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Ok, I will plant something! ……But how can I do it?
This is exactly the situation I had last year. I just read some books on house gardening and assumed I got the basic logic, then took some actions. But as is always the case, knowing theories is one thing and actually doing something well is different.
In this post, I will share 12 mistakes (learning) I had from home gardening, hoping they will serve for beginner planters and some lessons might be applicable to other areas.
As mentioned by Simon Sinke in his book and TED talk, knowing WHY we do what we do is essential. For those who are not convinced with why house gardening is important, please see my previous post: 10 Reasons to start planting foods at home.
<12 Mistakes/learnings learnt as a beginner house gardener>
Since most house gardening environment does not have a big land, you need specific space to plant, including planters. Just like any human, each plant grows differently and depending on the types of plants, you need profound ones or wide ones so that plants can grow freely. The first mistake I made was one-size-fits-all approach by using the cheapest and small planter which didn’t work for something like cucumber, tomato and okra as they really grow bigger.
Some books I read said soil is the principle success factor of planting.
Just like planters, my mistake was ignoring the fact that each plant needs different types of soil, usually with specific ratio of mixed soil. I just bought the cheapest soil and used it for all. It worked for some non-sensitive ones such as Basil and Shiso, but not for others. I also forgot about additional fertilization, which was another reason some of my plants didn’t grow well.
Again, each plant grows differently and I simply didn’t consider this. My mistake was putting seeds as much as possible, blindly believing that the more is better. The consequence was too many seeds in limited space, which reminded me of my immigrant friends in New York who shared a small room with 10 people.
I started novice house gardening in May, which was suitable for some plants and not for others. Agains, every plant grows differently and requires different time line.
The more water, the better. This was the simple mistake I learned by killing some plants. Some plants need a lot of water and some don’t.
Protection from rainy season
For the same reason, heavy rainy season killed many plants, and I needed to protect some plants from absorbing natural water (see the protection measure we had below)
Some plants needs a lot of sunlight and some don’t. I also had no idea that Sunlight in the afternoon had stronger light, which might not be suitable for many plants. Since house garden is affected by the structure of your house surrounded by other, you cannot do much about this, so you need to know which plants to put in which location by observing the sun points.
After budding, you need to get rid of some plants so that the ones you kept will grow. This means that I had to took quite many plants and let them die, which was difficult for me to do. So I didn’t do much in the beginning, which killed more, so I learned the importance of thinning (below is a bad example).
This is something I never knew about. When you take a specific part of leaf, it will stimulate plants to grow more (you take one part of the branch and it will have more than one branch later so you get more). This means that while you enjoy eating some of the herbs (e.g. basil, mint, etc.), you will have more products later on.
Humidity and wind
Heck how did I know that humidity and wind were important? Some plants need specific humid environment and sometimes it requires the location where wind blows. I simply didn’t consider this and killed some plants.
Just like human beings, some plants get along with specific plants to survive and thrive. One example is basil and tomato. The former needs lots of water and the latter is opposite. By putting both in the same planter, they will support each other and grow better.
I must admit that I used to think organic gardening was the best thing to do for our health and couldn’t believe why some farmers use pesticide. Although I still prefer organic farm, I now understand the difficulty of not having insects around plants you grow. I simply had no idea where they came from. Even the plants I had inside the house had so many insects which ruined the plants and it was very difficult to get rid of them. There are some techniques to avoid harmful insects e.g. inviting insects that kill harmful ones, companion plants, hydroponics (planting only water and no soil which attracts insects, etc.).
Well, I am sure there are more things to consider, but those are the essential mistakes/learning I had from initial house gardening. Since plants need time, killing them sometimes mean that you have to wait for next season/year. They are all different and sensitive, which makes gardening more attractive and precious. Maybe the first year is meant to be the learning year (learn by doing) for the forthcoming years, but you can still do it well by learning from others (including my lessons). It also teaches us how complicated and amazing our nature system works, as so many things are interconnected.
Happy house gardening!
The learning of this time
I learned that house gardening does not work with one-size-fits-all approach as every plant has different characteristics, and learning by doing taught me many things about plants and how our mother earth functions.
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