Have you been dreaming of starting your own garden and growing your own food for your family?
You see so many people on social media with beautiful, fresh food from their gardens and you think to yourself “I can do that!”
Yep. You can do that and you should! Gardening is a core homesteading value because growing your own food will lead to a more self sufficient and healthy lifestyle.
But that doesn’t mean it is easy. Gardening is a skill that can be cultivated and increased over time.
Today I want to give you some tips to help you avoid common beginner gardening mistakes to increase your yield your first year out.
10 Common Beginner Gardening Mistakes to Avoid
1. Planting too much
When you start looking at seed catalogs or go into a nursery and see all of the plants, it is easy to over do it. When you are first starting, you want to only plant as much as you can handle.
So pick one variety of a few vegetables your family loves and start there. Then the next year you can evaluate what worked and what didn’t, then add more.
This will keep you from weeding and harvesting overwhelm, which will lead to lost money, crops and lots of frustration.
2. Not planting the right varieties for your area
Some plants grow better in one area or environment than another.
Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower do better in cooler climates. Fruit trees such as apple and apricot do well in cooler climates too.
Vegetables like okra and peppers prefer warmer weather while citrus fruits such as oranges and pineapple need a tropic climate to thrive.
In order to get the best harvest, you should plant seed varieties that are made for your climate.
3. Not planting what your family likes to eat
If you plant tons of squash (which grows great where I live), but your family doesn’t like squash, you won’t be helping your food growing goals.
After you have been gardening for awhile, you can start adding in new things for your family to try (in small quantities). After all, garden fresh produce is always better than store bought.
But when you are first starting out, plant things you know your family will like so that they can have the joy of gardening as well.
4. Starting too early
Once Christmas is over, I am ready to start gardening. I am looking at seed catalogs and drawing out my garden plan.
But in reality, I can’t start planting until May in my area so I have to be patient.
If you start your planting too early, your seeds won’t thrive. So know your average last frost date and talk to your neighbors about when they plant.
We almost always have a late snow around Mother’s Day, so I know that planting early will only frustrate me more and waste resources.
Follow the planting directions on your seed packet and don’t get started too early. If you do, you may have to replant again, which is no fun!
5. Not managing your space correctly
Whether you have a big space or a small one, managing your space correctly will help you have a greater harvest.
I suggest you start with a small area for your first garden. That may mean 2 to 4 raised beds or a small patch of ground.
Make sure that you don’t plant corn where it is going to shade other plants when it grows. Give squash, tomatoes and other vining plants room to spread or grow vertically.
If you don’t have much space, growing vertically can help save ground area. Some plants that are great vertical growers are: tomatoes, squash and beans.
6. Not hardening off your plants
Hardening off your plants means allowing them some time to transition from growing indoors to outside.
So if you have started seeds indoors, you need to gradually introduce them to the outside world. Start with an hour a day and work your way up to full time.
If you don’t harden off your plants, they will get scorched by the sun or blown over by the wind. They have been protected indoors and need time to get used to the harsh conditions of the garden.
7. Watering too much or not enough
Garden watering can be tricky and there are several ways to do it wrong.
You want to water enough for your plants to thrive but not overwater.
How do you strike the proper balance? Trial and error.
I would start by watering every other day and see how that goes.
If you are in a very dry climate or have a lot of wind, you might notice the soil is drying out quickly. Move toward watering every day.
If you are in a humid climate, you might not need as much water. It just depends on your area.
If you are getting alot of rain, make sure your automatic sprinklers are turned off so that your soil can dry out.
Don’t just set it and forget it. Monitor your garden to make sure it is getting the proper amount of water for optimal growth.
8. Not nurturing your soil
Depleted soil is one of the reasons that conventional agriculture is not giving us the nutrient rich vegetables it once did.
Soil gives nutrients to the plants, and therefore needs to be replenished each season.
You can replenish your soil with compost, organic fertilizers or other soil amendments. Research the vegetables you are planting and what kind of soil they grow best in so you will know what to add.
You can also add compost to your garden half way thru the season to help your plants thrive.
Here are some ideas to help you nourish your soil on a budget —> 10 Household Items To Recycle In Your Vegetable Garden.
9. Planting in the shade
Almost all vegetables grow better in the sun, even though some will still grow in the shade.
If you have limited sun in your growing spot, here is the rule of thumb that has always worked for me:
- If you are growing it for its roots (potatoes, carrots, beets, etc) it needs full sun.
- If you are growing it for its leaves (spinach, lettuce, kale) it will grow in the shade.
So plant as much as you can in the sun and save your leafy vegetables for the shade if needed.
10. Not protecting your crops from predators
Predators and pests can turn your beautiful, thriving garden into a mess in no time. Protecting your harvest from those that want to eat it first is a high priority.
Common garden predators are deer, rabbits, birds, rodents, chickens and other small animals.
To keep them out, you may need fencing, bird netting or a guard dog.
You must show no mercy in protecting your garden or all of your hard work will go down the drain quickly. Nobody wants that!
When you are first starting a garden, it may seem overwhelming to learn all of the things you need to know so quickly.
So just do your best and try to learn as you go. Even after many years of gardening, I still learn new things every year.
Just don’t give up on your new garden. That first harvest will make it all worth it, I promise!
What mistakes did you make your first year as a gardener? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!
If you are interested in starting your first garden, we have a FREE online course called “Starting Your First Garden” that can help you grow your own food in your backyard! Click on the image below to sign up.