Episode 002: Top 5 Gardening Mistakes To Avoid As A Beginner

podcast cover with image of woman and episode text: 002 Top 5 gardening Mistakes to avoid as a beginner

episode highlights

  • Find out if you’re not watering enough or overwatering your plants
  • Learn why spacing your plants too far apart can be counterproductive
  • Discover why mulch is my favorite secret to for healthy garden
  • Garden not turning out as planned? Don’t give up yet! Learn how to turn failures into success and keep growing

Newbie mistakes to avoid in your garden

Are you a newbie gardener eager to grow a beautiful, bountiful garden? Or perhaps a seasoned green thumb looking to improve your skills? In any case, avoiding common gardening pitfalls can help transform your garden from mediocre to magnificent. In this blog post, based on the podcast episode “Top 5 Gardening Mistakes to Avoid,” we will discuss the most common beginner gardener mistakes and how to easily fix them. Let’s dive in!

Mistake #1: Not watering enough

One of the most common mistakes made by beginner gardeners is not providing their plants with enough water. This can lead to stressed plants that are more susceptible to pests and diseases and less likely to reach their full potential in size and productivity. To avoid this, ensure your plants receive regular water, about an inch a week. A quick fix for this issue is to install an irrigation system, which can be easily set up using kits available online.

Mistake #2: Overwatering

On the flip side, overwatering your plants can be just as detrimental. Saturated, soggy soil can essentially “drown” your plants, as their roots are unable to access the oxygen they need to survive. Overwatering can also lead to shallow root growth, making your plants more vulnerable to being uprooted or tipped over during dry spells or windstorms. To avoid overwatering, consider installing an irrigation system with a timer to ensure your plants receive the proper amount of water at the proper intervals.

Mistake #3: Spacing plants too far apart

While it’s essential to provide your plants with enough room to grow, spacing them too far apart can lead to wasted space and an increased opportunity for weed growth. Bare soil can also experience more extreme temperature swings, which can stress out your plants. To combat this issue, use mulch to cover the surface of your soil, providing a protective layer that helps maintain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Mistake #4: Not using mulch

Mulch is a fantastic gardening tool that provides numerous benefits, such as maintaining soil moisture, suppressing weeds, and regulating soil temperature. Despite these advantages, many beginner gardeners neglect to use mulch in their gardens. To enhance your garden’s success, consider using organic mulch materials like wood chips, straw, or grass clippings. You can even source free mulch by contacting local tree trimming companies or your city’s utility company.

Mistake #5: Giving up too early

It’s not uncommon for beginner gardeners to feel disheartened when their seeds don’t germinate, their seedlings die, or pests invade their garden. However, it’s crucial to persevere and not give up too early. If your initial planting attempt fails, try again – there’s almost always something you can plant, whether it’s fast-growing crops like radishes or flowers like calendula. If you’re not up for starting from seed again, consider purchasing seedlings from a nursery to give your garden another chance at success.

By avoiding these common beginner gardener mistakes, you can set your garden up for a flourishing and fruitful season. Remember to monitor your watering habits, utilize mulch, and never give up too soon. With a little guidance and persistence, you can overcome these challenges and enjoy a successful gardening season. Happy gardening!

Episode Transcript

Hello and welcome back to Organic Gardening for Beginners, the show that helps you to start your first garden. 

Today, we are talking about the top five mistakes that I see beginner gardeners make. Now, of course, there are more, but these are some of the most common ones that, fortunately, are also very easy to fix, so that you can get your garden off on the right foot this year. 

My name is Jessica and I’m the host of this show. I have 20 years of experience that I am bringing to you to help you get started with your thriving and productive garden. 

Okay, starting with the first mistake that I often see people make and that I made myself when I was first starting out, and especially when I was moving to somewhere new, this is a tricky one, and that is not watering enough. If you are coming from a location where you get regular rain, such as I did when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, and then you move to a new area, such as I did to Southern California, where the weather is obviously very, very different, then it is easy to forget to adapt to your new climate, even if you are gardening in the same place that you’ve lived in for a long time, if you’re just not used to paying attention to the water needs of your plants, then it’s easy to forget or to think that they’re getting enough, and really they’re not. You might not notice it right away. It’s not that you’re going to step out there and constantly see wilted plants or drooping leaves. But the problem with not enough water is that it stresses out your plants, just like your body gets stressed when you get dehydrated. If a plant is dehydrated, it becomes much more vulnerable to pest pressure and to getting diseases, not to mention that your plants will probably not reach their full potential in size and productivity. Making sure that you give your plants regular water about an inch a week, an inch of water is definitely ideal for keeping your garden as healthy as possible. A very quick fix for this is to install an irrigation system. It sounds intimidating, but it’s really not that difficult. There are little kits that you can buy from lots of sources online. I’ll have some of those in the show notes that will make it very easy to piece together this modular system that will fit your space, whether you’re gardening in containers or in an in-ground bed or even raised beds. It’s very easy to set up and it’s kind of a set it and forget it type of system. 

On the other hand, the second mistake that I often see is people watering too much. This can be really common because you want to avoid those problems that I just mentioned with too little water, too much love, a little bit too much love for the plants, and unfortunately, that’s just as bad as too little water. When you overwater your plants, the ground becomes saturated and soggy and the plants can actually drown if you overwater them, which was something I only learned a few years ago. The exact science behind it, and basically there are air pockets in the soil that the plant roots reach to. They need the oxygen in order to survive, and if you completely saturate the soil or it just stays too moist for too long, then those air pockets fill with water, and so the plant roots, as they travel through the dirt, they go searching for oxygen, and they can’t find it. All they find is water, so essentially, they drown. Too frequent of watering as well can lead to shallow root growth, which means that, instead of digging deep into the ground in search of water, the plant roots stay very shallow and close to the surface because it’s readily available, the water is. They don’t need to go further down, and so when you go through a dry spell or a windstorm comes through, it makes the plants very vulnerable to getting either pulled out or just tipped over because they’re not securely anchored into the ground with a deep root system And just like with too little water. A very easy fix for this is that irrigation system putting your plants on a timer so that every other day, every week, whatever your climate calls for, the timer triggers the water flow and your plants just get automatically watered at the schedule that they need. 

All right, number three mistake number three that I often see with beginner gardeners is spacing your plants too far apart. Now, in a beginner’s mind, typically you want to give the plant enough room to stretch out its roots, to not be overcrowded, to grow as big as possible, and that’s awesome. But when you space your plants too far apart, you’re actually not only wasting space, but you’re also leaving a lot of bare dirt, which, in the grand scheme, isn’t terrible. But when you leave bare dirt, you are encouraging weed seeds to have all of the space, the moisture and the sunlight exposure that they need to germinate, which obviously means more work for you down the road, in addition to potentially having extra weeding to do with bare soil. It also means that the soil is going to go through more temperature swings, through the heat of the day and the cool of the night, which can stress out your plants depending on how severe those temperature swings are. 

And, just like everything, this one has a very easy fix, which is to use mulch. Mulch is a sort of protective covering that you put over the surface of your soil and that can be grass clippings, it can be straw, it can be wood chips, which are my favorite, and it’s kind of like a blankie that you snug up to your plants and it keeps them toasty at night and it keeps the soil at a more even temperature throughout the season. And fortunately, because it blocks the sunlight from getting to the soil surface, it can also really significantly help prevent weed seeds from germinating, which makes a lower maintenance garden for you during the summer. And that brings me to mistake number four, which is not mulching your garden, and I know plenty of gardeners who just they love the look of the bare soil between their plants, especially after freshly weeding it, and I admit it looks awesome. However, you are definitely setting yourself and your plants up for a less-than-successful season because it helps so much to keep your plants. 

Which brings me to mistake number four that I often see with beginner gardeners, and that is not using mulch in your garden. 

Mulch is one of the best gardening methods that I use, right up there with companion planting, and if you’re not sure what mulch is, it is a protective layer that you put over the surface of your garden soil. It is most commonly made from organic materials like wood chips, straw, grass clippings are another great option. Some people choose to use synthetic materials, such as landscape fabric, which is kind of like a thin felt, almost that you can put over the surface, and that helps cover the dirt. And the reason that you want to use mulch is that it helps to maintain moisture in the soil. It can help suppress weeds because it blocks the sunlight sunlight like we just mentioned and it also helps to regulate the soil temperature. It keeps the soil insulated, more or less. And if you are worried about having to go to the store to buy bags of mulch or spending money on that, there are several free sources, which my favorite is to call the city tree trimming companies, the arborists, and ask them to drop off a load of woodchips after they’re done with their trimming jobs for the day, and they are almost always happy to do it because it saves them from having to go and pay to dump their woodchips at the landfill. So you can also talk to your city’s utility company. Sometimes that’s an option if your local arborists don’t want to deliver to your area. 

And lastly, mistake number five and this one is the biggie, which is why I saved it for last. It is giving up too early. If you get out there this spring and you plant your garden and your seeds don’t germinate, or your seedlings die off, or maybe squirrels came and dug up your sunflower seeds or your corn seeds. I have had that happen, especially when I was in South Carolina. It’s really easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to think that you missed the prime planting time, that because you tried once and it didn’t go so well that it won’t work, or that it’s too late. But chances are there is time to start again. It’s discouraging, i won’t lie. It sucks to see your plants doing really well or your seedlings, i should say and then your wigs come and eat them to the ground, or your kids come and pull out all your newly planted lettuce seedlings and they die in the sun. But I am encouraging you to try again. 

That is the name of the game in gardening. The famous saying is there’s always next year, because you will have failures throughout your season and once the next season comes around, you are filled with inspiration once again. But see if you can’t shorten that curve and plant again now instead of waiting until next year. Depending, of course, on your season, there’s almost always something you can plant. There are crops like radishes that will mature in less than a month. There are flowers like calendula that will bloom in less than two months. So stick some more seeds in the ground. See what happens. 

If you’re really desperate and you just don’t want to start from seed again, go to the nursery and buy a six-pack of flowers or seedlings and stick them in the ground and see what happens the second time around. And if you only want to start with one thing, if you’re not up for replanting your whole garden, then that’s totally fine. Just pick an easy grower

All right, and with that, those are the five top beginner mistakes that I see in new gardeners Not watering enough, over-watering your plants, spacing them too far apart, forgetting to mulch, and giving up too soon on your garden. Don’t get overwhelmed, it’ll be okay. You can always replant and if you have any questions, i can always help with those. Next week we are talking about 10 easy-to-grow flowers and vegetables that you should plant this spring. So if you’re not sure yet what to plant, make sure you tune in for that, and please don’t forget to subscribe to the show and leave a review if you’re getting some awesome value out of it. See you next week. 

The point of this show, the purpose of this show is is to help you and encourage you to start your first garden. Maybe you’ve tried in the past and you haven’t been successful. Either your seed didn’t sprout or you got some things going but ended up losing them to weather or to bugs, or maybe even your kids pulling things out of the garden. That’s happened to me And you want to try again. But the problem is, sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed, it’s easy to get busy, it’s easy to feel like you missed the ideal planting time, and really what I want to help with is helping you not get preoccupied with that and just get started. No matter, honestly, what time of year it is, even if it’s in the dead of winter, there are still things you can do to help get going on your garden. And, just for a little bit of context, i am a stay at home mom to an almost two year old and almost four year old, So I definitely understand the pains of feeling like you have not quite enough time, not quite enough headspace to keep track of everything, so I can completely relate on that. But that does not mean that you can’t get out to the garden and start growing some pretty flowers, start growing just a little bit of food to bring home into your house for your family, and the joy of gardening is truly something that I love to share with people, so that is why we are here.

This show will cover some of the bigger picture topics in gardening, like companion planting or planting your garden, maintenance chores during each season, how to keep your garden productive and healthy, especially in the summer, when it’s at peak production time. And we’ll also break down some of those larger topics into bite size chunks to avoid the overwhelm and, instead of looking at the entire scope of planting your garden, instead look at just one aspect of it, such as focusing on where to put your garden, how to take advantage of the sunlight or the shade that you have, and what you want to use your garden for. Some episodes will focus on one plant or a group of plants, perhaps talking about zinnias or shade tolerant veggies. Some episodes will definitely help you learn from my mistakes. I have no shame in sharing my garden failures, my lessons learned and helping you skip some of those, like trying to start lettuce in July. I really don’t recommend anybody does that And one episode per month will provide some guidance on what to do or what to plant in that month. Now, of course, this will vary depending on where you’re at in the United States or where you are in the world, but in general, there are common themes that you can apply across the months, no matter where you’re at. That can help you stay on top of your garden or get prepared for your upcoming season. Now, hopefully, what you’ve heard so far has helped you think to yourself hey, this show sounds like it’s just for me. I really want to get started with my garden. But in case you’re not sure yet, here are a few people that I think about when I am recording these episodes and when I am planning out episodes for this show.

This podcast is for the person who wanders the farmer’s market and looks at all those beautiful displays of produce, of flowers, of all the fruits and vegetables that the farmers have brought in, and they think, man, i really want to grow that for myself. I want that coming right out of my backyard straight into my kitchen where I can grow it all myself and cook it up. This show is for the person who has bought packets of seeds that either they forgot to plant, chose not to plant, or maybe they did plant them and they didn’t sprout, or they sprouted for a couple of weeks and then they died. It’s not too late to try again. This show is for the person who wants to grow some of their own food for themselves and their family. You know that local food is awesome. You know that fresh food is even better that when it comes straight out of the ground and into your kitchen that it still has its freshness, its nutrition, its vitality that you want to bring into your kitchen to feed you and your family.

This show is for the person who loves beautiful flowers and wants a fresh bouquet on their kitchen counter every week. I love growing flowers, not only for me, because, yes, they are gorgeous, they are pretty, they are romantic and just so fun to look at, but they also are amazing for the local pollinator and bird populations, and I love seeing those come into the garden. You will definitely hear me talk about my hummingbirds that I’m always trying to bring into my garden. And lastly, this show is for the person who just doesn’t know where to start and needs a hand to figure it out. The person who has this picture in their head of what they want their garden to look like, the food they want to grow in it, the flowers they want to grow in it, the aspirations that they have for their garden that they’ve seen in magazines, on TV, in their neighbor’s yard, and they’re just not sure how to start. This show is most definitely for you.

When you listen to this show, you’ll get tips and advice from me, who has been gardening for over 20 years. As I mentioned before, i’ve grown in Washington, in Southern California, in South Carolina, so I know that there are struggles and hurdles with different climates, with getting used to new areas and the different kind of weather patterns than you might be used to. You’ll definitely get the real scoop on starting your garden with simple steps. It’s not difficult to get a garden started, but there are some things to think about and it can be easy to get overwhelmed with the things that you need to do. If you are starting your garden on a tight budget. I absolutely have some tips for you on how to do this without dropping a bunch of money on fancy raised beds or extra garden materials that, honestly, you really don’t need when you’re just getting started out. Finding free mulch and free compost are two of my favorite things to do whenever we move. And, lastly, you will get inspired to grow new things, to try new varieties and planting techniques.

Maybe this isn’t your first garden, but you still consider yourself more or less a beginner and you still need a little bit of guidance. Well, hopefully I will have some insight to provide for you, some tricks that have worked for me that I can pass on and share that will make your second and consecutive gardens even better and even easier to get started and more productive. That is all for this episode, and I really hope that you got something from it, that you are excited to have a gardener in your corner who is here to help you. Next week, we are going to be talking about some of the most common mistakes the beginners make and how to avoid them or how to fix them. If you’re already on that path And if you are getting value out of this show already, then please hit that subscribe or follow button and I will talk to you next week. Bye.

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