Tag Archives: new gardeners

8 Common New Gardener Mistakes

Gardening isn’t all about having a green thumb. In fact, a lot of gardening is more about the effort you put in. However, it certainly does get a bit easier with experience. If you’re new to gardening avoid these mistakes for a better 2021 growing season.

Not giving plants enough space.

It can be tempting to jam as many different plants into your garden as possible. After all, there are tons of incredible varieties to choose from! However, your garden will be much more productive if you provide your plants with adequate spacing and thin as needed. Thinning is especially important with root crops, many will not bulb up if they’re crowded.

Proper spacing also allows plants to get the nutrients and light they need to thrive. Plus, it’s key to providing maximum air circulation around plants which can help prevent fungal diseases in crops like tomatoes.

Failing to provide seedlings with optimum conditions.

Starting seeds is one of the great joys of gardening. Long before it’s spring outside you get to see the start of your crops popping up in little containers or trays inside. While starting seeds indoors isn’t difficult there are a few simple mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

The first is not providing supplemental light. It’s almost guaranteed that your seedlings won’t get enough light indoors just from a window and will grow tall and leggy. Supplemental light in the form of a simple garage or shop light can really help with this.

Two other common problems are not using proper potting soil and over or under-watering. Potting soil drains better than regular garden soil. It’s easy to over or under water when dealing with plants in such small containers. You want the soil to be damp but not soggy. 

For more common seed starting mistakes check out our full article on this subject, 8 Common Mistakes When Starting Seeds.

Not succession planting.

Succession planting is a method of spacing out your plantings so that you’re harvesting crops over a longer period of time rather than all at once. An example of this is adding a few rows of sweet corn every two weeks so it ripens after different times. 

Pam Dawling wrote an excellent article on succession planting for the SESE blog, Summer Succession Crop Planting: Avoid Gluts and Shortages.

Not having proper tools.

While gardening with almost nothing is certainly possible it isn’t always the most fun or efficient. Having the proper equipment can make a huge difference in your gardening experience.

One great tool is a stirrup hoe. You slide them back and forth across the soil to cut small weeds off below the surface. They can really help you keep up with the weeds. Proper watering tools like a hose and sprinkler or drip system can also make a huge difference in the amount of time you have to spend caring for your garden. Consider investing in a few quality tools to make the most of your timeand effort.

Not testing your soil.

While you may have success just rototilling any free spot in your backyard and adding some seeds, you’re much more likely to get a good harvest if you invest in your soil a bit. Step one is to test your soil. They sell or home test kits or most extension agencies offer affordable soil tests.

From there you make the choices on soil amendments and then consider taking steps like mulching, going no-till, and planting cover crops.

Learn more about what your soil test results mean with our post, Understanding Soil Tests.

Planting too much.

A well-cared for tiny garden can actually be more productive than a large neglected one. Starting with a small plot and focusing only on a few crops is key to a great harvest.

A small garden will allow you to give tasks like weeding, harvesting, and watering the time they require. It may also cost you less in terms of soil amendments, seeds, and tools. Start small your first year and slowly add on.

Not fencing your garden.

Any gardener in the Southeast will probably tell you all about the time a deer ate a perfect row of prized vegetables. Even if you think your yard is free from woodchucks, rabbits, and deer odds are they will find your garden. Having a good fence in place before planting can help you avoid some serious gardener heartbreak.

Not keeping some form of a garden journal.

No, you don’t have to write a diary about how your garden is progressing but you should aim to keep some basic notes. Do a quick sketch of your garden layout so you can easily rotate your crops the following year. Jot down which varieties your family loved and which suffered disease or pest issues. Take note of planting dates so you know when to plant another succession. A few notes can save you time and stress in the long run.

Keeping these 8 things in mind can help you have a more enjoyable and successful gardening experience.

10 Ways to Encourage Gardening in Your Community

If you’ve lived in your neighborhood for awhile you may have noticed the slow but steady disappearance of backyard gardens. More and more people are letting their plots go back to lawns in favor of the ease and convenience of the supermarket.

Small gardens, even those who don’t provide a large amount of a family’s food intake, are so important. They give people, especially children, the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from and how to grow food with their own two hands. They provide a social connection for neighbors. They increase neighborhoods self-sufficiency and decrease their reliance on imported food and fossil fuel. Backyard gardens keep people healthy by providing outside time, a connection to the land, exercise, and fresh food. They’re also a great way to keep crop diversity strong even when big farms have switched to monocultures.

Don’t let your community’s treasures disappear. Read on for some great ways to keep gardens blooming in your area.

Share compost.

If you have a large compost pile offer to share with others who garden or might be starting gardens. Seasoned gardeners will truly appreciate your odd homegrown generosity and new gardeners will be much more likely to stick with it if your nutrient-rich compost affords them a good harvest their first year.

Alternatively, if you need more compost, ask friends and neighbors to save food scraps, leaves, grass clippings and other compostables for you. You’ll gain more compost and an opportunity to share some of your gardening wisdom.

Organize a harvest swap.

A harvest swap is when people get together and bring backyard produce in designated increments to trade with one another. For example, the swap could be based on $5 increments and someone could trade $5 worth of extra tomatoes to a neighbor for $5 worth of apples.

To get non-gardeners in on it you could also allow homemade products like baked goods, honey, jams, or even crafts to be traded.

Start a seed swap.

Bloody Butcher Corn

One of the best parts about backyard gardens is that they encourage a lot of crop diversity. Keep that motion going by organizing a seed swap in your community each fall. People can meet other gardeners and get seeds they need with first-hand advice about growing them.

Set out a free produce stand.

If you have a surplus, consider putting out a free produce stand and sharing your harvest. Your tasty produce might inspire people to grow their own or it might help someone in need. You can also allow others to add their garden excess to the pile. If you end up with way too much, donating to a food pantry could be a good option.

If you’re feeling ambitious you could start a community garden.

Community gardens are great for those without access to land and/or tools. They can also be great places for people to learn gardening techniques, produce local food, and get to know their neighbors.

Encourage your local library to stock garden-themed books.

Most libraries get some funding to purchase new books. If that’s the case suggest gardening books you’d like to read. You never know who might check them out after you and give it a go. You could also consider donating garden books you’ve already read. If you ever need them for reference you could still go check them out.

Offer a class.

While many of us have gotten some garden lessons from our parents or grandparents some people may have never had any hands-on garden experience. Teaching a free or cheap class can help people learn who may be too intimidated to try on their own. You could also consider more specialty classes like canning strawberry jam if you have a particular skill.

Plant your garden close to the road.

Gardening in view of neighbors and passersby can be a great way to plant the gardening seed in someone’s mind so to speak. I’ve seen so many great conversations started in roadside gardens. For the extra dedicated, add a section of free PYO produce. Whether it’s blackberry bushes or tomato plants people may be encouraged to learn to grow their own after finding out how good homegrown food tastes.

Divide your perennials and offer free starts to friends and neighbors. 

Many beloved, hardy perennials are perfect for new gardeners and multiply quickly. Plants like mint, lemon balm, and chives can easily be divided to let someone you know start a patch of their very own.

Talk to anyone who will listen.

Spend time chatting with anyone who shows an interest in your gardening activities. Who knows you might inspire a child who grows up to be a farmer or get the best tip from someone who has grown great tomatoes their entire life!


Small gardens are great ways to provide local food, connect with neighbors, help the environment, and stay healthy. Encouraging gardening in your community can be a wonderful, easy way to lend a helping hand.

How have you supported gardening in your community?