Why aren't my vegetables growing?

Asked October 6, 2015, 6:23 PM EDT

I have tried to grow many vegetables -- beets, carrots, onions -- but anything underground won't grow. Above ground tomatoes grow but not to big sizes. Cherry tomatoes grow great, but that's about all. Beans yellow and green are OK too but nothing else. I live in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. I am looking for some help or tips on getting these to grow.

Outside United States

1 Response

Dear Fred,

Thank you for contacting us. As a matter of practice, we do not recommend fertilizers or soil amendments without first obtaining a soil test from a qualified laboratory. Unfortunately, these tests are more expensive in Canada than in the US. However, here is a list of laboratories: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/resource/soillabs.htm

For root crops, the soil must have good tilth (texture and density) in addition to proper nutrients. There are a few suggestions I'd like to make which are standard best practices for any vegetable garden:

In late in autumn, add and inch or two of mature compost or manure to the surface of your beds. Then cover this with three or four inches of organic mulch such as chopped leaves, grass clippings, or straw. (Wood chips do not work well in a vegetable garden as they do not break down fast enough.) An alternative to compost and mulch would be to grow a green cover crop such as buckwheat at this time. This can be chopped and dropped before it sets seed; or you can leave it stand over winter and till it in when the excess moisture is out of the ground in spring. Both methods add nutrients to the soil, and will improve the tilth.

Normally, I advice against repeated tilling of the soil as this can diminish the soil microbes. However, if your gardens are new and your soil is heavy clay, an initial deep-tilling may be needed along with the addition of some mature compost.

A last point is that most of the root vegetables are cool-weather crops that do not develop well once the temperatures rise in summer. They can be planted in either spring or fall, so long as you can protect the seedlings from drying out or from excessive heat. Frequent watering of both seed and seedlings is needed, depending on the temperature and rainfall. (Above-ground crops are different in that the soil can be allowed to dry slightly between watering after the plants are established. For those crops, we recommend deeper, but less frequent watering.)