By now we all know that gardening takes a special color of thumb. But even experienced gardeners fall into these common practices. Improve the effectiveness of your garden by avoiding these common pitfalls.

Check The pH BEFORE You (Trans)Plant

The pH is the negative logarithm of the Hydrogen Ion….but you don't really need to know this. All you really need to know is what your ground's pH level is, and what the most suitable environment for the plants in question. pH is essentially a measure of how acid or alkaline a given substance is on a scale of 0 to 14. A pH of 7 is considered neutral. A result less than 7 is acidic, and greater than 7 is alkaline. Most plants will survive in a 6.0-6.5, but you need to know that some require a higher or lower value to thrive. Potatoes are a good example. If you "level" your garden out at a 6.5, don't expect your potatoes to thrive. You'll get a harvest, but not the ones you see in the pictures. How do you measure pH? Easy. Go to your favorite "big box" store and purchase a pH meter ($10-15). Make sure you get a good cross-sample to get an accurate measurement.

Don't Wait Too Long to Transplant

A very common problem that gardeners experience is a transplant failure. Whether you start you plants from seed (recommended!), or buy them at your local garden center, be sure not to wait too long before you transplant, else they will become "root-bound" and have a poor chance of survival (or a meager existence). Pull the plan out of the pot and attempt to break up the roots. If you experience much resistance, and you cannot fan out the roots easily, it is probably overdue to transplant. Pick one of your plants and use it as your test before you put them out to the garden. Remember, they survived for thousands of years in the wild without having to live in your greenhouse–they will survive!

Don't Be Tempted to Over-Water

This is probably the most detrimental of the three, and over-watering is likely the most-common mistake made by gardeners. Buy a $2 rain gauge and pick your favorite day of the week (mine is Saturday). Make sure every [insert favorite day of the week here] you empty the gauge out. If, on Saturday, the rain gauge does not have at least an inch of water, you need to water the garden. Do NOT water every day, and don't be tempted to "help out" during the week. A healthy plant needs to "train" itself to dig deep for water. Over-watering causes a shallow, unhealthy root system, and can actually cause rot and disease. So, one inch per week, whether by sprinkler or rain, don't overdue it!

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