|Vegetable Gardening Mistakes and How to Avoid Them|
1. STARTING TOO BIG
A garden has a way of getting out of hand. Your intentions are good, but soon the chores begin to pile up and you become overwhelmed and simply give up. This is a common mistake made especially by new vegetable gardeners.
The anticipation of so much fresh produce coming from your yard tends to make gardeners want to grow large plots. Resist that temptation if your experience level is low and you will be rewarded with a garden that you actually enjoy and not one that you despise.
2. CHOOSING THE WRONG CROPS/VARIETIES
Seed catalogs often begin to show up in the mail beginning in mid winter. They are a blessing and a curse. It’s exciting to see so much color and be filled with so much hope during the dark days of winter. The latest and greatest vegetable varieties released each year always promise higher and higher yields. However, always choose crops and varieties that are suited to your growing climate and season. A good example is to not plant a type of watermelon that takes 150 days to mature if your growing season is only 3 months long.
3. PLANTING TOO EARLY
Many of the mistakes made by vegetable gardeners stem from a lack of patience or an excitement to get started at the first sign of warm weather. Planting too early certainly fits the bill. Annual crops can be divided into two categories: warm season and cold season. The problem of planting too early is typically linked to the warm season crops or those that do not tolerate cold temperatures and frost.
Follow directions on your seed packets or those found online for correct planting dates in your area. It’s a good idea to determine the average date of the last frost each spring. Add one to two weeks to that date and you should be able to pick a time suitable for planting your most frost intolerant crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and okra.
4. PLANTING TOO CLOSE TOGETHER
Another mistake made by home gardeners is planting seeds or transplants too close together. Remember, plants need enough room so that when they are mature they are not being crowded by their neighbors. In addition, the ability for air to circulate properly will aid in pollen transfer for crops that mainly rely on the wind for pollination. It will also decrease the humidity level around the plant canopy which will in turn reduce the incidence of disease. Finally, the comfort of the gardener should be considered as well. You don’t want to fight a jungle of plant material when it comes time to harvest.
Always consult your seed packet, plant label, or an online resource for recommended plant spacing intervals.
Watering your vegetable garden requires attention and should not be taken lightly. A consistently over watered garden will cause roots to suffocate and lead to plant death. Similarly, a consistently under watered garden will cause plants to dry out and die. Proper watering should be based on factors such as recent rainfall and overall plant size and age.
The term “field capacity” refers to the pores within the soil profile all being filled entirely with water. This is the point you want to water to and then allow the soil to dry out somewhat over the next couple of days before watering again.
6. NOT CONTROLLING PESTS
Pests can be a major problem in a vegetable garden. From weeds to insects to wildlife, your garden can experience a multitude of invaders that all work to reduce your yield. Weeds steal sunlight, water, and nutrients from your plants. Insects will eat leaves which reduces the photosynthetic ability of the plant. They also damage the edible portion of the plant whether it is a fruit or vegetable. Anyone who has ever seen a garden damaged by deer can attest to the fact that they can decimate an entire plot overnight. It’s okay to share a little with nature but just be careful and don’t let it get out of hand.
7. NOT USING MULCH
This mistake made by many gardeners goes hand in hand with the previous two tips. Organic mulches such as clean straw, compost, and grass clippings can help regulate the water loss and temperature of your soils. Also, a good layer of mulch inhibits the sunlight from reaching young weeds and discouraging their growth. One word of caution though, light colored mulches should not be applied too early with warm season crops. They will not allow the soil to warm as quickly as using a dark colored material or leaving the surface bare for the first couple of weeks.
Okay, so the top 5 turned into the top 7. Once I started more things came to mind that I felt could not be left out. Nevertheless, by avoiding these mistakes you will have a much better chance at growing a successful vegetable garden that will continue to produce well throughout the season.
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As always, Happy Gardening!