When you’re first starting to garden you might find that you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Maybe a friend or neighbor of yours has a garden and you’re thinking, “hey, I want one, too.” That’s fantastic. But it’s not quite as simple as planting a seed, watering, and watching it grow. That’s definitely the general story that you want to have, but there are a few more elements that go into growing a garden.
Everyone starts out as a new gardener, so you should never feel like you’re behind the curve in any way. If you’ve already stumbled upon this blog, I’m excited for you! It means you’re doing your research, and you’re going to overcome obstacles at a much faster rate. As a way to help you, I want to share 5 common mistakes new gardeners make. These aren’t topics that you should already know when you first start. They’re subjects you learn from experience and research over time.
Not Reading the Seed Packet
Seed packets are super helpful because, not only do they house your new seeds, but they also have a lot of information on the actual packet that you can use when starting your garden. Now, this is more for beginner gardeners who are planting vegetables, herbs, and flowers from seeds. Most trees and shrubs you’re not going to plant from seed, so you wouldn’t have this information available in the same format. But, if you are starting your garden with seeds, then I would recommend taking 5-10 minutes to read the back of your seed packet and decipher what it’s saying. Seed packet information can be compact, so if you need help understanding it, check out how to read a seed packet.
Information on seeds packets can help you to know when to plant your seeds, how to plant your seeds, and also provide you with some maintenance information like how much sun or water the plant needs. Not all seed packets provide the same exact information, but they do generally tell you about how to plant and when to plant. This can help your plants thrive during the appropriate season.
Not Amending the Soil
When I first started gardening I thought dirt was dirt. You stick a seed in it, and it starts to grow. Right? Well, apparently there’s a little more to it. Your soil quality matters – both the texture of the soil and the nutrients in the soil. You’ll want soil that is neither sandy or clay-like, and you’ll want it to contain organic matter like compost. In fact, you not only need to start out with good quality soil, but you also have to maintain it.
As plants grow they deplete the soil of its nutrients, so that’s why fertilizer is added to gardens. I personally believe in using organic fertilizers and amendments which include blood meal, bone meal, and adding additional compost.
Watering Too Much or Too Little
I’ve heard stories of people watering their garden too much, as well as too little when first starting out. And sadly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to watering. As a general rule of thumb though, you want to provide deep, intermittent watering. What this means is that you’re providing your garden a couple inches of water at least once a week, and then giving your plants an opportunity to grow strong roots. When you water too frequently, roots will stay shallow and not provide your plants with the strength that they need.
The quality of your soil, whether or not you use pots, and weather conditions can all play a factor with how frequently you should water. During the summertime or a dry season, you’ll need to water more frequently. When your plants are small and the roots are shallow you’ll also have to water more frequently.
It’s best to water during the morning before it gets too hot. It’s also good if you can avoid getting the leaves wet, and just watering around the base of your plants.
Putting Off Maintenance
After you start a garden some maintenance will be required. When you have a garden that’s thriving, chances are you’ll also have some weeds growing as well. It’s important to remove weeds before they start to take over. It may not look like a big deal at first, but the weeds will start to absorb both the water and nutrients in your soil. The weeds will compete with what you’re trying to grow. It’s better to maintain your garden from the beginning instead of letting the weeds overtake your hard work.
In addition to weeds, you will also need to make sure you’re prepared to maintain your garden by protecting it from pests and disease. Having barriers or using more natural and organic pesticides such as Neem Oil can help assist with that.
Not Having A Plan
When you first start your garden, you should plan to start small. Start with a few plants and get your feet wet. It’s admirable to want to start with a grand design, but give yourself the opportunity to start small first. That way, when you do create your large garden you’ll be able to tend to it properly and have it be all that you want it to be. I personally recommend that no matter how big or small you start, you should have a plan for your garden and an idea of what you’d like to track during your gardening journey. When you first start there are going to be things that work, and things that don’t. The more you track, the better your garden will be year after year. This is why I recommend having a garden planner. You can use a regular notebook, or you can use a planner that has been specifically created for gardening, like this minimalistic Garden Planner shown below.
I use my garden planner to plan future growing seasons, and also to track past growing seasons. That way I have a record that I can look back on to see what worked and what didn’t for future growing seasons.
Do you have a common mistake that beginner gardeners should be aware of? Comment below!