Gardening often seems easy enough. Just plant a seed, water it, and watch it grow … right? In reality, it’s not quite that easy.
Factors like bad weather, bugs, disease, lack of rain, and space constraints sometimes hamper our gardening efforts. However, with a little bit of know-how you can easily spot potential problems and turn them around. That’s why it is so important to keep learning, even for experienced gardeners. It’s wise to keep adding to your skill set – whether it’s by learning a new gardening technique or by successfully grow a new or different plant.
And how do gardeners learn? Usually they learn by making mistakes. (Or, reading about other’s mistakes first!) And, as with anything else, we make plenty of mistakes over the years, so we have plenty to learn from. As I reflect back to my first few years gardening and as I talk to gardeners all over the country, I find that many beginning gardeners make the same mistakes.
Here are what I would consider to be the top 3 “rookie” gardening mistakes:
Mistake #1 – Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to gardening. This is a very common mistake. And, sometimes gardeners make it year after year after year. We gardeners have lofty dreams of big, beautiful gardens and even bigger harvests. Problem is, these large gardens become more than we can adequately care for. Weeding becomes such a massive chore we often give up mid-summer and “throw in the trowel.” (A little gardening humor, pardon me.)
Here’s the hard truth: If you want to be successful in growing your own veggies, your plants are going to need regular maintenance. Pure and simple. So, don’t grow more than you can reasonably care for on a regular basis. Watering may need to be performed daily, and weeding usually can’t be left for more than a few days. I was reminded of this last summer when we took a 10-day vacation. I left home with a perfectly weeded garden and came home to an overgrown mess! A neglected vegetable garden or flower bed can get overrun with weeds very quickly. And in the end, it’s your plants that will suffer … but not the weeds. It’s crazy how that works, but it’s true.
Your best bet is to garden small, at first. Then, each year as your skill set expands, add something new. It might be a new crop or adding one more raised bed. Only you can determine what you want to grow and what you can actually care for. And by all means, gardening should be a somewhat pleasant hobby, not a chore you absolutely dread doing.
Mistake #2 – Failure To Do Your Research First
Does this sound familiar: You get a shiny new seed catalog. You pick out some exciting new seeds and order them. And then you are shocked (shocked!) when you plant them and absolutely nothing happens.
It would be nice if you could grow any plant you wanted wherever you wanted. Alas, that’s not how it works most of the time. But it’s a common mistake many gardeners make. Before you rush out and buy something, you need to first find out if it will grow in your area, or your USDA hardiness zone. (Don’t know your zone? Click here to find out.)
And, even if a plant will grow in your zone, do you know if it will it actually thrive there? Some plants will grow, but they may not grow well enough to bloom or to give you an adequate harvest. Gardening becomes a lot easier when you learn to do some basic research first, for each plant you grow. It’s helpful to know things like:
-Maintenance and care routines
-Best soil conditions for your plants (acidic, basic, etc.)
-Does it grow best in shade or sun, or a combination of both?
-When and how to harvest
-Days to maturity, on average
When you know these things, you can decide if a plant is really a good fit for you or not. Don’t waste your time growing things that won’t grow well in your zone. Instead, devote your efforts to plants that will reward you!
Mistake #3 – Lack of Commitment
This mistake actually ties into mistake #1 a little. But I think it deserves a category all to its own. Gardening takes work. Sometimes a lot of hard work. Be sure you want to invest the time and energy. Anyone can plant a garden, but not everyone has what it takes to become a real gardener.
Rainfall doesn’t always fall from the sky. Weeds WILL grow, even in unhealthy soil. But despite these issues, the serious and committed gardener keeps on going. The trick is to make gardening a lifestyle and a hobby you enjoy as you face the hard work. Look, I don’t love gardening 100% of the time. I have my moments where I want to quit. But I keep going because I like the freedom and security I get from growing my own food. I love the taste of fresh picked produce. I like getting soil underneath my fingernails and reconnecting with God out in the garden each day.
Find a way to make gardening work for you. Get up early and tackle the weeds and the watering before the heat is oppressive. Get the kids involved and have some fun growing something together. Marvel at the flowers that open up each morning. Plant something pretty outside your kitchen window. Grow herbs and use them each day in your cooking. Whatever … just do what works for you and try to have a little fun at it! Before you know it, you’ll be bitten by the “garden bug” and what was once work becomes a true labor of love.