Gardening is a fun, and new adventure for many of those just starting out. The idea of growing their own food excites them and sparks a passion for better health. If you're new to gardening, make the most out of your experience by avoiding these common "first-timer" mistakes.
1. Don't start too big.
You might be tempted to grow every variety you can get your hands on. The photos of exotic or rare cultivars might be tempting and hard to avoid, but remember that if you won't eat it...don't waste your time growing it. Stick with what you love and already enjoy cooking. Pick a few new varieties to try, of course, but don't go overboard. You might become overwhelmed if your first garden is too large to manage.
2. Choose the right kind of mulch.
Mulching is a beneficial way to keep the soil moist and helps to keep weeds from sprouting up in undesirable locations. Keep in mind that if you mulch too deeply, your seedlings might have a difficult time sprouting. Use grass hay with caution, because it often will contains seeds, you'll be doing more damage than good once they germinate and take over your vegetable patch. Keep the mulch about an inch away from your plants stems, so that your young plants won't develop any rot or get burned from excess heat. Read more about applying mulch.
3. Pay attention to light requirements.
Vegetables and herbs all require different light requirements to germinate, just as they need healthy soil and water to grow. When deciding where to put your vegetable garden, pay special attention to whether it receives full sun, partial sun, or no sun at all. Only plant specific varieties that will do well in that area, based on the type of light it receives. View Seed Planting Grow Guides >
4. Thin your seedlings to avoid over crowding.
The last thing you want is for your young seedlings to be fighting over nutrients in the soil or water. Avoid this by ensuring that your plants are adequately spaced. Try to imagine how large your plants will be at their full maturity, and pay attention to the recommended spacing guidelines found in our Seed Planting & Spacing Grow Guides. Thin your seedlings when they are only a few inches tall, and toss them onto salads or use as garnishes. These tiny sprouts or micro greens will taste delicious and should certainly not be considered a waste. Read more about thinning your seedlings.
5. Set a regular watering schedule.
Plants need water, and some plants require more than others. Too little water, and you will notice wilted, droopy leaves, while watering too often can cause rot, dis-coloration, and can even kill your plants. Keep in mind that most plants enjoy a deep watering 1-3 times a week, depending on your climate or grow zone. Water long, and less often which will teach the roots of the plants to grow downward to reach for water, resulting in stronger root systems and healthier plants. Read more about watering.
6. Keep a notebook.
Keeping a garden journal will help you remember what dates your plants were started on, harvested from, and more. It will be a good place to write down notes about when you've fertilized or if/when you notice any pest or disease issues. This notebook will become increasingly beneficial to you next year, and give you a reference so your next garden can be even more successful than your current one.