As I reflect on my last 3 years of gardening, I realize that I made a fair amount of beginner mistakes. Here are some takeaways that I learned to help you prevent the novice pitfalls.
- Putting seeds into the ground too late. I decided to save money by germinating seeds instead of purchasing nursery plants in my second and third year of gardening. However, I started my seeding too late, which resulted in my vegetables maturing deeper into the summer and yielding less crop. If you are not able to sow seeds into the ground two or three weeks after your area’s last frost date, then I highly recommend utilizing nursery plants instead. It is okay to get some help.
- Germinating seeds indoor without proper equipment. I decided to start seeding a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables indoors to get a leg up last year. It sounded like a great idea, but I ended up with a lot of headaches instead. I had only purchased one small grow light and assumed that the rest of the plants would sprout next to the windowsills. That did not work out as intended and most of the plants either did not grow enough to make a difference or they die. I ended up having to purchase nursery plants to make up for the failure, thus negating all the hard work spent during the winter. This year, I purchased a cheap multi-level rack to hold the seedlings and many more grow lights. The new equipment made a huge difference in the quality of my seed sprouts.
- Planting too many varieties. I can get caught up with purchasing too many seeds and nursery plants when I go shopping at the local garden center. How can I say no to the wonderful variety of vegetation that beckon to be part of my burgeoning garden? This exuberance led to me planting vegetables that I normally don’t eat or wasting the seeds altogether because I ran out of space in my mini farm. This year, I made a note of all the vegetables that my family normally consumes throughout the year and I purchased seeds accordingly.
- Not learning enough about the vegetables before planting. Early in my horticultural life, I would read the instructions on the back of the packet. Unfortunately, this is only sufficient for understanding planting depth and spacing and that’s about it. Gardening is about accumulating knowledge of your environment and how it affects each plant. I spent more time over the winter learning about vegetables that I had planned on cultivating this year. I took the time to gather information about the soil preferences, the right temperature to sow, and their companion plants. I am looking forward to fruitful results.
- Watering during the wrong time of the day. This is an interesting concept as I would water the plants whenever I could get to it during my busy daily schedule. This meant I would usually water my garden when the sun was still high in the sky, which is not ideal. The water evaporates much more before landing on the plants or soil and dries up too fast for the soil to maximize the absorption. Watering really early in the morning or at night helps plants store more water for the next day.
- Being overly ambitious with my garden. I used to drive myself crazy trying to emulate a Pinterest-worthy garden and would get frustrated by my lack of progress. I’ve learned from my mistakes and experience that gardening is a long journey and can take many years. The beautiful gardens on Pinterest are the fruit of hard labor, planning, money, and years of patience. I am satisfied to continue learning, building and loving my little garden even if it doesn’t compare to those bucolic and probably professionally designed ones. It is still very satisfying to be able to cook meals for my family with vegetables that I grew in my garden through my hard work.
For related articles, visit the Beginner Gardening Series.