Practice grows progress when it comes to gardening
One: Bigger isn't better: Growing a great garden takes patience, know-how, and a plan. Think in terms of what you want your garden to be in two, three, and five years from now. Start small to see what works and to get a feel for the amount of effort gardening takes. Ask questions of more experienced gardeners, and visit gardens when you can to gather information on what creates success in a healthy garden.
Two: Play with companion planting: You don't have to plant only one type of plant (whether flowers or veggies) in a planting bed or area. Interplanting/companion planting works well to maximize efficiency of space, improve your harvest, and it keeps pests and diseases down. It also makes for a prettier garden (i.e. marigolds surrounding your tomatoes). Another example: planting arugula in a veggie bed with other tomatoes works beautifully to attract bugs to the arugula and away from the other plants.
Three: Don't Overcrowd plants: It is tempting to want a garden that looks full of color or produce. But plants need room to grow and spread and if they are crowded you'll get leggy plants that don't look good or produce as much. Follow planting recommendations on seed packets or the tags in pots. You can cheat by a few inches here or there, but don't go overboard with trying to squeeze too much in a space.
Four: Variety is the spice of life until is isn't: Plant only those flowers and vegetables that you'll use and that bring you joy. If you want a cutting garden for bouquets and plant a lot of short marigolds, you'll have pretty little posies but not long stemmed flowers for taller bouquets. If you don't eat much squash, don't plant much of it. Use your precious planting space for those plants that you know you'll use and enjoy.
Five: Try to use everything you grow: Don’t leave ready-to-harvest items on the vine. This is counterproductive to your labors and a waste of good food (and water). Limit what you grow to what you think you will use, give away to friends and family, or can (preserve) for future use in winter months.
Six: Understand the old saying regarding perennials, trees, and shrubs: "First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap". Understanding plant growth is key to ensuring maximum success in the garden. Or for annuals like vegetables and annual flowers, first month sleep, second month creep, and third month leap. It can be difficult to picture a 5-inch tomato seedling as six-foot tall plant. Knowing plant height at maturity is crucial in nurturing all the plants in the garden - check seed packets for height and width information, or inquire at your local nursery how big a plant typically gets in our area.
Mistake 7: Improper watering: When you water, do it well. Sprinkling your plants once a day won't yield the same results as deep, thorough watering once a week. Aim for the soil to be moist several inches down after a good watering. However, giving plants too much water can lead to rotted roots and yellow leaves, so water according to plants' needs and don't be tempted to water water water in hot dry conditions. Shoot for evenly moist soil a few inches below the soil line.
Mistake 8: Planting seeds only once per season. Every garden benefits from succession planting - seeding every two to three weeks (or once in spring and again in mid-summer for a fall harvest). Good choices for a second seeding of vegetables includes carrots, beets, peas, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and scallions.
Mistake 9: Not taking notes. Keeping a garden diary that documents what you planted when and how it performed is key to ensuring future improvement. Make note of the crops that were duds (and why), pest issues, and other notes as relevant. Make a drawing of your garden with notes on what was planted where so you can rotate crops next year.
Mistake 10: Fear of failure. Even the most experienced gardeners worry about whether to plant this or that and wasting time and energy in the process. But we give it a go because gardening is fun and so are 'plant experiments'. Whether you have a success or a failure, you'll have learned something along the way and will know better what to do next time. The more you try, the more you'll gain in terms of experience and knowledge.