For the past handful of summers , I’ve been extremely proud of my yard and garden, because it’s been looking better than ever! I finally feel like I’ve hit my stride as a gardener, but it didn’t happen overnight. Far from it, in fact—my garden successes in recent years are the direct result of over three decades of trial-and-error gardening.
While I never had a natural “green thumb” like some of my sisters, I’m persistent enough (or stubborn enough, depending on who you ask) that I haven’t let that stop me from trying. I’m sure I’ve made every gardening mistake in the book over the years, but you know what they say: experience is the best teacher!
So today I thought I’d share some of the most common gardening mistakes that people tend to make. My hope is that by sharing these tips with you, you can skip over those 30 years of mediocre gardening and get right to the good stuff! :-)
8 Common Gardening Mistakes (And How To Fix Them!)
1. Planting Too Early
When the weather starts warming up in the spring, I’m usually itching to get out and start planting. But if you put plants in prematurely, there’s always a chance they could get wiped out by a late frost! What a waste of your planting efforts, not to mention a waste of the money you spent on your seedlings or bulbs!
Most plants should be planted in soft, thawed out soil after the projected “last frost date” for your area. If you’re not sure what your last frost date is, it’s easy to look up! The Farmer’s Almanac has a simple frost date lookup tool on their website.
2. Crowding Your Plants
Much like humans, plants need a certain amount of “personal space.” Plants that are too close to each other can get suffocated by bigger plants, or subject each other to disease. If you’re not sure how much space to leave between your plants or seeds, check the packaging for instructions. Or a quick Google search will yield plenty of helpful plant spacing guidelines from all over the web!
3. Not Digging Deep Enough
When planting, a lot of people tend to dig holes that are just deep enough to accommodate the root ball or bulb of the plant, but planting this way may be stunting the growth of your plants! Surrounding a plant with loose dirt makes it easier for the plant to take root, resulting in quicker growth. So next time you plant, dig a hole that’s twice as wide and twice as deep as necessary.
4. Picking The Wrong Spot
Many people like to decide where to put a plant-based on where it would look the best. (I catch myself doing this all the time with flowers!) But when it comes to the location of your plants, your primary concern should be the sun and shade requirements of each plant. If a plant tag says it needs shade, give it a shady spot!
And if you suspect that one of the plants that are already in your yard isn’t getting the correct amount of sun, don’t worry! It’s easy to move most established plants, and they’ll bounce back in no time!
5. Overwatering Plants
Most people know that under-watering plants is a no-no, but overwatering can be just as bad! If the soil gets waterlogged, it can rot the root systems of plants. Once the roots are compromised, you’ll have a hard time nursing the plant back to health. Limit deep waterings to once per week, depending on rain and heat conditions in your area.
6. Not Mulching
Some people see mulch as more of a decorative element in the garden, but it actually serves many important purposes! Adding a layer of mulch around your plants keeps weeds down, provides protection from pests and disease, and helps prevent soil erosion.
Apply it liberally around your plants, and both you and your plants will be glad you did! Before adding a layer of mulch, I recommend hand weeding or using something that will kill the weeds, like this homemade weed killer, to get rid of existing weeds.
7. Ignoring Soil Conditions
Even the best gardening practices can’t compensate for the negative effects of poor soil conditions. Make sure you’re planting in loose, moist, and well-fed soil. If you’re not sure about the state of your soil, you can test it to find out what it needs! Many state university extension offices offer mail-in soil test kits, or you can buy one on Amazon.
8. Not Accounting For Animals
If you’re going to put a lot of time and effort into gardening, you should also take steps to protect it. You don’t want a deer, rabbit, or squirrel to come make a snack out of all your hard work, and there are a lot of simple ways to deter animals from eating your plants.
Depending on which animals spend time in your yard, using fences, netting, and sprays can help keep them at bay. You can also plant things that animals don’t like to eat to discourage them from eating your other, more enticing plants. Check out this post from This Old House for more information about keeping pests out of your garden.
What gardening lessons have you learned the hard way?