I encourage you to grow your own potted vegetables if you lack growing space. But some of the vegetables may start dying due to lack of care.
Your potted vegetables are dying because of overwatering. You are giving them a lot of water that is drowning the roots and causing problems like root rot. Some other reasons include underwatering, lack of sunlight, lack of nutrients, attack by pests or diseases.
As you can see, there’s a lot that can happen to cause your potted vegetables to die. I’ve written details to help you figure out the issue and fix it.
Overwatering the potted vegetable plant
The most common reason your potted vegetables are dying because you are giving them too much water. This is a problem beginner gardeners experience because we feel the need to water the plants often.
Potted plants indeed need more water than plants you would grow in the ground. But it would be best if you were careful not to overdo it.
If the potting soil is always moist, it will cause the roots to suffocate. They won’t be able to get the nutrients and oxygen from the soil. This causes humid conditions that will lead to root rot and your potted vegetables will start dying.
I recommend that you understand the type of vegetable plant you’re growing and provide just the right amount of water. You can stick your finger 1-2 inches into the potting soil and feel the moisture.
If the tip of your finger feels moist, the potting soil still contains enough moisture and you don’t need to water it.
If your potted vegetable is already dying, you need to check if the cause is overwatering. Stop giving water for a few days and check if the plant recovers.
If it does not recover, dig the plant out of the soil and check the roots. If some of them are black, soggy, and smell, you need to trim them. Place the plant in fresh potting soil.
If all of the roots have been infected by root rot, there’s nothing you can do but dispose of the plant.
Underwatering the potted vegetable plant
The potted vegetable plants may die if you’re not providing them with sufficient water. Vegetable plants need plenty of water to grow well. And potted plants need even more water as the roots are growing in limited space.
You need to understand the watering requirement of the potted vegetables you’re growing. I recommend checking on your plants every morning to see if they need watering.
Stick your finger 1-2 inches into the potting soil to feel the moisture. If the tip of your finger does not feel moist, you need to give the plant good watering.
Water the potting soil with a watering can till it drains out from the drainage holes at the bottom.
If the vegetable plant is already dying, you need to give it good watering and check if it recovers. It may be that the potting soil has gone hard and is not absorbing water.
You need to then soak the pot in a tub of water for an hour so the potting soil can slowly absorb the water and regain its texture.
I would also recommend adding mulch to the potted plant. The mulch helps insulate the potting soil and keeps the temperature regulated. This means it will retain moisture longer and you don’t need to worry about the soil losing moisture too fast.
Poor choice of container for the plant
Your potted vegetable plant may die if the container is not suitable for growing the plant. This could be due to a lack of growing space.
If the size of the container is too small, the roots will not be able to grow well. They may end up circling in the pot and becoming root-bound.
The plant won’t get the nutrients and moisture it needs due to a lack of potting soil and moisture.
If you find that your plant growth is stunted or it has started to slowly wilt, check that the roots have sufficient space to grow. Sometimes the roots may have started growing out of the drainage holes due to the lack of space.
If you find them becoming root-bound, you need to re-pot the plant in another larger container.
Choose a 1-2 sizes larger container than what your vegetable plant needs so it gets the required growing space.
Gently tap the pot and hold the plant at the base. Pull the plant out taking care of the roots. If the roots are root-bound, you can separate them. You can even peel off an outer layer of the roots if it’s too messed up.
You can now add potting soil to the larger container and dig a hole sufficient for the plant roots. Place the root ball into this hole and cover it up with the potting soil.
Give the plant good watering till the excess water drains out from the drainage holes at the bottom.
Make sure that the pot or container you choose has sufficient drainage holes at the bottom. This will prevent issues like overwatering causing damage to the vegetable plant.
Lack of nutrients for the vegetable plant
Vegetable plants need many nutrients, and a lack of these may be the cause for your potted plants dying.
Please find out the needs of your vegetable plants before you start growing them. Some of them really need a lot of nutrients after they germinate.
I recommend you add organic compost or slow-release organic fertilizer to the potting soil when preparing it. This way the nutrients are present in the soil once the plant has germinated.
You can also add compost or fertilizer to the potting soil every month when the vegetable plant grows.
You can use a slow-release fertilizer that releases the nutrients when you water the plant. Or you can use a liquid fertilizer that you spray on the plant to give a quick release of nutrients.
If the potted plant is already suffering due to a lack of nutrients, you should start adding the liquid fertilizer to boost nutrients.
Remember to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer when using fertilizer. You want to add the right amount but not too much.
An excess of fertilizer can have the issue of fertilizer burn that will cause your plant roots to die.
Lack of sunlight for the potted plant
Most vegetable plants need a lot of sunlight to grow well and a lack of sunlight can cause them to die.
Some vegetable plants need full sunlight which means at least 6-8 hours every day. Some others may need partial shade.
You want to learn more about the vegetable plants you’re growing and their sunlight requirement. Then place the pot in a location of your garden or house where it can get the required light.
If the plants are already placed in a location with insufficient light you need to move them to a better location.
The good thing about growing vegetables in pots is you can move them around if you need to. If the pots are weighty it would be best to place them on a moving tray before growing them.
You also want to be careful not to provide too much sunlight if the plants can’t handle it. Leafy vegetables may start to wilt when the light is too intense.
Pests attacking the potted vegetable plant
Pests can attack your potted vegetable plants and cause them to die. There are different types of pests you need to watch out for. You can check out all the common pests found on vegetable plants and how to get rid of them.
Some pests attack the foliage or the roots of the plant. These pests are not harmful in small amounts but can overwhelm the plant with a large population.
I recommend checking your potted vegetable plants every day for signs of such pests. The sooner you take care of them the easier it is.
You do need to check whether the insects on the plant are harmful and then take steps. You don’t want to kill off beneficial insects on the plants.
I suggest you find out what kind of insect is present on the plant. If you cannot figure it out you can use some mobile apps that take pictures and identity the insects. You could also take advice from a gardening expert on the type of pest and what you should do about it.
Diseases infecting the potted plant
Your potted vegetable plants can get infected with diseases that can cause them to start dying. These could be fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases that affect the plant’s foliage, roots, or internal structure.
I suggest monitoring your vegetable plants every day to check if any diseases are starting to occur. This gives a good chance that you can take immediate action and protect the plant.
You will need to find out the type of disease infecting the plant before finding some solution. You could use some mobile apps that take pictures and identify the problem. Or you can take the help of a gardening expert to figure out the disease.
If the plant is infected with a fungal disease, you could trim the infected parts and the plant would be fine. You could treat it with an anti-fungal solution such as neem oil or horticultural oil.
The best solution is to prevent such fungal diseases from occurring in the first place. You can do this by preventing humid conditions from occurring on your potted plants.
Prevent splashing water on the foliage when watering the plant. Keep good air circulation among the foliage. And ensure good drainage with drainage holes.
If the plant is infected with bacterial or viral diseases, you can trim the plant parts to slow the spread of the disease. But most such diseases will continue to increase on the plant and eventually kill it.
The best way to prevent this is to grow plant varieties that are resistant to some diseases. This does not ensure that the plant won’t even suffer diseases but it reduces the chances.
Poor potting soil used for the plant
Your vegetable plants may die because the potting soil is poor causing issues such as overwatering, lack of nutrients, pests, diseases, or chemicals.
You can’t use garden soil to grow potted vegetable plants. That’s because the garden soil is heavy and will compact in a pot.
The garden soil may contain too much clay that will cause water retention and lead to overwatering. It will suffocate the roots and prevent nutrients and oxygen from reaching them.
The garden soil may contain too much sand that will drain the moisture quickly and cause underwatering of the plant.
The garden soil may contain pests, diseases, or chemicals that will cause damage to the potted vegetable plants.
I recommend you get yourself good potting soil that is meant to grow your vegetables in. You can mix in compost to give it an even better texture and nutrients for the plants.
If you’re already growing the plants in poor soil, you need to re-pot them in the better potting soil. Take the plant out of the pot and sterilize it before use.
You can soak the pot in a solution with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water for an hour. This will get rid of unwanted pests and diseases from the pot. You can then rinse it with water and dry it out.
Now put the good potting soil into this pot and make a hole sufficient to hold the root ball of the vegetable plant. Place the root ball into the hole and cover it with potting soil.
Give the potting soil good watering till the water drains out from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Stress affecting the potted vegetable plant
If your potted vegetable plants come under stress they may die. Your potted plants could get stressed due to environmental factors such as strong winds, cold, high heat, or transplant shock.
Some of these would affect the potted plant temporarily as long as they last for a little while. When the plants are affected by strong winds or high heat, the leaves may wilt or curl up. But they will return to their original health as the weather improves. But if the plants get too cold they will not recover and freeze causing them to die.
You may have started seeds indoors or bought the seedlings from a nursery or garden center. If you transplant them to the pots without hardening, they may suffer transplant shock. This will cause stress to the plant and could kill them.
I recommend you harden the seedlings before you transplant them to the pots in your garden. You can do this by keeping the seedlings outdoors for a limited time every day and bringing them back in.
Ensure to keep them out of direct sunlight, wind, or rainy conditions when you do so. After doing this for a week, the seedlings will be ready for the transplant without any problems.
Lack of heat for the vegetable plant
Your potted vegetable plants may die due to lack of heat or too much heat depending on the type of plant.
Some vegetable plants are warm-season which means they need sufficient heat to germinate and grow well. This could be in the 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit range.
Some vegetable plants may be cool-season which means they need cool weather such as below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
You need to understand the heat requirements of your potted vegetable plant before you start growing them.
The warm-season vegetables you can grow once the last frost date has passed and the weather is hot enough during the spring/summer months.
The cool-season vegetables you can grow once fall has started when the weather is cool enough to grow these plants.
If you’re growing the potted plants indoors or germinating the seeds, you need to provide sufficient heat to the seeds or seedlings. You could use a heating mat underneath the pot or seed tray to ensure this.
If the plant is dying due to a lack of heat you immediately need to move it to an indoor location that is warm enough for the plant to recover.
If the plant is dying due to extreme heat, you need to move it to a shade location. Or to an indoor location that is cool and away from the heat that is causing problems.