Reading The Leaves – Garden Troubleshooting

Michelle RobertsGardening


Have you ever wondered why your plants look so deformed, aren’t growing really well, and seem to be turning yellow, and brown? Learn to read the leaves. It will turn your gardening experience into success every year.

Sometimes no matter how much we try, the plants in our garden just don’t do well. Over the next few weeks I will be posting some troubleshooting posts to help you overcome common difficulties.

It isn’t unusual for one plant in the same row to suffer from nutrient deficiencies when the other plants are doing fine. If the fertilizers or soil amendments were not raked in equally, one area of plants may suffer from nutrient shortages. Reading the leaves correctly can help identify just what nutrient is needed.

Here are a couple pictures of  squash plants. Notice how the leaves are not fully developed. They are very misshapen. The leaf margins or edges are not fully developed. It looks like there is puckering or tearing of some of the edges and whole parts of the leaf never developed. The edges are also turning yellow and starting to fire or turn brown. These are tell tale signs of potassium deficiency.

deficient squash leaves #2

Here is another picture of potassium deficiency. The cucumber plants look fine at first glance, but upon closer inspection you can see tiny white dots beginning to appear on the leaves and the outer leaf margins are beginning to go yellow. Yellowing from the outside edges in is a sign of potassium deficiency.
deficiency in cucumbers

Here are both the squash plant and the cucumbers one week later after potassium in the form of wood ash was added to the soil.  The deformed leaves of the squash plant will not ever look any better.  The new leaves will not have the deformity.  That is what you want to watch for – what does the new growth look like.

squash leaf

This is a fairly young plant. If the soil is amended quickly, within a week or two, the new leaves will emerge with none of the above issues. In the resources section of this website you will find a chart which gives you organic methods of amending the soil.  Also,  you can go to Lesson #6 Diagnosing Plant Deficiencies for more information and pictures on plants and their deficiencies.