Gwen Leron: 50 Shades of Green


The Great Gardening Fail of 2013

For a successful vegetable garden, don't do these things

The Great Gardening Fail of 2013

I had big plans for this year’s garden—after all, this is my fourth year planting a vegetable garden so I should know what I'm doing by now, right? The truth is, I don't have a lot of gardening experience, I’ve just been learning as I go and for the most part, things have been getting better each summer—if I don’t count this year.

Planting my own vegetable garden is something I make a point of doing each year because the kids (and I!) love being part of a rewarding project, I like knowing how the vegetables we eat are grown, and I just really enjoy doing it—it makes me happy. In hindsight, I now realize that I made some pretty big mistakes this year.

Mistake #1 – Planting the seeds too early

If you are planting by seed, the rule of thumb is that you should get started about six weeks before the last frost. This rule will work if you live in a city where the weather is somewhat predictable. Unfortunately, Ottawa weather this year has been anything but predictable.

The kids and I started the seedlings in early April. We started out with about 25 plants—zucchini, lettuce, strawberries, radishes, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, parsley, carrots, peas, beans, and beets were all part of the plan. A few weeks after they started growing, at the end of April, we got hit with a pretty big and unexpected snow storm. I. Know.

To make things worse, May was approaching and the weather was not warming up. There was still too much snow on the ground to even think of moving the plants outdoors anytime soon. As the plants continued growing, I realized they were getting way too big for the little pots I originally planted them in.

Mistake #2 – Not switching over to bigger pots a second time

I moved the plants over to slightly bigger pots and they continued growing until they also outgrew the new pots and I didn’t have anything else to put them in. Rather than moving them over to another set of pots, I decided to hold out for the weather to get better. Wrong decision.

Mistake #3 – Holding out for the weather to warm up

It started with the lettuce. The leaves started yellowing and all of our lettuce plants died. More followed while I (im)patiently waited for the weather to warm up. The weather did eventually warm up, but at that point, it was too late. I was left with only about 10 plants to put into the garden.

In the end, I did get some beets (that is one of my beet plants in the image above!) cherry tomatoes, carrots, radishes, and parsley planted (parsley pictured below!). There isn’t going to be much to harvest this year, but the kids are happy because they will get to see the results of what we started in April, and if they are happy, I’m happy.

So, I'll go into year five with the following knowledge:

  1. Don’t plant too early and be prepared for a longer than usual winter.
  2. If needed, find bigger pots no matter what!
  3. Don’t count on the weather warming up by the end of May (especially if you live in Ottawa!).

Lessons learned. I have big plans for next year’s garden.

Have you ever made any big gardening mistakes?