Rookie Gardening Mistakes You Can Avoid

| 8/27/2010 12:41:12 PM

AllanBefore I start baring my gardener’s soul by admitting to the mistakes I’ve made, let me give you a little background as to how I came to be in a position to learn these life lessons.

In January of 2001 my wife, Marie, and I moved from the bustling city of St. Louis, Missouri, to the Great Smoky Mountains. How that occurred is a story in itself, but for now let it suffice to say that I had no experience in gardening. Marie has always liked flower gardening and she has at times pressed me into servitude when heavy digging or moving supplies were needed. But the only time I’ve enjoyed playing in the dirt has been when at the controls of a diesel powered piece of equipment. I’ll move dirt from here to there all day long with a Bobcat because those things are just flat out fun to drive, but working with shovel and hoe … well, that hasn’t ever appealed to me.

In the city we had a 1/8 acre lot. Here we have almost 5 acres. Most of that is steeply sloping , littered with boulders and covered with forest. We’ve got about 1 acre cleared and part of that is home to several buildings. The homesteaders out there are probably chuckling at me already. Like you, most folks around here don’t consider someone a “property owner” unless they have a minimum of 20 acres, but my little patch of ground is plenty big enough for our needs. So far!

Since coming to the mountains I’ve earned my living by building custom designed, solid hardwood furniture; and have been keeping quite busy with that. Far too busy to even be tempted to play in the dirt. But once the economy tanked, business dropped off sharply. All of a sudden I had an abundance of spare time and a shortage of cash. Gardening presented itself as a way of easing both situations. Reading magazines like Grit made it sound doable, even for me.

farm report

Having gotten started, I’ve gotten a fair bit of satisfaction from preparing the ground, watching for the first green shoots to push up and a good deal of pride in harvesting produce that ended up on the family dinner table. If I can learn to do this, anyone can. Here are a few pearls of wisdom I’ve come by the hard way. If you are considering taking up gardening, this may help you get off to a better start.

Allan Douglas
11/19/2010 9:33:17 AM

Hi Chuck_4! I’m told that the evening watering is a no-no because the water does not get a chance to evaporate off the plants and can promote mold and fungus growth. Who’d a thunk it? Thanks for reading! Jane_1, thanks for all the great advice! I’ve written it all down and added it to my notebook for next year. Thanks again! Jane_Umstead_1, LOL! I hear you! I got one eggplant off of my two… um… bushes? Ironically, it was the size of an egg. Disappointing! Thanks for the tip on cayenne! Thanks Robyn; I’m glad to be here – I’ve always loved the magazine. Actually we moved from MO to TN, sorry I wasn’t clear on that. But the red clay we have here is even worse than the MO mud we had there. But, I’m learning. And Cathy; you poor thing; all that work and so little to show for it. My heart goes out to you. But, good for you on not giving up. As long as alligators don’t eat your chickens there is hope! :-)

9/3/2010 5:28:37 PM

I have all but the last five years lived in the city. I have tried gardening for the last three years. The first year the weeds took over. The second I had some tomatoes. and this year a hand full of potato's for all my hard work., because I planted cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, watermelon etc. I think It might be my soil. I live in North Florida. I will not give up. I also have some chickens well 30 chickens and they are not laying. Maybe I am not cut out for the country life. Although I love it here. Oh yea I forgot to mention I had canned my tomatoes and none of them sealed I had to throw them out. Best of luck to everyone else.

Robyn Dolan
9/3/2010 11:39:49 AM

Allen, welcome to Grit! Enjoyed your post. Sounds like your MO dirt's as bad as ours. Here in AZ it seems like the watering could go on nonstop sometimes, with almost no effect. I need to get some drip lines going. Thanks for the tip about turning the compost pile, seemed like alot of extra work, but you put it in perspective.

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