Garden Planning (Part 3): Common Mistakes

in the garden

This is part 3 in our series on Garden Planning.  In part one, we discussed the importance of planning a garden and why to even bother taking the time to make a plan.  In part two, we shared with you some important points you’ll want to consider when starting your plan.  So, have you started your plan yet?  Do you have your list of vegetables you want to include this year and have your seeds picked out?  If not, don’t wait too long!  The days may seem short and cold now, but spring is right around the corner and you don’t want to be caught unprepared!  If you have started your plan, now is the perfect time to review your plan and make any changes, if necessary.  The following is a list of some common mistakes we see.  If you find yourself in any of these categories, you still have time (almost) to adjust your plan.

1.  Failure to Plan Ok, so this should go without saying after our last two articles on the topic, but even so, the biggest mistake we see is simply not planning at all.  Spring days come and the greenhouses are bursting with lots of beautiful plants that have been started for you in little pots.  The smell of the fresh green plants growing in moist, rich dirt is too much to resist, so you fill your shopping cart with whatever is on hand and whatever sounds good at the time.  You bring those beautiful plants home, but since you didn’t know you were going to buy them, the soil hasn’t been prepared and the garden isn’t ready.  You are busy with all the things on your plate, so the plants sit next to the garage until you can find the time to get back to them and plant them.  You stick a few tomato starts in a larger pot and then feel satisfied that you put in a full day, then celebrate with a tall glass of iced tea.  When you finally get back to your plants, you wonder what made you pick so many, especially all those plants that your family doesn’t even eat.  Sound familiar?  Or maybe parts sound familiar?  I used to do this, too, and have seen countless friends do the same.  The best way to have a great garden, with less work and less cost, is to plan ahead what, where, and when you will plant.  Prepare the garden soil ahead of time so you are ready.  Make adjustments to your plan as necessary, and reap the rewards.

2.  Miscalculation of Garden Size Another very common mistake I see all too often is a miscalculation of how much you are planting of any or all of your planned vegetables.  I have a very dear friend who does this every year.  She grew up in the depression era and her idea of planting a garden is to put in at least an acre of potatoes.  Otherwise, why bother, she says.  But, she’s not as spry as she used to be, and that’s a big garden to tend, especially since she still gardens in the old-fashioned mounded rows rather than opt for simpler methods like raised beds.  As a result, she get overwhelmed about mid-season and the weeds take over.  She still gets a good crop of potatoes every year, but she and her husband can not possibly eat that many and many friends end up coming over the course of the season to help her maintain and harvest her crop.  Although it is tempting to plant rows and rows of your favorite veggies, carefully consider what you can feasibly maintain.  Things to consider are family size, space available, and especially time you have available to invest in planting, maintaining, harvesting, and preserving to garden.  When in doubt, go smaller, not bigger.  You don’t want to let the garden bugs or weeds take over and you don’t want it to become a burden on your time.  Keep it simple and keep it fun!

3.  Soil Preparation  The quality of your plants will only be as good as the soil you are growing them in.  Most vegetables require a loose, well-drained soil with a balanced pH and lots of organic material and nutrients.  If your soil is too sandy, too dense or has too much clay, has too many rocks, has dips that don’t drain well, and countless other challenges, then your garden will not do as well.  Test the pH of your soil if you don’t know and amend it if needed to achieve the proper balance.  Add organic material such as green cover crops (usually done in the fall, then turned into the soil in the spring), compost, and mulch.  Know what your plants need before you plant then do your best to give them the optimum growing conditions and your plants will reward your efforts.

4.  Access to Water  Other than a balanced soil, plants need sunshine and water to thrive.  If you live in an area that doesn’t receive at least an inch of rainfall on average per week, you will most likely be supplementing the water to your plants.  Make sure your garden has access to a good water source.

5.  Planting at the Wrong Times  Different plant families have different preferences.  Some plants are more heat loving like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and okra.  These plants won’t do well unless the soil temperature is above around 65 degrees and the air temperature is consistently above 55 degrees even at night.  Other plants are more cold hardy and prefer cooler temperatures.  Cilantro, peas, kale, greens, and onions fall into this category.  Seeds germinate better in cooler temps, and seed packets will even recommend sowing in your garden BEFORE the last projected frost of the season.  Know your plants so you can adapt your planting schedules around the optimum times for each variety.

6.  Planting the Wrong Things Together  Another thing that is often overlooked, but an important thing to consider, is what plants do well or don’t do well with other plants.  This is often referred to as Companion Planting.  Plants can take on personalities and there are certain other plants they get along well with and others who they just don’t like.  If you plant two varieties together who don’t like each other much, it can affect one or both varieties and you may not get the results you are hoping for.  Conversely, by planting certain varieties together, you get great and sometimes better outcomes.  One example of this is carrots and onions or leeks.  Carrots and Onions love each other and many gardeners insist that flavor is even better when planted together.  Another great combination is Tomatoes and Basil.  The basil helps repel those pesky worms that so often try to devour your tomato leaves.  So check out which plants will do better together, which plants to avoid, and plan your garden accordingly.  Your plants will thank you.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll have a garden that will reward your efforts with amazing, delicious produce.  There’s nothing like the flavor of fresh, home-grown so enjoy and happy gardening!  If you’d like information about how to grow your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables year-round click here.  We love our outdoor garden, and we also love our indoor gardens.  God Bless and Happy Gardening!

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