9 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Vegetable Garden at Home

Translated by Nick R

Having a home garden has numerous benefits, from planting food for later consumption to acquiring new knowledge while connecting with nature.

However, it’s possible that along the way several inconveniences arise. Especially when you don’t have the accurate information or you are just starting with planting.

However, don’t you worry! – This time we’ll talk about the 9 most common mistakes when starting a vegetable garden at home. We’ll help you avoid them so you can succeed and, in case you have already faced any of them, tell you how to solve them.

List of common mistakes when starting your vegetable garden 

Let’s go through the list of the 9 most common mistakes that you should know how to prevent so that your vegetable garden doesn’t suffer the consequences.

Choosing the wrong location 

Placing your vegetable garden in a place with neither light nor ventilation will be a serious mistake no matter the plant.

We all know that plants need sunlight, directly or indirectly, to get energy and carry out photosynthesis. So, keeping them in a place where they won’t receive light or aeration will cause them to decay and die in a short time.

Similarly, sometimes we get excited and buy a lot of seeds or seedlings without considering the available space. This results in a garden with many plants crowded together, which end up fighting each other to get nutrients from the substrate.

In addition, having many plants together impedes them receive good air, so humidity increases and thus raises the chances of having diseased plants.

How to choose the right location for your vegetable garden? 

You should inspect your home and the space you have at hand. No matter how much or how little, you can start your garden on a terrace, a yard, a balcony or even a window. The important thing is to ensure the basic needs of plants to survive.

Then, as we already mentioned, you should try to plant whatever the space of your garden allows and, based on its location, get the plants that best adapt to the climatic conditions.

For example, if the garden receives enough hours of sunlight, you can use demanding crops such as tomatoes, paprika or eggplant. While, if direct sunlight hours are few, you should choose less demanding crops such as lettuce, onion, cilantro and garlic.

Poor substrate preparation

Do not mistake that plants only need soil to grow. Especially if you have your garden in pots, plants have greater needs, so you must provide them with the best habitat for them to grow strong and radiant.

This is why substrates have appeared, which are the perfect substitute for conventional soil, but improved because they’ll provide your plants with all the necessary nutrients. Likewise, substrates will allow them to drain better and have better humidity, aeration or water retention as required.

That said, the real issue would be having the wrong substrate for the wrong plant. This could even cause the death of the plant due to the lack of treatment and attention it requires.

For example, it would be lethal for succulents to prepare a substrate that promotes humidity and water retention. Remember that they do best on light soil, with good drainage and aeration.

How to prepare the appropriate substrate for your garden? 

Our first recommendation is that you read our article on the types of substrates. It’ll only take you a few minutes and you’ll have a better idea of their benefits and what mixtures to use depending on the plants you want to have.

Similarly, you can go to gardening stores or florists to get advice on prepared substrates for the plants that you are having.

If you have your own soil, make sure you know what type of soil it’s, you’ll be able to identify it according to its texture:

  • Sandy: It’s rough, dry to the touch and doesn’t hold water well.
  • Loamy: It’s dark brown, softer to the touch and holds water and nutrients better.
  • Clayey: It has fine yellow grains and holds so much water that it even forms puddles.

That said, you can add the substrate or compost that best complements it to give your plants the most comfort.

Not knowing the needs of your plants

As you could see in the previous points, the key to succeeding in your garden is to know well what your plants want and needs to survive. Since we often mistake of thinking that plants only need water and sun to live, we forget that they are living beings that also deserve special attention. 

Well-cared-for plants, especially those in home gardens, will definitely last much longer and give you pleasant benefits. For example, you’ll have healthy plants that will give you more and juicier fruits.

By understanding your plants, you’ll know what type of substrate to give them; how to fertilize them; where they should be, whether they require direct light or prefer to be in the shade; how they behave; and many other aspects.

How to know the needs of your plants? 

You only need to look for its name to get information about it and learn about its characteristics and needs. This way you’ll be able to keep them in perfect condition in your garden, they’ll thank you for it.

If not, we suggest you take a look at our text on applications for gardening lovers. There we suggest several tools that will help you identify your plants with just a photo and will tell you how to take care of them. 

Also, when you buy the seeds or seedlings, ask for some initial care information so that you know how to treat them when you arrive and plant them in your home garden.

Over- or under-watering

This may be the most common problem. Sometimes we think that, since water is vital for plants, we should water them all the time. Or, on the contrary, it often happens that we don’t have enough time and we don’t water our plants as they should be.

On the one hand, keep in mind that excess water decreases oxygen and increases carbon dioxide levels in the soil. This causes the roots to rot and allows diseases to enter.

On the other hand, lack of water, whether caused by carelessness or lack of time, will cause your plants to dry out and wither as the days go by.

How to properly water your plants? 

Initially, as we mentioned in the previous point, it’s important that you know the plants’ characteristics and tastes. In addition, it’ll be necessary to place them in the most favorable substrate because this will affect the water drainage.

To be aware of whether your plants need water, we suggest you feel the soil to know if it’s dry, not only on the surface but a few centimeters deeper. Another way is to lift the pot to check if it’s heavier than usual, which will indicate that it’s still damp.

Although it may be necessary to water seedlings and cuttings frequently until they are established, once they have grown and developed a good root system, you’ll need to water them less.

Finally, remember that the roots are the ones that absorb the water, and not the leaves, so they are the ones that need to receive it. Although you can do surface watering to clean the foliage of dust or pests, always keep in mind that it’s the soil that needs to be moistened.

Not learning about pests and diseases

It’s a big mistake to believe that pests or plant diseases won’t reach your garden and therefore not take the time to read about them.

If you don’t know about them, you won’t know what their symptoms are or what illnesses they will cause to your plants. Therefore, you won’t be able to deal with them and by the time you realize it, it may be too late. Both pests and diseases will kill your plants if you let them advance.

So it’s worth knowing what pests or diseases can attack your garden. In particular, because you can be cautious and even reduce the chances of their appearance.

How to avoid plant pests and diseases? 

That said, you can visit our articles on the most common pests and diseases. There you can get information, learn how to prevent them, know what symptoms to look for and how to fight them.

However, we’ll give you some brief advice so that you know how to avoid the appearance of pests and diseases in your plants, as well as some options to fight them:

  • Carefully check any new plants you’re going to add to your garden or vegetable garden. Many times they are already infested and, in case you want to keep them, you should cut the damaged parts.
  • Avoid producing more humidity than your plants need. This is caused by excessive watering and by having the plants too close together because there won’t be good aeration.
  • Set aside any infected plants to avoid pests and diseases spreading. This is the best option to start fighting them, this way you’ll take care of the rest of your plants and the ones that are being attacked.
  • Prune infected leaves, branches and stems. Above all, when the case is already advanced and natural insecticides have not been enough, the best thing to do is to remove what is damaging your plants. This will give them a break.

Similarly, if you have neighbors who also have plants, it’s good to ask them what they have had to deal with. This will give you an idea of what pests or diseases may be nearby.

Additionally, they can tell you about their successful ways of combating them. Otherwise, you can do more research and find out about homemade insecticides for pests if you want to try a different solution.

Finally, especially with diseases, don’t be afraid to do some clean-up pruning. This will prevent those ailments from spreading and continuing to sap the energy from your plants.

Planting too many varieties

This is a problem that does not usually occur in mini-gardens since they must take advantage of the space to only plant what is necessary. The truth is that they do it and manage it very well.

However, those of us who can count on a larger space, get excited and try to start in a big way by planting a lot of vegetables and aromatic or medicinal plants of all kinds. Clearly, this is a mistake.

It may sound strange for us to recommend avoiding growing what you won’t consume, but it’s an incredibly common mistake. Sometimes you can even make the mistake of planting what’s trendy instead of what will be practical and welcome in your home.

How to avoid planting too many varieties? 

You can start planting small, it’ll be really good to have first exposure to the garden and learn little by little. To do this, make a short list of your favorite herbs and vegetables, then do some research on their care and you’ll know which ones will be optimal to have in your crop.

Do not let yourself be tempted to look at a large catalog of seeds and think that they’ll later become very productive plants. You should also take into account how often you cook and if you live with more people, how many of them you’ll share your harvest later on.

Not controlling weeds

Weeds are not always climbing plants that feed on the vitality of other plants, but rather weeds are those that grow where they should not.

Weeds share certain characteristics such as:

  • They produce many seeds that fall around them and thus begin propagation.
  • They grow quite fast and adapt to the soil easily, so in a short time, they develop firm roots.
  • They don’t require much water to survive and the seeds remain for a long time waiting for conditions to germinate.

This is why you should try to eradicate or control them in time. The problem with weeds is that they are adept species with quick adaptive qualities, which then end up stealing nutrients and water from the plants we do want in our vegetable garden.

How to fight weeds? 

Although some may look nice and lovely, it’s important to control them so that they don’t affect your other plants. If it’s just starting to grow, just pulling it from the root will be enough.

In case it’s a more advanced situation, you can also opt to perform home remedies that will help you eradicate them. For example:

  • Pour boiling water on them. It’s a quick and effective solution that only consists of dropping very hot water over the area with weeds. However, be very careful that it doesn’t reach other plants.
  • Put newspaper on them. Like all plants, they need light to survive, so covering them with newspaper will prevent sunlight from reaching them. Afterwards, you’ll only have to remove them manually.

Forgetting to label plants

Even experts who have had their gardens for several years still mark the pots in which they started sowing or label the seedlings they have just transplanted.

You’ll see that this also beautifies your garden and gives it some order. Even when you receive visits from your relatives, friends or neighbors, they will be able to see the progress of your sowings and recognize the plants easily.

How to label the plants in your garden? 

Spend a few minutes of your time labeling the seeds and seedlings you have sown. This is especially helpful if you’re just starting out with the garden and seeing how your plants grow and develop.

It’s also good in case you don’t remember the frequency of watering or what type of fertilizer to add to certain plants. You’ll only have to do some quick research, and having the labels will fasten the process.

Finally, when time has passed and you are about to plant a crop that you already had, the labels will tell you where it was planted and based on this you’ll know if it’s time to rotate your crops.

This means, don’t plant the plant in the same place year after year, pests and diseases will take over the area and such crop rotation will break its life cycle.

Not placing the seeds correctly

Here the mistake lies in not following the instructions given on the seed packets. In case they have been given to you manually, the problem will be in not investigating or asking about the process of planting that plant.

Do not fall into the mistake of thinking that all seeds are planted in the same way. Keep in mind that there is a great diversity of plants and even their seeds have different shapes, sizes and colors.

How to properly plant seeds? 

Seeds are usually buried at a depth between 1 and 2 times their size. The most important thing is that the very small on are the ones that should be buried the shallowest. This is because they’ll have trouble getting through the layers of soil and reaching the surface if they are too low. As a result, they won’t germinate or will die in the attempt.

The best thing to do is always to look for accurate information in case you don’t know or have doubts. You’ll see that this will also help you to know on which substrate to place the plant, its light requirements to know where to place it, and its watering frequency.

Don’t give up!

Undoubtedly this is the biggest mistake you could make. Even if you make a mistake or feel that you are not succeeding, this is all part of the experience and you’ll improve little by little.

What is most important is that you always have the best attitude and perseverance, as this will lead you to obtain pleasing results that will fill you with pride.

Finally, we hope that this article has helped you to broaden your knowledge and that you’ll put our advice into practice in your home garden.