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Even if you have really good soil and a lot of sunlight, there are still plenty of beginner gardening mistakes you can make that can keep your garden from turning out the way you had envisioned it would be.
I have fairly sandy soil in my garden and rocks and pebbles all over the place, 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 that put my garden at even more of a disadvantage than the lack of sun and soil issues.
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 fairly small at least compared to some people’s gardens, and it’s definitely not going to win any prizes for being the prettiest or the most neatly-organized garden, but it’s a lot better than it used to be!
These four beginner gardening mistakes are all ones that I’ve made, and, if this is your first or second year gardening, hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did and have a better chance at a successful 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.
When you keep things simple, it’s not so overwhelming, and you have more time to actually learn about the growing conditions that each plant needs.
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 vegetables like peas and beans and tomatoes and sticking to just a couple of different varieties of each type of vegetable rather than trying to grow every variety available.
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 and seedlings 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. And, as hard as it is to thin out seedlings, it really will help your garden to have the proper spacing between plants, and it will give the remaining plants room to grow.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t maximize the space in your garden to try to make the most efficient use of the garden size that you have, but some plants, like tomatoes especially, don’t like to be crowded together too closely because over-crowding can promote disease more easily.
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 brief shower from the hose every time you walk by and think they look even a little bit thirsty.
If you give your plants too much water, some varieties could develop diseases more easily, and their roots could even start to rot if they are too water-logged. And watering too frequently could cause root vegetables to not feel the need to reach deeper into the soil to search for water, giving you stunted root vegetables.
It’s a good idea to check out the seed packet of the variety you are planting or do some research about that particular type of plant to see how much water it needs and how often it needs it to make sure you aren’t either over-watering or under-watering.
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 and pests like slugs, especially for plants that don’t do well in very damp conditions. If you water in the earlier part of the day, though, the plants have a chance to dry out before the evening comes.
4) Planting the Wrong Varieties Next to Each Other
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you have plenty of sunlight and healthy soil 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 or might contribute to diseases.
Depending on what types of vegetables you are planting and how much space you have available, companion planting may or may not be practical for your garden. If you are using just one raised bed, for example, then you might have very limited options for which plants can go next to other plants. But if you have the space in your garden, using companion planting and planning your garden to keep the varieties that work well with each other together, you can hopefully improve the health of your plants and the success of your garden.
And now that you know some of the mistakes to avoid, you can also focus on some of the things you can do to help your garden like I talk about in this post about 4 secrets for a better beginner garden.
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!
Further Reading for more resources with tips for growing a garden:
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
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.