Blackwelder: 10 common garden mistakes

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 4, 2011

With this economy, many people are trying to become self-sufficient 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 will soon be plowing their gardens.
Many seasoned and novice vegetable gardeners often make mistakes with their gardening endeavors. However, with a little forethought and preparation, many of these mistakes may be avoided. Below are common mistakes made by beginner vegetable gardeners.
• No soil testing for fertility. Gardeners fail to have soil tests so they end up guessing about fertilization. Guessing wastes much time and effort as well as endangering the environment from lack of soil tests. Soil test kits are available from Cooperative Extension on Old Concord Road in Salisbury for home gardeners. It’s still a free service from the N.C. Department of Agriculture.
• Too much shade for plants to produce. Vegetables need at least eight 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.
• 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 farmer’s market and save your well if you have a weak well or are uncertain of its capability.
• 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.
• Planting too early. Unseasonably warm weather sparks gardeners to take a chance and plant. Many can’t wait until the danger of frost or cold weather is past before planting. Rowan County has had its share of late frosts in May.
• Plant too many vegetables. Many gardeners beg their friends and neighbors to take excess squash and tomatoes. Planting too much is a very common error for most gardeners. Four squash plants will easily feed a family of four.
Research the yield of vegetables before planting.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• Information about vegetable and other gardening can be found at the N.C. State University web site at Publications/lawngarden.php or the Rowan County Master Gardeners website at