People who are unfamiliar with growing plants normally experience one or more of the problems we will be covering today. This is a very simple guide for beginning gardeners to give them the opportunity to develop a “green thumb.” Seasoned gardeners have all experienced these problems with their plants at one time or another, and they are the ones from which much of this information was gleaned. With that in mind, if you know someone who always has a garden, or who always has potted plants when they are in season, you would be wise to befriend them and learn from them.
Plants, like all living creatures, require optimum conditions to survive, thrive, and become productive. If any of the conditions are not met, or become seriously altered, the plants will react by exhibiting “symptoms.” You must first learn to identify these symptoms before you can determine a proper method of treating them and returning them to as near perfect conditions as possible.
Too much sunlight, or not enough, can have a major impact on various forms of plant life. Some plants thrive in open spaces with ample direct sunlight throughout the day, whereas others thrive in semi-shady conditions, and yet others prefer to grow in areas shadowed in shade throughout the day. The same can be said of plants and their water requirements. Some plants require water on a daily basis, others require water a couple times a week, and yet others require very little water and can survive for months on a single healthy watering. Insects can be either beneficial, or entirely destructive, depending on the plants being grown and the environmental conditions they are grown in. Over-and-under fertilization can also have a role in the success or failure of a plant/garden.
If the leaves of the plant begin turning yellow, or appear wilted, this is a sign of either over-or-under watering. To determine which problem you are having, and cannot tell by looking at the soil, then stick your finger into the soil near the plant to a depth of the first knuckle and pull it out. If the finger has solid dirt adhering to it, then the soil is still moist, and could indicate overwatering. If, on the other hand, the finger does not have soil sticking to it, or is dry and dusty, then the problem is under-watering. To correct over-watering, re-pot the plant in soil that incorporates better drainage, then reduce the watering schedule and monitor. To correct under-watering, simply increase the watering schedule. For example, if you are currently watering once a week, up it to 2 days a week; monitor and modify as necessary.
Insect infestation is pretty obvious to spot, but normally it’s only after they have caused damage. If you notice insects crawling along your plants, you should consider researching what they are and finding out if they are healthy for the plants you are growing; most are not, but a few are. If you decide to correct the problem, the best recommendation is to use a non-toxic, homemade insect repellant; perhaps a DIY recipe with essential oils.
If the leaves and stems of the plant appear green, yet the plant itself almost looks lethargic, then there’s a good chance it is not receiving enough sun; move it into an area with better daylight. If the leaves of the plant are beginning to turn yellow, or brown, then there is a chance the plant is getting too much sun; move it into a shady/semi-shady area and monitor. Be wary here, yellow and brown leaves can also be an indication of toxic burn from over-fertilization, so you may need to do some homework to find out what is going on.
Over fertilization can sometimes be identified by a rust color appearing on the surface of the soil, or on the additional contents of the soil mixture; if it has perlite in it, the white surface will show signs of orange/rust. This normally indicates the fertilizer is not being diluted enough; take corrective action by re-addressing the directions on the fertilizer combined with the recommended dosage for the type of plant(s) you are growing. Under fertilization is often difficult to detect, simply because most plants will thrive and remain healthy as long as they have good soil, proper light, and adequate amounts of water, with or without fertilizer. Research the plant(s) you are growing, or speak with a professional gardener at a local nursery, for more specific information on fertilizers and recommended dosages.