My great-aunt Ann Gray always knew the name of every single plant on our land growing up. She also had the world’s greenest thumb. She always knew how to solve any problems in the garden and was always at war with the deer who would eat her beloved hostas. Today I thought I’d share some of the knowledge she imparted onto me, with you all, and teach you about some Common Outdoor Planting Hurdles and How to Overcome Them. Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything in the comments or by tagging me on Instagram @GeorgiaPellegrini.
Common Outdoor Planting Hurdles and How to Overcome Them:
Problem: Your site has too much sun.
Solution: Choose heat-loving or drought-tolerant plants, and use them as a barrier for more sensitive plants.
Problem: Your site doesn’t have enough sun.
Solution: Set mirrors or the shiny side of aluminum foil on the side of your plant that gets the least sun to bounce light back onto it. Choose plants that prefer shade—and start a mushroom garden while you are at it.
Problem: You live in a very cold climate with few warm months.
Solution: Start seedlings indoors in some nifty homemade growing containers (see page 000) well before the last frost. Choose varieties that have a short growing cycle and that do well with colder weather. Choose your growing place carefully, and make sure it has as much light as possible.
Problem: Your soil doesn’t seem to be rich and healthy.
Solution: That is what raised beds and containers are for: You can choose what soil you put in them. And in the meantime, you can work to improve your soil with compost, manure, and nutrients. You can also try to lower the pH of your soil by adding sulfur, or raise the soil’s alkalinity by adding lime. See page 000 for instructions on how to make a raised bed.
Problem: The nearest water source is far away.
Solution: Position a barrel nearby to catch rainwater. Also choose drought-resistant plants, and a combination of plants that all require about the same amount of water. You can also layer newspapers and straw on top of the soil to help keep it from drying out.
Problem: Your soil doesn’t seem to have very good drainage. It is dense and heavy.
Solution: Go for the raised beds and containers for your planting. Also, begin to incorporate sand into your soil; and if you plant in the ground, opt for plants that like a lot of moisture.
Problem: It is windy in your area.
Solution: Group your plants together to create a united front. Use a wall of hardy plants to screen the more tender ones. A trellis will also work. Choose wind-resistant plants, like those with flexible stems, which can bend and sway without breaking.
Problem: You are very tight on growing space.
Solution: Practice succession planting, grow climbers on a trellis or vertically in containers, find a community garden space, or—my personal favorite—help an elderly person manage his or her garden in exchange for sharing the fruits of your labor.
Problem: Your plants’ stems are drooping and bending, and seem too long.
Solution: Leggy plants, or plants with very long stems, might need more light—put the plant in more direct sun. If it is a plant like tomatoes, which have long stems to begin with, try moving it to a bigger pot.
Problem: Your plant growth seems stunted, and it isn’t producing any fruit or flowers.
Solution: Your plants might be too crowded, which is restricting root growth. Try spreading them out more (if you are tight on space, see the tip above!)
Problem: You keep finding irregular-shaped holes in the leaves of your plants.
Solution: Slugs love to munch on the leaves of plants, creating these holes. Make sure that you rake your garden and thoroughly clean up any fallen leaves or brush, which will remove the slugs’ habitat (as well as the slugs themselves!). Be careful not to apply any more than 3 inches of mulch, which will attract the slugs.
Problem: You keep finding leaves that are curling, yellow, or are covered in a sticky substance.
Solution: Check the underside of the leaves for tiny insects. Aphids dwell on the underside and will chew on leaves, excreting a sticky substance that can cause fungus and bacteria on plants. A blast of water from a hose directly onto the leaves of plants will often be enough to remove them. There are also natural organic spray solutions available that can be made at home, everything from soapy water with a pinch of cayenne to alcohol spray. Adding certain plants to your garden will attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, which will serve as a predator.