Getting the hang of gardening can take some time. But time is not something gardeners have to spare. With trial and error comes success, but it sure would be nice to have a little insight.
Well, we are here for you! We've put together a list of ten habits that are important to gardening success. Check them out for yourself to learn what you could be doing differently.
1. Plan, plan, plan! It's likely that most successful gardeners spend more time planning their garden than they do preparing and planting it. And for good reason. Knowing which areas of your yard get the most sun and which tend to hold water can have a significant impact on your garden's overall success. Things to figure out well ahead of planting time include: garden location, garden bed design, soil amendments needed, what seeds you want to self-sow, what starters you want to purchase, what you want to plant where, what plants make good companions (and what plants don't), crop rotation schedule, etc. We aren't trying to overwhelm you. And it's true that you can still have a productive garden by skipping some of these steps. But, the most successful gardeners know that planning ahead makes a big difference.
2. Compost. Feeding your soil well is one of the most important things you can do to improve your garden's success. If at all possible, make your own compost. This way, you know exactly what you're getting. If space is an issue, look into vermiculture (composting with worms). It's easy to start and can be done indoors. If you aren't really interested in making your own compost, find a good quality source of compost from somewhere else. For example, some horse farms nearby might be looking to get rid of aged manure (make sure it's aged - if it still stinks, it isn't fully aged). In general, most successful gardeners prefer compost over anything else as a fertilizer and soil builder.
3. Mulch. It really does make a difference. From water retention, to erosion control, to weed suppression, to adding organic matter back to the soil, mulch is one thing many successful gardeners can't do without. Some of the best organic mulch options include well-chopped grass clippings, shredded leaves, and shredded straw.
4. Water in the morning, and only when needed. Successful gardeners aren't interested in wasting resources, or time. Instead of watering on a set schedule, just check the soil surface each time you're in the garden (hopefully every day). When the top couple of inches of soil are dry, water. But, water in the morning. This way you'll avoid water loss due to evaporation in the afternoon, and water sitting on your plants overnight.
5. Observe your garden daily. This is the best way to catch issues early. And to harvest produce at its prime! A daily walk around your garden beds may actually be one of the most important things you can do if working towards a more successful garden. A few minutes a day making sure your garden is well cared for can go a long way to keeping pests, diseases, and noxious weeds at bay.
6. Rotate your crops. Successful gardeners know that soil health is key to garden success. And rotating your crops helps to keep your soil well balanced in nutrients. It also helps to reduce disease and pest recurrence big time.
7. Only plant what you'll use. Try not to get ahead of yourself with seed catalogues. If you don't eat tomatoes, don't order three different heirloom varieties to try. You'll have a much more satisfying experience if what you grow and harvest goes to use, and not to waste. Not to mention, you can focus more of your time and energy on learning to grow plants you really love to eat.
8. So, plant only what you'll use, but plant MORE than you'll need. Chances are, some of your plants just won't do well. Whether it's due to pests, diseases, a wet summer, or a cool summer, some plants just might not make it. So, planting more than you need (especially of the plants you love the most) will give you better chances of a consistent harvest. If you want to take it one step further, look into succession gardening, which just means sowing the seeds of one crop in succession, instead of all at once, and extending the overall harvest period of that crop. Green beans, summer squash, zucchini, and carrots are all great to sow in succession.
9. Record EVERYTHING: what you planted, where you planted it, weather patterns, sun exposure, insect and disease issues, compost and fertilizer application, etc. The best way to improve on your gardening success is to learn from previous seasons. But there's no way you'll be able to remember everything. So it's a good idea to record as much as you can, especially in your first few years of gardening.
10. View failure as experience. It's okay to rip plants out of your garden that just aren't doing well, and focus on the plants that are doing well. It's okay to throw a couple of seeds in the ground in the middle of the summer to see if there's enough time for another harvest. If you want to become a successful gardener, you have to give yourself some grace to experiment and fail, but still be persistent. The more experience you gain gardening yourself, the better gardener you will become. Sometimes, there is no other way. So, if next year's crop is only mildly more bountiful than this year's, consider it a success! And do your best to adapt year after year and keep the upward trend going.