My top gardening mistakes and how you can avoid them
Even those of us who garden for a living, or maybe especially those of us that do, make mistakes on a regular basis. In this article I share some of my worst, or best, mistakes with you to help you avoid them in the future.
Doing the little jobs
Quite often as I’m walking around the garden I see little jobs that need doing and I fool myself into believing that I’ll remember to do them later on or tomorrow. For example, I might walk past some weeds and think ‘I’ll remember to weed that bed or to pull the worst of those out next time I go past’. I rarely remember to go back and do those jobs, I have now learnt, although I’m not very good at practicing it, that if I see a little job that needs doing, I need to do it there and then.
I forget to deadhead often enough or thoroughly enough. The process of deadheading sends a message to the plant to say ‘you haven’t produced any seeds yet, you better grow some more flowers so that you can produce seeds’. So it’s worth us doing it regularly to promote a continuous display of flowers.
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Check the seedlings for caterpillar eggs
This spring I didn’t check to see whether the young brassica plants had caterpillar eggs on the leaves before planting them. So I lovingly and carefully planted the brassica starts (seedlings), covered them over with netting and very neatly trapped those caterpillar eggs on the leaves inside the brassica tunnel. Many of the leaves have been eaten. As mistakes in the garden go, this is a completely avoidable one.
In fact, I created the exact problem that I was trying to avoid by using the netting. I made a good environment for the caterpillars to grow in. I gave them the food to grow on and then I’ve shut them inside this tunnel, so that their natural predators cannot access them. The mature butterflies are then able to lay the next lot of eggs in here as well. It’s the exact opposite of what I wanted to do. But it’s a prime example of why we should check young brassica leaves as we plant them out.
Give plants enough room
Although my aim is to grow as much food as possible in a small place, I do forget to give really big plants adequate room to grow. I have one area which is about six feet by eight feet and I planted five courgette (zucchini) plants in them thinking that that would be plenty of space for them. I actually need to remember for next year that they need more space than I’ve given them. They could probably do with four or five feet between them to really give them room to flourish.
To not harvest soon enough
One of the other mistakes I make is to not harvest things fast enough or soon enough. I think we’ve all made the mistake with courgettes and zucchinis before. We wait until they just get a bit too big and are more like marrows. Yellow-skinned zucchini (courgettes) really do need to be harvested when they’re quite small and the skin is quite soft and the flesh inside is quite sweet. Another example where I made this error is the plum tree. I looked at the plums and thought ‘yes I need to bring a container out to pick these’ and I then forgot to do so. It’s a shame, but the ducks and the wasps enjoyed them.
Labelling when planting out
At the start of the year I’m really good about labelling all the seeds that are going into trays and into small pots and also the ones that I direct so into the garden. A bit later in the year as things get busier, it become easier to make mistakes in the garden. In a hurry to get everything done, I just place a stick in the ground to show me that I’ve sown in a row – I’ll put one stick at one end and one at the other end. However, I then I have no idea what I’ve sown, so I have to wait until they grow a little to give me an idea of what they are.
Lift the weeds when they are small
As you may know I like to leave potential weed seedlings to grow until they’ve got maybe three or four or even five true leaves. This is so that I can tell whether something growing in the ground in the pathways and the raised beds are in fact weeds. Or whether they are seedlings or plants that I’d really like to keep. If they are the latter, I can lift them and pot them up or transplant it into a permanent position. And then anything that is a weed should get lifted up. One of the mistakes I make is not to come back and to lift those weeds at that small stage and then they grow large.
Letting weeds go to seed
And worse than that they go to seed! It’s one of my worst gardening mistakes and how to avoid them is to lift these weeds when they’re small and not letting them go to seed. If i can get them out of the ground before they’ve gone to flower, I’m not putting all those weed seeds into the compost and I’d be saving myself effort this year and for years to come.
Collecting enough rain water
I never seem to collect quite enough rain water. Although I have barrels around the garden, I really ought to transfer the water from the rain butts into the extra storage barrels. If they’re absolutely full up and keep them topped up, when we do go through a dry spell there will be plenty of water to add to the compost heap and to the pots of flowers that we have.
The final gardening mistake that I make all too often. I don’t make enough notes to remind myself next year of the things I’ve thought about as I’m gardening this year. Quite often as I go around I think ‘oh I must make sure I do X, Y or Z’. And then by the time I get into the house I’ve forgotten what that is and I certainly don’t remember by next year. I often use my phone to record notes to myself as I’m going along. I leave myself a message.
For example, there has just been a whole load of Shasta daisies, which I absolutely loved. But as soon as I cut them back that area looked really blank. I want to plant something in there that will come up through those daisies and take over when they’re done. So I need to make a note to myself to put something in the ground. Just a quick note dictated to myself and then I can transfer that into my gardening journal, which I read at the beginning of the year. I read all the notes that I’ve made of things that I’ve promised myself I will do. And then hopefully at the start of the year, while I’m full of enthusiasm and I’ve got the time, I’ll get something planted in there and I’ll get all those other jobs done I’ve promised myself.
So there you go, 9 common gardening mistakes and how to avoid them. I hope you’ve found this article helpful. A video, upon which this piece is based, can be found on YouTube – 10 Vegetable Gardening Mistakes and How to Avoid Them | Gardening Tips and Gardening Hacks!
Also read – Key Secrets For Eating Seasonally
About the author
Liz works full time on the homestead, Byther Farm, and as a content creator in various media. Her love of gardening started as a small child, but blossomed when she left home. In her own garden, she found joy in propagating plants and growing food for her family. At her happiest when pottering in the garden, Liz now manages the half acre fruit and vegetable gardens and food forest which includes many of these fruits and vegetables that grow in shade. Her first book, Grounded – A Gardener’s Journey to Abundance and Self-Sufficiency is published in February 2021. She is currently writing her next book.