9 Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid
If you’re a new gardener and you’ve made some mistakes, maybe last year’s garden wasn’t the best and you really are a little discouraged, then this is for you. With new gardening, I remember my first time, I mean, I grew hydroponic cucumbers and they tasted absolutely awful. I think my brother actually said that he almost threw up when he ate them. And so that’s not a good sign.
It wasn’t the best first crop for me either. Which is why I’m going to go over maybe nine or 10 of the most common and devastating gardening mistakes that will prevent you from having bountiful harvests.
Mistake number one is putting your garden in an inconvenient location.
It’s very similar to working out. You know, you don’t want to make your gym bag really hard to get to. What you want to do is make it accessible and easy to work in, low friction. For me actually, in my raised bed garden at least, that means a tall raised bed. Really helps me. I’m quite tall and I don’t want to bend down as much. Save my back. Again, another easy thing to do. So make it easy to access and you’ll have a much better time.
Mistake number two is planting in an area that doesn’t get enough sun, is not a good location for planting.
And so a huge mistake you can make, as a beginner gardener, is planting things that don’t match to the sun and light availability of an area. The best way to do that is observation. Maybe 8:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 4:00 PM – go out and just kind of see where the shadows fall. And just remember that this is actually going to change based on the time of year.
But again, remember planting is the most important time. If you make a mistake in planting, you’ve locked that plant in stone. Unless you’re growing in a container, which is another great way to mitigate some of these mistakes. Please remember, do not plant in an area that does not have enough sun for the plant you’re trying to grow.
Mistake number three is planting too far from a water source.
The reason why you don’t want to do this is because again, it’s one of those laziness things. If you’re going to have to lug water over, you might just decide not to do it that day. And then the day gets too hot. The plants die and you’re in a big world of hurt. And you’ve again, killed some plants. You don’t want to do that.
Mistake number four, one I admit I have made quite a bit, especially in my first few years of gardening is not respecting the power of the mulch.
We must respect the power of the mulch. But I can reduce my watering needs, protect the soil, protect any sort of splash-up disease type of issues with the use of some kind of mulch. There’s plenty of different things that you can use. You can of course, source straw in your own area. You can use grass clippings. You can use shredded leaves, fall leaves if you’re in an area that gets a lot of leaf drop. I’m jealous, I don’t. And fall leaves are a fantastic cover.
Now the couple of things that you want to keep in mind with mulch. You want to make sure that you lay down a thick enough layer. I would say at least two inches or so if possible. And just because I’m in a raised bed right here doesn’t mean that you should only mulch a raised bed. You should mulch your inground plantings and you should also mulch even smaller containers like some grow bags or just some patio style containers with something like a straw. You can do it.
It is so, so beneficial. It’s going to reduce the amount that you need to water. It’s going to protect the surface of the soil and there’s just a million and one different ways that you can do it.
Mistake number five is not preparing the soil, not taking the time to prepare the soil before you plant.
Now, if you’re growing in a raised bed or a container that just means selecting the right container mix. So soil preparation. Now, if you’re growing inground, the first thing I recommend wholeheartedly, it’s a little annoying to do, is to get a soil test. You have to do this to know what type of soil you’re working with. And they’ll give you not only the composition of your soil, but the nutritive qualities of your soil, how much organic matter is in the soil.
Are you deficient in any particular macro-nutrient as well as, if you want, it’s probably a little bit of extra money, you can get a heavy metal and salt report as well. Just to see if there’s anything really funky going on with your soil, especially when you’re planting inground in a new space because you just don’t know what happened in the decades before you lived in this place.
So soil preparation is a massive, massive mistake that you can avoid, of course, by doing the preparation.
Mistake number six is planting things that you don’t like to eat.
So here I have some beets and some kale. Fortunately, I have learned to like beets a lot more. I like to roast them up now, but kale I’ve always liked. So these are two things that I enjoy eating. Now I think what a lot of beginners will do is they might Google easiest plants to grow, beginner gardening suggestions, things like that.
And then they’ll just grow whatever that says without any regard for if you like to eat that plant. Now, look, I love growing weird plants, unique plants, plants that maybe I don’t even like to eat. So I do break this rule for the love of the grow, for the love of the garden.
I want to see something interesting and maybe I’ll just give it to someone else who does like it. But if you’re trying to grow a garden for your family and maybe some friends and of course yourself, pick the things that you actually like to eat.
It’s a little silly to grow something, spend all this time and care, to never harvest it. And even if you do harvest it, not use it, it’s just a little bit of a waste.
Mistake number seven is not respecting a certain limit upon which you can cram things in.
I will confess that when things were getting a little busy, I was not spending as much time in this particular bed as I would have wanted to. But I usually put a couple of different plants in per hole, a couple of different seeds, just to guarantee that something germinates. Now with beets you don’t need to do that.
Beets actually have a compound seed of sorts. And one what looks like a seed actually has multiple seeds within it. But still you have to thin that out. So you can plant, number one you can plant too densely seed to seed. So you can actually just plant them too close together. But number two, you can not thin them out after they’ve germinated.
So what happened in this particular bed, and of course now it looks really good and I’m really excited, no disease, beautiful structure on the beets and the kale. The beets had a couple of different beets all trying to grow next to each other. And you can do it, they’re just going to be a lot smaller. And that’s what happened. They were just a little bit small, still healthy, but small. And as soon as I thinned them out and gave them some room to breathe, they all blew up in size.
So while small space gardening is where I came from, and I love cramming plants in small spaces, you still have to respect there is a certain limit upon which you can cram things in.
Mistake number eight is planting things at the wrong time of year.
And I think this hits warmer climate gardeners. More than colder climate gardeners. Because colder climate gardeners, you have a true beginning and end to your season with your first and last frost dates. And you can plant things a little early, a little late, sure. But you’re not going to walk outside in the middle of the snow and be like, oh, it’s a great time to grow tomatoes.
It’s just not going to happen. Whereas in the higher zones – zones, nine, 10, 11- you can get tricked because it’s really not too cold at any point in time.
I would say maybe about 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the absolute lowest in some of these zones. And so it looks like a time that you could plant just about anything. And so I’ll get questions from people saying, oh, I planted my tomatoes. I planted my, you know, my cucumbers and it’s November. Are they going to do okay?
And the answer is technically yes, they’re not going to just immediately die because they know it’s the wrong time to be planted, but they’re not going to thrive. And so you have to respect the time of year that a plant wants to grow. A summer crop like a tomato or a cucumber of course is going to be best done in late spring through summer. Maybe you can get a second planting of that if you’re in a warmer zone. But you really do have to respect this.
And for me, in my warmer zone, I need to respect that there’s certain plants that like it colder that I just can’t grow in the summer. I’m going to struggle to grow cilantro for example. I’m going to struggle to grow leaf lettuce in full sun in the summer, of course. So right now in spring it’s the perfect time for me to grow some of those crops and either preserve them, although maybe not for the lettuce and the cilantro, but just respect the season and you’ll have a lot more success.
Our final mistake is to not lean on the experience of others.
Gardening is a craft has been passed down generation after generation after generation, all cultures around the world. And there guaranteed are people alive right now, probably within a mile of you, that know a lot more than you may ever know about gardening.
Because they’ve been doing it since they were 15 and they’re 80 now. And so ask them how they do things and lean on them. There’s a couple of different ways you can do this. Number one, if you have someone in your neighborhood that you know gardens, knock on their door. I guarantee you a gardener is going to want to talk about gardening with you until they’re blue in the face.
Number two, you can go to a local county extension office. Just Google your city and then extension office and it should show up. You can call them, you can email them. They’re literally volunteers, master gardeners that their whole job is to help you succeed in your climate and in your area. And then third, engage with the gardening community.
Hopefully these tips helped you avoid some mistakes in your upcoming season of gardening. Good luck in the garden. And keep on growing.