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Grow Your Best Garden Ever By Avoiding These 8 Mistakes

gardening mistakes

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! :-)

Related: This Is The Best Thing You Can Start Doing For Your Garden

8 Common Gardening Mistakes (And How To Fix Them!)

gardening mistakes

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.

gardening mistakes

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!

gardening mistakes

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.

gardening mistakes

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!

gardening mistakes

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.

gardening mistakes

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.

gardening mistakes

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.

gardening mistakes

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?

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Homekeeping Tips

  • People wanting to grow a garden from commercially bought plants and seeds need to be aware of certain pesticides like neonictoids. These are long term chemicals that kill anything – pests, pollinators alike. Plus the chemicals remain in the soil after the plant is already gone.
    Look for organic plants and seeds for best results. Question nursery staff whether neonics are used in their plants. Using neonic plants will kill the pollinators!

  • Regarding #3 — my husband, who was the grounds manager for a resort for 38 years — always takes his jack knife and cuts through the sides in the dirt after taking a plant out of the pot it was purchased in. The let the roots expand more quickly.

  • One pictures shows you spraying chemicals while you’re wearing short pants. Never do that! No matter how “harmless” the stuff is, you shouldn’t get it on your bare skin.

  • I was taught to use a fork and gently loosen the roots that are all wrapped up in the bottom of the pot. This gives them a little edge on spreading out quicker.

  • We live west of Fort Worth, Texas and I see so many people start planting flowers in March when we still have the chance of frost and even freezes. I have always wanted until the end of April or beginning of May to plant mine. Part of the could be because we lived in Montana and I always had to wait until then. My mom has always had beautiful flowers so I guess I learned everything from her. It’s been a bit of a struggle this year with the heat but I keep fighting along whereas my neighbors gave up and let them die.

  • Jillee thank you for all the wonderful info, always. May I suggest, native perennial plants? Find out what plants are native to your area, plant and watch them thrive, year after year. Enjoy all the pollinators and life that comes to your garden. These plants are meant to be grown in soil in your area, so no ammendments or fuss necessary. Once you do this, you will love the success you have in your garden!

  • I would add that, as the New York Times wrote recently, mulch helps microbial life thrive in the soil, and it helps the soil draw carbon out of the atmosphere. Every bit of such “drawdown” effect helps fight climate change. The mulch doesn’t have to come in expensive plastic bags. You can read about many different kinds of organic matter, including newspaper covered with dirt, etc.

  • Great tips and all so true! To expand on 2 of your tips, overwatering is less of the issue. Drainage of the soil and or pot is the important part of watering. Make sure your pot has adequate holes in the bottom along with rocks and your ground soil is good, lighter soil that drains. Second tip is mulching. Only perennials should be mulched. Annuals don’t do well with mulch due to the acidity it creates in the soil. Love these tips and no, gardening and making flowers look beautiful is definitely a skill that takes time to perfect!

  • #3 – ThAnK yOu! I’ve always followed the rule of digging holes to twice the height and breadth of a plant. Yet, I’ve never really understood WHY, as I always end up putting much of the soil back for the plant to sit at the right height. Now I get it: it’s more a matter of loosening up that soil for potential root growth. DUH. (There’s hope, yet!)

  • We bought a house few months ago and I’ve found out that gardening isn’t as easy as it seems. We are thinking of xeriscaping our front yard, even though I want it to have grass and flowers. I guess I’m just lazy…

    • Conservation of water is a logical rational plan especially if you get lots of sun, or are experiencing less rain due to drought conditions, perhaps? But xeric landscape doesn’t have to be boring…Even Low water plants NEED water to become ESTABLISHED. First year, planting shrubs/trees or perennials along the walkway or near front entrance are welcoming—getting them in the ground in early Fall…before the weather gets cold, helping them establish the first year at this point in the year is Key. Using “natives” (local) plants is also first rule of gardening…as you get familiar with them then each year you can try adding new colors or textures..Happy gardening….Xeriscape requires knowledge too! good luck

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