Garden Problems and Solutions

Have you ever felt the disappointment of a garden failure? You take a bite out of a delicious looking strawberry but there wasn’t any flavor, or you go to water the garden and see black misshapen fruits and veggies, or maybe there just aren’t many fruits and vegetables there? These situations are discouraging. They leave you wondering what went wrong?, and how to fix it?  Those are the questions we will answer in this post. The four subjects for this post are:

  1. There aren’t any blossoms on my plants (quantity issue)
  2. There are blossoms but no fruits and veggies (quanitity issue)
  3. Ugly fruits and vegetables (quality issue)
  4. Flavorless Fruits and vegetables (quality issue)

Because there are numerous factors at play in the garden, we’ll also include some of our resources for troubleshooting garden problems.

1-Where are the blossoms?

There is foliage but little to no blossoms. Here are some things to check:

Soil pH. Checking the pH level with litmus strips is easy and inexpensive. You can get them on amazon here  (we do not receive compensation if our readers purchase items on amazon).  Here is a list of ideal pH levels for a variety of crops.

Nutritional composition of the soil. Too little or too much of a nutrient causes problems with plants producing blossoms. For example too much nitrogen in the soil can lead to ample foliage but little to no blossoms. To get your soil tested:

  • Contact a university or garden center near you for details.
  • Purchase a garden test kit like this one and DIY it.
  • Guess based off the  natural indicators for soil testing. Such as the weeds and plants growing in the soil and the health/symptoms of the plants there.  You can find some more details here.

A lack of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, may delay flowering. Stick with a balanced, low-analysis fertilizer, such as 12-12-12 or 6-10-4, to apply adequate nutrition without overdoing.

Age and variety of plant.  Woody plants such as apple trees and pears can take 5-6 years to mature enough to really blossom. If you have young plants that aren’t producing give them some more time. There are some varieties that only produce fruits every other year, such as apricots. Check your variety to find out when to expect a harvest.

Location. Plants that are in the wrong location for their variety can be too stressed to produce blossoms. Make sure plants are adapted to your area and are receiving the proper amount of sun and/or shade for their variety.

Pruning. Pruning at the wrong time of the year can decrease the potential of flowering plants. Plants that bloom in early spring set their blossoms in the fall. Pruning these plants in winter will cut off the potential blossoms. As a general rule of thumb it is best to prune plants after their blossoms are fading.

Weather. Weather is the ever present variable when planting outdoors. A late or hard frost can really damage a plants ability to blossom. Paying attention to weather patterns for your area and planting when chance of frost is low can reduce damage. Protecting plants with cages, covers or using a greenhouse can help outsmart mother nature. Unfortunately, there is always the chance for a disaster.

Water.  The right amount of water is important for a plant to be healthy. Too little and the plant shrivels and dies too much and it becomes water logged and can get root rot. Each plant requires a different amount of H2O. Here is a chart showing the most critical times for a variety of plants to be watered.

2. Where's the Harvest?

There are ample blossoms on your plants but they aren’t producing the fruits and vegetables that they should. Here are some ideas to find the problem that is stopping your blossoms from becoming the harvest.

Pollination. A blossom without pollination will eventually just shrivel and die. On some plants, like squash, the squash will be aborted if it does not receive the proper pollination (pictured above). Most pollination is done by insects. Do you see bees, butterflies, and other insects buzzing around the blossoms? If you aren’t seeing them flying around there is a good chance they aren’t there. Insecticides and urbanization have wiped out a lot of our pollinators. Learn more about that here.  Pollination is required for plants to turn blossoms into fruits. To learn more about pollination check out this post. If you find that there aren’t bees buzzing around, you can put up your own bee house and buy bees to start your own nest. If it’s too late in the year (August) to get  your bee house going you can try hand or device pollination.

Pests. There are a variety of garden pests from the tiny aphids to not so tiny deer. Grasshoppers, earwigs, and cutworms can make short work of your buds and fruits.  Check here and here to help determine which type of pest might be nibbling your blossoms or fruit. If garden pests are the problem we recommend trying the safest, most natural solution first. Remember that all insecticides can harm good bugs too, like bees and butterflies.

Freeze Damage. Depending on how developed the blossom is freezing temperatures may cause a lot of damage or not very much. The blossom in the bud stage, or closed stage, is able to withstand colder temperatures than an open bud. If the trees experience warm temperatures leading to bud maturity and blossoming and then are exposed to cold temperatures there is a good chance the blossoms will be killed. Here is a chart depicting the kill rate based on temperature and maturity for pears and apples. Here is a link to a chart for stone fruit. It may not be preventable and it definitely isn’t favorable to lose blossoms to cold temperatures but it does solve the question, “where’s my harvest?”. If you experienced frost problems you can check out this post to evaluate the viability of the blossoms and determine where pruning can help.


3. Ugly Fruit and Vegetables

Beauty is only skin deep but some deformities beg the question, is it safe to eat? Once you know the reason it looks funny you can decide if its edible or better left for something else to eat.

Frost Damage

 Depending on the timing of the frost a blossom may be killed, or damaged. The damaged blossom may lead to deformed fruits and vegetables. Frost damaged fruits and vegetables can vary in appearance but will usually have some darker pigmented areas. In strawberries they will have black spots, apples, peaches and pears can have brown scarred peals.

A late frost, after the fruit is fully developed will also cause damage. Damage done after the fruit is developed is known as chill injury or low- temperature breakdown. If chill injury occurs the interior of the fruit can be brown and change texture. For more info. click here.

Pollination Problem

Pollination. Fruits and vegetables can be partially pollinated. Every seed of the fruit must be pollinated in order to have uniform growth. In partially pollinated fruits one part of the plant (the side that was pollinated) will grow correctly and another part (the un-pollinated section) will be stunted; Leaving a lop-sided fruit or vegetable. Apples and pears will be smaller on one side than the other. If you were to cut them in half you would find a seed formed in one side but not the other. Strawberries will have small, immature seeds in at least one area of the fruit (do not confuse this with black areas from frost damage). Cucumbers will usually have a taper at the end that some times is curled/bent.

*Pollinator tip- Plant your varieties far enough apart to avoid over crowding. Planting a short crop with small flowers like cucumbers next to a large plant (like a squash plant) may be problematic. Pollinators will focus on the easily visible blossoms rather than pollinate both crops equally.

Garden Fungi

Fungi. There are numerous species of fungi. Fungi are spread through spores on fruit trees and other plants. Apple scab is a common infection that can winter over in dead leaves. It is particularly problematic in areas with high humidity that allows the fungi to thrive. If you suspect fungi is the culprit behind your garden trouble try pruning excess foliage to allow more sunlight and better air flow. It is best to get a handle on fungal infections early because it can easily spread and kill an entire tree or orchard if left unchecked. For more information on apple scab and other fruit tree infections click here. For information on spinach and other “greens” infections click here and here.

Hail Damage

Fruit exposed to adverse weather conditions during development may be scarred, dented or bruised.


The birds and insects might find your fruit too good to pass up. There might be holes or peck marks marring some of the fruit. watch out for earwigs inside stone fruits. Though they may be annoying we recommend letting the birds and bugs have a few of the fruits. Leaving the chemicals off is better for you and the native pollinators. After all, there should be plenty left over for  you if you’ve had good pollination. Here’s more info. on what pests to watch out for during the later part of the growing season in Utah. Here is a study on bird management in orchards.

4. Why are my Fruits and Vegetables Flavorless?


 Ever noticed how a fresh garden tomato has a ton of flavor that just can’t be found in the grocery store varieties? Did you know that the tomatoes at the grocery store were bred to have less flavor but be better looking? Consumers tend to buy with their eyes but gardeners should buy with their tastebuds in mind. The right seed makes a world of difference in the flavor department.  Research the seeds you plant to ensure the tastiest fruits and veggies.


Pollination.Pollination is an essential ingredient in every garden. Properly pollinated fruits and vegetables taste better! Make sure you have pollinators working in your orchards (Blue Orchard Mason Bees) and gardens (Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees).


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