Plants not doing too well?

It has been exceptionally cold for this time of year, and you may find that several plants struggle planted out – particularly beans, squashes, peas, courgettes, sweetcorn, tomatoes. Here’s how to recognise plant stress and how to help your veggies to cope with the weather.

Plants most likely to struggle:

  • Cucumbers, squash & courgettes (not good with frost/cold/wind)
  • Tomatoes, aubergine, pepper & chillies (if they go in a greenhouse they’ll be ok, but they won’t like being outside in the cold!)
  • Beans, peas & sweetcorn (they won’t enjoy strong, cold winds)

Signs of struggle:

  • Yellow/brown leaves (particularly on squash/beans)
  • Purple tinge to leaves, particularly at the edges (peas, as well as other plants, including herbs and brassicas)
  • Wilting (all/any plants)
  • Patchy leaves – e.g. brown patches/white patches (all/any plants)

How to help them:

  1. Temporarily plant vulnerable outdoor crops – Plant them temporarily in the punnets that they arrive in. See instructions. It’s best to keep them under cover (ideally in a porch or greenhouse, or a sheltered corner of the garden if that’s not possible).
  2. Pull up struggling plants – If you’ve only just planted them in the last 1-3 days, you could easily pull them up and pop them into a grow bag – simply cut the top off a grow bag or bag of compost, and loosely plant groups of vulnerable veg – see our video for instructions.
  3. Drape horticultural fleece over rows of planted crops – this will keep them a bit sheltered from frost and wind. They’ll still have room to grow underneath the fleece, and sunlight and rainwater will get through the fleece. Be sure to secure it down at the corners and sides as it blows away easily. This is probably not enough for super tender crops, but it will help brassicas, lettuces and leaves.
  4. Pot on into bigger pots until the weather is more consistently warm. If you have some spare 8-10cm pots lying around, then just plant your more vulnerable seedlings in these and keep them somewhere sheltered until the weather warms up properly.
  5. Make cloche tunnels – you can fairly quickly make a makeshift greenhouse by using old hosepipe, some pieces of bamboo and some clear plastic. This is a really good idea if you planted a week or so ago and need to protect plants that are already in the ground and suffering.
  6. Use old plastic bottles to make individual cloches – it’s good way to make a mini greenhouse for just a few individual plants. Be sure to bring a bit of soil around the base to keep them from blowing around in the wind.
  7. Make sure they are well watered so that they can draw up nutrients from the soil. For plants that are yellow, as pictures, make sure they are warm and sheltered from the wind, well-watered, and if they still struggle a liquid feed may help.
  8. Check for water logging too – a lot of the same symptoms can appear if a plant has too much water. Try to aim for the consistency of a freshly opened bag of compost, not too dry, not too wet!