- Super User
Gardening comes with a steep learning curve. Everyone makes mistakes, especially in the beginning. If you want your garden to thrive, jump ahead of the learning curve by learning from the common mistakes of many novice gardeners.
1. Putting Beds in Wrong Place
Whether you place your bed in an overly-shady area or in one that does not have good drainage, putting your bed in the wrong place can hurt your plants. Try to choose an area that has good drainage and gets at least six hours of sunlight. This will give your garden the best possible chance of survival.
2. Not Preparing Soil
Plants grow best when soil has the right pH. Simple soil testing kits can be bought at any home center. A pH of around 6 to 6.5 should work for most vegetable gardens. Also, amend the soil with organic materials like compost to ensure that it has the nutrients it requires. Adding your favorite mulching option is vital to protect the precious soil underneath.
3. Not Considering Weather and Climate
If you plant at the wrong time or in the wrong area, your plants may not thrive. Different plants have different needs and will tolerate different things. You should not plant a plant with a long growing season too early or too late. Similarly, if your plants need a long growing season they will likely not be happy in a place like Minnesota. Be sure to check guides online for what will grow best in your area.
4. Over- or Under-watering
It may seem simple enough that your plants need water. Not giving them enough water will cause them to wilt and die. Too much water can result in mold or rot. Water at regular intervals and look for signs of a problem. If leaves yellow or dry out, the plant is not getting enough water. If leaves become brown and stems are “mushy,” your plant may be getting too much water.
5. Neglecting Pruning
Certain flowering and fruiting trees or shrubs need to be pruned each year to ensure they are at their best. Left to grow wild, too many branches will grow and sap the plant of the energy it could be putting into nourishing the select flowering or fruiting branches. Judicious pruning with proper technique will keep your yield strong
6. Not Labeling Plants
If you start seedlings and do not label them adequately, it can be easy to get them confused. You may be able to tell a tomato plant from a kale plant, but can you tell one type of tomato from the other? Make sure you keep your plants clearly labeled and then keep rows marked once planted in the garden.
7. Planting Invasive Plants
Mint is a wonderful herb. It smells nice and it's easy to grow. Unfortunately, left unchecked, it will take over. Do a little research before planting. If a plant is known to be invasive, do not plant it. Another option is to plant it in a pot to keep it under control.
8. Not Following Instructions
Seed packages come with instructions for a reason. Trust the experts – the company that produced the seeds – to know when to sow them and how to care for them. Chances are good if you read the directions and follow them, you will not be steered wrong.
9. Using Too Much Pesticide
Pesticides can keep unwanted insects out of your garden. Unfortunately, they can also scare away the useful insects that help your garden. Some insects, like bees, help to pollinate your garden. Instead of pesticides, investigate non-chemical ways to scare away pests, like planting marigolds or inviting other friendly insects. Ladybugs eat aphids who damage plants. Ducks and guinea birds also eat pests without destroying your garden.
10. Growing Too Much Food
This might seem like a problem everyone would love to have. If you harvest more vegetables than you can consume or can and give away, they will go to waste. Try starting off small and with vegetables that you know you like. You can always expand next year.
If you are new to gardening, you will find you have a lot to learn. Starting with these tips will help you avoid some of the most common frustrations of gardening.
Olivia Warfield is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for Distinctive Outdoor Spaces. She writes for a variety of home and garden blogs and strives to learn more each day to cultivate the green spaces in and around her home.