“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” - Albert Einstein
Whenever we start out in learning something new, we tend to make mistakes...a lot of them. But that's ok. That's the "learn" part in learning. I have definitely made a large share of them in gardening over the last 20+ years either by ignoring great advice or through simply not knowing enough about the plants. While it's impossible to know everything about gardening, we can avoid a few mistakes along the way. I'm sharing my top five mistakes and hope this will help curb the gardening learning curve for you.
|Probably way too much zucchini and summer squash planted again this year!|
This sounds like such a simple mistake to avoid but I have found that I've made this mistake over and over again in the veggie and flower gardens. For some plants, it has taken me years to cut back on the amount I feel we need to grow. Why is this? Well, one of the first temptations is...
a) Free plants - those freebies from friends or in my case, from a local nursery. I managed to plant over 20 sage plants in my very small yard. I love sage, but really, did I need that many plants? Now I have to manage them with pruning, weeding and harvesting. It's good to think ahead and plan for your needs now and in the future.
b) Extra seedlings - We've all been there when we only want 20 plants but have 35 instead. I have to harden my heart and restrict my planting to the chosen few. The others are given away or composted.
c) Not knowing if you're planting enough - It's always great to start with a few plants if you just want to add a few fresh vegetables. You can always add more the next year if you find it's not enough. I've found that 20-25 tomato plants take care of our fresh eating and canning for a year depending on the weather. I've stuck with this number and it's really helped in me managing the vegetables...unlike the few years we planted 50+ tomatoes - it was way too much for us to manage and our yields were the same as 25 plants.
d) Just because we are able to do it - When we first started planting flower beds, I thought more is better. Now some years later, I'm wondering why I thought I needed so many? We've downsized over the years now and doing so has worked great for us. We would rather plant an amount of flowers and gardens that we can maintain and keep beautiful than to over-plant and lose control of the beds.
Remember...less is more!
2. Crowded plants
When I first started out, I was undoubtedly an overenthusiastic gardener. I wanted every plant and lots of them. So I made this mistake with perennials especially. The plants looked so sparse and bare in their flower beds. I read the tags saying how to space them but forgot how much growth they still had to go through. I planted many of them very close together.
There's a saying for perennials..."the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap." It's better to follow all the spacing requirements for perennials and fill in with annuals while they're still small. You'll be shocked at how enormous some perennials can grow to...listen carefully to the planting information.
|Morning glories are beautiful but prolific seeders.|
3. Planting invasive species
Will I ever learn? I planted everything everyone gave me and I am still weeding some plants years and years later. I am still trying to tame our south side flower bed from invasive plants including the herb oregano. Reading up on the plants you want to put in your gardens is a must AND asking friends if a plant is a happy re-seeder or ground cover is essential. As a matter of fact, the word "groundcover" means "invasive." I would use it selectively in confined areas and give it it's own space.
My mints are all in pots and this helps to keep this highly invasive plant contained. If you do plant easy spreaders, try to limit your amount of plants and keep them pruned and make sure to get rid of their seed heads if they spread easily that way. Chives, echinacea, perennial forget-me-nots, artemisias, morning glories, oregano (some varieties) are just a few that I am constantly weeding. I still grow many of them but have learned to manage their growth. Any others are sacrificed to the compost pile if I can't keep up with them.
4. Lack of weed control
It's so important to have a plan on how to keep down the weeds in all your gardens. I am a fan of heavy mulching...I use coffee grounds, newspapers underneath straw and mulch, grass clippings and leaves.
I didn't get to our community garden in time to mulch and it was smothered in LARGE weeds. After hand hoeing the whole garden, I have been very diligent in weeding once a week and continually applying mulch. I don't mind hoeing a small area, but not a large one. Determine your will power and garden accordingly...I know some people who enjoy weeding while I most definitely don't.
5. Not labeling new plant varieties
Yes, I have been so lazy over the years with labeling and have grown some great plants only to not remember the varieties I planted. I have been really good about saving the stores flower labels and turning them over to use the blank side and label them with a Sharpie. So many times I thought I would remember a plant only to have completely forgotten what it was. I also try to journal the plants I've grown and that's helped out a lot. I now try to limit the different amounts of varieties so I don't feel overwhelmed by the labeling. I am learning to know my gardening strengths and weaknesses.
Well...I feel better after all that confessing. I have made plenty more mistakes and will continue to make more, but I feel like I've learned so much from other gardeners as well. After all, making mistakes always accompanies risk...and trying new methods and plant varieties is well worth it.
What's your biggest gardening mistake??
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