Growing your food is one of the simplest ways to enjoy freshly-picked and chemical free produce any time of the day. Doing so will not only save you money but more importantly, protect the environment by cutting back your home’s carbon footprint. Vegetable gardening is not as straightforward as planting seeds, watering, and waiting for them to mature into something delicious. It takes time, patience, and knowledge especially when it comes to deciding which plants to grow. Knowing which soil type is best for your plants is also important since not all of them will grow well using the same soil.
If you want to start a vegetable garden, see to it that you do a fair bit of research about them first. For example, growing tomatoes is very easy even for gardening beginners, but it’s most likely not the same when growing eggplants. What you have to understand is that certain vegetables are difficult to grow even for the most seasoned gardener.
That said, here are five tricky veggies to grow and what you can do to be successful in growing them.
As plain-looking as they may be, carrots can be challenging to grow. Carrots are a root vegetable that requires particular attention. The biggest problem with carrots is soil preparation which is something where most gardeners fail at.
Keep in mind that carrots won’t do well without soil that is at least six inches deep, tilled well and loose. It’s also tough for carrots to grow on clay soil so stay away from it as much as possible. Ideally, you’d want to use land that is rich in humus, but mineral soils would be your next best bet.
Carrots are also susceptible to many problems such as deformed roots. As mentioned earlier, carrots need to be planted in loose soil. If you notice that the roots are bent or forked, it could mean that the ground is too hard for them to grow through. If your carrots seem thinner than average, it’s very likely that they’re not getting enough nutrients due to weeds.
Also, be careful not to overfeed your carrots or use a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen. Doing so can cause tiny roots to grow all over them. Finally, your precious carrots may not show signs that there is a problem unless you taste them. Carrots become bitter when they use some of their stored sugar to adapt to a not-so-cool temperature. Carrots like a cool environment so keep the soil cool by mulching or avoid planting them in summer.
If you’re a big fan of salads, it’s very likely that you’d want to grow some head lettuce in your garden. But before you proceed, know that this vegetable is a lot more challenging compared to leaf lettuce. What makes head lettuce very difficult to grow is that it takes a lot of time to mature and form a ‘head’.
Always remember that a vegetable that has a long growing season (head lettuce matures in 45-55 days) is more at risk of failing compared to other veggies with a shorter maturation. It’s not about how long it takes to grow but rather, what can happen to it while you wait.
The weather, for instance, can affect your head lettuce as it’s susceptible to changes in temperature. Prolonged exposure to hot weather can cause it to undergo ‘bolting’ which is the premature flowering or seed formation of a plant. You don’t want this to happen as it can make your head lettuce taste bitter.
You can also place them in shaded areas to protect them from the heat. Trees are perfect for providing this shade, but if they have a particularly thick canopy you might want to consider thinning it out to allow a little light through. Use the right equipment to prune your tree canopy to avoid making it vulnerable to disease, and to ensure your safety!
You’ll know that your celery plants are already mature when their stalks are green and crunchy. The problem though is that most gardeners can’t seem to get theirs up to this point. Just like head lettuce, celery plants take a while to mature (90-120 days) before you can harvest them. Pulling them early is the biggest mistake that you can do when growing celery so keep that in mind.
Another similarity that it has with head lettuce is that it’s prone to ‘bolting’ but in this case, due to cold temperature. This can easily be remedied by covering your celery with a row cover. This will protect them from freezing temperatures especially at night and will also keep insects at bay.
You may want to hold off on growing celery if you’re the gardener who is not used to consistent watering. That’s because this plant requires a lot of moisture and soil that can hold water well but is well-draining at the same time.
Eggplants are a favourite addition to many dishes that’s why it’s only natural that you’ want to grow some in your garden. But before you give it a go, you have to know the problems that you’ll potentially face later on. As with most of the veggies in this list, eggplants are also sensitive to changes in temperature.
However, their main problem has something to do with pests and diseases. You see, lace bugs and flea beetles are two of the biggest threats to eggplants. Other pests that can get in your way of growing eggplants include cutworms, aphids, mites, and tomato hornworms.
Ideally, you’d want to use collars and row covers to protect your plants until they’re strong enough to fend off attacks. You can also introduce natural predators such as ladybugs to lessen problems with aphids.
Eggplants are also prone to different diseases. The most common of which are wilt diseases, blossom end rot, and many types of blight. These diseases can be eliminated or prevented by reducing the growth of weed, practising crop rotation, and having adequate spacing in between the plants.
Before you decide to grow cauliflower, you have to consider carefully how often you’d want to eat it. That’s because getting those beautiful curd heads can be difficult to achieve even for a gardener who has a wealth of experience.
It also has a long growing season and prefers a cool environment to grow. It needs a temperature that’s just right — not too cold and not too hot either. Fluctuating temperatures can cause your cauliflower heads to be tiny which is also known as ‘buttoning’. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that you can do to avoid this except for holding off planting until the weather moderates.
Brown or discoloured heads is a good sign that your plants are not getting enough boron. This usually happens in alkaline soils. Test your soil’s pH and add sulfur if necessary. At the same time, you can also feed your cauliflower fertiliser that is rich in trace minerals.
And that wraps up this list of five of the most difficult vegetables to grow. If you notice, what all these veggies have in common are their long growing season. What makes them a challenge to grow is the fact that different factors such as the weather and temperature are all out of your control.
As with any other plant, a clear understanding of what you’ll deal with and knowing how you should deal with such challenges is the key.
Let me know if you have any other tips!
A blog about my life in The Old House, a mum to teenagers, a primary school teacher and my passion for gardening.