Year after year, I strive to have a bigger, better, more prosperous vegtable garden. And every year, I end up with a jungle of tomato vines, Red Root Pig Weed up to my eye balls, and moldy beans. To add insult to injury, I know exactly what I’m doing wrong, and how to avoid it in the future.
This year I will grow a better garden…
and hopefully, my mistakes will help you learn to garden better too!
Problem #1. Too Much!
My eyes have always been bigger than my belly, and gardening is no exception. In fact, this is a common problem for many people. You don’t need to have a 25’x40′ garden to produce enough fresh food for your family, and a little extra for preserving. In years past, I’ve had these grand ambitions, only to realize I’ve planted way more than we could ever eat, and way more than I could ever take care of at this point in my life! Planting fewer plants allows you to take better care of them, and taking better care will give you better yeilds! It will also be easier to maintain a smaller plot, which will make your time in the garden more enjoyable, instead of a monumental chore. It’s astonishing how much can be grown in a very small space, check out square foot gardening, and vertical gardening for some great space saving ideas!
Problem #2. Planting with a Plan
Planning your vegetable garden can be a daunting task. It’s hard to know what should be planted where, when it needs to be planted, and when to harvest it. In the past I’ve had pages and pages of charts and graphs and drawings, but they always get lost, or wet, or blow away in the garden. I miss planting times, don’t start seedling when I should. But not this year! There are so many tools on the web to help plan your garden. My favorite, though, is from Mother Earth News. This amazing tool has a great interactive planning tool, with information on every vegetable, and will even email when it’s time to start planting and harvesting based on your specific planting zone. Just like everything in life, it’s much easier when you’re organized and have a plan.
Problem #3. Ignoring Space Requirements
Planting too close together, or too far apart can cause problems. Too close and your plants will crowd and the quality will suffer. Some plants (like beans) are susceptible to mold without enough air flow. Now, planting densely can help keep weeds down, but you don’t want to pack things too tightly. On the other hand, planting too far apart leaves bare dirt, perfect for weeds to grow and thrive, increasing your already heavy work load. Perfect planting space will take a little trial and error. For instance, I have the most amazing Cherry Tomato plant that is supposed to have 3 ft. between plants, but that thing is like a tree! Every year I’ve underestimated it’s space requirements and it takes over everything within a 6 ft. radius.
Problem #4 Garden Like You Mean It!
If, like me, your goal is to provide fresh, nutritious food for your family, and decrease your grocery bill and reliance on corporations, you need to treat it like the important job it is. This will be easier if you implement the suggestions from above, but your garden needs daily attention. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, it’s important to always be observing so you can water the radishes if they’re dry, or head off slugs before they destroy your whole lettuce crop. For me, I love going out to the garden bright and early while the rest of the house is still sleeping-coffee in hand- and pulling a few weeds, and deciding what needs to be done next to make my garden thrive.
So, this year I pledge to do all the things I know I should, and grow my best garden ever!