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Even if your vegetable garden is the envy of neighbors, it’s still easy to make rookie mistakes that waste precious resources, your time, effort and growing time.
1. Unwise watering. Too much, too little, too hard, too soft they’re all watering mistakes that will wreck your garden. Before adding water, poke a finger a couple of inches into the soil. If it’s moist, save the water don’t water your plants. If it’s dry, gently at the base of plants. Better yet, wind a drip hose ($13 for 50 feet) through your garden; that way, you will deliver moisture to the roots without wasting water on leaves and to evaporation.
2. Forgetting to test. Even veteran gardeners forget to test their soil every year to make sure it has the pH and nutrients plants need. For about $10, you can send a sample to your state extension service and receive a complete analysis. Or, buy a DIY test kit at your local garden center. When you know what your soil is made of, either select plants that thrive in that type of earth, or amend soil to match your garden’s needs.
3. Planting garden divas. Of course you love summer tomatoes, but they can be tricky to grow during summers that are too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry. So newbies should try growing a couple of tomato plants just for fun, then load gardens with foolproof veggies and herbs, such as beans, peppers, oregano, and parsley. If you must grow a tomato, plant cherry tomatoes that can survive anything summer can throw at them and even yield fruit into fall.
4. Planting too much. One cherry tomato plant can yield 80 fruit, and a single zucchini plant can keep your neighbors in zucchini bread through winter. So don’t plant more than you can eat, put up, or share with friends. The National Gardening Association says an edible garden of about 200 sq. ft. should keep a family of four in veggies all summer. If you do grow more than you need, can and freeze excess and donate it to a local food bank or plan a swap with fellow gardeners.
5. Growing everything from seed. Some crops, such as salad greens, radishes, carrots, peas, beans, and squash, are easy to grow from seeds that germinate in a couple of weeks. Experience will tell you that eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, and tomatoes are better grown from seedlings, which someone else has nurtured for months. Pick plants that are short and compact. Avoid leggy plants with blooms that are liable to die on the vine as the plant acclimates itself to your garden.
6. Assuming you know. Gardeners often read seed packages and figure they know everything about growing vegetables. Wrong! The more you know about your hardiness zone, soil, weather, insects, and vegetable varieties, the better your garden will grow. So curl up with a good gardening book, and surf the web for garden bloggers that share your passion.
7. Relying on pesticides. Don’t bring out the big guns, which can contaminate the watershed, until you’ve tried less toxic ways to get rid of garden pests. Ladybugs and praying mantis, which you can buy at garden supply stores, will eat garden intruders, such as aphids and beetles. Non toxic insecticidal soaps will take care of soft-bodied insects (don’t use if ladybugs are around).
Heirloom Tomato Salad
1lb. mixed fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2cup thinly sliced red onions
1/4cup ATHENOS Crumbled Feta Cheese with Basil & Tomato
1/4cup KRAFT Tuscan House Italian Dressing
2Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Hint Use a variety of different colored and shaped tomatoes when making this seasonal salad. Just chop, quarter or halve the tomatoes depending on their size.
Salad can be made ahead of time. Prepare as directed, but do not add cheese. Refrigerate up to 8 hours. Toss with cheese just before serving.
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Why is common sense so uncommon?
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