Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gardening Mistakes 2013 & Tips + Photos

Gardening is a continuous learning experience, from understanding your climate to the location of certain plants. Last year I wrote a piece on the mistakes I made and how I needed to improve for this year (you can read that entry here "4 Mistakes I've Made as a First-year Gardener").

I have compiled a whole different list of the mistakes I made as a second-year gardener below. In the list I highlight the methods I intend to use next year and other practices...

1. All Bugs <3 Broccoli & Cabbage: I did say this list was different from last year's mistake list, but unfortunately I made the SAME mistake in this particular scenario. I started cabbage and broccoli indoors a month before I intended to transplant at the beginning of March. I also bought cabbage starters from a store to transplant in March. The beetles, snails, slugs, and other bugs ate almost all of my cabbage and broccoli plants. I tried mulching, spraying lemon water, dusting the plants with a mix of cayenne and flour -- but the bugs continued to eat away at the plants, consequently my partner and I have decided to avoid growing cabbage, broccoli, and collard greens. (I did not have any problems with the tender greens like lettuce and spinach, however).
Now we're going to focus on growing a wide variety of tender greens and lettuces since it seems the bugs do not eat at them.

2. Root crops need sun & minimal water: Last year I made the mistake of starting the root veggies (carrots, onions, and beets in starter trays -- instead, this year I directly sowed root crops like beets, radishes, turnips, and onions in the ground in long rows. And although I planted these vegetables in early March to ensure they would be maturity before the hot summer -- I planted them during a rainy period, experiencing flooding problems and rotting of the root plants. We had a solid month of rain every day!
Another issue I faced with the root vegetables was that I planted them in a shady location (which I thought they could tolerate), however the locale may have been too shady considering the issue with the rainy period.
Next year I intend to plant onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and radishes in raised beds for proper drainage, minimal weeding, and maximum sun exposure.

3. Root crops & Greens prefer to be crowded: I have noticed when I space vegetable seeds far apart, only a few plants will germinate. For me, root crops like carrots, turnips, radishes, etc and greens like spinach and lettuce prefer to be grown in crowded patches. Greens that are grown crowded in a patch of dirt, will germinate most if not all the seeds you planted, and this will prevent weeds from growing within the patch of greens (as you can see in the picture to the right). Notice that I did not plant the lettuce in long-narrow rows, instead I planted in short-wide rows. Most root crops and greens prefer this method of planting rather than long narrow rows. You can also grow peas this way. However, Beans, Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, corn, and peppers should not be planted short fat rows, instead they prefer lots of space!

4.  Space plants close together with wide rows apart: To add to the previous mistake, I've come to the understanding that plants germinate better when crowded in patches, but space each row wide enough so that you can walk or till along the path. As mentioned above, I planted vegetables in long-narrow rows with little space between, and this created a MASSIVE WEED infestation. Weeds robs the plants of nutrients from the soil and crowd the plant to inhibit the plant from growing.
Notice in the picture above I have more than a foot of spacing between each row with the intention of walking in between the rows to easily rid of weeds. For example, observe how I spaced my tomato plants in the picture below. I planted two rows of tomato plants close together to create a support system, but allowed enough spacing between the other rows (over 24 feet) for a path to walk through.

5. Melons should not be directly sown: This was my first time attempting to grow cantaloupe and watermelon. Of course I was not successful even though I planted over 200 cantaloupe and watermelon seeds! Only a few watermelon and cantaloupe seeds sprouted, but were stunted and stopped growing. I also grew the melons in large mounds. I concluded that the soil was not ideal even though it was rich soil -- I suppose melons want sandy soil with constant water flow. I also concluded that in order to have successful healthy melon plants, that I needed to start them indoors a month before the first of May. Considering I start peppers and tomatoes indoors a month before I intend to transplant them, I should also do the same for melons next year!

Remember, plants need what you need: water, sun, a good foundation, and food. Collect rain water; and use compost to feed the plants.


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