Gardening is a great summer activity that gives you fresh, healthy veggies at your fingertips. You even get a substantial harvest that helps you save money. However, when you first start gardening, your garden isn’t always the size you’d like or the veggies don’t grow properly, if at all. So why is that?
Rest assured that it’s normal to make some kind of mistake when you start. Errors were probably made during planting or maintaining the garden causing some inconveniences. We’ve identified the most frequently committed gardening mistakes and give you solutions to avoid making them.
Lack of planning
Planning a garden starts at the end of April. Gardening centres start offering earth, tools, seeds and all kinds of plants. Get information on the vegetables you want to grow, the earth you’re thinking of using, the tools you’ll need, the size, location and planning of your garden, etc.
Planning a garden is more than just one thing. You can’t show up at a garden centre and choose what you want without being prepared. If it’s your first time gardening, make a plan that will help get you started on the right foot. Learn from experienced gardeners around you or even better, take a look at our Gardening 101 guide for beginners.
Not adapting to the weather or soil type
The Canadian climate isn’t the nicest for gardeners. In the summer, we have cold and rainy days that come quickly, so remember to choose veggies according to the weather conditions in your area. Peppers, for example, don’t need much sun or heat, so might not be the best vegetable to plant in your backyard. Ask the experts at your local horticultural centre.
You also have to choose the varieties of vegetable according to the soil type they’ll be grown in. Choose veggies that will grow in a more clay or rich, moist soil. To know what kind of soil your garden has, work with a specialist who can do a soil analysis.
Seeding at the wrong time
When to start seeding indoors
Seeding indoors doesn’t have to be done too early. Plants, particularly garden plants, follow a rhythm and reach a stage where they have to be transplanted outdoors, but if the temperature doesn’t cooperate, they start to degrade.
When to plant outdoors
One of the main reasons a garden fails is planting outdoors prematurely. The beginning of May could be too hot and sunny, but remember that Mother Nature plays nasty tricks! Snow can also occur the week after your garden is planted, so you’ll be disappointed to find your seedlings frozen and withered.
For home gardens, planting only starts mid-May weather permitting. If not, it can be delayed until the beginning of June. To know the perfect day to start sowing your plants or seeds, download our seeding calendar
Incorrectly placing plants
Have you heard of companion planting? It’s associating plants with ones they’re compatible with. There are plants that are friends and others that are enemies!
It’s completely normal to not know anything about techniques when you first start gardening, so you can mistakenly associate two plants that will hamper each other’s growth.
Take a look at this table and use it as a memory aide to learn which plants to keep together and which ones to keep apart:
Keep away from…
Keep close to…
|Beets||Carrots, beans, tomatoes||Celery, lettuce, onions, radishes|
|Carrots||Beets, celery||Chives, shallots, spinach, beans, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, tomatoes|
|Celery||Carrots||Beets, cucumbers, spinach, beans, peas, potatoes, radishes, tomatoes|
|Cucumbers||Potatoes, tomatoes||Beans, lettuce, onions, peas, celery, radishes|
|Zucchini||Potatoes||Radishes, peas, beans|
|Spinach||Beets, potatoes, tomatoes||Celery, beans, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, peas, onions|
|Beans||Shallots, beets, onions||Carrots, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, potatoes|
|Lettuce||Spinach||Beets, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peas, radishes|
|Onions||Beans, peas||Beets, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes|
|Peas||Shallots, onions, chives, potatoes||Carrots, celery, cucumbers, lettuce, corn, turnip, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, beans, zucchini|
|Potatoes||Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach||Celery, beans, peas, lettuce, onions, radishes|
|Tomatoes||Beans, peas, potatoes, cucumbers||Carrots, celery, chives, onions, radishes, peas|
Overcrowding a garden
You have to keep a certain amount of distance between plants and it varies from one veggie to another. You can, however, count on the fact that you’ll need to adjust the distance between two seedlings in a few months. For example, you should leave a bit more space between tomato plants than between carrot seeds.
What happens if plants are too close together? Then veggies won’t have enough space to grow and will remain small or just not grow at all.
How to save a garden from overpopulation
You can always save seedlings by “lightening things up”. If you see that sprouts are too close together three to four weeks after planting, just remove a few to make sure there is at least 10 cm between them. This will happen often with root vegetables planted directly in the soil like carrots, radishes, shallots and others. You might find this difficult to do after all the care you’ve given the sprouts, but tell yourself it’s for their benefit and yours! Don’t forget to water the garden afterwards.
Not watering enough
How often should you water a garden?
You shouldn’t water the garden every day because basically, this will degrade the soil and negatively affect vegetables’ growth. Experts advise watering infrequently, but abundantly. Be careful though. Abundantly doesn’t mean excessively! If you water enough to make puddles, this will compromise the veggie sprouts by cutting off oxygen to the roots which will kill them.
When to water the garden
You definitely shouldn’t water in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest because the water will evaporate instead of penetrate the soil. In addition to working needlessly, you’ll waste water! So water at night when the sun is down, if it’s really hot or early in the morning if the nights are cold.
By applying these rules, you’ll never have a garden that’s too wet or too dry and you’ll get the nicest, healthiest veggies!
Letting invaders attack the garden
Whether it’s insects or weeds, you should never let these undesirables take over the garden. Get rid of them as soon as you see them in your veggies because by morning, it might be too late to save your plants or stop them from spreading.
What to do about bugs
Having a garden means having bugs. Although some can help pollinate and create biodiversity in your garden, other will ravage it completely. So how do you get rid of these intruders?
There are ecological solutions to chase pests away from the garden. For example, to ward off slugs, sprinkle broken egg shells around the base of plants affected by them. For aphids, Colorado potato beetles and other beetles, simply plant nasturtium close to the ravaged vegetables. Result: the insects will attack the flowers and leave your garden alone! Also, consult this home remedies for insects on how to fight the war against pests while protecting the environment.
What to do about weeds
Weeds wage daily battles with gardeners. They multiply faster in the shade and are very resilient. Don’t let them flower because the wind will spread their seed and they’ll take over your garden.
Weeding manually is often the only way to completely remove the weed from leaf to root. If you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly pesticide, spray the soil where weeds grow with the water you cooked potatoes in. The starch can prevent undesirable plants from growing. Equip yourself with these helpful tips to eliminate weeds naturally.
Even if you make a few mistakes with your first garden, working the soil will give you a taste for gardening, so much so that every spring, you’ll dream about future harvests. The more summers go by, the better the harvests. It’s by gardening that you become a gardener! We want to know if you have a green thumb. What are your biggest gardening successes?