Tuesday’s Tips — What To Do About Yellow Leaves

Barbara: I’m taking over blogging duties for the next few days as Mary Beth moves from Block Island to Durango. Imagine, if you will, loading a truck and a trailer with every woodworking tool known to man (Ray), the many tools you would use to run a gardening business (Mary Beth), beekeeping equipment (Mary Beth) books, clothes, household items, two large dogs (Kea and Sage) and one semi-wild cat (Joker). This is what MB is doing tomorrow. They’ll start with an hour-long ferry ride to the mainland and then drive across the county. For our amusement MB has promised to send us updates from their journey. Can’t wait!

Meanwhile here’s our tip for this week. It’s a big one, so it’s the only tip today.

Tip: Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves on your plants can signal many things from the benign to the disastrous. Leaves might yellow simply because they are old and their time has come, or they might be telling you that your plant lacks a certain nutrient. In any case, yellow leaves on a plant call out to garden pests telling them that the plant is vulnerable and it’s time to move in. When you see yellow leaves on your plants, you’ve got to figure out what’s wrong and fix it ASAP!

Most common causes of yellowed leaves:

  • Age — old leaves will turn uniformly yellow. You can just remove these leaves.
  • Too much or too little water — check the soil. You can’t tell just by looking at the surface especially if you have clay soil. The top may appear dry, but a couple of inches down it could be very wet. A moisture meter is very helpful in determining whether you are drowning your plants or dehydrating them.
  • Iron deficiency causes leaf chlorosis. The younger leaves on your plant will look like the picture above — yellow with green veins. This is called interveinal chlorosis and it’s usually caused by growing an acid loving plant in alkaline soil. This can be fixed by either adding iron, or by acidifying the soil. Alkaline soil can make iron unavailable to your plants.
  • Nitrogen deficiency causes leaf yellowing in older leaves. The entire leaf will be yellow. Fertilize with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion (there are many others that will work).

Caution: You need to know what you are doing before willy-nilly adding stuff to your soil. If you’re not sure, and many gardeners wouldn’t be (there’s no shame in not knowing, just in not learning), call your local cooperative extension. They know the local soil conditions and will be able to recommend the right solution.

Remember the first rule of organic gardening — feed the soil, not the plant! If you take care of your soil, it will take care of the plants. Organic amendments will balance your soil and last longer. If you are using commercial organic soil amendments ALWAYS follow the package directions — more is not better!

One thought on “Tuesday’s Tips — What To Do About Yellow Leaves

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  1. Thanks for the tip…very helpful! Good luck to Marybeth and Ray on the trip to Durango! Looking forward to their posts en route.

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