With spring in full gear, you may be getting an itch to start a new garden. But if you think you have a “brown” thumb and you’re afraid you will kill every plant, you might be hesitant to start.
Don’t let that stop you. Ease your garden anxiety by learning these common mistakes. If you avoid these pitfalls, you will likely enjoy a bountiful garden.
Not educating yourself. This is probably the first thing people neglect to do. Ask questions, get information, especially from neighbors and nearby experienced gardeners. A little research and education up front cuts down on the frustration that new gardeners often feel, and helps you be a more successful gardener.
Not planning out your garden. Planning is essential. What else do you want in your yard? On your balcony or patio? Integrate them all together. You wouldn’t just buy a piece of furniture for your living room if you had nowhere to put it, so think of the outside in the same way. How (or where) does the garden fit in with the rest of your area?
Planting things at the wrong time and/or in the wrong season. One of the best examples I can think of is the planting of pumpkins. We all know that fall is when pumpkins are big and ready to harvest for Halloween carving or pie-making. But do you know when you would actually have to plant that pumpkin in order for it to be ready by then? Think about it: it not only needs to grow a strong root system, but also vines to help support the pumpkin, and once the pumpkins start coming, they also need to grow big enough to be useful. That’s why ideally you should get them in the ground no later than the middle of June. Yep, that’s four months ahead of when you need them.
Planting things in the wrong spot. You need to learn something about both what you want to plant and the location(s) you have to plant in. It is easier to select plants that fit the conditions in your garden than it is to try to make your garden conditions fit the plant you brought home because you “just had to have it.” People pick things they think are “pretty” without doing any research or finding out the basic requirements that a plant needs to grow. Before you buy anything, make sure you know what it needs to grow. Most things that fruit or flower need at least 6 hours of full sun each day. Do you have a spot like that? Survey your garden. Where is the sun? Where is the shade? Do this before you plant and do it at different times of the day and year.
Not doing anything to your soil. Soil is the number one key to successful gardening. If you don’t have good soil, you won’t have a bountiful crop. Good soil makes healthy plants and healthy plants are more disease and pest-resistant. An ideal soil is one that has the right mixture of clay, silt sand and organic matter (nutrients) in it. Learn more about maintaining healthy soil here.
Not providing consistent or proper care. Watering is a great example of this. Most beginning gardeners either water too much or too little, or they drench things and then let them dry out, completely stressing any plants that might happen to survive. Remember: you are watering the root system of any plant, water more deeply and less frequently and check the soil near the root zone to make sure it actually needs to be watered. The most important thing is plants need consistent care, so fertilizing, weeding, harvesting, watering, and the right amount of sunlight, need to be provided on a consistent basis.
Plant what you like, and don‘t plant too much, or too many plants. Start small, very small. See if gardening really does become a practice that you feel motivated to integrate into your lifestyle. Just because you have an entire bed ready to be planted, or even an acre, you do not have to plant it all at once. Once you feel more comfortable that you can garden, then you can gradually increase how much you grow.
Do you have others that you’d like to share or vent about? Let us hear them in the comments section.