Garden Diagnosing

The following are problems in a plant that can be diagnosed and fixed. If the following didn’t work, note that a plant can also have issues due to:

  • Age–If the plant is too old, it will eventually have many problems and die.
  • Stress–If one of the below problems aren’t fixed within a few days, it can cause permanent damage in the plant’s growth and immune systems, and future fixes won’t work as well.

Algae

If green algae starts growing on your topsoil, it’s due to excess humidity. Either move the plant to somewhere with less light, or buy a dehumidifier. (Make sure to clean the dehumidifier regularly because it will have dangerous spores.)

Aphids

Aphids come in all different colors and are usually 1/8 inch long. If left untouched, they will multiply fast. You can use aphid spray or concentrate to kill them.

Bagworms

Bagworms are usually brown and have a pointy cacoon. Bagworms will quickly eat all the leaves of a tree if left for a few days. Use bagworm spray to kill.

Black Stems/Roots

If the stem or roots turn black, it means they are overwatered and need oxygen. Water your plants less, and add aeration into the soil, such as through using lighter soil or by tilling it.

Blight

Blight is a condition that affects fruit, often caused by fungus due to a lack of fertilization. It looks like small brown dots. Apply copper spray.

Brown Leaf Tips

If only the tips of a leaf are turning brown, it needs more water. A plant needs water to stay alive; and if there is none in the soil, it will sap the water from the tips of the leaves. In addition to underwatering, poor soil quality might not allow the roots to absorb the water.

Brown Spots

If spots of a leaf are turning brown or black, this is usually due to overwatering. If a plant’s roots can’t breathe, its immune system weakens while fungus starts to thrive. Leaf spots can be caused by any issue, though, such as underwatering or a lack of light. We recommend cutting off those particular leaves and looking for other issues to diagnose.

Curling Leaves

Curling leaves are usually caused by high temperatures. They’re trying to reduce their surface area affected by light. Sometimes, leaves curl because they don’t have enough water.

Dried Leaves

If leaves are dried, crunchy and brown, they need more water.

Dry Soil

Dry soil tends to clump together and form cracks. Healthy soil feels loose and crumbly. If your soil is drying too fast, try the following techniques:

  • Add mulch to the topsoil. This prevents excess evaporation through temperature regulation, prevents soil erosion, and prevents weeds from competing for the water.
  • See the section for “root-bound”.
  • Move your plant to a cooler place.

Leggy or Long Stems

A leggy plant has stems that are too long. It means it is trying to find more sunlight. If left, the plant will eventually die. This is especially important for young saplings; they need to be as short and bushy (more leaves) as possible. The primary way to fix this is to give it more light; but, be careful with high temperatures or wind. They can kill saplings, too.

Light

Balancing light is crucial for success. Here are some tips:

Both

  • Move to a sunnier or shadier spot. For houseplants, a south-facing window receives more sunlight, while a north-facing window receives the least. Use a compass app on your phone to determine the direction.

Adding Light

  • Buy grow lights. The primary factor to consider is the Wattage, as a 1000W system will provide much more light than a 20W. Generally, get “full spectrum.” Note that these systems can be expensive to run, and are not ideal if the goal is to profit.
  • Adding a greenhouse helps diffuse the light a plant will receive.

Removing Light

  • Use shading cloth to lessen the light a plant gets. Shade cloth comes in various percentages. Find your plant’s ideal lux range, and choose a percentage based on existing light data.

Pests

If you don’t know the name of the pest, take a picture of it, and search the picture on Google Image Search, using the “Search by Image” function. Once you find the pest’s name, you can buy the respective pesticide on Amazon.

Root-bound

A plant is root-bound if the roots cover the sides of your pot, and there is more root than soil. Plants can last a while like this; but, it will be more difficult for the plant to grow. It also makes it harder to keep the roots moist and full of nutrients, because there is less soil. We recommend transplanting it to a place with more soil. You won’t need to manually free the roots unless multiple offshoots have been created. In this case, separate the stems. You may need to cut the roots to get them untangled.

Seeds

If your seeds aren’t sprouting, try the following. If none of the following works, try the Paper Towel Method:

  • Is your soil fine and nutrient-dense? It can’t be rocky or nutrient-depleted topsoil.
  • Is the water soaking into the soil well? If the soil is constantly dry or puddling, that won’t work.
  • Is the temperature from 60-75F? Some seeds may like it colder or hotter.
  • Did you wait 2-7 days? Some seeds may take 2-3 weeks.
  • Is the seed older than a year? Most seeds that are 1 year old will likely not sprout. Sometimes larger, older seeds will work.
  • Was the seed stored in a cool, dry environment, like a Ziplock back in a refrigerator? Otherwise, it may have spoiled.
  • Is the environment moderately humid? 40-60% is ideal.
  • Was the seed planted about 2-3 widths from the top? If it’s too deep, it won’t be able to sprout. If it’s too shallow, it won’t have enough soil for moisture and nutrients.

Temperature

Plants can die from heat stress or frost, so balancing the temperature is critical for success.

Both

  • Mulch can shade the soil from excess heat, while also retain heat when it gets too cold.
  • Move the plant to either a sunnier or shadier spot.

Increasing Temperature

Decreasing Temperature

  • Use shading cloth to lessen the light a plant gets, which also reduces the temperature. Shade cloth comes in various percentages. Find your plant’s ideal temperature, and choose a percentage based on existing temperature data.

Weeds

Weeds are any plant growing in a place you do not want. There are multiple options to get rid of weeds:

  • Use a hoe or sickle, or a fork for shallow soil roots. Be careful to not destroy your plants’ roots.
  • Use a weed-burning tool. Remember to buy the propane and the refill kit. This method is best for larger-scale operations that aren’t near your crops.
  • Temporarily uproot the plant and sieve the soil, although this can be difficult at larger scales.
  • You can use weed killer, although this can be difficult at larger scales. We recommend using natural weed killers, as the cheaper types can deplete your soil of nutrients over time.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are usually caused by a lack of sunlight. Plants use photosynthesis to turn the leaves green. Yellow leaves can also be caused by many other problems, such as too much or too little fertilizer, over or underwatering, poor quality soil, and age. If giving more light didn’t work, we suggest looking for other signs to diagnose.