9 Common Gardener Mistakes to Avoid

And How to Correct Them

Planning Too Large of a Garden

Your eyes can be too big for your green thumb. Sometimes we see gorgeous magazine pictures of dream gardens and we want to do that! But we forget that the owner of the garden in the magazine might have had professional landscapers and gardeners who did the work. Then we start the mammoth job and discover that our green thumb was a figment of our imagination. Instead, choose parts of a garden photo that you know your level of experience will allow you to do. If you have no experience to draw on, take the photo or magazine to the garden shop and let an expert advise you.

Buying Hard-to-Grow Plants

Rose bushes come to mind when discussing this problem. There are varieties of rose bushes that can be happy in many different climate zones, but just because your zone is supposed to support this kind of rose may not mean that your garden is ideal for it. For roses and certain other plants, special treatments may be necessary for them to be successful in your particular garden plot. Roses pests like scale, mites, fungus, and destructive insects may live in your locale and will make it especially hard for you to raise certain kinds of plants. This is not to say that you can’t do it; you just need to get informed and then decide if the plants you want will be worth the extra effort you’ll be spending to keep them free from what’s going to want to eat them.

Not Preparing the Beds Properly

If you are not willing to plant according to the instructions, you have to be willing to accept less-than-perfect growth later. But why go to the trouble to hop on a shovel, get sweaty and dirty, and maybe break a fingernail just to stuff some bulbs in shallow, poorly prepared soil in hopes of mediocre results in the spring? It would be so much better to do a little reading on how particular plants want to be put in the soil. Go to the trouble of digging to the correct depth, spacing the plants according to directions, adding bone meal or whatever the recommendations say, and covering to the correct depth again. The flower show later on will be worth the effort.

Planting Shallow Under Mulch

If you have a good layer of mulch already in place, you need to dig down through it and make sure the plants you put in are sufficiently deep into the soil. If the planting instructions say to set the bulb 6 inches deep, make sure you are measuring 6 inches from the top of the soil, not from the top of the mulch.

Over or Under Fertilizing

Some common plants that you buy from greenhouses, such as petunias, can be ‘fertilizer addicts’. They have grown up receiving fertilizer on a regular basis, and go into shock when they don’t get that same treatment in your garden. You will need to continue offering the plants just enough fertilizer to keep them happy, and over time you may be able to introduce a natural fertilizer such as compost instead of buying some over-the-counter concoction.

Over Watering

You can generally tell if you are over watering your plants if you notice the lower leaves on the plants turning yellow and falling off. You will also see wilting, drooping, spotting on leaves, grayish mold around the stem, and plants that are stunted. Some or all of these symptoms will happen in a relatively short amount of time, so that you will recognize what you see as ‘not normal’. If you check your plants’ roots and observe rot, that could be another sign of over watering.

How to prevent over watering? Try the following. Check the soil around the plants often. It should not be too dry or crumbly, nor should it be wet and muddy. Water slowly; do it yourself, and don’t trust to sprinklers. You want the watering to soak in, not run off. Water deeply, so that it reaches the roots. Water in the morning when the soil is cool. Watering in the evening can promote fungus growth.


When you are planting an entirely new garden, it might look a little odd to have small plants spaced well apart from each other. You might be tempted to stuff more plants into the space just to ‘fill the garden’. This would be a mistake. Let there be space! The roots need to be able to spread out and drink in nutrients and moisture. With your judicious watering, it won’t be long before your plantings grow and fill out, making a beautiful scene.

Not Weeding

Most of us dislike weeding. But if you really want all the effort of planting and watering to pay off, there is no substitute for careful weeding. Sprays, granules, and other over-the-counter gardening aids can be misused. Instead, mulch correctly, and then watch for the weeds to infiltrate. When they do, wait for a day of rain (or water well) and then pull the weeds by hand, loosening the soil around the weed first, so that the whole root system comes out. If you let the weeds alone too long, their roots will get deeply or widely entrenched, and it will be harder to get all the roots up without harming your nice plants.

Killing Too Many Insects

Not all bugs are pests! Many kinds of insects are beneficial and can eat up the destructive insects. Ladybugs, green lacewings, dragonflies, and bees as some of the helpful insects. You can even order a box of ladybugs or praying mantids via the Internet, and let hundreds loose to eat up potential pests on your property. For this reason, it makes sense not to use pesticides, because pesticides kill the helpful insects along with the pests. Better to let nature do its job.

Theresa Lien
A professional writer who has specialized in houseplants and indoor gardening. She's had experience with outdoor landscaping too, having written about plants that grow well on balconies and patios as one of her previous articles for Wohomen.


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