Vegetables turning yellow

Asked June 5, 2018, 2:53 PM EDT

We moved to our new rural property 2 years ago. The past 2 years we have struggled to get a vegetable garden to grow. Now this year it’s happening again. The leaves start to turn yellow shortly after planting and they seem stunted. We have tried everything I can think of, steer manure, chicken manure, lime and even just miracle grow. Nothing has seemed to help. I’m not sure if I’m not adding enough if something or if it’s something else! We planted starts 2 weeks ago and they are already turning yellow, and a few have already died. I just did a soil test and it all seems ok. Our water is very high in iron and I’m not sure if that could cause this? I’m at my wits end!

Benton County Oregon

3 Responses

Thank you for contacting Ask an Expert for help with your vegetable garden issue.

I believe this is a soil fertility issue. There are many factors that impact the soil’s ability to provide nutrients to the plant and one, or several, could be at play here.

When uncomposted/partially composted manures are added to the soil, plants can suffer severe nitrogen shortage—causing yellowing. In addition, manures (and some fertilizers) can add high levels of fertilizer salts to the soil, reducing the microbial activity needed to make plant nutrients in the soil available to the plant roots.

Conversely, if fertilizers and manures have higher levels of some nutrients, burning of leaf edges can result, as well as suppressing the availability of other essential nutrients.

Also, when the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the soil is out of balance, substantial issues with nutrient availability to the plant can result.

For a short, but comprehensive, look into fertilizing vegetable gardens, click here.

If possible, you could scan the most recent soil lab report, and we here at Ask an Expert could take a look at it. You could also take photos/samples/lab results to your local Extension office for a face-to-face chat. Both Benton and Linn counties have Master Gardeners available.

Linn County: 33630 McFarland Rd. Tangent; 541-967-3871

Benton County: 4077 SW Research Way Corvallis; 541-766-6750

What I consider less likely is a potential impact of weed killer. This could be over-spray from adjacent agricultural operations or residue in the compost/manures added to the garden.


Thank you very much. I did a soil test that I bough at a local nursery. I will attach the pic or the results. I will definitely call the master gardeners also, thank you! This sounds like it’s very tricky to figure out. I appreciate your help.

The color test kits that you did can be helpful in many cases. After two years of less than optimal results, I believe that you may need a more detailed test like the ones done by a soil test laboratory.

The publication Analytical Laboratories Serving Oregon can help choose one for garden soil testing. Reaching out to your local Master Gardeners will be a great resource, as well.

Have a good gardening year,