9 Common Mistakes in Gardening
By Space Coast Daily // June 2, 2021
Many of you may be strongly tempted to cultivate a garden, especially when you see examples of thriving plants on social media and first-hand in your neighborhoods.
While some may wish to bring visual appeal to front yards and backyards with colorful flower beds, some may desire an organic vegetable patch to augment a healthy lifestyle.
Whichever the case, it remains a dream for many, because gardening is considered a challenging task that requires special skill and a lot of patience and is often fraught with failure.
However, it need not be so. By avoiding a few common potential pitfalls, anyone who is new to the concept of gardening can go on to develop a green thumb and a healthy and flourishing garden, of which they can be proud.
Being aware of these common gardening mistakes will help you circumvent them and turn your dream of creating a lush green space on your property into reality.
Mistake #1. Sowing seeds too early
One of the gardening mistakes that happen frequently with beginners is sowing seeds before the weather is warm enough to nurture them. The excitement of starting a new garden may get the better of you and you might be tempted to sow the seeds before spring has set in properly.
Doing so can result in the stunted and unhealthy growth of your seedlings or even prevent the seeds from germinating altogether. If the temperature is still too low or the soil has not thawed, it will harm the seeds and seedlings.
Not accounting for a late frost can also lead to this issue. If you start your seedlings too early and encounter another about of chilly weather, they will need to stay indoors longer. The lack of sunlight and sufficient space for their roots to grow can adversely affect them.
The best way to avoid this is to carefully determine the optimum sowing time for your area. Information on the ideal sowing time usually accompanies the seeds that you purchase. But they are a general range, for example, March to May.
To determine the correct sowing period, you will need to determine the hardiness zone under which your area falls. This will tell you the range of temperatures that your plant or seedling can withstand. Armed with this knowledge and the seasonal temperature pattern in your area, you can correctly deduce the sowing time.
Mistake #2. Planting too much by sowing all seeds in one go
When you see a small package of seeds you might ask yourself, how much will they yield? But seeds are deceptively small and once planted and tended, they can grow into a profusion of crops. This is a good thing, of course, but it has a flip side.
Imagine that you decided to use up the entire package of seeds in a single sowing. The plants will germinate and grow all at the same time. Before you know it, your garden will be loaded with an abundance of lettuce or spinach, which will need to be harvested all at once before they mature and begin to rot.
You may also plant too many plants at the same time to cover your entire plot. This is not a good idea either. You will be hard-pressed for time to care for them and they could wilt, bolt or die. Bolting occurs in leafy vegetables that begin to flower and go to seed, making the leaves bitter, tough and inedible. It happens due to dry conditions brought about by insufficient watering or being exposed to harsh temperatures.
Planting too much at once can result in insufficient time to regularly water your growing plants or the inability to recognize when they might need some protection from the elements. When they are being harmed by temperature extremes, they will either need to be brought indoors or a shade or insulation will need to be built for them.
The way to avoid these beginner gardening mistakes is to take care to only sow a few seeds at a time and tend to those plants. Creating a plan beforehand will help you sow in phases and or just cultivate small portions of your plot at a time. This way you can give your growing plants the attention they need and help them thrive. Encouraged by this success, you can confidently move on to the next phase of sowing.
Mistake #3. Manually clearing the land
Before you plant, you need to prepare the soil. Very often, this involves uprooting weeds and other unwanted growth from the entire plot. Performing this task manually is very hard and time-consuming work. Also, as is the case with any manual task, it may not be thorough enough. This is another one of the gardening mistakes that a new gardener may commit. However, there are simpler and more effective alternatives for preparing the planting area.
Plastic sheeting is an easy and natural hack for killing weeds. Spreading a sheet of black or clear plastic over the plot for a few days will absorb and trap heat underneath, killing weeds, pests and fungi. This is called solarizing, as solar energy is absorbed and steam naturally is created under the insulating layer of plastic to cleanse the soil. This is more effective for heavy soil that holds moisture than quick-draining dry types of soil.
Mulch serves many purposes in preparing the soil for cultivation. Spreading a layer of mulch over the area will help prevent erosion, allowing young roots to take better hold and properly establish themselves in the long run. It prevents weed growth. It nourishes the soil and preserves its moisture content. The type of mulch depends on soil type and climate. Mulch is organic and can be straw, cardboard, compost, manure or seaweed.
Chemical pesticides and weed-killers are effective but may not be the most environmentally-friendly option. However, green and organic alternatives of chemical weed killers are available these days.
Mistake #4. Over-watering or under-watering
One of the most delicate aspects of gardening is knowing how much water your plants need and maintaining that supply.
Different plants require different quantities and frequencies of watering. The amount of water you feed your plant also depends on whether the underlying soil is dense and will lock in moisture, or whether it is loose and drains quickly. Very often this might be a matter of trial and error but some prior research will also help. Over-watering can be just as harmful as under-watering.
One of the challenges that gardeners face is maintaining the optimum supply of water, especially while they are not present to do so. A wide variety of self-watering devices are available as solutions to this issue.
These devices or self-watering pots irrigate your plants automatically and only need to be refilled occasionally. They can take the guesswork out of watering. Some are equipped with water level indicators to alert you to the need for a refill. Most of them have drainage systems so that there is no waterlogging, which could lead to root rot.
Using any of these drip irrigation systems can help maintain the ideal moisture level in the soil and keep your plants healthy.
Mistake #5. Not identifying location issues
Not all gardening plots are created equal. Not all plots are free of drawbacks either. But recognizing the issues of your garden location will allow you to find solutions for them so that your plants may be protected. Being aware of the nature of your plot will help you plan which plants will thrive in it.
If a part of your plot is in the shade of a tree or a building, you will need to reserve that area for plants that thrive despite limited sun exposure.
If parts of the plot are unprotected by strong winds that are common in the area, a windbreak or shelter will need to be built and the plants located in the lee of the structure.
If there are dark and dank areas in the plot, which not enjoy sufficient air circulation, they will be susceptible to frost, fungal growth and other such issues. Either the topography will need to be changed so that these areas can be eliminated or minimized, or you should avoid planting in those spots.
Taking these factors into consideration before planting will help you grow a healthy garden.
Mistake #6. Insufficient knowledge about pests and weeds
Pests are weeds are almost certainly present in all gardens, and come with the territory. Dealing with pests and weeds is an inherent part of gardening. The type of pests that you will have to deal with is unique to your plot. The first step to tackling the problem is informing yourself about these potential threats to your plants so that you can combat them.
There is such a wide variety of pests and weeds that you will never be able to recognize or keep track of them all, and you do not need to do so. The simplest way to prepare yourself is to consult your neighbors and any other horticulturists in the area about the common weeds and insects that infest the area. Once you know how to identify them, you will be ready to fight them.
A few tips can help solve the problem:
– Weeds stunt the growth of your plants, who will get stressed and go to seed or show signs of unhealthy growth. Yellowing or unnaturally spotty leaves, wilting, thinning stems are a few telltale signs of a problem. Being on the lookout for these signals that your plants send out can keep you alert to the possibility of weed infestation.
– Weed killers can be used to get rid of them, or they can be uprooted by hand. Using mulch before planting and occasionally replenishing the mulch layer will help prevent weed growth;
– Many pests lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. Checking the leaves regularly and scraping off the eggs if any should help you deal with the problem before they hatch and cause irreversible damage.
Some pests lay their eggs in the soil, near the base of the plant so that they can burrow right beneath and infest the roots. Root vegetables are especially prone to such attacks. Using insecticides or pesticides will help. Using a fine mesh insect netting to cover the plants is a more ecologically friendly way to prevent pest infestation.
Mistake #7. Not knowing enough about the soil
Another one of the gardening mistakes that cannot be rectified later on is not understanding the nature of the soil before planting. Soil has two main attributes:
– Its pH level tells you whether it is acidic, neutral or alkaline. Soil pH test kits are easily available to test the soil. Treating the soil with specific types of compost can alter its pH level and modify it so that it reaches the level suited for your plants. This may take several iterations and many years in some cases;
– Soil texture determines how effectively it drains or retains moisture. This also directly influences the type of plants that will flourish or fail.
If your soil is not ideal, a practical approach would be to build a raised bed and fill it with the soil of your desired pH level and consistency.
Soil maintenance is also important. At the end of each growing season, the soil has to be protected against the upcoming cold season. The nutrients in the soil have to be preserved and it is also a good opportunity to naturally replenish the soil.
Spreading a layer of manure or wet leaves is a good tip. As the material decomposes, the released nutrients will leach into the soil below and remain there, waiting for the next crop of new seeds or saplings in spring.
Mistake #8. Spending too much on seeds
Not all gardeners have a large budget to work with for new seeds of their choice every season. Sometimes you may even land up buying a bunch of different seeds and not be able to use them because they are too many or you find out after the fact they are not suitable for your garden plot.
A simple way to get around this is to attend a seed swap event. Communities organize these events where people can swap seeds for free. The information about such events, if there are any in your area, is usually readily available online. Seed swaps are conducted online as well so that you can participate from the comfort of your home and will just need to invest in shipping.
Another easy way to grow plants without investing money up front is to grow them from kitchen scraps. Avocado can be grown from its seed using a very effective method. A wide range of vegetables can be propagated from their scraps, including potatoes, garlic, leeks, onions, celery, beets cabbages and many more. You can grow an entire vegetable patch from scraps if you do it with care and with the help of some basic research. It is also a very healthy and beneficial way to recycle organic waste.
Mistake #9. Spending too much on plants
Buying seeds can sometimes be an expensive affair. Buying fully grown plants from a nursery can also add up to a big investment if you have a large plot or lean towards exotic or expensive varieties. A good way around this issue is to opt for plug plants. They can be less expensive than both seeds and grown plants.
Plug plants are young saplings that germinated recently and are sold in trays or a set of small containers. They can be transplanted into a pot or directly into the ground when you are ready for planting.
Using plug plants can not only save you money, but also the time and effort required to grow from seed. This is especially helpful if you are a beginner. They give you a much higher chance of success as well since they are well on their way in the growth process.
Knowledge is power. Knowing the problems you might face on the journey, especially as a novice, you can avoid the worst gardening mistakes that you might be liable to commit. With these factors in mind, you can be better prepared to cultivate the garden of your dreams.