The Top Mistakes New Gardeners Make

January 5, 2023

A first-time gardener is going to have some setbacks, but these setbacks are nature’s lessons. Believe me, we have made our share of mistakes over the years! Here are what we consider the top 10 mistakes that gardeners make:

  1. No plan: Any garden, large or small, should have a plan drawn to scale. This can be done on a simple sheet of lined paper or on the computer. Without a plan, you run the risk of not having enough room for all your plants
  2. Wrong location: A good vegetable garden needs at least 6 hours and preferably 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  3. Poor soil: Planting in an area where there is poor soil will yield poor results. The soil should be soft, compressible loam. This is roughly equal parts of an organic matter and soil. If you have clay soil, sand should be added to break up the clay, since plant roots will not grow in it. Sandy soil needs organic matter added to retain water.
  4. Choosing the wrong type of plants: Pick vegetables that are easy to grow, such as radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, string beans, zucchini, winter squash, and tomatoes. If available, use all-American winners; these have gone through extensive field trials to prove their disease resistance, hardiness, and reliability. For our garden, we use Johnny’s Selected Seeds (
  5. Planting too early in the spring: Weather starts to warm up, days become longer, birds are singing, and we have the urge to plant. But planting too early will subject tender young plants to frost and delay the germination of seeds. For optimal plant growth, the soil temperature has to be 50°F or higher. Wait for your soil to warm up.
  6. Planting too close: Vegetables need space to grow and mature. Head lettuces should be planted a minimum of 9 inches apart. Tomato and cucumber plants, a minimum of 2 feet. Radishes should be planted 1 inch apart and then thinned to 3 inches apart. Beets and bean plants should be planted 1 inch apart and then thinned to 4 to 6 inches apart.
  7. Not using mulch to control weeds: Weed control is critically important.
  8. Not fertilizing properly: An essential initial step is to prepare the soil with a multi-purpose fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 (the numbers represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the mixture). Soil tests will give the exact needs for nutrients in your particular garden plot. At the time of transplant and during growth phases, a diluted liquid fertilizer solution will improve the plant’s vigor, growth, and disease resistance.
  9. Not enough or too much water: A reliable, close-at-hand source of water such as a garden hose or sprinkler is critical. Your garden will need an average of 2 to 4 inches of water per week. However, be careful, because too much water will damage the roots and encourage disease growth, particularly fungal diseases on tomato plants and vine crops.
  10. Not being vigilant: Watch the garden carefully for any sign of insect damage. Use organic insecticides such as plant-derived pyrethrins sparingly to control insects. Insects such as tomato hornworm and cabbageworm can also be hand-picked off your plants. Beware of fungal diseases on vine crops and tomatoes. Organic copper sulfate fungicide applied periodically will help prevent this.

From Ciao Italia: Plant. Harvest. Cook!

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