#5: Common Gardening Mistakes to Avoid in Zone 9

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There are a lot of gardening mistakes I see gardeners making season after season. Some are from a lack of experience which is completely understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. Gardening takes trial and error.

But many mistakes I see are gardening practices that come from bad information on the internet that spreads like a wildfire.

A podcast cover about gardening mistakes to avoid in zone 9

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Common Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

In today’s show I’m going to be covering 9 gardening mistakes to avoid in your garden this season.

1.) Planting Crops Out of Season

Planting out of season can mean planting warm season crops when it’s too cold or planting cool season crops when it’s too warm.

This is really common because if you follow the advice from a gardener who is in a different climate than you, they’ll be planting different crops at different times of the year. It’s always best to follow planting advice from a gardener who is in a similar climate.

If you’re a zone 9 gardener, check out my Complete Zone 9 Vegetable Gardening Guide here.

For example, gardeners who live in cooler climates will have success planting cool-season crops in spring. But gardeners in warm climates will likely experience cool-season crops that bolt and head to seed if they’re planted in spring because the weather warms up too fast.

If the temperatures are 70°F and above during the day and consistently above 50°F at night then I recommend planting warm-season crops.

2.) Using Containers too Small

When you live somewhere with hot summers, container gardening can be a challenge because containers can get hot and the soil dries out faster which means you’ll need to water more often.

If you have the space for in ground planting or raised bed gardening, that is my first suggestion.

But if container gardening is your only option just remember that bigger is always better, especially with crops that get big like tomatoes.

Plants that have shallow root systems will do okay in smaller pots but crops with deep and wide root systems should be in a large container for best results.

If you’re growing in containers, you should also plant varieties that are better suited for container growing. Check out these container varieties here from Renee’s Garden for some great options.

3.) Watering Ineffectively

This is a very common mistake and there are various watering mistakes you should avoid.

The first mistake is frequent shallow watering. It’s best to water slowly and deeply, and hopefully you’ll be able to water this way less frequently to encourage deep root growth.

But never stress out your plants. You should never let the soil completely dry out but it shouldn’t be overly saturated either.

To test your soil moisture, stick your finger about an inch deep and if the soil is still moist you can skip watering, it’s it feels dry then you should water.

If you’re growing in containers, turn the water hose on slow and fill the container until water drains out the bottom. Go through and water all of your plants, then go back through a second time and do the same thing.

You can also follow a similar method for growing in the ground or in raised beds, you just won’t be able to see the water draining. The key is to water slowly so that the water goes deep into the soil.

Another option is to set your garden up with drip irrigation which is a really great method that can be automated with a timer. You can learn how to set this up in my course, Effortless Irrigation.

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The next common watering mistake is using self-watering containers or raised beds.

In the beginning of a seedling’s life their roots are very shallow and so it’s very likely that a bottom watering container or self watering raised bed like the one I’ve seen at Costco, is holding water where roots can’t actually reach. 

Then you have to consider the depth of the roots for mature plants. Each plant variety varies and I don’t want to depend on my plants sucking up water from a bottom reservoir because it might not actually happen. 

The other thing is that if the container itself is too shallow it’s going to heat up quicker in the summertime, which is not good for a climate where summers are hot like here in zone 9. But if the self watering container is too deep the roots won’t find water.

So in my opinion, a self watering container really doesn’t make sense because it has to be shallow enough for plants to get water, but raised beds that are too shallow aren’t a great option unless it’s a raised bed that’s built on top of soil where roots could grow into the ground.  

But now let’s transition over to bottom watering seedlings, because it’s a similar concept but different. 

Bottom watering is done by setting up a tray, adding water to it, and setting the pot containing the plant(s) in the water. Water seeps up into the pot by capillary forces to saturate the soil. 

But while you’re waiting for seeds to germinate you still need to water from the top to ensure the seeds are getting moisture. 

For example most seed starting pots are only about 3 inches deep. And then let’s use tomato seeds as an example. You should only plant them about ¼ inch deep which would mean you’d need to drench the entire container in a reservoir of water for the top ¼ inch where the seed is located to get wet. It’s really not possible.

I’d recommend always watering from above until germination occurs and then even after germination occurs I still believe top watering is the better option because you have control. You can test the soil moisture and see when it’s ready to water. 

Top watering also prevents overwatering. Overwatering is much more likely to happen with bottom watering because the pot sits in a tray of water and if it is left too long, it will continuously water the pot for days on end. 

4.) Overcrowding Plants

The next common mistake is overcrowding your plants. You should always follow the recommended spacing for crops.

If you plant crops too close together they’ll be competing for space which will just result in poor growth for both plants.

However, you can maximize your space by growing vertically when possible, and interplanting crops like flowers and herbs in between your larger vegetable plants.

To learn more about spacing your tomato plants head to this article here, How Far Apart to Plant Tomatoes.

5.) Spraying Insecticides

The next mistake is spraying insecticides as soon as you notice problem insects. The problem with spraying insecticides is that it kills all of the beneficial insects that help control problem pests.

The best thing you can do is plant flowers and herbs to attract beneficial insects.

To learn more about naturally controlling pests in the garden, head to my podcast here, How to Get Rid of Garden Pests Naturally.

6.) Planting All Heirloom Varieties

Planting heirloom varieties is not a problem, in fact, I always plant various heirlooms so that I can save the seeds.

But certain heirloom varieties are more difficult to grow, especially tomatoes. So I always recommend planing hybrid varieties as well.

Hybrids are a cross between multiple plant varieties and they’re bred to have good qualities such as resistance to pests, disease, and the heat.

So if you live in a hot climate, hybrid tomato plants for example, will be easier to grow because they’re bred to thrive in challenging conditions.

A few of my favorite hybrid tomato varieties include,

7.) Over or Under Planting

The next common mistake I see is over or under planting. This is actually something I struggle with almost every season.

It seems like I always have too much of some crops and not enough of others.

For example, this last year I wanted to pickle a huge batch of okra and even though I had 12 plants, I never harvested a big enough batch at once to make it worth canning. I just kept making solo jars of refrigerator pickled okra.

So before you go into the planting season it’s important to plan out your goals.

Do you want to preserve anything? Or just have vegetables for fresh eating?

It’s also important to remember that some vegetables produce a lot from just one plant. The amount of produce you’ll get from one plant varies on a lot of factors and so I don’t want to throw out exact numbers.

But for example, it’s possible to get 10-15 pounds of zucchini from just one plant. So you can still expect a great harvest from just 1-2 plants.

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8.) Neglecting Your Garden

The next mistake is expecting great results in your garden without putting in much effort. A garden does not have to take a ton of your time but it will take some effort depending on the size of your garden.

My very first tip no matter the size of your garden is to set up irrigation and a timer. Taking watering off your plate is huge because that is the one thing our plants cannot live without.

Then that gives you extra time every day to focus on other tasks such as harvesting, weeding, checking for pests, etc.

All in all, if you can just set aside at least 10 minutes a day to your garden that will make a huge difference.

Even if you still have a list of things to get done, just checking off a little bit each day is better than nothing.

9.) Fearing Failure

The final common gardening mistake I see is gardeners not taking action because they’re afraid to fail. This tends to be more common with newer gardeners but it can be a problem for all of us.

There is so much information out there it can make us not take action because we want to keep learning. But the best way to learn and improve is to actually plant something, tend to it, and take notes.

Every gardener is going to have different results and so the best way to see what works for you is to test it out. Of course take advice when you can and try to stick with best practices, but all in all you have to try things out for yourself.

I hope this post helps you avoid these common gardening mistakes so that you can grow your best garden yet this season!

Join the Zone 9 Garden Club

Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is reach out to other gardeners for help. I would love for you to join the Zone 9 Garden Club!

As a member you get,

  • Monthly video garden tours and trainings
  • Monthly growing calendars for zone 9
  • Timely harvesting & planting tips
  • Access to an active community off of social media
  • A resource library full of gardening courses and guides
  • And more!

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Podcast Episode Resources and Links Mentioned

Common Gardening Mistakes You MUST Avoid!

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