Diagnosing The Cause of Yellow Leaves

Yellowing Leaves by My Tiny Plot

There is such a great feeling of accomplishment when you look out upon a beautiful veggie garden in a vibrant shade of green. Seeing all that green is a reminder that you’re doing things right and your plants are healthy. All of us aspire to seeing green, but unfortunately sometimes yellow makes an appearance instead.

The yellowing of plant leaves is known as chlorosis and can be attributed to many things. Chlorosis is an outward reflection of a plant that is not getting enough chlorophyll. It is chlorophyll that is used for photosynthesis and gives plants that healthy green coloration that we as gardeners love to see. Without chlorophyll, which is essentially a driving force behind a plant’s ability to create food, the yellowing of chlorosis takes over. Although this needs to be addressed to preserve the life of the plant, it is often tough to nail down what specifically is causing the problem.

Determining what is behind the yellowing will require a keen eye to detail as it is the details that the answers can be found. The location as well as the behavior of the yellow leaves or vines can hold the key to solving your chlorosis issues. Here are some behaviors and causes of yellowing:

Possibly the easiest to diagnose is a lack of adequate sunlight. Plants with this issue will have faded leaves that tend to sag and droop. In order to fix this, more sunlight is needed. Therefore, replanting will solve the problem. If plants are in close proximity to others that are shading them, some pruning of larger plants may allow enough sunlight through.

If the leaves on your plant appear yellow and also have a wilted appearance, too much water could be to blame. This could be as a result of actually giving too much water to plants or soil that is not draining properly and instead retaining water that ultimately drowns plants. This can be remedied by scaling back on your watering as well as possibly relocating plants to a raised bed or adding sand.

Spots on leaves are generally an indication of fungi. This is a problem that is often more aesthetic than actually damaging to plants. Spots may appear small or large in both raised and irregular patterns. This condition is fueled by water, so stick to early morning watering so plants will dry more quickly. Beyond that, remove dead and fallen leaves, but topical treatments aren’t typically required although baking soda spray can be applied if desired.

A common culprit of yellowing leaves is a nutritional deficiency. Diagnosing this can get tricky though because there are several nutrients that can be deficient and they all present in different ways. For example, nitrogen deficiencies present as leaves with yellow veins and edges and can be fixed by adding organic compost. Potassium deficiencies show up as leaves with yellow tips and edges and can be fixed by adding fruit and vegetable compost to soil. In an iron deficiency, the whole leaf will turn yellow but the vein will remain green. A pH check will be necessary to fix this, followed by bringing pH down below 7. Patchy yellowing can mean a zinc deficiency in need of treatment with kelp extract. Leaves in which veins are highlighted by white are suffering from a magnesium deficiency which can be repaired with an infusion of Epsom salt in the soil.

Last but not least is the possibility of a pest problem. Being damaged by insects can result in chlorosis that presents in an asymmetrical pattern of yellowing on leaves. In order to bring this to a halt, pesticides can be applied. Depending on your preference, you will have to apply a pest repellent in order to solve this problem.

Though some investigation may be required to diagnose what is causing chlorosis in your garden, it is well worth the detective work. If left unattended, many of these problems can be seriously damaging to plants, so be sure to stay on top of any color changes you notice. With some quick observation and action, you can get your garden back to the shade of green that we as gardeners love.


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