Beginning Gardeners Beware: Avoid These Easy-To-Make Mistakes

You've decided this is the year to begin your very own garden. You have visions of mid-summer fresh, organic salads and home-grown pumpkins come fall. Maybe you've tried gardening in the past but got discouraged and gave up. Don't sabotage your garden. Try again and make sure your plans aren't dashed by these common pitfalls.

1) Ignoring the quality of your soil. Dirt is dirt, right? Nope! You need to eat and so does your garden. Nutrients in soil feed your plants. Maybe you lucked out and your garden already has great soil (this video will show you how to check) or maybe you need to buy some potting soil to supplement, but either way a little compost mixed in with your soil will ensure your plants are well fed.

2) Using seeds. It's tempting to want to experience the entire process of gardening from seed to fruit, but when you're just starting out, it's a good idea to buy some starter plants from the nursery instead. You'll get a good, strong plant which you'll only need to maintain it once it's in the ground. Experiment with seeds when you're more confident and experienced.

3) Buying blooming starter plants. In the store, we all gravitate toward blooming plants. After all, it's what we aspire to have in our own gardens. But if the plant's already in bloom, it's passed the ideal window for planting because its root system may be over-developed and root bound. You want those roots to start growing once they're in your garden, so look for healthy starts at the beginning of their cycle (smaller and with fewer blooms).

4) Crowding. Maybe you have limited garden space and a rather ambitious veggie plan, but plants do need space to flourish. Don't make them fight with their neighbors for nutrients and water! Root systems are often even wider than the plant itself and need to spread out. And, if you're over-planting with hopes of a higher yield, remember, a healthy happy plant will always produce more and proper spacing will extend your growing season.

5) Overwatering. I'm guilty of this one. I think I'm diligently taking care of my plants and instead I drown them with attention. Too much water causes the roots, the foundation of the plant, to rot. Rock hard soil needs watering but soft, pliable soil that will clump when squeezed is already plenty damp.

What other mistakes should novice gardeners avoid? Tell us in the comments.

Image: Jennifer Hunter