Why are my raised beds and flower gardens not successful?


Hello, I am looking for an expert to come to my house and tell me what is wrong with both my raised beds and flower gardens. I’ve been trying to have raised beds for six years and am at my whits end. I’ve built a hügelkultur, pulled it all out, added new soil, kept the same soil for the last three years just topping off. My garlic this year is barely bigger than an inch around. Herbs seem to do well but I can’t grow a vegetable – it bolts or stays dwarfed. My flower bed of zinnias and dahlias are all miniature! Flowers and plants are dwarfed, even after using Plantone or Tomatotone. I just don’t know what is wrong with my yard – it seems I’m dealing with something bigger – I’ve always been able to grow vegetables and plants.


Jonathan Foster, Community Education Assistant

Thank you for reaching out to the UMaine Cooperative Extension, and I’m sorry to hear about your garden troubles. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources for site visits, but I’m hoping to provide some suggestions that may help.

The first thing we recommend is getting your soil tested (testing your soil ). This will give you a detailed analysis of the nutrients in your growing medium to determine if you have excesses or deficiencies that may be causing problems, as well as specific recommendations for any amendments that should be made.
The next most likely limiting factors in your garden’s growth are light and water. Most fruit-bearing plants and many flowers will require at least eight hours of direct sun per day to get good harvests; leafy greens and root-bearing crops can handle four and six, respectively. If you do find your light is too low, shifting to shade tolerant plants can keep the garden full and growing.

For water needs, you should be giving the plants a deep soaking every few days to once a week (if you push your fingers into the soil and it’s moist several inches down, you’re in the right zone).  Avoid quick daily waterings as it tends to evaporate and produce shallow roots. A 2-3″ thick layer of mulch is also advised to maintain soil moisture in between irrigations, especially in the summer heat.  There is an excellent how-to found here: How to Water Your Garden

I hope this gives you a good start on getting your garden back where you want it to be.