10 Mistakes Beginner Gardeners Make

There are so many mistakes beginner gardeners are likely to make. While there is no better way to grow as a gardener than getting some experience, there are a few tips that you ought to keep in mind. Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me before I started my first garden.

Mistake # 1 – Not Making a Plan

When it comes to starting a garden, it’s tempting to just wing it. Maybe you’re browsing the garden center and spontaneously decide to pick up some starter plants. Although there is nothing wrong with being spontaneous, if you don’t learn the basics of companion planting, following a timeline, knowing when to harvest and when to re-plant, you’ll end up missing out on all that gardening has to offer.

To get started on a basic garden plan, follow our garden planner. It’ll tell you when to start seeds, when to prepare your soil, when to move your plants outside, and when to harvest them–all based on your gardening zone.

Mistake # 2 – Overcommitting

If you’re like me, you can’t help but overdo it a little bit. It’s perfectly acceptable to be ambitious with your garden. It’s not a mistake for beginner gardeners to plan and strategize to grow lots of beautiful things. What is a problem, however, is committing to grow lots of things that you won’t eat or preserve. In my first year of gardening, I grew tons and tons of beautiful radishes. Little did I know that my husband and I strongly disliked radishes… The moral of the story? Grow what you will harvest and preserve or share, and nothing more.

Mistake # 3 – Underwatering and Overwatering

In my first year of gardening, I just watered everything everyday, about the same amount. This was a huge mistake. I noticed my carrots never grew to ther full size and my radishes were bitter. I later learned I had overwatered them. Although most vegetable plants need daily watering, it’s very easy to overwater or underwater your plants. Make sure to do your research to avoid accidentally harming the size, flavor, or success of your plants due to watering issues.

Mistake # 4 – Not Adding a Weed Preventative Layer

My first year of gardening, I thought I would save $30 and skip the weed preventative tarp. For the next four months, had to pull weeds once a week to maintain my garden. It took hours and hours of my time, not to mention the strain it put on my back. In my second year, I learned how to prepare soil the right way, which involved starting wth a weed preventative tarp. I didn’t have to pull weeds once. Lesson learned!

Instead of a weed preventative tarp, you can also use organic or compostable materials like straw or cardboard boxes. Find some recycled boxes near you for a free alternative.

Mistake # 5 – Waiting to Harvest

Another mistake that many folks (myself included) make with beginner gardening, is neglecting to harvest their plants at the right time. For my first round of broccoli, (which I made the mistake of overwatering, by the way) kept growing tall rather than wide… It was pretty disappointing. Had I simply harvested it at the right time I would have had a sufficient broccoli harvest.

Mistake # 6 – Spacing Issues

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to space your vegetable plants at least one foot a part from one another. It’s very easy to overcrowd, especially when you’re planting seeds directly in-ground. When planning your garden, anticipate how large each plant will grow at its full height. I almost always underestimate how big tomatoes and squash plants will get. Some people even add a wire frame to their garden that keeps them planting things in a spread out, functional format. This method is called the square foot gardening method. It’s super helpful for beginners to keep a tight grip on their garden.

Mistake # 7 – Not Using Fertilizer

Fertilizer is a non-negotiable if you want a bountiful garden. Once again, in my first year of gardening I thought I might save a few bucks by skipping out on fertilizer. This doesn’t work! A quality organic fertilizer will bring your soil to life so that it can feed your plant everything it needs to produce a gorgeous yield.

Mistake # 8 – Not Using Trellises and Cages

Although adding trellises and tomato cages to your list gets pricey, it’s an absolute must. Without guidance, squash, pepper, and tomato varieties grow outward and get tangled up within eachother. This makes it very hard to prune and harvest your plant, and leads to a whole lot of frustration down the road. Save yourself the frustration.

Mistake # 9 – Timing Issues

There are several timing issues that many beginner gardeners make. First, they wait too long to plant. Many plants are to be started a few weeks before the last average annual frost date in your region. Others require waiting until any possible threat of frost is gone. Others are planted in mid-summer for a fall harvest. The first thing you need to learn to avoid timing issues is what your gardening zone is. Once you learn this, plan when each plant should be planted and harvested.

Mistake # 10 – Planting Incompatible Plants Together

Learning the basics of companion planting is essential for beginner gardeners. So many plants help one another grow by providing shade or helping with nutrients. While others can hinder growth or bring harm to their neighbors by attracting the wrong things, sharing diseases, or even competing for nutrients. Research what plants grow well together and work them into your garden plan.

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