Tuesday’s Top Five – Ways I could be a better gardener

Yesterday I was reflecting on all the wonderful things I’ve picked up from other people’s blogs and how often I’m inspired to try a new variety of seed or a gardening method.  I’ve come a long way in the last two years, from just a couple of small raised beds to converting my whole – though still somewhat small – backyard to a vegetable garden and a little patch of grass for the kids.  My yard used to be a weed infested jungle, ugly and unused.  It is quite a different story now, there are still plenty of weeds tucked in little hard to get to spots.  Unfortunately I often find myself making the same mistakes though despite how much I’ve learned.  Here are my top five garden failings.

1. Watering
This time of year is fine because good old mother nature does all the hard work for me.  Other than watering a couple of pots and one section of raised bed that sits under the eaves and gets very little rainfall everything else is taking care of itself when it comes to water.  As an added bonus rain at this time fills up my water tanks ready for the dry months to come.  However as soon as the weather starts to warm up and the rain becomes less reliable it turns to me to keep the water up to the plants.  I am not good at this.  I have no watering system so it’s all done by hand with a watering can, tedious, time consuming and back-breaking work.  My problem is I’m great for a while then get side tracked and realise a week later that nothing has been watered by rain or me.  Then I’ll start up again for another little while and so on and so forth.  This inconsistent watering really doesn’t suit some vegetables and they definitely suffer as a result.  Each year I get a little better, but as I add more – now in pots as I’ve run out of other room and they need even more watering – the job just gets bigger.  I really need to start thinking about a watering system.

2. Lack of planning
I see so many people have these wonderful plans of their gardens, what is going into each bed and how they will be rotated the following year.  I have no such plan, I do try to avoid planting some things in the same place as the previous year and I have scattered legumes around the place (peas, broad beans and beans) to fix nitrogen into the soil – not that I really know why this is important.  Other than that I just whack things in wherever there is space, often planting at stupid times so that just when you need the space of the next lot, you haven’t yet got the best out of the last.  I also have a rather silly habit of planting seeds, nurturing them into seedlings and then realising that I have absolutely no where to put them.  I have two punnets sitting on my potting bench in just this situation as we speak.  Planning just seems to take so much forethought, I’m more a fly my the seat of my pants kind of gardener, but I know I SHOULD do some planning.

3. Feeding the crops
I’m not too bad at preparing the soil prior to planting – though it would probably be better if I did it earlier and then let it sit for a while – but after that the feeding is usually pretty ad hoc and, dare I say it, scarce.  When the worm farm is working well I use the worm juice diluted in the watering can, but one bottle doesn’t do the whole garden so the rest will just get plain old water until I can collect more.  I occasionally remember to give them some seaweed or fish emulsion, but not often.  To be honest I don’t know what, when or how much food various crops need.  Would giving the vegetables a regular feed up their production, do some need more than others?  Are there times when feeding is more effective or important than other times?  It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.

4. Spacing my plants
I really jam them in at times trying to squeeze in the far too many seedlings I’ve raised – I did this with the tomatoes last year and with some of the broccoli this year and both times those plants produced far less than they could have.  There are other reasons for cramming the garden full to the brim.  The more proper plants I have in there the fewer weeds I have to contend with and it looks much better – in my opinion – to have beds full of plants.  As my whole garden is devoted to vegetables I do want the aesthetics to be pleasing to the eye as well being productive.

5. Dealing with pests and disease
My current policy seems to adopt the principle of ignore and hope it goes away…. it won’t!  It never does!  My broad beans got rust, my zucchinis languished with powdery mildew and white fly, the tomatoes got early blight – though I did address this one eventually giving you an indication as to just how important a crop they are to me.  Slugs and snails have a field day before I finally get around to doing something about them.  The birds get a good feed before I net anything.  And then there’s the dog and the children, but I guess I shouldn’t categorise them as garden pests!  I just ignore, ignore, ignore.  I hate the thought of spraying with anything nasty, I don’t know many safer remedies so I just bury my head in the sand.  To make matters worse some of my other mistakes – like the inconsistent watering, and the planting too close – make the pests and diseases worse.  Spring and Summer are definitely the worst for these issues (Winter gardening can be so much easier in many ways) and it can all seem just too hard some days.

At this time of year I am dreaming of a beautiful and bountiful Spring and Summer garden, counting my tomatoes before they’ve even been planted, gathering recipes for the mountains of zucchinis I’m sure to get and thinking about how to preserve the harvests as they abound us.  It’s easy to forget all the things that can get in the way of a plentiful crop, but if my ambition is ever to be reached I think I’m going to have to address these failings.

I’m sure Liz wouldn’t make these mistakes, I wonder what she’s got on her list this week.

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8 Responses to Tuesday’s Top Five – Ways I could be a better gardener

  1. Patsy says:

    I just want you to know you are not alone in doing or not doing the things on your list! I make many (all) of the same mistakes, but somehow there’s usually a good harvest of most of what I plant. It never hurts to keep trying though!

    • Barbara Good says:

      Well thank goodness for that Patsy. I too always get a decent havest of most things, but there’s always something I’m disappointed in (zukes and cukes last year). But as you say, just keep on trying.

  2. Liz says:

    I’m sure Liz does make exactly these mistakes and more, except for watering – I do water quite diligently but then I have a hose… Nitrogen helps plants produce lots of green leaves so you want lots of it for anything that you want lots of leaves on ie spinach, lettuces, cabbages etc. Too much nitrogen isn’t great for some crops – eg it may sometimes mean that tomatoes pour their energy into leaf rather than fruit production. I reckon if you give everything a monthly feed of fish emulsion you’ll be doing fine – there are some plants which might like more eg brassicas and some might like less but on balance I don’t think you’d be doing anything harm by monthly feedings. Finally children can be usefully engaged locating slugs and snails from time to time – I get them to make a collection that I quietly dispatch once their attention goes elsewhere…

    • Barbara Good says:

      Yes, a hose would be very nice. Unfortunately my tanks don’t have pumps so the hose only works on one or two beds. There is a reason tanks are built on stands in the country – gravity works! Thanks for the info on nitrogen – but does that mean I shouldn’t plant my toms where the legumes have been? Ah too much thinking!

      Monthly feeding I will try – perhaps at the same time I worm and flea the animals. As for the children, Miss Three is pretty much petrified of any living thing so no help there. Miss one loves animals already and loves being outside so I see potential there, but at this stage she would just eat them!

  3. I am famous for planting my seedlings too close together. This year I took plenty of time to be sure to let the newly planted strawberries have room to spread, but other plants were too close together. You should have seen one raised bed in our gardens, it is 4 by 12 feet and contained 4 tomato plants, couple of cantaloupes, several rows of peas, a few rows of beans and finally 12 pepper plants. It’s hilarious to look at and we’ve had to be creative trying to figure out how to keep all the plants from entwining with the others. Talk about poor planning.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Haha, I’d love to see that raised bed you speak of! Perhaps I’m not that bad after all. Though I definitely need to think a bit more carefully about my one very large bed, I plant things so thickly in there you can’t actually to the things at the back with some very carefully tippy toe-ing – that too is hilarious to see.

  4. I have so many varmits after my crops, flooding rains and too many big trees to actually grow anything to maturity… I dont get the chance to make many of your “mistakes” as my plants get eaten, drowned or shaded out before they produce much – Hmmm planning, an interesting concept! Might have to google it – one day! – Kara xx

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