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Home and Garden: Gardening mistakes

By Darrell BlackwelderFor The Salisbury Post
Many folks are trying to become healthier by growing their own vegetables. Many will try their luck growing vegetables this spring. Those who yearn for the taste of fresh vegetables and the chance to exercise already have their garden spots plowed and ready.
Novice vegetable gardeners are bound to make mistakes. However, with a little help, many of these mistakes may be avoided. Below are common mistakes made by beginning vegetable gardener.
n Too much shade for plants to produce. Vegetables need at least 8 hours of sun a day for optimum growth. Tomatoes planted in flower beds near the home often don’t get enough light. The result is a tall plant with little or no fruit.
n No soil testing for fertility. Gardeners fail to have a soil test so they end up guessing about fertilization. Much time and effort as well as endangering the environment from lack of soil tests. Soil test kits are available form Cooperative Extension on Old Concord Road in Salisbury.
n Too many amendments. Some try too hard to make their soil fertile. Adding compost and leaf mold will improve the soil, but don’t add too much. Some add so much that vegetables have no trace elements. Adding 2-3 inches of compost to the soil each season is acceptable.
n Little or no irrigation or poor irrigation techniques. Commercial producers wouldn’t put a seed in the ground without a dependable source of water. Vegetables are mostly water and need ample supplies during the summer. Others may irrigate incorrectly by supplying light applications too often. Drip irrigation is an effective method of irrigating plants without wasting water. You may want to visit the local farmers market and save your well if you have a weak well or uncertain of its capability.
n Planting too early. Many people can’t wait until the danger of frost or cold weather is past before planting. There is a 90 percent chance we won’t have another frost; however, Rowan County has had its share of late frosts in May.
n Planting too many vegetables. My family had to beg our neighbors to take our excess squash and tomatoes. Planting too much is a very common error that can be a problem. Four squash plants will easily feed a family of four. Research the yield of vegetables before planting. If you do have extra vegetables, give them to your neighbors or consider a dontion to Rowan Helping Ministries.
n Failure to keep records. It’s difficult to remember from year to year how much you planted, varieties, insect pests, etc. Keep a log or journal for your crop. Next season’s crop will be much easier to grow.
n Poor pest control. Insects and weeds can take over a garden in a matter of days. Most weeds are indigenous and will outgrow vegetables. Keep weeds in check with routine weeding or hoeing. Proper identification of insects makes control easier. Many insects in the garden are beneficial. Some vegetables and pests can coexist. Learn to live with some pests.
n Harvesting produce at the wrong stage. Many grow vegetables but harvest either too early or too late. Again, research the vegetable to determine the correct harvesting times and techniques.
Information about vegetable and other gardening can be found at the N.C. State University web site at http://rowan. ces.ncsu.edu/ Publications/ lawngarden.php the Rowan Master Gardener Web site.
Darrell Blackwelder is an extension agent for the NC Cooperative Extension Service. Call him at 704-216-8970.

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