Gardening, and especially food gardening, is a craft. It is hand’s-on, literally, which means you’ll make mistakes along the way, but that is how you gain experience. A lack of proper planning is responsible for many of the setbacks encountered, especially if you want a continuous supply of vegetables. The golden rule is to spend time in the garden every day, even if it is only one or two minutes. That is enough time to see what is needed, and thereafter take action.
Water only when the soil is dry. This encourages vegetables to develop a deeper root system. Water each type of vegetable based on its individual needs, using a hose and nozzle or watering can. Overhead sprinklers or automatic irrigation deliver the same amount of water to everything, which can be too much for some and not enough for others.
Over or Under Fertilising
Over-fertilising produces soft, sappy growth and flavourless fruit. If the soil is enriched with good quality compost before planting, most vegetables will not need fertiliser during the growing season. This, however, does not apply to long-season crops like tomatoes, chillies, brinjals and squashes. They need supplementary fertiliser, or a dressing of compost, especially in poor or medium soil.
Not Understanding the Soil’s Importance
Even if the main focus is on producing edibles, building up the quality of the soil – by applying compost and green manures and practising crop rotation – produces a more sustainable vegetable garden that is still productive. Moderation is key here, which is why it is vital to incorporate horse or cattle manure occasionally to introduce different types of bacteria into the soil.
Not Thinning Out
This weakens the whole crop because of the extra competition for water, nutrients, space and light.
Over-Reacting to Pests and Disease
Pests and disease indicate a plant under stress. Before reaching for the sprays (organic or otherwise) try to find out the cause of the stress. Check watering, feeding and the amount of sun and make a note to avoid the problem next year before seeking a short-term remedy.
Not Harvesting in Time
Many vegetables lose quality, taste and texture the longer they are left on the bush or in the ground. Some crops, like tomatoes and chillies, can either be picked green or turning. This encourages the plant to produce more flowers and more fruit.
Know When to Bail
If a vegetable doesn’t grow in your garden, don’t keep on at it. Try something else. There is no lack of variety.