So you want to start growing your own groceries. I bet you have seen many different things online. From “how to grow vegetables from kitchen scraps” to “check out my food forest”. Now you are probably trying to figure out HOW to garden. Whether you have some land or no land, you can grow at least some of your own produce. You can check out last years growing post for more ideas on that. Today lets talk about the 3 mistakes that most new gardeners make. At one time or another, we all seem to make the same mistakes when starting out. So let’s talk about them, and maybe it can save you from making those same mistakes too.
Let me tell you when you are super excited about growing your own food and it doesn’t go the way you planned it. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. It’s just a learning curve, like everything else in life. So I looked back over the first few years of my gardening and cringed over my obvious mistakes. Then I started noticing a pattern. Other people new to gardening were doing the exact same things. So for the safety of our sanity, and the health of our plants. Let me tell you about the 3 mistakes that most new gardeners make, at one time or another.
Not Knowing Your Area
Before you even start growing anything (especially outdoors) there are a few things you want to know first. What zone you live in. Where you are planting or placing your containers. How much sun you get and for how long. All of this will play a HUGE factor in what you can grow. For instance, as hard as I try I will never have a long enough warm weather season here in Canada to grow avocados unless I bring the tree inside (which is doable, and a plan of mine down the road).
So the first thing you want to do is decide where you want your plants to go. If you (like me) live in an apartment, and grow indoors or on your patio/balcony. Then you won’t really have much of a choice. However, if you have a yard, then you need to decide where you want to place your garden. From their, you can tell if that area gets full or partial sun, and how long it gets sun for an average day. This is very important to the success of your plants. While leafy greens like lettuce and spinach like cooler temperatures, plants like tomatoes and peppers need the warmth of a full sun summer.
Along with knowing your area, you also need to find your first and last frost date every year. While cool weather crops like some herbs and leafy greens are pretty resilient to slight frost, your warm weather loving tomatoes, and pepper plants aren’t. So those are the types of plants you want to start indoors. But that is a whole nother blog post that I will get into later on! Once you know your area, then you can research what plants work best in your hardiness zone. I use and recommend the Farmers Almanac website for finding your hardiness zone. Then from their, you can go shopping, and be easily able to read on the seed or plant labels whether that plant will be successful in your area and conditions.
Over Crowding Your Pots or Garden Beds
My second biggest mistake my first year of gardening on my balcony, was overcrowding. I just wanted to grow EVERYTHING and thought it would all be a success. It didn’t work out that way, because I overcrowded the plants and used containers that were too small to hold a proper root system for most plants. Completely ignoring the information on the seed and plant labels.
You can’t do this, you have to focus your attention on ALL the information on the plant label and information tags. Otherwise, what happens is your plant gets root bound. Which means that it isn’t getting enough room to breathe and take in nutrients. This starts to kill the roots, while at the same time suffocating the plant itself. You kind of need oxygen along with the other nutrients for the plant to grow and produce the foods you want to eat.
THIS. This is the number one killer of plants. I swear! It is. I still have issues with doing this sometimes. Overwatering causes the roots to rot, and the plant to grow mold and other nasty things, while underwatering obviously dries the roots out. You can come back from underwatering sometimes though. So if that’s ever the case, don’t give up entirely.
A good trick to use is sticking your finger in the dirt up to your first knuckle. This allows you to get a good idea of how moist the soil is, without disturbing the roots. You don’t want the soil super drenched or dry. It should be moist all the way down the first knuckle. When you first start to feel this drying out is when you want to rewater again. This allows the soil to constantly have moisture allowing for good root growth and the growth of foliage.
Once you get the hang of how each plant acts and what it needs. You will be well on your way to an amazing and fruitful grocery garden. Possibly even bypassing these 3 mistakes that most new gardeners make.