Biggest Garden Mistakes
Gardening and gardens are great for physical and mental health. However, there are important things you need to be doing and not doing, in terms of avoiding common mistakes for those who are new to it. Here are a dozen tips for starters.
Planting Too Soon
Do your homework with regard to seedlings. They all have their optimum times at which to plant them. If planted at the wrong time seedlings may rot or go dormant. Don’t worry, handy instructions are found on all seed packets, and garden-center workers will be pleased to advise you. A decent soil thermometer is always a useful investment, as well as a working knowledge of when the average date for the last frost is in your area.
Planting Too Late
Between first planting and first harvest (maturation time), you have to plant at the right time; not too late, otherwise plants may freeze before their time. One way around this is to cover them with floating covers, and also to know the average last frost date for you area and count backwards to determine when is the latest time you can plant certain things.
It’s not quite as simple as planting, watering, harvesting. Different soils need different approaches; for clay-heavy soil you should add sand and organic matter to reduce compaction. For sandy soil, you’ll have to add compost or manure so as to boost the moisture and presence of nutrients. There are further online guides you can consult in order to achieve that perfect balance between sand, silt, clay, and organic matter.
Plants certainly require nitrogen for growth, but not too much. If there is too rapid a growth in foliage then the roots have to do much more work, and so the plant won’t be as fruitful as it might have been. Unless you’re growing plants that require extra nitrogen, don’t add it. It can also cause an excess of mineral salts and make the plant more vulnerable to disease and insect damage.
Plants must have space between them, or else they’ll be fighting for survival, not able to get enough nutrients, moisture, and sunlight. Seed packets will recommend the correct spacing between plants, and you can also use seedling tags in order to mark off the correct measurements in between. It won’t seem obvious at first but will become apparent over time, when they are expanding and growing.
Certain larger seedlings – peas, beans, and corn, need to be planted deeper in order to keep the right moisture level for sprouting. Smaller seedlings; lettuce and some herbs, need light to germinate. They should be put in loosened soil, pressed in, but not deeply implanted. Some transplants should be planted at an equal depth to what they were in the pot, to stop the stems from rotting. Tomatoes and peppers must be planted deeper to encourage greater root growth. The seed packet will guide you; make sure you stick to it.
A little bit is fine; too much can be counterproductive. It can be similar to planting seedlings too deep or adding excess nitrogen. It is vital to get the balance right in order to keep those weeds at bay, enhancing moisture retention but not drowning or choking the seed so that it never sees the light of day!
You need enough mulch so that weeds are obstructed, and so that the ground stays moist enough for the development and growth of your seeds. One inch of compost is perfect when seedlings are a few inches high, and then about two inches is helpful when the plants are about halfway grown. A total of two or three inches of mulch should suffice, unless you’re continually uprooting every little weed on a regular basis.
This sounds so obvious but fledgling seedlings and new transplants need sufficient water. Depending on your soil, this is a good rule of thumb; if loamy, check two inches into the soil and if moist then it doesn’t need more watering. If you have soil which is more sandy check four inches down, and with clay-heavy soil two inches. If you can’t reach down into those depths it is a sign you need to apply more water. On the other hand, waterlogged roots become oxygen starved. This can produce a wilting effect on the emerging plants. Consider watering less often but more deeply.
Contrary to popular belief, pruning is best in spring. This is because pruning stimulates new growth, and so is best just after the plants have finished flowering. If you mistakenly prune in the fall, thinking that the growing season is over, then you are taking a lot of energy out of the plant, and making it less effective in the long-term.
Often a large tree in a garden dominates not just the outward but the inward condition of the garden. It has enormous roots that make much of the soil unusable and block out a lot of the light which is vital for other plants to flourish. If you can get that tree pruned back or even removed, it might be better for your soil as a whole. There are a number of smaller trees that won’t be so overbearing; Pencil Cherries, Weeping pears, Japanese Maples, and Kilmarnock Willows to name but a few.
Once the slugs start to attack it may be too late. You need to be proactive about them, starting in early spring, as soon as it gets a litter warmer. Whether using beer raps, eggshells, grit, copper tape, or whatever, you must ensure they don’t breed and then wreak havoc in your garden.
Hopefully, these tips will help you become a confident gardener. A final tip is to start small; try things out on a smaller area, with just one thing, eg. carrots, and take it from there. Successive seasons will help you to learn from your mistakes, and you can big on your successes.
- Avoiding Garden Mistakes that Cost Big – University of Illinois Extension