Yellow Leaves Got You Down?

When you have the best intentions for your garden and want to see your plants succeed, it can be hard to hold back from micromanaging, especially early in the season when you want to nurture your plants. However, a lot of times micromanaging your plants leads to over or under-watering. Add to those rainy days in a row or a week of high-temp summer days with a blazing sun, and you might actually be doing more harm than good.

To get ahead of any garden issues, my suggestion is to put on your investigative lenses and walk through your garden every day. If you’re worried you might be over or under-watering, inspect your plants to see what hints they can give you to best help them succeed.

Common signs of overwatering

Yellow or browning leaves

Black spots on the stem

Wilting or limp leaves

The good news is that there is a treatment! First, reduce the amount you are watering the plant. Moving forward, focus on watering deeper, but less frequently. We want to make sure those roots are growing down into that hydrated soil.

Common signs of underwatering

The newest, youngest leaves on the plant are wilted and yellow

Underperformance or fruit not forming properly

For tomatoes, you’ll often see blossom rot, which is black rotting like spot on the bottom of the tomatoes.

To double check if your plants are being under-watered, stick your finger into the soil near plants that look like they are struggling. It can be confusing if your plants are telling you they need more water, but you’ve had a bunch of rain days. The only way to know for sure is to get your hands dirty! To get a good feel, stick your finger in the dirt up to the second knuckle and see if the soil feels dry or warm, a good indicator more water is needed. If you’re not sure, you can stick your finger into the dirt next to a plant that is thriving and see if the soil feels different. And while moisture meters can be a great tool, nothing can replace using our own senses to see the signs and feel the moisture content of the dirt.

Remember, those yellow leaves from over or under-watering won’t get their green back, so you should remove affected leaves with clean pruners at a time when the plant is not stressed.

A tip for tomatoes

For tomatoes specifically, many people try to add calcium when they have blossom rot, but the problem will correct itself with consistent waterings because the plant will be able to pull the calcium it needs from the moist soil. Tomatoes in particular prefer routine; any interruption to consistent watering causes the plant to stress. 

When to water

When watering seeds, try a light sprinkling of water twice a day until those seedlings come up. It’s better to lightly sprinkle twice than soaking the seeds and letting them sit in soggy water. Do your best to keep a consistently moist soil.

For established plants, the best time to water is in the early morning so the plants can hydrate for the day. Evenings work great too. However, I know we’re all busy. So do what you can to be consistent, but also know, your garden won’t die if you miss a morning watering once in a while! And when the weather comes into play, that’s another factor that can interrupt your watering schedule. Heavy sunlight and hot winds can turn plant leaves yellow and leave burn spots (my sugar snap pea flowers burnt up in last week’s 95° weather!). And heavy rains can leave your plants naturally hydrated – if the soil looks damp in the morning when you go out to water, recalibrate and check them again in the evening to see if they need watering.

If you did burn your garden a bit,  there is still time to start over. Learning your garden and your microclimate is a life-long journey and mishaps are just a part of gardening. Like I always say, you can’t control Mother Nature! But we can try to work with her to get the most out of our gardens.

If you still are struggling or unsure in your garden? Book a coaching call so we can work on you learning your garden and understanding your microclimate.