Even if you have really good soil and a lot of sunlight, there are still plenty of things that can go wrong with your garden and keep it from turning out the way you had envisioned it would be.
I have rocky, sandy soil and a lot more shade than sun, so my poor little garden is already at a bit of a disadvantage, and my first couple of years gardening I made plenty of beginner mistakes.
Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not trying to depend on my garden to be my only source of food! I can only imagine the pressure that farmers and homesteaders must have felt back in the days when the success of their crops would decide whether they would go hungry that winter or not.
I still make plenty of mistakes now, too. When things get busy, I don’t put quite as much time into properly preparing the soil like I know I should. And there usually comes a point in the summer when it’s just so hot and humid that I basically give up on weeding completely.
Over the years, though, I’ve gradually learned how to make my garden a little bit more successful. It’s still pretty small, and it’s definitely not going to win any prizes for being the prettiest or the most neatly organized garden, but at least it’s better than it used to be
(And, yes, if you’re wondering, the picture above is one I took of my garden a couple of years ago. It was my second year gardening, and it was early in the season before I had let the weeds take over.)
These four mistakes are all ones that I’ve made, and, if this is your first year gardening, hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did and have a better chance at a successful first garden.
4 Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid:
1) Planting Too Many Varieties of Veggies
When you’re just starting out with a garden, it’s a good idea to keep it as simple as possible for the first year. It’s tempting to want to try a little of everything, but you’ll have a much better chance of having a successful garden if you focus on just a few varieties for the first year and then add in others the next year.
When I first started ordering heirloom seeds online, I went a little bit overboard that first year. I wanted to try them all, and I ordered far too many of them. It was a lot to try to keep track of them all, and I ended up not having the time to really learn about how each type should be planted and what type of growing conditions they needed, etc.
Now that I’ve had a garden for a few years, I’ve figured out what types of plants do well in my yard and which ones don’t, but if I could go back to the year I first started a garden, I would have been better off just trying a few simple, easy-to-grow varieties like peas and beans.
2) Crowding Plants Too Close Together
This kind of goes along with the first mistake. If you’ve tried to plant too many varieties, you’re probably also trying to squeeze as many seeds or seedlings into your garden space as possible.
My first year gardening, I had visions of a huge harvest, and I packed the seeds as closely together as possible, thinking I would have more produce that way. I also didn’t thin out the seedlings properly after the seeds had sprouted because I hated the thought of pulling out perfectly healthy plants.
Instead of a huge, productive harvest, though, I ended with up weak, straggly-looking plants, and I could barely find room to step between them without destroying them (since I had forgotten about planning enough space to walk around them too.)
The moral of the story: less equals more. Fewer plants spaced further apart will end up being healthier and producing more fruit than plants crowded together.
3) Watering Plants Too Often, or at the Wrong Time of Day
I’ve been guilty of this mistake many times. It’s easy to worry so much about whether your plants are getting enough water that you end up giving them too much water by mistake. Some plants do need more water than others, but generally they do better with fewer, more thorough waterings (like they would get if if were raining) than they do with getting a shower from the hose every time you walk by and think they look even a little bit thirsty.
It’s also best to water in the morning while the sun is still low in the sky. Or, if you’re like me and you can’t imagine getting up even earlier than you already have to just to water your garden, you can water them in the late afternoon or evening after the sun has mostly gone down. What you want to avoid is watering them in the heat of the day when the sun is at its peak because the water can scorch the leaves and damage them.
4) Planting the Wrong Varieties Next to Each Other
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you still can’t figure out why your garden isn’t thriving, it might be that you’re planting the wrong varieties next to each other.
Certain types of plants do really well when they are together, helping to keep away insects and pests or by helping to enrich the soil. Others plants, though, may actually inhibit the growth of the plants that they are near.
By using companion planting and planning your garden to keep together the varieties that work well with each other, you have a better chance of having a successful garden.