Monday, September 4, 2017

Thoughts About Garden Mistakes

For some reason people seem to get the impression that I'm some sort of gardening and/or homesteading expert. Far from it! I'm constantly making mistakes and hopefully learning. I see no problem with making fact, I'm pretty good at it. No shame. No embarrassment. No fear of admitting it. For some reason there is a great burden of shame attached to making mistakes. Earlier in my life even the slightest mistake caused me great stress. But I've grown past much of that, at least when it comes to my homestead farming. Making mistakes in other aspects of my life can still spell disaster, but when it comes to my farm, no problem. It's something I can accept without embarrassment. 

Here's a list of common garden oriented mistakes I see being made. And I'll note which ones I've managed to make myself........
... Planting the wrong plant in the wrong place. Been there, done that. Example: planting beans in the partial shade resulted in few beans. Fail! Some plants require full sun, others prefer shade. Some want constant soil moisture, others need dry conditions. Yet others need winter chill or freezing, while tender tropical storm get killed by such low temperatures. A gardener needs to learn the individual requirements of each plant species in order to be successful. Of course, master level gardeners and landrace innovators push the envelope, testing for varieties that can survive and produce outside the normal parameters. For them it's fun and a challenge. 
... A variation of above, not knowing one's USDA growing zone. This can spell disaster in the garden. Especially for orchard trees and perennials, knowing the zone is important. Planting outside the zone limits can result in a dead plant or one that won't produce.  
... Planting plants too closely, or conversely, too far apart. Yup, I made this mistake plenty of times as I was learning. 
... Improper planting. Examples- planting seeds too deep or too shallow. Same for transplant seedlings. Did this mistake a few times. 
... Planting self sterile plant without its mate, or all female flowered plant without a pollinator. I didn't make this mistake with my orchard trees, but I did do it once with a special hybrid watermelon. 
... Planting at the wrong time of year. Well, I did try planting beans before the soil warmed up enough one winter. Failed to germinate. I don't get frost, so I can't make the mistake of planting too early in the spring. Hawaii saved my butt on that one. 
... Improper watering...too much or too little. Most learning gardeners make the mistake of only getting the surface soil wet and not soaking things down to the plant roots. I've managed not to make this mistake, but I'm not sure why. Luck, I suppose. 
... Improperly timed watering. Now this I'll admit to. I get fairly busy at times and will put off watering, hoping for rain. Sometimes it rains. Other times it doesn't and the gardens get too dry. I'm still having this problem with myself, but hope to correct it as I get better with my garden schedules. It's one of my current failings.
... Not watering in the freshly transplanted seedlings. I've avoided this mistake too. But I see lots of dead seedlings in people's gardens simply because they weren't aware of the need to baby the new transplants and keep them moist. 
... Not preparing the soil prior to planting. With the recent fad of no-till, I'm seeing more of this problem than before. So many young people tend to believe that one can simply scatter seeds on the surface of unprepared soil and expect a grand garden. It doesn't work well, if at all. I'm a believer in preparing the soil as best as one can prior to seeding. 
... Not mulching. Many gardeners don't mulch. I'm a mulcher myself. But at times I don't have enough material to meet all my needs. 
... Not fertilizing. I'm constantly using organic material as my source of soil nutrients, so in this way I'm not guilty. I'm well aware that my soil needs fertilizer on a regular basis. But I could use more than I presently have available, but at least I'm working on it. I've seen some people's gardens that were very, very sad because no fertilizer of any type was being used. 
... Not doing a soil test. Without testing, one is only blindly guessing about the availability of plant nutrients. I like to do a simple pH test several times a year plus a full spectrum lab test once a year. That once a year test is important to me because I'm constantly adding stuff and fiddling with my gardens. Perhaps once my soil matures I can cut back to every other year or every third year for a complete test. Now on the other hand, people have been doing agriculture for thousands of years without doing soil testing. That's correct. But I consider these other factors : I don't have a balanced system to start from; I'm growing veggies on land better suited to dryland early succession forest; I'm  constantly adding soil amendments. 
... Using the wrong chemical or not following instructions. I've seen people do this all the time. Amazing. I guess people just think that reading instructions isn't necessary. And when it comes to killing bugs, any pesticide will do. No wonder most chemicals require a pesticide license to use them. 
... Listening to other people without checking out the facts. Without getting into a political rant, I'll just say that I see people doing this all the time. Geez, since you've got internet access, learn to google the answers and information. You wouldn't believe the number of times I've had people tell me "my hairdresser said to plant potatoes this way", "my neighbor said to do it this way", and all the time the advice was dead wrong. Oh my. I always have an ear open for new gardening gems of knowledge, and I like to learn from others experiences, but I try to remember to check it out. Not every piece of gardening know-how that I hear is based upon reality. 
... Trying to do too much. Guilty! Yes, I'm guilty!!!!! I'm always trying to do too much, but I'm willing to accept the consequences. 
... Not enjoying the gardening effort. I don't quite understand it, but I've met a few people who tell me how much they hate gardening. How they despise weeding. How they take no pleasure in harvesting. But they still garden. No, I don't get it. This surely isn't a problem for me. 

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