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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Top Five Garden Mistakes


 
“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!
1. Over-planting

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.

Photo Source

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??

Blessings!

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20 comments:

  1. Oh I have made all of these mistakes as well! I think my biggest one has to be the plan for weeding. Every year I am just so amazed with how fast the weeds grow and get out of control. If only my plants grew that fast! haha.

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    1. So true Tammy - weeds truly want to overtake the world I think!! :)

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  2. Great post! Hubby is always urging me to over plant by saying "we can just give away any extra veggies if you get too many". *sigh* Which means more work for me, but I do get a warm fuzzy feeling from taking baskets of fresh produce with me everywhere to give away! I've been thinking of asking the food bank if they'll accept them too hmm? This year I traded my extra cucumber seedlings and volunteer dill seedlings for mint (which I put in a pot!) and flowers.

    My problem last year was that I bought a packet of 'mixed heirloom tomato' seeds. Then I didn't know which ones were supposed to stay green or orange, or yellow...that didn't work out well. lol

    Love your blog!

    ~L

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    1. That's so true! We do plant extra to give away but with zucchini it can be difficult because most of my friends garden too. We've tried to the food bank and they take the extras but usually have a glut of it themselves as we have a large community garden in our small town and lots of the extra goes there. I sometimes give it away at our church too.
      Great idea about trading your seedlings - sounds like a new idea being birthed there! Wow, that's a great idea about buying a mix of the heirloom tomato seeds...they are all so different that would be difficult to figure out what's what! Thanks for visiting!

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  3. I'm laughing because I have made all of the same mistakes!

    This year's biggest mistake so far has been my epic fail of an attempt to trellis my cucumbers--wait for it-- on my old, broken tomato cages which I had turned upside down (tee-pee style). Oh sure they grew up the cages, right back down and completely overflowing the bed. I had to ties ribbon on the "tee-pee" portion of the trellis to make sure no-one gouges an eyeball out!

    I like the idea of trellising them, I just need a better system. My intent was to use what I had...sometimes being frugal doesn't work out like you imagine, haha

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    1. Ha ha...that's great! Sounds like you were on the right track with trying to make do with your homemade trellis and I agree about the frugal part - things don't always go as planned but I like your innovation - nice try! I always grow bush varieties because I'm too lazy to trellis so you get an "A" for effort!! :)

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  4. Nancy, this is a brilliant post! Thanks for sharing. I can relate to every mistake you posted...point by point!! Every mistake is an opportunity to learn...next year will be better...hopefully:)

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    1. Thanks so much...I agree - I'm learning, learning, learning as I go!! Thanks so much for reading and your kind comments!

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  5. Great article thank you. I am guilty of several.

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  6. Sad but true! I've done every single one of these. Indeed, "groundcover" means it will COVER the ground. And for #1, don't go thinking, "oh, we'll just can the extra produce". Canning is wonderful, but it takes a lot of work. Unless you truly have time to can 50 pounds of beans, 4 bushels of tomatoes, a heap of tomatillos, possibly all in one weekend, don't over plant!

    I wish I'd've had this post back when I first started gardening. it would've saved me a lot of work!

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    1. I really wish I would have understood better about "groundcover" - I am continuously "weeding" it out of places where I didn't want it. Groundcovers are great in contained areas only! As for over-planting; I keep telling myself, "less is more" especially when planting zucchini!! :)

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  7. Haha! I've been slowly learning all of these things since we bought our first home and my husband has been building me beautiful flower beds and a huge vegetable garden. I just figure each year I'll learn a little more so each year will be a little more successful. I'm curious how you keep all of your tomato plants upright. I've been using tomato cages for mine, but I currently only have 3. I'd love to add more, but purchasing more cages gets expensive. If you have pictures of how yours are set up, I'd love to see them!

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    1. I use tomato cages because we grow Roma tomatoes which are a bush (determinate) variety. They don't grow as tall as the indeterminate varieties so staking them is not necessary. We actually bought sturdier and better made tomato cages this year. We buy them as an investment because we've been using them for over 15 years now...so as an investment it's well worth the money. We buy small amounts and gradually buy more every year until we have the number we need. This helps to diffuse the cost. You can check out some photos on some of my garden update posts from last year or I'll be posting some new ones in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for reading!

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  8. Hi! Thanks for the great words of wisdom for us novice gardeners. Although I am new and have yet to experience these "errors", I look forward to the many challenges of becoming a gardener. My main forcus is on "free" plants. I love receiving neighbors' cuttings and starting my own plants. If the cutting takes, then I want 100+ more. I fear I will succumb to "overplanting" very soon. Of course, with nothing but bare ground to work with I am fighting the urge to fill it up! Cheers!

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    1. Ha ha! So true...bare ground is such a temptation to fill in. I made some flower beds in a rush and didn't build them up properly. I eventually filled them in again. My favorite beds are the ones where I spent time planning them out and adding enough soil to make them into raised beds. They still look really good. Have fun with yours! :)

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  9. What a great post! I only wish I'd had access to this insight a few years ago when we first started out ;-) I guess there's no fun in knowing all the tricks form the get-go, is there?

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    1. Yes...I probably wouldn't have listened to myself then - but I am definitely curbing these mistakes now! :)

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