that for your summer and winter squash.

Here's how you can tell how deep the water is penetrating - water as you normally would with your hand held hose. Next morning, dig down into the soil to see how deep the water is going. Next time it needs to be watered, use a sprinkler and allow it to run for 15-20 minutes. Next morning, dig down to see how deeply the water has penetrated. I think you'll be amazed.

So, bottom line - water deeply once each week (more in really hot weather) and see if that doesn't make a huge difference in how your plants endure the afternoon sunshine.

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