Six Common Gardening Mistakes

SchneiderPeeps - six common gardening mistakes

Last week we got quite a bit of rain and although we normally wait until mid October to plant our fall/winter garden, it’s quite a bit cooler than normal so we are starting a little early.  When I pulled our seeds out and started going through them, I thought about some of the gardening mistakes I have made over the years. I thought I’d share them (or at least the ones I can remember) with you. 

I truly believe that growing food is simple, not easy but simple; you put some seeds in the ground, water them and if the sun shines, the plant will grow. However, there are a few mistakes that I see gardeners, myself included, make over and over. 

Most of the mistakes hinge on one big mistake – not knowing what gardening zone you are in. The USDA has a very handy chart to help gardeners and growers determine if a plant will do well in their area.  This is NOT an exact science but is certainly a good start.  Knowing what zone you are in will help you pick seeds, plants and varities that will actually grow in your area.  We live in a zone 9a, so if a fruit tree is rated only to zone 7, I will need to just skip planting that variety, since it needs more chilling hours than we get in our climate.  (edited to add) One of our readers pointed out that there is also a heat tolerant map.   I love it when readers chime in and share their knowledge with us.  Thanks Amy!

Another mistake is doing what everyone else online is doing, when they are doing it. I know, I know, it’s hard to wait to start seeds when it seems everyone else is starting them.  But if you start them too soon, you’ll wind up with spindly transplants.  Last year I tried planting our fall garden in the beginning of September {ahem – we were still having 100 degree days} because I saw all these great posts on how it was now or never for the fall garden.  As you can probably guess, those tender  little seedlings got burned up. I know better and yet I still got carried away. For our zone, we plant our spring and summer gardens earlier than most of the country and plant our fall and winter gardens later than most of the rest of the country.  

Gardening Mistakes - not taking care of pest when I first notice them

Here’s something I do that I hate to admit, not taking care of problems when I notice them.  For me it goes something like this.  I’m in the garden and I see a bit of powdery mildew on the squash.  I should spray the squash with some baking soda and even cut off a few leaves to increase airflow and I do….eventually.  Unfortunately, I sometimes don’t take the time to properly care for problems and they get totally out of control. Here’s the deal, if I’m going to successfully garden using organic practices, I have to take care of problems and pests as soon as I notice them. 

Ok, here’s a touchy mistake – following the planting schedule on the back of seed packets.  Some seed companies do a great job of putting good information on their seed packets.  Some don’t.  There is one brand that every time I look at the back of one of their packets, it tells  me I can plant from Feb-Sept; this is for tomatoes or lettuce, it doesn’t matter.  Of the companies that do a good job, remember they can’t write everything on the back of the seed packet, the space is limited.  This is where knowing your gardening zone and climate come in handy.  I know that it is very hard for most seeds to germinate in 100 degree temperatures.  And yet, I see a lot of  seeds packets that say I can sow the seeds during the summer in my zone. So, I just ignore that part of the seed packets. 

Making gardening plans based on previous notes

Ignoring your locally owned nurseries is a big mistake. These nurseries have a vested interest in you succeeding.  Also, most of these owners know your local climate and can help you learn when to plant certain plants and what varieties do well in your area.  Most of the time, the people who own and work in local nurseries are gardeners and love to talk gardening.  Occasionally, you’ll get someone who doesn’t know much or is condescending about what they know, if that happens just find another local nursery (or feed store) to shop at. But don’t rely solely on books and what you read on the internet.

Lastly, not keeping notes on what worked and what didn’t work can keep you making the same mistake year after year.  Here’s how this one goes down for me.  I’m in the garden and realize that a certain variety of tomatoes (we’ll call it X) just isn’t doing as well as my other varieties. I think, “I’ll have to remember that for next year.”  Then next January I’m looking at seed catalogs and I come to the amazing tomato section.  And I think, “Oh we planted X last year and really liked the flavor” so I order some, forgetting that although we might have liked the flavor we only go 5 tomatoes off those plants.  I’m a slow learner sometimes, but I have learned that if I ever think “I need to remember that for next year”, I need to ahead and make a note of it in my gardening notebook

What about you, what are some of your gardening mistakes and what do you do to no longer make them? 

This post is shared at  Homestead Barn Hop, From the Farm Hop, Maple Hill 101 Hop, Backyard Farming Connection, Tuesday Garden Party

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  1. says

    Very good advice! We have made most of those mistakes. We have been fortunate to have found a great little Amish farm where we buy our plants each year. They are so healthy and inexpensive that we do better just buying those than starting from seed. We love supporting their local business and we get an amazing amount of clean produce each year.

    • Angi Schneider says

      That’s wonderful Rebecca. I wish we had a good local source for transplants. It’s nice when you figure out what works for you, isn’t it?

  2. Amy Schmelzer says

    I think you are a bit confused on what USDA zones means. It has to do with cold hardiness not hotness. I live in 6a, so if I see 7 on a package, then it means it’s too cold for the plant to survive where I live. You are in 9a, so if you see a 7 then you don’t have to worry about it getting too cold for the plant to survive.

    That said, the USDA does have a separate zone map for how hot an area gets in the summer.

    • Angi Schneider says

      Thanks for pointing that out. I do know that the USDA zones are cold hardiness, I just worded my example poorly (I’ll edit it to avoid confusion). I was thinking of fruit trees when I wrote that example – there are some that need cold winters (apples, cherries) and we just don’t get them. There are a few varieties of apples that will grow in our area, so I would need to make sure that I get one of those varieties that doesn’t need many chilling hours. Brussels sprouts is another plant that needs more cold than we have.

      I didn’t know about the heat tolerant map,, thanks so much for pointing that out.

    • Angi Schneider says

      Yep, every year is different. That’s wonderful you got a bumper crop of tomatoes; I love tomatoes. We usually have many days over 100 and get tomatoes. But we can plant them in early to mid March so we have 90-120 days before we hit triple digits. Is the reason you don’t get many tomatoes because there isn’t much time between your last frost and the heat? This is very interesting to me.

  3. says

    Great suggestions. It’s difficult being “out of the loop” with regard to planting times, but you just have to do what works in your zone. We’re planting our fall garden now when most folks are putting their gardens to bed. Enjoy your fall garden!

    • Angi Schneider says

      THAT is one of the hardest things for me. I have to put my blinders on and just do what I know to do this time of year.

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