6 Vegetable Gardening Mistakes We’ve All Made

compact carrots out of dirt
  • 20-200 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-800

Gardening is a therapeutic and physically-beneficial activity, both in the movement sense and as a way to put garden-fresh foods on the table.

And of course, vegetable gardening is one of the most basic acts in human history. At its core, it’s as simple as putting a plant in the ground and harvesting the produce once it's fully mature.

However, some of the techniques handed down for generations may have failed the update test, leaving us with misguided information about mistakes we didn’t even know we were making.

The internet has proven to be solution-central, combining traditional knowledge with modern innovation. As those brilliant ideas are increasingly shared, the database of information about how to best grow certain vegetables has become a valuable resource for all gardeners.

Things change, and old ideas must change with new information. Here are some of the most common missteps in the gardening world.

1. Wrong Soil Depth

We’ve all done it. The lettuce grows great so we plant some carrots in the same healthy soil nearby.

Fast forward a few months and discover the fluffy topsoil supports shallow lettuce roots just fine, but the six-inch carrots did not have room to prosper.

Anyone who has pulled a compact, bunched up carrot out of the ground knows what we’re talking about here.

To keep it simple, if you’re planting any type of root vegetable, ensure the soil is deep enough for it to expand and grow.

Also make sure the soil is well drained and not too dense.

2. Choosing the Wrong Location

Most vegetables will do best in full sun, defined by a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Plants that don’t get enough sun will fail to thrive and produce.

Pick the sunniest part of the yard to set up your vegetable garden.

3. Watering Woes

vegetable garden with drying leaves from not enough water

However, although full sun is a priority, another consideration when deciding on a location is how you will get water to the area.

Placing your garden on the outer fringe of your backyard might offer the best separation from play and gathering areas, but if you don’t have access to water, you won’t have a successful garden.

You’ll need to water at least weekly. Many plants prefer infrequent, deep watering rather than shallow waterings daily.

This is best achieved with drip hoses.

Even if you have a length to cover between faucet and plant, you can connect drip hoses to regular hoses in order to get water where you need it.

For the most reliable watering schedule, hook hoses up to a timer.

drip hose watering vegetable garden

4. Holding Out on the Harvest

Gardening requires a lot of planning, manual preparation, expense, and monitoring so it makes sense you’ll want to get the most out of your harvest.

Often though, gardeners wait too long to harvest vegetables.

For most garden plants, harvest comes in August and September, a busy time of year at the end of summer and as school once again gets underway.

Plan your vacations accordingly.

When vegetables are past their prime, they begin to lose crispness, flavor, and nutrients.

Overripe vegetables should not be used for canning. If they are too ripe to eat, add them to the compost pile.

5. Refusing to Thin

fingers thinning vegetable sprouts

Choosing plants to keep early in the season can feel a little like pinpointing your favorite child. But proper thinning is essential to an abundant yield.

Each plant is different so read up on the proper spacing for each plant—and abide by it. Keeping plants too close together stresses resources and the plants.

When thinning, choose the strongest plants that land at the correct spacing, and pull the rest.

It might hurt a little in the short term, but you’ll forget about it once the vegetables are hanging ripe on your prolific plants.

6. Fencing Failures

There are myriad reasons for ensuring quality fencing around your garden.

One primary culprit is deer. As majestic as they are, they will decimate a garden.

Many, many other animals will enjoy the fruits of your labor too, including domestic animals like dogs.

Fencing doesn’t have to be pretty. It can be as simple as chicken wire wrapped around each plant, but if there’s any chance of animal encounters, fencing is a must.