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Even if you have really good soil and a lot of sunlight, there are still plenty of things that can go wrong with your garden and keep it from turning out the way you had envisioned it would be.
I have rocky, sandy soil and a lot more shade than sun, so my poor little garden is already at a bit of a disadvantage, and my first few years I made plenty of beginner gardening mistakes.
Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not trying to depend on my garden to be my only source of food! I can only imagine the pressure that farmers and homesteaders must have felt back in the days when the success of their crops would decide whether they would go hungry that winter or not.
I still make plenty of mistakes now, too. When things get busy, I don’t put quite as much time into properly preparing the soil like I know I should. And there usually comes a point in the summer when it’s just so hot and humid that I basically give up on weeding completely.
Over the years, though, I’ve gradually learned how to make my garden a little bit more successful. It’s still pretty small, and it’s definitely not going to win any prizes for being the prettiest or the most neatly organized garden, but at least it’s better than it used to be 🙂
(And, yes, if you’re wondering, the picture above is one I took of my garden a couple of years ago. It was my second year gardening, and it was early in the season before I had let the weeds take over, so that’s why it still looks pretty neat.)
These four beginner gardening mistakes are all ones that I’ve made, and, if this is your first year gardening, hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did and have a better chance at a successful first garden!
4 Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid:
1) Planting Too Many Varieties of Veggies
When you’re just starting out with a garden, it’s a good idea to keep it as simple as possible for the first year. It’s tempting to want to try a little of everything, but you’ll have a much better chance of having a successful garden if you focus on just a few varieties for the first year and then add in others the next year.
When I first started ordering heirloom seeds online, I went a little bit overboard that first year. I wanted to try them all, and I ordered far too many of them. It was a lot to try to keep track of them all, and I ended up not having the time to really learn about how each type should be planted and what type of growing conditions they needed, etc.
Now that I’ve had a garden for a few years, I’ve figured out what types of plants do well in my yard and which ones don’t, but if I could go back to the year I first started a garden, I would have been better off just trying a few simple, easy-to-grow varieties like peas and beans.
2) Crowding Plants Too Close Together
This kind of goes along with the first mistake. If you’ve tried to plant too many varieties, you’re probably also trying to squeeze as many seeds or seedlings into your garden space as possible.
My first year gardening, I had visions of a huge harvest, and I packed the seeds as closely together as possible, thinking I would have more produce that way. I also didn’t thin out the seedlings properly after the seeds had sprouted because I hated the thought of pulling out perfectly healthy plants.
Instead of a huge, productive harvest, though, I ended with up weak, straggly-looking plants, and I could barely find room to step between them without destroying them (since I had forgotten about planning enough space to walk around them too.)
The moral of the story: less equals more. Fewer plants spaced further apart will end up being healthier and producing more fruit than plants crowded together.
3) Watering Plants Too Often, or at the Wrong Time of Day
I’ve been guilty of this mistake many times. It’s easy to worry so much about whether your plants are getting enough water that you end up giving them too much water by mistake. Some plants do need more water than others, but generally they do better with fewer, more thorough waterings (like they would get if if were raining) than they do with getting a shower from the hose every time you walk by and think they look even a little bit thirsty.
It’s also generally considered best to water in the earlier part of the day rather than in the evening because watering at night could contribute to the growth of fungus, especially for plants that don’t do well in very damp conditions.
4) Planting the Wrong Varieties Next to Each Other
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you still can’t figure out why your garden isn’t thriving, it might be that you’re planting the wrong varieties next to each other.
Certain types of plants do really well when they are together, helping to keep away insects and pests or by helping to enrich the soil. Others plants, though, may actually inhibit the growth of the plants that they are near.
By using companion planting and planning your garden to keep together the varieties that work well with each other, you have a better chance of having a successful garden.
For more information about companion planting, you can find charts and lists of companionable plants at these links:
Want to Learn More About Starting a Garden?
If you’re a beginner gardener, or even if you’ve been gardening for a few years but want to pick up a few new tips to make your garden even better, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening: A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Healthy Garden is a great resource for learning how to plant seeds, how to manage weeds and pests naturally, how to get good soil, how to harvest, etc.
(Update May 2016: I’ve just written another beginner gardening post about 4 Secrets for a Better Beginner Garden. You can find that post HERE:)
What gardening mistakes am I forgetting? I’m sure there are others. If you have a gardening tip or something you learned the hard way, let us know in the comments!
Want to Live a Healthier Lifestyle?
From Beginner to Pro – Top Tips and Tricks for an Amazing Garden by Nourishing Liberty
Solutions for Common Problems with Seedlings by Jen and Joey Go Green
20 Perennial Vegetables to Plant Once and Enjoy Forever by Small Footprint Family
How to Check the Viability of Old Seeds by The Homestead Garden