Vegetable gardens can be a hard yet rewarding hobby. Problems can occur with gardening that may seem complex. Most problems in vegetable gardens can be grouped into five categories: soil, pests, disease, growth and sunlight. There are simple ways to troubleshoot these categories in a vegetable garden to avoid significant loss of a harvest.
Check the pH (acidity) level of the soil. Use a pH test kit to measure the soil acidity. Take the test kit to the nearest extension office of your local university to find out the amount of material you need to fix the pH level. Adjust the soil accordingly by adding fresh compost, seaweed or a fish-based fertilizer.
Check the sediment levels. This tells you if you have too much clay or sand in the soil. Use the "jar test" to determine this, as directed by the University of Minnesota. Put 2 inches of soil in the jar; fill the jar 2/3 full with water; add 1tsp. of liquid dish soap. Shake the jar thoroughly and allow the contents to settle. Measure the layers that form. Allow one minute for the bottom layer of sand to form. Allow two hours for the layer of silt. Allow two days for the clay layer to form. Add 2 inches of compost to the top 12 inches of soil for sandy soil; add equal amounts of sand and compost to clay soil.
Rotate crops to balance the nutrients in the soil. Certain vegetables take and leave behind various nutrients and minerals; continuing to plant these vegetables in the same location will deplete the needed nutrients.
Add red worms to the soil. Worms digest decomposing organic material and leave behind valuable nutrients and minerals in their waste. Worms also aerate the soil by digging through it, turning it over as they go. The more worms you have, the better the soil is.
Remove snakes by removing their food source and habitat. Cut back tall grass around the garden edge. Pull weeds in and around the garden. Remove all garbage and food debris nearby. Remove anything with small holes such as pipes; move anything that can provide a dark, dry, warm cover. Patch any holes in nearby structures.
Remove ants by removing aphids. Aphids feed on the plants, causing yellowing. Ants eat aphids and will cultivate an aphid colony to support the ant colony. Introduce ladybugs or lacewings into the garden to eat the aphids, which removes the food supply for ants. Use a blender to mix lemon, hot peppers or garlic with water to make a spray; spray the colony and the ants will move. Plant vegetables and herbs with strong smells or volatile odors such as peppermint, garlic, pennyroyal and rhubarb.
Remove rodents, rabbits and deer by planting marigolds, mint and thyme around and throughout the garden. This will deter any of these animals from entering because the food doesn't taste good.
Reduce root rot by allowing the soil to dry out. Root rot is a sign of wet soil or poor drainage. Work sand into the soil after allowing the soil to completely dry so you add drainage.
Add water to dry soil at the roots. Set a sprinkler at the base of the plants and allow the water to penetrate the soil to a depth of 6 inches or more. This provides moisture directly to the root system. Retain moisture in the vegetable garden by adding a 2-inch layer of mulch or leaves over the soil.
Reduce yellowing, brown spots and holes by removing insect pests. Remove all damaged or diseased material from the garden to keep disease from spreading. Spray fungicide on the leaves of remaining healthy plants.
Cut back tree limbs or brush shading the garden. Many vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight daily. Keep large bush plants far enough away from smaller plants to avoid shading.
Plant windbreaks such as sunflowers along the windward side of the garden to avoid hot winds from drying vegetable plants.
Place a 2-inch layer of mulch or dry leaves over the soil to help control temperature problems. This helps the soil stay cool during hot days and stops early and late-season frost from reaching the ground.
Prune back suckers and auxiliary vines to help the main plant conserve energy and nutrients for growing vegetables.
Thin out vegetables. Overcrowding causes plants to be small and stunted. Most plants require a few inches between each other to properly grow. Pick the smallest plants out to allow the larger, stronger plants to continue. Pick the vegetables that are diseased or are crowding out others. Too many vegetables on a stem can cause smaller fruit or immature fruit. Diseased vegetables can spread the disease to others nearby.
Stagger the vegetables in the garden. Avoid planting everything at once to keep the ground from being depleted too quickly. Space plantings so that only one type of vegetable goes into the garden each week. Research planting times to better coordinate this step.
About this Author
Jack S. Waverly is a Pennsylvania-based freelance writer who has written hundreds of articles relating to business, finance, travel, history and health. His current focus is on pets, gardens, personal finance and business management. Waverly has been writing online content professionally since 2007 for various providers and websites.