Starting A Vegetable Garden
Growing your own vegetables is rewarding and can save you money at the grocery store. But it’s not as simple as planting and reaping.
Choose varieties that are appropriate for your zone. Test your soil to determine its composition and nutrient levels. Water newly planted seeds and transplants daily until established. Keep a close eye on your garden for insect pests and diseases.
Common Vegetable Garden Mistakes
You’re likely to err when you take your first stab at vegetable gardening. As a brilliant individual once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Not that we advocate making preventable errors. After all, gardening blunders cost you time and money. So with that in mind, we asked Bill Rein, a horticulturist at W. Atlee Burpee & Co., to point out the common missteps of beginning gardeners. After reviewing these, feel free to learn from your mistakes. It’s bound to make you a better gardener!
1. Great Expectations for Your Backyard Vegetable Garden
Filled with enthusiasm, many rookie gardeners plant large gardens without considering the time and effort needed to maintain them. Check out this list of 12 popular veggies and their suggested planting dates!
Set Realistic Expectations
“You have to remember that plants are living things, so neglect — unless you’re very lucky — means dead plants or, at the very least, sad-looking plants,” Rein says. “Be realistic about how much time you have for gardening, and refrain from growing more than you can maintain. A small, healthy garden is a lot more attractive than loads of wilting plants among a mass of weeds.”
Too Much Maintenance is a Bad Thing
And too much maintenance can be as bad as too little. “Some of the new gardeners I’ve met during my travels are so dedicated that they actually end up overdoing it: overwatering, over fertilizing and over pruning,” Rein says. “It’s easy to do if you really enjoy tinkering in the garden.”
To avoid showering your plants with too much attention, draw up a weekly checklist of maintenance tasks and stick to it.
2. Ignoring Light Requirements
It sounds simple enough: Put plants that need full sun in sunny areas and those that prefer shade in shady areas. “But you’d be surprised at how many gardeners, new and old, get this wrong,” Rein says. Meet 11 easy-to-grow plants for a shade garden.
Common Mistake With Full Sun Plants
Full sun actually means the plant grows best in six or more hours of direct sunlight. Sure, you can plant it in a spot that gets fewer than six hours. But chances are your yield will decrease and the fruits won’t be nearly as sweet, Rein warns.
Track the Sunlight Before Planting
To avoid this mistake, track the sunlight in the area you’re considering for about a week before you plant. This should give you enough time to observe the way light hits your yard on sunny and cloudy days. If you monitor sunlight in early spring, be sure to account for how much shade nearby trees will produce after they fully leaf out.
If you aren’t at home enough to make such observations, try a digital monitor like the SunCalc.
3. Forgetting to Make Amends
“Amending the soil is the first and most important task before you start planting,” Rein says. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to prepare the planting site.”
Get a Good Soil Combo
Good soil means the right combination of silt, clay and organic material. Too much sand can dry out your plants. Compact soils with too much clay can lead to poor air and water circulation. Learn more about improving your soil.
Start by digging the bed, then removing weeds, debris and rocks so you can see and touch the soil. Grab a handful. Does it feel compacted or gummy, or exceptionally loose and grainy, indicating a sandy soil type?
“For sandy soil, add a higher ratio of organic material,” Rein recommends. “Place at least two inches on top of the bed and work it in evenly to a depth of four to six inches. For clay soil, you should work in an ample amount of compost, so that the ratio of clay to organic material ratio is roughly 50:50.” Learn more about starting a garden and doing a soil test.
Be Sure to Add Organic Matter
Adding organic matter improves your soil’s texture and nutrient balance. But you can also test soil by taking samples to your local university extension office. The tests are helpful because they indicate which nutrients your soil lacks and what should be added, as well as the soil’s pH level and what should be done to change it. Then you can remedy the situation accordingly. Learn about changing your soil’s pH here.