Five Deadly Kinds of Mistakes to Avoid in the Garden

by on October 6th, 2010
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Five categories of gardening mistakes can create chaos for the gardener. Plants can survive lack of support – they’ll lean on each other or the nearest fence. They can overcome lack of pruning – they’ll just become a little jungle. But mistakes in the basics can cost the gardener huge losses.

1. Planting Mistakes

Place plants in the proper location. A plant that needs a sandy medium will fail in a heavy clayish soil. One that requires bright sun will perform poorly in a shaded site. A root crop won’t thrive in a shallow bed over bedrock, but will do well where the soil is deep enough to support the crop. Check the requirements for the plants you are considering and choose plants that like your garden environment for best results.

Plant the garden at the proper depth. Seed packs give instructions about the depth needed for the seeds within. Transplanted potted plants need a hole at least twice (and preferably three times) as wide as the container that held them, but at the same depth.

2. Watering Mistakes

Plants need water. They need it on a regular basis, in appropriate amounts. Underwater your garden and you will have withered plants, shallow roots and low yields. Over-water your garden, and you’ll get drowning and rotting plants that can’t get the oxygen they need from the soil. Water sporadically and you’re likely to get split produce and pitiful plants, such as tomatoes with blossom-end rot. The solution? Water your garden on a schedule that thoroughly soaks the soil to a depth of at least 1″ and lets the soil dry to barely damp before the next watering.

3. Soil Mistakes

Test your soil before investing in soil additives. That way you’ll know whether your soil needs anything and you’ll add the proper elements. Soil additives can help the texture, improve drainage or water retention, make it more or less acid or make other basic changes that increase the soil’s favorable growing attributes. Before you add anything to the soil, make sure it’s the right thing to improve the soil, not cause it to decline in quality.

4. Fertilizer Mistakes

Fertilizer is a supplement added periodically to a garden. Fertilize too often and your plants will tend to be leggy with lots of leaf and little produce, or burn and die. Don’t confuse fertilizer with plant food. When the time comes to fertilize, use the right fertilizer for the crop. At best, the wrong fertilizer won’t help the plant; at worst, it will damage or kill the plant.

5. Harvesting Mistakes

You’ll optimize your harvest if you keep the garden picked (or cut, in the case of flowers). A healthy plant works around the clock to reproduce. Let it go to seed, and it stops producing blooms because the goal is achieved. Keep the produce picked or the flowers cut and the plant will keep blooming as long as weather conditions permit, because it wants to create seed. The only time you should let the plant go to seed is at the end of the season so that it will self-seed for next year or you can collect the seeds to plant next year.


Southern Living: 15 Really Dumb Gardening Mistakes –

Pat Ferguson: Common Gardening Mistakes –

Nellie Neal: Interview with Garden Mama – March 22, 2011

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