Common Gardening Mistakes

and how to avoid them!

Starting a garden can sometimes become more of a challenge than initially expected. If you're anything like most first-time gardeners, you're bound to make a few mistakes as you learn along the way. We talked to Rick Lattin, a generational organic farmer, to outline some common issues and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Overcrowding

Differentiate between upright growing plants and vining crops (like melons or cucumbers). Vining crops usually require more space: 1-1.5m between plants in rows at least 1m apart.

Transplants have different spacing based on size and growing conditions of the specific crop. Tomatoes, the most common transplant, usually need an area of at least half a metre in each direction. Capsicums can be closer together. When planting small seeds like beets, carrots, and turnips, thin them to about 5cm per plant–they will ripen faster and have less problems caused by overcrowding.

Be sure to also check out the back of seed packets for spacing info.

Mistake 2: Over or Under Watering

The most important advance for home gardeners and farmers alike is drip irrigation. A system of tubes, valves, and emitters allows you to put the water where the plant needs it. You can easily find all the supplies you need at your local hardware or gardening store.

When you water, start with well composted soil that will hold water. Avoid watering in the middle of the day, and have your system on a timer so that its’s consistent. Check the soil on a regular basis by digging down a few centimetres and grabbing a small handful of soil. It’s best if you can make it into a small ball that sticks together and is not dry. If you can squeeze water out it is too wet, but if it crumbles and won’t stay together it is too dry.

Keep in mind that different plants at different stages require you to give them more or less water. Melons with their large vines require much more water as they start to yield fruit. Check your plants often to pick up on when this is happening and up your irrigation. On the other hand, as some plants start to fill with ripe fruit it is often better to stress the plant a little by giving it less water. This helps bring out the flavour in some crops like tomatoes.

One of the biggest problems with over and under watering comes with not spending enough time in your garden. Get to know your plants–check in with them daily if possible.

Mistake 3: What to grow from seeds or transplants

The rule of thumb is that plants that grow quickly and are good at sprouting should grow from seeds, while anything else can do well as a transplant, which is essentially a baby plant sold in a pot or a pack of four or six.

Seeds: Most of the greens (lettuce, etc), carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and similar crops.

Transplants: Tomatoes, capsicums, and eggplants. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and cabbage also handle transplanting very well.

Both: Melons and squashes can be transplanted. But, the only melon that is very difficult to grow from seed is the seedless watermelon–they do better as transplants.



The most general thing to do for any bug problem is to keep the garden area clean and free from debris and hiding places for pests. Peppermint, Clove, Cedarwood, Geranium, Lemongrass, Rosemary, or Arborvitae essential oils also repel bugs naturally. Put 10 drops of any of these oils in a spray bottle with water (preferably when the weather is not very hot) and spray the areas of concern.

But when it comes to specifics, here’s how to get rid of three main pests:

Aphids. Use a neem oil based spray. This natural method is easy on plants, but gets rid of the aphids. Aphids can also be controlled to a certain extent by planting some “trap crops” like alyssum, dill, and yarrow around the garden that attracts the aphids instead.

Squash bugs. Squash bugs can survive cold winters and hide almost anywhere. Check for eggs on the underside of the leaves of the plants (they are usually orange in colour) and squish them before they hatch. 

Spider mites. They love dry areas and dust. Try to control by misting the plants–water bothers them. 

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