If you're a true gardener, these warmer temps and blooming crocus are a sign you better get your act in gear. For new gardeners, this means getting organized and figuring out what exactly you want to plant this year, but there is way more to it. Learn how to Avoid Common Garden Mistakes this year! In the Pacific Northwest, we get our first seeds in the ground right about mid-March and from there it is a fast ramp up to a full spring planting. This little breather gives us some time to make a planting plan, prepare any beds that need attention or build new structures, like these handy potato cages. This is also a great time of year to get started out on the right foot from the beginning - there is nothing worse than making a ton of effort for little reward.
With that, I was recently asked to share a few quotes about gardening and was inspired to write an entire post about Common Garden Mistakes and How to Avoid Them This Year! Do yourself a favor, and make these your mantas for 2016. With as much effort and time as gardens take PLUS the cost of water, I want you to have a super successful season!
Need some help? Hire us for a bit of one-on-one time or to install a new garden! For everyone else determined to do it alone, this is for you:
- Clean out your beds! In February or March, when the soil is not super wet, we get in there and work any unplanted beds to remove excess root balls, rocks and debris. I can't tell you how many feet of cedar root I've torn from veg beds every spring - those things reach well away from the tree and will tangle up your soil impeding the growth vegetables, particularly root crops like carrots and beets.
- Purchase your starts. If you're a new gardener, don't worry so much about seed starting at home. Farmers markets are a great resource for starts and it's also nice to direct seed some of your crop. Watching a plant grow from seedling to full size is a fabulous education - I highly recommend it. Unless you're a seasoned gardener with grow lights and a penchant for being home to care for them, skip starting all your own plants.
- Sun, sun, sun! Your plants need sun. Often, gardeners put veg beds where they fit within the yards original/current configuration. For some, that means beds are close up to the house and face north. For many, beds are pushed against the back corner of your fence line. But guess what?? Houses and fences block the sun! You want to choose the sunniest spot in your yard for growing veg. Never mind what you think of looks best - you CAN get creative about changing up your yards structure and you DEF don't need to keep the same layout the previous owner(s) had. Please, for the love of all things holy, do not plant things on the north side of your house, right below your back window and tell me you can't grow food. Commit this to memory; In order for plants to be healthy and put out delicious food you can eat, please know that 1. Leafy green plants need at least FOUR TO SIX HOURS OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT 2. Fruiting plants (tomatoes, cukes, zukes, squash) need at least EIGHT TO TEN HOURS OF DIRECT SUNLIGHT. Am I yelling at you?? Yes, I am yelling at you.
- Water, water, water! Hands down the error first time gardeners make time and time again is not watering enough, particularly when watering by hand. Test to be sure you've watered enough by waiting 30 minutes and digging 6-inches down. Too dry soil leads to compaction, stresses plants and sometimes sets you back for many months which can be a put off for new gardeners.
- You don't own your garden, you garden owns you. Eat when greens are ready and fruits are ripe, not just when you feel like eating. It is a common mistake to harvest when you WANT food as opposed to when it's ready leading to bitter lettuces, woody root crops or slightly fermented fruits. Loosen up your ideas of what you are making for dinner and let your garden be your guide!
More to come! This may just be a new column.