A good friend once made a comment that my green thumb allows me to grow any plant beautifully under the sun. Of course, this is not true. I did make a lot of gardening mistakes, and I’m proud of this fact. For me, having a ‘green thumb’ is not really a special gift nor an attribute, but is more of a mindset that practically anybody can have. In gardening, it’s okay to fail occasionally, because this is the only way to learn.
I have listed below my biggest gardening mistakes in 2016 that helped me improve my skills. I’d like to share them with you so you don’t have to make these same mistakes.
# 1. Too little sunlight.
To ensure a good harvest, most plants need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day. Most herbs and leafy vegetables can thrive with less, but at least 4 hours of sunlight per day is ideal. While we all know that the sun always shines in the east, its relative eastern position actually changes over the course of the year. So this plant by your bedroom window is not likely get the full 6 hours of sunlight all year round. Container gardening allows you to move your herbs and vegetables around, as you find that perfect spot for them in your garden.
# 2. Planting out of season
As I learned later from experience, some plants thrive better during the colder periods from November to February in the Philippines, while other plants prefer the warmer temperatures from March to May or the wet rainy months from June to October. Summer in the tropics can be a challenge for most plants, because the extreme heat causes the flower buds and leaves to fall off. Still, there are vegetables and herbs (like the okra and basil) which can thrive well even during the height of summer in the Philippines. A gardener should understand which plants thrive best during these warm or cold seasons in his respective locality.
#3. Too little water
As a beginner, I used to just sprinkle the leaves and roots using a water hose. I learned later that this is not an effective nor an efficient way to water the plants. Plants need water at the roots, all the way down to their tips. During dry seasons, watering them deeply three times a week is ideal for tropical countries like the Philippines. More frequent watering might be needed during the summer months, if the weather gets too hot.
#4. Too much water
I used to believe that all plants love water every minute. But as I found out later, most plants don’t want to be soaked. Too much water can damage their roots, and cause them to rot. When planting in containers, it is important that the container has enough drainage holes to allow excess water to flow out properly and not be retained in the pot. I also learned that wetting the leaves is not advisable during watering, as this can sometimes lead to fungal infection for plants.
#5. Wrong use of pesticide
When using pesticide, even if it says it’s 100% organic, it is important to follow the instructions carefully. I used to think that all organic chemicals can not harm the plants. I was wrong. Last year, I tried using an oil-based organic pesticide for my plants. Since it’s organic, I decided to add a few more scoops of the solution to make sure it’s more effective (definitely more than what was prescribed in the labels). To my horror, I found out the next morning that the leaves of most of my plants had fallen off. Fortunately the plants didn’t die and in due time, they were able to grow back their leaves. But this experience taught me a valuable lesson in gardening that anything excessive is not good.
It is not surprising that a lot of aspiring gardeners get discouraged, after failing a few times. Gardening requires a lot of patience and perseverance and mistakes are all part of the entire learning process. It is from these errors that we learn and become better gardeners.