Dying Plants - Knowledgebase Question

Ontario, Ca
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Question by leemery
July 10, 2010
This year I fixed an above ground garden to get granddaughter interested in gardening. I used native soil mixed with Scott's Garden Soil. Occasional Miracle Grow treatment.Started everything from plants rather than seed. Cucumbers, zucchini, tomato plants are all croaking for some reason. I know the Home Depot plants are always healthy but I'm stumped. Would appreciate any help. Larry Emery

Answer from NGA
July 10, 2010
I can't really diagnose the problems without seeing the plants so I can only offer some educated guesses. The soil sounds just fine for vegetable growing. Raised beds should be at least 18" deep so the roots of your plants have ample room to stretch out and find moisture and nutrients. If plants are overcrowded they will compete for nutrients and moisture but they can also be more susceptible to disease problems if air circulation is poor. Sadly, both tomatoes and summer squash plants can develop wilt diseases which can kill them rather quickly. Both early blight and late blight can cause tomato plants to keel over within a few days; cucumbers and zucchini can also attract vine borers. These pesky beetles bore holes into the stems and the stems can wilt and die in a day or two. Look for sawdust on the soil surface or oozing sap near the base of the plant.

In general, veggies need about an inch of water per week, applied slowly so it has a chance to thoroughly wet the root mass. The soil needs to dry out slightly between waterings, though. If it is kept too wet the soil will not have enough oxygen to support the roots and the roots will suffocate. This, too, can cause collapse of the plants.

To get to the bottom of this, pull the plants out and carefully inspect them for signs of insect or disease problems and inspect the roots for signs of rot. If the roots are mushy or foul smelling or if the insides of the roots are brown, black or rusty colored, a disease is at work.

I know I didn't really diagnose the problem but perhaps these observations will be helpful. Put on your detective cap and see if you can determine just what might have devastated your plants. I hope you figure it out so you can avoid the same problem with your next garden.

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