Plants in the veg patch will soon show you if they’re not happy, and the first sign is nearly always the colour of the leaves. Any discolouration, particularly in the first few days after being planted out can signal that conditions are not right. Wilting is another sure sign that the plant is struggling.
Discolouration of leaves
You may notice that leaves are much paler than they should be, or that there are brown, papery patches. Sometimes the leaves develop a purple/pink edge around the rim of the leaf. You may see leaves turning yellow. All these indicate that the plant is stressed in some way, and in these early days of the season you can expect it to be one of 3 things:
- Not enough water
- Too cold
- Too windy
Our advice is to firstly check the moisture levels in the soil. Push your finger beneath the surface of the soil and it should be moist, not waterlogged. If you are happy that the plants have enough water, then it is most likely that they are struggling with the temperature or wind – laying a sheet of horticultural fleece over them, or protecting them with a cloche will help them to bounce back. Once summer weather settles in, you can relax a bit more.
Wilting plants indicate a problem in the root department, and that problem could be one of the following:
- Not enough water
- Too much water
- Pest damage
At this time of year, with most plants being recently planted, it is most likely to be a case of too much or too little water. Again, push your finger into the soil and check the moisture level. If it is too soggy the plants will not thrive, so you will need to improve drainage (this could be by raising pots off the ground, or digging a drainage channel) and be a little less generous when watering your veg patch. If the soil is too dry, a good thorough watering should perk the plants up quite quickly.
Pest damage usually starts a little later in the season, when many larvae and maggots bury into the soil to feed on roots. However, it is worth protecting plants now, so cover susceptible plants with an insect mesh net or horticultural fleece (brassicas and carrots are commonly affected).