- Over exuberance (Planting too early) - I am almost doing this again and it comes from a keenness to get started. Last year I started planing my seeds so early that they were chomping at the bit to get outside and in danger of becoming leggy or dying because of the cold Spring we had here. Of course this is because looking out on the grey wintry garden we are all looking forward to Spring coming and sowing seeds makes us believe it is that one step nearer. If you live in a colder part of the country (like I do) I have decided it is worth waiting for the second month option mentioned on the back of the seed packet (rather than the first day of the first month :-)).
- Growing too much - Beginning a garden is a bit like going to an all you can eat buffet (when you are greedy like me), you want to grow everything, regardless of how much room you have. Last year I wanted to grow some lobelia and it came in a packet of 1500 seeds and, yes, I planted the lot! I have since learned (hopefully) that you don't actually have to plant all the seeds in a packet in one go. Good quality seeds have a really good germination rate so it is worth planting what you need with just a few spare. Also be realistic about what you can fit in your garden. I grew so many varieties last year that lots of plants ended up in the compost which is a shame and I was overwhelmed with volume and didn't manage to look after a lot of them properly.
- Only grow what you want to eat - Starting a veg garden it is easy to get carried away with the idea of growing a whole section of something unusual but ask yourself if you will eat it all. It sounds obvious but often we end up growing things because we can rather than because we like it. Choose your veg based on whether you eat it regulary, if you really love it and if it is expensive to buy in the shops. Then cut it down to how many you have space for and time to look after. If space is no object then by all means try something new and interesting but most of us don't have this luxury.
- Improve your soil - I have spoken to people near where I live who have said 'oh the soil is terrible around here, nothing will grow'. Well I think I have proved them wrong, but I have spent a lot of time and (yes) money on the soil to improve it's condition. You can't just chuck seeds in some dirt and expect them to grow well. They may grow but the majority will be poor specimens. The comparison would be you living on a diet of only chocolate and crisps. You wouldn't die (well you would in time) but you would hardly be healthy. Plants need good nutrition themselves to perform to their best. Once I have dug out a new bed I add lots of garden compost to it and well rotted manure. And I don't just do it once. Every year I have added new compost and/or manure to the existing beds too. I have used mulch to lay on the surface too. This year I have my first load of home made garden compost too which will all go back in the ground. The results have been terrific.
- Poor spacing - This is something I am still learning with seedlings. So often when a seedling is being transferred to the garden we look at how tiny it is and how vast the space it is being placed is and thing it can go too close to the next one, without thinking about how big it becomes. I love beds that are absolutely full to busting, but not at the expense of the plant. The spacing guide on the back of the seed packet is there to help, not as a sort of party-pooper. I am very guilty of this and I promise to be better this year, honest.
Well I hope these are useful to any would be or novice gardeners. I still have loads and loads to learn, after all, I have only been at this 2 years, many people with a life time of experience will still say they are learning. That is the joy of gardening.