from AD It Yourself (Architectural Digest)

The idea of digging up your backyard can be intimidating. If you’re a green-thumb novice who is not sure how to start a garden, the fear of making a mistake can make you quit before you even start. “Gardening is not always a cheap hobby,” says Lara Hermanson, gardener and co-owner of Farmscape, an urban farming company in San Francisco and Los Angeles. “Home gardeners can rack up big bills by shopping at a nursery, only to get it home and have items fail, without knowing why.” 

Even though the process of growing plants and vegetables from scratch may seem daunting, we found out the most common mistakes—and how to avoid them. Read on for 10 tips on what not to do, according to experts who school you on first-timer no-nos.

Mistake 1: Setting too lofty of a gardening goal

A bigger garden isn’t always better, at least if you’re a beginner, notes Megan Gilger, the gardening blogger behind Fresh Exchange. “It is easy to let your eyes get big when wandering the plant stores or looking online at ideas,” Gilger says. “Instead use those ideas to spur a bigger plan. Growing a great garden successfully takes time.” Gilger advises gardeners who are creating a garden from scratch to start small, but think big. A garden is a long-term investment and you should think about your goals three to five years from now.

Mistake 2: Not interplanting 

Let all of your buds play together. “Break away from the idea that you can only grow one type [of plant] in a bed,” Gilger says.  Interplanting, or intercropping, is a gardening practice that encourages pairing companion plants, as well as bundling taller and shorter plants. Mixing and matching can also whittle weeds and bring in beneficial pollinators, she explains. Bonus: Interplanting is also said to reduce pests and disease. 

Mistake 3: Overcrowding plants

Although mixing plants together is A-OK, you still have to be mindful of spacing, notes Michael Giannelli of East Hampton Gardens, a garden and home shop in East Hampton, New York. “[People] want that instant garden full and colorful—big mistake,” he says. “Plants need room to grow and spread naturally.” Follow the planting recommendations, which typically suggest 2 to 3 feet between plants. You can probably cheat a little by skirting the recommendations by a few inches, but don’t pack plants side by side like sardines.

Mistake 4: Planting too much variety

Tempting as it may be to plant everything from acorns to zucchini, focus on growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers that bring joy to your plate. “It seems simple, but you are most passionate about growing the vegetables, herbs, and flowers you already find yourself grabbing for at the grocery store or farmers market,” Gilger says. No need to fuss over fennel if you think it tastes blah. 

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