The Q&A Archives: Nothing Grows

Question: I have a house in Flushing, New York (approx. 7-10 miles east of New York City). Every year I plant a garden which consists mostly of Tomatoes, peppers, green beans, salad, eggplant, cucumbers and zucchini. I know this sounds like alot but I hardly getany fruit. My garden is only about 5 feet X 12 feet (some plants are in containers) but the real problem is that I get no sun and no matter how much i water (sprinkler), the ground seems to get hard. My garden is surrounded by my two story house, the garage and two gigantic Oak trees. I also have a grape vine at one end of the garden. Without cutting down the trees, is there anything I can do to make my yield better? Last year I planted Burpee salad seeds but nothing came up. It was one of my worstyears. What can be applied to the soil and what types of plants should I plant (my zucchini and eggplant although small did grow). Should I start from seed or just buy plants?<br>Also I seem not be able to grow grass. It looks more like moss. Could this be due to the fact that I have four huge Oak trees on my property or many azeleas (pardon my spelling), two small fruit trees and a Dogwood tree? What can I say, I am trying to have a plantation's worth of nature on my 50X100 lot (including house& garage).<br>Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Just an aside my hostas, impatients and many other flowers do grow so I can't be hopeless.<br>

Answer: You have diagnosed your own problem. It sounds like you don't have nearly enough sunlight to grow vegetables and your soil could use some work. The soil we can fix...the sunlight is another matter. Vegetables need full sun... no exceptions... to thrive. The plants you are growing successfully, (hostas, impatiens, azaleas) are shade lovers and they probably adore your property. Let's address a few of the specifics. Containers are good for you because you can move them around your property a bit searching for sun. Here is the big are your containers? Containers need to be pretty big to support most of the vegetables you are trying to grow. Pots should be at least 20" for one tomato (unless it is a cherry), or a pepper. Things like half whiskey barrels are even more suitable. Next, you could water the hard ground until kingdom come and it won't "soften" it a bit. What you need is an incorporation of some organic matter such as compost, leaf mould, or compostedcow manure...and lots of it. Now, I have to say again, you can have the best soil on the planet, start from huge plants, fertilize perfectly, but if you don't have adequate sun exposure you've got bupkis. If you want to have bumper crops of vegetables, or even a crop at all, you need to think about what to do with the shade. Same goes for the grass...there are grass mixes specifically suited for shade, you could reseed with one of those. I really try not to fight Mother Nature, if moss is growing well there and you aren't bothered by it, I would just leave it alone. On the upside, I could suggest many, many ornamental plants that will thrive in the shade if you are interested. I realize this wasn't the best news for you (sorry) if we can be of any help to you at all with either re-designing or perhaps going with some shade lovers please feel free to post another question at the website.

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