Pat Munts: Even seasoned gardeners can have crop failures

When, at the behest of a reader, I started focusing on beginning gardening topics this year, I never expected to write about this one. I am having multiple crop failures this year in the vegetable garden. The consolation is that it happens to everyone at some point – even experienced gardeners.

The first crop I started having trouble with was my garlic. It emerged from under its blanket of winter mulch in fine shape with 100 percent survival. Maybe that should have been my first clue. I fertilized it with blood meal in late April and thought I was good to go.

We pulled off the curlicue scapes in early June to prevent the plants from misdirecting energy away from the bulbs. Shortly after that I noticed that the stems were starting to die back, a good month before they normally would. I turned off the drip line to the box to reduce the amount of water they were getting – garlic likes it dry in the last half of its growth cycle. It didn’t seem to help. This past weekend most of the stalks have turned brown, which means there will be very small bulbs if any. I still don’t know why it happened other than too much water.

I got my corn in mid-June – late for my garden – and only a few shoots have emerged as of last weekend. There will be no corn “knee high by the Fourth of July” this year. The cool temperatures haven’t helped the situation. Corn needs really warm soil to sprout and we haven’t had much warm weather to date to warm it up. I may have planted the seed too deep as I was hurrying to get it in. I’ll just have to be patient, I guess, and plan for a very late harvest in September. Let’s hope we don’t get an early frost.

Lastly, my beets and parsnips – which were planted Memorial Day weekend – haven’t appeared yet. The carrots and cilantro are up and doing well. The parsnips may have failed because I was experimenting with pelleted seed. Small seeds are often coated with clay and a bit of fertilizer to increase their size, making them easier to plant accurately. They do take a while to germinate, but a month? I am really surprised about the beets. They are usually pretty tough. The only thing I can think of that could have gone wrong was that I planted the seed too deep. Note to self: Read that packet’s directions again.

I will replant the parsnips as we like to overwinter them and dig them in late March. After a winter of cold temperatures they are so sweet and a nice early spring treat. I will plant basil later this week in the bare spots as the warmer weather we are expecting will warm the soil nicely for this heat-loving crop. With any luck I should be harvesting in mid-August and making some tasty pesto. All the bare spots also mean I can plant the fall garden earlier.

Pat Munts has gardened in Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.

Click here to comment on this story »


Complete interview with Gabe Marks

Our most recent story about prolific Washington State wide receiver Gabe Marks tells the story of a particularly insightful interview we had last spring. That story, "Gabe Marks is a ...

Weekend Wild Card — 7.23-24. 16

I'm facing another weekend of fence-building with my neighbor. Once we get the back fence built, I have one last honey-do item on the agenda and then it's kick back ...

You have 50 choices

S-R intern Tyson Bird brought cookies to work on his last day with us. It has been a pleasure to have him here. I first printed a column submission from ...

Saving for the future

sponsored According to two 2015 surveys, 62 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to handle an unexpected emergency, much less any long-term plans.



Contact the Spokesman

Main switchboard:
(509) 459-5000
Customer service:
(800) 338-8801
(509) 459-5400
(800) 789-0029
Back to Spokesman Mobile