Whether you are a new vegetable gardener or a seasoned pro, we are all bound to make mistakes in the vegetable garden. I know I have made (and still make) my fair share of follies.
Growing vegetables is not that difficult overall, but there are some techniques that are an art that takes some practice, a little elbow grease and sometimes a bit of good fortune.
Picasso did not paint a masterpiece his first time at the canvas, did he?
If you are new to vegetable gardening it is easy to become frustrated when something goes wrong, especially if you aren’t sure what or how it went wrong.
Many times it all comes down to something that could have been prevented with a little planning.
Here are some common mistakes that are typically made in the vegetable garden and how you can avoid them.
Starting Out Too Big
One of the most practical pieces of advice I can give new vegetable gardeners is to start out with a small garden.
Many new gardeners will attempt to take on more than they can handle when starting their first garden.
It’s easy to become very excited about having your own vegetable garden and not be realistic about the time and effort it takes to properly maintain a vegetable garden.
It is much better to have a small, healthy garden than it is to have a large vegetable garden with wilting or dying plants.
Take into consideration how much time you have to devote to your vegetable garden and plan accordingly.
Not Properly Preparing the Garden Soil
A typical mistake for new gardeners is to not give any attention to the garden soil. The garden soil is what feeds your vegetable plants, so you must have healthy soil in order to have healthy plants. The soil where you plan to locate your new vegetable garden should be thoroughly tested before planting that first vegetable.
First, remove the grass, rocks and other debris from the proposed garden space. Dig out a few spots of the soil and scoop some out into your hand.
Give the soil a good squeeze.
If it clumps up easily, seems gummy, and is hard to break apart you may have a high concentration of clay.
Clay soils can lead to poor air and water circulation. If the soil breaks apart too easily and seems grainy, you may have a sandy soil.
High levels of sand can cause water to drain too quickly leading to dried out plants. Typically sandy soils lack many of the nutrients for healthy vegetable plants.
Both of these situations can be remedied by adding copious amounts of organic materials such as compost.
Sandy soils require a higher level of organic matter due to the lack of nutrients, while clay soils need a clay-to-organic matter ratio of about 1:1.
Adding organic matter adds nutrients, improves soil texture, improves drainage, and adds beneficial microorganisms. A soil test should be performed on the garden soil by your local extension office.
This test will tell you the existing nutrient and pH levels of your soil so you will know exactly what needs to be corrected. This is a very important step for growing a healthy and productive vegetable garden.
Planting In Shady Areas
The location of your vegetable garden is imperative for good production. Before planting your vegetable garden make sure it receives at least six hours of full sunlight a day.
Planting a vegetable garden in an area that receives less than this can mean lower crop yields and stunted plant growth.
Track the sunlight in the proposed vegetable garden spot throughout the day for about a week.
This will give you a great idea of how well the area receives sunlight throughout the day. If you monitor sunlight in the early spring, make sure to watch for possible shady areas from nearby trees that have not fully leafed out.
The area may receive good sunlight when the trees are bare, but when they fully develop leaves you could find your vegetable garden in the shade come summer.
If you don’t have the time to check the sunlight in your yard, a Sunlight Calculator will help you monitor sunlight levels.
A very common mistake many vegetable gardeners make is to over fertilize their plants. It can become easy to think that adding extra fertilizer will benefit the plants, but actually the opposite is true.
Plants require a balanced diet of nutrients. When plants are over fertilized they can actually become over-feed leading to sick or dead plants. Plants can only intake so much nutrients before they become overdosed.
Organic, natural fertilizers add sufficient nutrients, supply beneficial microorganisms and will not burn plants.
Many first time vegetable gardeners, eager for a wonderfully productive garden, tend to over water their vegetable plants which can frequently lead to root rot and other problems.
Generally, vegetable plants require about an inch of water a week depending on rainfall amounts. Over watering can also promote diseases such as blights and powdery mildew.
To test soil moisture, simply stick your finger about two knuckles deep into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s a good idea to go ahead and give the plants a drink. If it feels moist, wait a day or so and check it again.
It is best to avoid watering vegetable plants from above. It is easier to water plants from above with a hose nozzle, but try to water plants at soil level. This will ensure water goes directly to the roots and reduces water waste.
Just allow a steady trickle of water to be absorbed into the soil. Don’t use a heavy stream as this can cause some soil erosion and could expose roots.
Keeping a consistent watering schedule is also important for disease resistance and good root development. Watering deeply and less often, instead of shallow and frequently, encourages deep root growth.
Avoid These Common Mistakes For A Successful Vegetable Garden
Avoiding these common mistakes can help a heap towards growing a very productive and fun vegetable garden. What are some common mistakes that vegetable gardeners make when starting out? Please share!