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The Top 5 Vegetable Garden Mistakes

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The following top 5 vegetable gardening mistakes are mistakes every good gardener has made along the way. Mistakes are part of learning. When you recognize your vegetable garden mistakes, you can take steps to fix them!

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5 Vegetable Garden Mistakes – and How to Fix Them

Even though I’ve been growing vegetables for over 30 years, I still make plenty of mistakes. These are the most common vegetable garden mistakes I’ve encountered when giving talks and lectures to garden clubs and the general public. They also reflect many of the frequently asked questions I see here at Home Garden Joy and on our Facebook page. (Not a member? Check us out today!).

New to Veggie Gardening? You’re Not Alone!

Many of you reading this are new to veggie gardening, and that’s great! I’m so glad you’re here!

Gardening has been my emotional outlet for many years but it’s never been as important as it is now. Weeding the flower beds, starting my vegetable garden, tending the raised vegetable beds…it helps me feel grounded, secure.

Growing your own vegetables is a great way to ensure an adequate supply of nutritional fresh vegetables. The easiest ones to grow are often the spring vegetables including lettuce, radishes, and spinach, so now is definitely a great time to start a few pots, containers, or a raised bed.

5 Common Veggie Garden Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Problem 1: Planting seeds too close together – and not thinning the seedlings

It’s easy to dump too many seeds in a row. Many vegetable seeds are tiny, and as you shake the envelope out, more than one lands in a planting hole, resulting in a crowd of seedlings. It’s tempting to leave them alone; after all, five plants are better than one, right? Unfortunately, the roots tangle together, the plants crowd each other out, and you’ll end up with spindly, unhealthy plants.

Solution: Thinning. Thinning refers to the process of removing the smaller, weaker seedlings. If you can transplant them, fine, but if not, compost them. It feels like a waste of good plants but if you don’t think out the row, you really will end up with a poor yield.

Problem 2: Allowing seeds and plants to dry out

You can’t rely on nature to provide seedlings with all the water they need. I water outdoor seedlings and seed starting trays twice daily, once in the morning, and once at night, giving them a good soaking. Make sure that any pots and containers have drainage holes to allow excess water to drip out or you will drown your plants.

Solution: Twice daily watering. If you are lucky enough to have sprinklers to water your vegetable garden, a timer is a great help, especially if you’re forgetful. The timer automatically starts and stops the sprinklers.

Problem 3: Overplanting

It’s easy to go crazy planting vegetables if this is your first garden. Unlike the grocery store, however, where you can pick up just one head of lettuce for the week, you’ll find that your garden offers its bounty of vegetables all at once! A rush of radishes, a flood of lettuce, and suddenly you’re wondering if you can sneak the extras onto your neighbor’s porch.

Solution: Estimate how much your family will need and plant only as much as you need. Here is a good article from The Spruce that includes how many plants to estimate per person.

Problem 4: Not enough light

Vegetable plants require full sunlight, with some, such as green beans and lettuce, able to grow well in partial sunlight. Many people don’t understand what full sunlight means and assume that dappled shade from a tree is fine, for example, or bright afternoon sunlight is enough. It may not be. If your garden is struggling, and there’s deep shade cast on it from a shed, fence, or tree, you may need to reconsider where you’ve planted your vegetables.

Solution: Move the garden beds next year to a sunnier spot. If that’s impossible, try growing container vegetables and move the containers into the sunlight. Most people have at least one spot in their yard that gets sunlight. It might not be ideal for an in-ground or raised vegetable garden bed but it may be able to accommodate a few large containers.

Problem 5: Setting tender plants out too early

It’s tempting to plant everything now – cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons. But these are tender (frost-sensitive) plants that cannot take freezing temperatures. Here in the Piedmont region of Virginia, the last frost date varies considerably. We’ve had a mild spring. I ask myself, “Should I take a chance and plant my cantaloupe seeds? The tomatoes?” But you never know when a sudden cold snap will arrive.

Solution: Find out the frost-free date for your gardening zone. Wait to plant heat-loving vegetables until after the average date of the last frost. If a frost threatens, bring potted or container plants inside, and cover outdoor garden beds with blankets, sheets, cardboard or newspaper (just overnight – take it off in the morning.)

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Ask Your Garden Questions Here!

Please feel free to ask any gardening questions you may have using the comment feature. You must tell me where you are located (US state and/or gardening zone). I’m sorry but I can’t answer gardening questions without location and for people in countries other than the USA — gardening varies considerably by location. But if I can, I’ll answer questions and/or direct you to the appropriate resources.

Happy gardening!


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