The Most Common Mistakes People Make With Their Gardens

This is gardening made simple. We uncover the most common mistakes and give you the rules to ensure that you have success with your plot this summer.

photo credit: Geoffrey Ross

Easy Gardening Rule #1: Do read the plant tags and seed packets (and keep them)

The tags and packets share vital information, such as how deep to plant seeds and seedlings, how far apart to space plants, whether plants can tolerate a bit of shade and when the fruit will mature.

Easy Gardening Rule #2: Don’t overwater or underwater your plants

Plants get thirsty, so if you’re going away, leave someone in charge of watering every day. Watering in the morning is best because gardens may not dry as quickly in the evening, leaving plants vulnerable to mould and mildew. There are some great irrigation systems on the market, as well as smaller versions for pots. A heavy rainstorm will save you a day or two of having to water. Place your finger in the soil; if it feels damp or wet, don’t water. Aim your hose at the roots, not the whole garden. Backsplash can transfer disease from the soil to the leaves and you won’t waste water – it will go where it’s needed.

Easy Gardening Rule #3: Do trim your herbs regularly

Even if you’re not going to eat them, snipping back herbs prevents them from flowering and helps them last longer. For example, once basil has bloomed, the leaves turn bitter, while others, like dill and cilantro, stop producing the edible foliage you enjoy on fish and in
summer wraps.

Easy Gardening Rule #4: Don’t plant voracious spreaders in the ground

If you love plants like mint and camomile, give them their own pots. If you plant them in the ground, you’ll be pulling out seedlings forever, as they love to spread. Also, clean up uneaten edibles, like a rotten tomato or a tomatillo that didn’t mature before the first frost. Once they decompose, their seeds will wait over the winter and you’ll discover seedlings in the spring.

Easy Gardening Rule #5: Do protect your precious harvest

Marauding squirrels by day and hungry raccoons by night (not to mention bunnies, groundhogs, birds and whatever happens to live in your area) like to help themselves to a lush garden. A chicken-wire cage is one extreme that will keep them out efficiently, but you can also experiment with netting and row cover.

There’s nothing worse than pulling up root veggies, such as beets, radishes and carrots, only to discover that something else has beaten you to that first bite! If voles are a problem, line the bottom of a raised bed with hardware cloth (it’s like chicken wire but with a tighter weave) to prevent them from digging up from below.

Easy Gardening Rule #6: Don’t let your harvest go to waste

If you have extras, donate them to a local food bank, foist them on your veggie-eating neighbours or preserve them to enjoy throughout the winter months (see page 41 for the how-to). If you’re not into canning, don’t forget that some edibles can be easily frozen and dried.

Easy Gardening Rule #7: Do persevere!

The biggest piece of gardening advice? Sometimes, despite our best efforts and intentions, a plant may not thrive, taste good or produce fruit. Don’t take this as an indication that you have a “black thumb.” There could be a variety of factors at work, including extreme heat, poor soil composition, pests and watering issues. Learn from your mistakes and each year you’ll be able to apply that knowledge toward creating an even more successful garden.

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Originally Published in Best Health Canada