University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Why Yard and Garden Plantings May Fail

November 18, 1999

When cleaning up after the growing season ends is also a good time to analyze performances of various plantings and to look ahead to next season. Two key factors to consider are the growing requirements of the plant and the growing conditions being provided.

If only one specific kind of plant had a problem this season, it could be a disease or insect problem. Specific insects or diseases tend to attack specific plants, rather than a number of different species. It could also be that one problem species is located in the wrong spot or just is not adapted to our climate.

Problems affecting most or all yard and garden plantings, such as a vegetable garden or flower bed, tend to be related to the general environment or growing conditions provided. This includes the soil, amount of available light, watering, weed control, or perhaps the weather.

Soils are a critical part of the success or failure of the garden. Conditions related to soils include soil pH, fertility, and drainage. Most soils in our area tend to have an alkaline or high pH, which can cause problems for many plants. Soil fertility is controlled by factors such as pH, organic matter, planting history, and fertilizer application. If everything is doing poorly, perhaps the fertility is too low or the drainage is poor.

Too much shade is a very common reason vegetables or perennials don't do well. Do some pruning or consider moving the planting. Choose shade-tolerant perennials, groundcovers, and shrubs.

Matching plants to site conditions available in your garden or landscape is critical. Take time this winter to research plant needs before deciding to plant them. Consider replacing existing plants that have chronic problems due to a site or climate mismatch.

Finally, weather conditions also enter the picture as a major factor in the success or failure of landscape plantings. Cold winters can damage or kill sensitive species. Rainy weather during bloom can reduce pollination and thus yields of apples and other food crops. Dry weather, such as much of the last half of the 1999 season, can also be detrimental to the performance of many plants.

Keep all these factors in mind as you review the 1999 season and look ahead to 2000.


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