Avoid Huge Mistakes With These Expert Gardening Tips

Shannon Quinn - May 14, 2021
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Leave room for your plants to grow to their full potential. Credit: Shutterstock

23. Placing Your Plants Too Close Together

A common mistake that a lot of people make is that they put their plants way too close together.  This is a mistake for a lot of reasons. First of all, your plants are eventually going to grow larger. They need the space to grow to their full potential. The roots are also going to get larger underneath the soil. You don’t want the roots to be touching one another, because it will also hurt their ability to grow. 

Plants that are too close together might also share too much of the nutrients that are available in the soil, which will make them smaller. The space needed between plants is going to be different depending on the species. Always check the tag when you buy a plant to find out how much space it needs. But you can also do a quick search online to see how much space a plant needs.

Flowers are necessary for pollination. Credit: Shutterstock

22. Not Planting Flowers For Pollination

In order for your vegetable gardens to thrive, they need to be pollinated by bumble bees and butterflies. These pollinators need flowers nearby to carry that pollen across your garden. The process is actually so magical. In controlled environments like a greenhouse, some farmers have to pollinate their plants by hand in order to get it to grow.

However, if someone doesn’t understand how pollination works, their garden will fail in an epic way. This is something we all learned in elementary school, but you’re forgiven if you have totally forgotten in your adulthood. If you don’t remember how pollination works, please check out this article from Smithsonian Gardens.

Certain plants will go wild if you’re not careful. Credit: Shutterstock

21. Be Careful of Self-Seeding Plants

Something that a lot of people never take into consideration is how a plant goes to seed. What I mean by this is that a lot of plants are self-seeding. For example, strawberries should never be planted in the grounds. What happens is that the strawberries start to spread all over your garden to the point where they only make tiny berries. They drop their seeds on the ground and basically crawl everywhere. But if you keep strawberries inside of a pot,  they will actually stay there and have the potential to grow into large berries like you see at the grocery store.

Grass is also self-seeding. Depending on the species of grass that you have on your property, you might have already noticed that sometimes, if you don’t cut your grass often enough, grass gets little wispy seeds on the top. You don’t want this to happen either. When your lawn goes to seed, several things happen. It becomes tougher and harder to cut, the grass is weaker, and it takes away from the energy of the plan. So this leads to patchy grass. The grass seeds can also drop into other areas of the lawn where you don’t want grass to grow, like a stone patio or driveway.

Don’t over-prune your plants. Credit: Shutterstock

20. Getting Aggressive With Pruning

When people start pruning their bushes, they do one of two things. They either prune too much, or too little. But pruning even healthy branches is actually good for the bush. According to The Spruce, experts recommend what’s called the one third rule. This is a method of pruning a third of the good wood, because it helps encourage new growth. If you’re a total beginner, I recommend watching gardening tips on pruning on YouTube so that you can watch someone do it first hand.

The big mistake comes in when people prune a bush in a way that’s uneven. This looks very unattractive, and can sometimes make it look as if the bush is dead. I’ve personally seen this done multiple times. Sure, the bush eventually grows back. But it will look like a disaster for months. 

Xeriscaping is the process of growing desert plants that need little water. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Never Checking What Works in Your Climate 

Sometimes, people can go down a rabbit hole of finding plants they want to grow online. So they will order the seeds or bulbs and have them shipped to their home. However, the big mistake is not checking if these foreign plants work in your local climate.

A great example of climate plants done correctly is the process of xeriscaping. This is when people plant desert climate plants together. These plants require little-to-no water. Some people have tried to adopt this method in other states, but it doesn’t always work out. Obviously, this is most popular in places like California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Are you planting seeds at the appropriate time? Credit: Shutterstock

18. Starting Your Seeds Far Too Late

Flower nurseries always plant their seeds in a greenhouse long before it’s time to put the plants in the ground. They know exactly how long a seed takes to become a small plant, and to be able to survive in nature. However, most people don’t know this information without doing the research. So if you’re an inexperienced gardener and you get a pack of seeds from the store, you might already be too late. When this happens, you end up with a plant that you’re trying to grow out of season. This almost never works out very well, unless you have a heated greenhouse. 

If you live in the United States, it’s usually a good idea to start growing your seeds in March to early April. Seeds can also be germinated in a wet paper towel before you even put it in a small pot of soil. This is always done inside. After the last frost, you can work on moving these plants outside when the time has come to introduce them to nature. If you can manage to seed plants properly, this can save you a ton of money compared to buying the mature plant in May to June.

This area of the garden is full of shade, and gets little sunlight. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Placing Your Plants in the Wrong Spot

One of the most important gardening tips that you should search for online is to find out how much sunlight your plants need. Every plant is different. Some like direct sunlight, some filtered, and some actually prefer the shade. So if you plant something in the wrong spot in your garden, there’s a chance that it will die because it’s not getting the right amount of sunlight. The good news is that you can group multiple plants together that enjoy certain types of sunlight. 

Garden Answer is a great YouTube channel filled with gardening tips, and she goes over a lot of information about shade versus sun-loving plants. With that being said, planting something in the wrong spot doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to die. There may be plants in your garden that are in the wrong location that will still survive. They just might not thrive as well as you would hope.

The longer you allow weeds to grow, the harder the job gets. Credit: Shutterstock

16. Procrastinating With Maintenance

When you work hard all day, it can be difficult to find the energy and motivation to do your gardening work. However, if you procrastinate too long with maintaining your garden, it can reach a point where there is no turning back. A well-maintained garden might only take a couple hours per week to take care of. But if you let it go for a long time, you could be spending a full week straight cleaning up leaves, tall grass, weeds, sticks, and so much more.

If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, there is even more motivation for you to maintain your garden on a weekly basis. Most HOA’s have rules that force you to cut your grass, trim your hedges, and keep everything looking presentable.

Kale is actually a winter plant. Credit: Shutterstock

15. Growing Plants That Are Out of Season

In modern society, we are so used to getting fruits and vegetables at any time of the year from our grocery store. But in nature, it doesn’t work that way. According to Spoon University, some produce that has been shipped from overseas is actually over a year old. It’s one of those things where if you saw the truth of what goes on in the food industry, it totally makes sense why some store-bought fruits and vegetables actually taste gross. Nothing beats organic, fresh, in-season produce that was just picked.

 

This grocery store mentality is why it’s so hard for some people to wrap their head around the fact that the things they want to grow or not are always going to be in season. You can’t grow anything you want at any time of year. Even if you keep the plant inside, or heat it in a greenhouse, it’s going to be ready when it’s naturally ready. So do your research ahead of time, and make sure the plants are appropriate for what you want out of it.

Something may seem small, but you shouldn’t ignore issues. Credit: Shutterstock

14. Letting Small Problems Go On For Too Long 

Like most things in life, you should never let issues go for too long without addressing them. One of the most important gardening tips on this list is that you always need to fix a problem as soon as it arises. For example, if you see that all of the leaves on your plant are turning brown, it’s probably a sign that it’s not getting enough water, or it’s exposed to too much direct sunlight. If your leaves are changing colors, could mean that it has become diseased or is infested with bugs. The list goes on and on. 

Nowadays, it is so easy for you to monitor and research what is wrong with your plant. There are also a lot of plant care apps and online groups that will help you diagnose a problem with a plant. Just keep in mind that diagnosing a plant is kind of like diagnosing a human. As a beginner, you need to use a process of elimination to figure out the potential causes of the problem. With time and experience, you will learn to care for these plants. But if you let problems go on for too long, this is how plants end up dying, or failing to live up to their full potential.

Potting soil is really meant for indoor plants. Credit: Shutterstock

13. Pouring Potting Soil Into Your Ground Hole

Most people have no idea that the bags of potting soil you get from the store is not actually dirt. This is a man-made substance composed of ground-up wood chips, and a bunch of other stuff that is designed specifically for potted plants. The best thing to do with potting soil is to mix it with real dirt before you put it in a pot full of annuals that are only meant to live for the year. 

So if you’re working on a gardening project and you are planting something like a tree, you should never use potting soil to cover tree roots and expect it to grow. Potting soil is so light and fluffy, it can’t actually sustain hardy vegetation. Plants that exist in nature need real dirt to make up the ground. Be careful with what you’re using, and don’t be afraid to do some research.

Be careful of disease and bugs that can infect multiple plants. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Planting Too Many of the Same Plant

It is very common for people to plant something multiple times in a row. This is especially true when it comes to planting fruit and vegetables. Sometimes, this is the most efficient way for you to organize your plants. And it’s also something you see a lot in landscape design. However, issues can arise when a plant catches a disease, or becomes infected by an insect. Check out this article by HGTV about some of the most common plant diseases.

If you do have a lot of plants next to one another that are exactly the same, just keep an eye out for these issues. Sometimes, if you nip the problem in the bud immediately, you can stop it from spreading to the rest of your plants. But if you want to go for too long, it will spread like wildfire.

Make sure to label your seeds. Credit: Shutterstock

11. Forgetting to Label Your Plants or Seeds

If you are willing to put in the time and effort into planting your seeds in the early spring, just make sure you have labels ready. After you put the seeds into your pots, all of them are going to look exactly the same. And even when they start to grow to be a few inches long, you probably still won’t be able to identify what it is. This is why it’s crucial to label all of your seedlings, and have a good organization setup. 

 

Plant labels are actually a great gift to give someone who is thinking about getting into gardening. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and some of them are even reusable. Some people also save the pictures from the seed packet so that they have a visualization of what the plant is eventually going to look like.

A flat of annual flowers. Credit: Shutterstock

10. Only Buying Annual Flowers

Something I see people do every single spring is that they only buy annual flowers and put them in pots. There is nothing wrong with doing that. It’s quick and easy for you to have some annuals in your yard if you just put them in a pot. However, you should really consider buying perennials that will grow back every single year. You only need to buy them once, and you have those flowers forever, so long as you take care of them properly. 

My mom’s garden has been planned out so perfectly, there is always a new flower blooming every month of the spring and summer. Obviously, not everyone is going to have the time or budget to do this in one season. But it’s something you can work on over the years. My mom has been working on her garden for over 30 years. Garden features like this actually add to your property value. Her work added thousands of dollars to the value of the land, compared to just having grass and annual flowers in pots.

Make sure you harvest all of your vegetables without letting them go to waste. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Failing to Harvest Your Vegetables

Out of all of the gardening tips so far, this one might seem fairly obvious. You need to harvest your vegetables. But people get busy, especially if they are beginner gardeners. There are a lot of reasons why some people fail to harvest their vegetables properly. Maybe you tried to plant something, but your family doesn’t actually enjoy eating it.

 

No matter what the reason may be, failing to harvest is bad news. Those fruits and vegetables will begin to rot. This smells very bad, and it can also attract flies, bugs, rats, maggots, and more. Eventually, you’re going to have to clean that up. The only way to avoid this is to simply plant the vegetables you are absolutely sure that you are going to eat.

Watering your flowers like this doesn’t always make sense. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Spending Hours Watering Every Day by Hand

When most people imagine gardening in their backyard, they might picture themselves with a cute watering can and a pair of new rubber boots. However, using a watering can is actually one of the least efficient ways to water your garden. You need to fill the can up and then walk to your plants. It runs out of water a lot faster than you might imagine, and then you’re walking back to the water source. Obviously, it makes a lot more sense for you to use a hose with a spray attachment. There are also hose attachments made specially to spray your garden with liquid fertilizer. 

 

Even when you use a hose, this is not always the most efficient way to water your garden. Depending on the amount of plants you have on your property, this process could still potentially take you an hour or more. (Unless it rained that day.) Professional gardeners install a water drip system on their properties, instead. This is actually a lot cheaper than you might imagine. The Garden Answer YouTube channel has covered drip systems quite a lot, so I recommend going to check out their videos.

Sometimes a hole is far too deep for a plant to be healthy. Credit: Shutterstock

7. Making a Hole Too Deep 

When you plant something in your garden, the size of the hole matters. When a hole is too small and shallow, you’re not giving your plant enough space for their roots to grow. But if the hole is too deep in the ground, it won’t germinate properly. 

Before you get started, do a little bit of research before you dig a hole. Most of the time, you can read the tag that comes with the plant and find out that information. If it’s not included, you can look online to find the answer.

Wild animals are going to want a piece of your produce. Credit: Shutterstock

6. Failing to Protect Your Veggies from Wild Animals

If you plan to create a garden filled with fruits and vegetables, you need to protect them from animals. Chicken wire, fences, and tall planter boxes are all methods of keeping plants away from animals. Obviously, birds can fly, so sometimes they will still get into your stuff.

Keep in mind that if you have a chicken coop in your backyard, this can be an even bigger problem. Chickens love to get into your gardens! So make sure you protect your garden with chicken wire. The good news is that you can give the chickens the leftover veggies as treats if you want to get rid of peels and scraps.

Many plants will grow larger than you think. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Underestimating the Full Size of a Plant at Maturity

Earlier on the list, we mentioned how it’s important to plant things with enough space around them. You don’t want to plant to grow up and be knocking into something that you planted next to it. Another issue arises when you completely underestimate how tall the plant is going to be. For example, a lot of people love to plant hydrangeas in front of their house. However, they don’t realize that hydrangeas become huge bushes that grow up to 15 feet tall. This can cause a huge issue, especially if you don’t want it blocking the view of your house. 

 

Yes, it’s possible for you to prune the bushes and keep them smaller. However, this is a huge undertaking to maintain the size of a plant. And it’s a lot more difficult to move a fully grown plan that has rooted itself into the soil. Always figure out how big a plant is going to be before you actually put it into the ground.

If you harvest all of your vegetables at once, you won’t have any left. Credit: Shutterstock

4. Failing to Stagger the Times You Harvest Your Vegetables

If you’re starting a vegetable garden, you might get overly excited about harvesting your veggies. However, this is where a lot of mistakes happen. You shouldn’t necessarily pick every single fruit or vegetable as soon as you see it. To give you an example, tomato plants grow their fruits at different rates. So you can pick the fullest, ripest tomatoes, and leave the smaller ones for a few days or weeks until they are ready to pick.

Some produce needs more planning ahead of time if you want to harvest them properly. For example, you shouldn’t put all of your potatoes into the ground at the exact same time. If they all reach maturity at once, you are getting an overabundance of potatoes that you couldn’t possibly eat. But if you plant each of them a week apart, you’ll set yourself up to have free potatoes for the entire growing season. I personally made this mistake. Then, I looked up gardening tips on how to grow potatoes on YouTube. But by then, it was too late.

If you get too excited about produce, you can easily go overboard. Credit: Shutterstock

3. Growing More Than You Can Keep or Preserve 

When some people start a vegetable garden, they can sometimes go overboard. They get so excited by the idea of having fresh fruits and vegetables on hand, that they want to plant as much as possible. However, this can sometimes lead to issues.  Make sure that you are not letting your vegetables and fruit go to waste. Try to eat everything that you grow in your garden. If there is too much access, give it away to your family and friends. Or, you can learn how to start preserving and canning those vegetables and fruits for the winter time. 

If you have recently started a farm, you may want to consider starting a roadside vegetable stand. This can be a great way to make a little bit of extra money. Even if you don’t make a lot, this can at least make your money back for the investment you put into growing your garden.

Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you should buy it. Credit: Shutterstock

2. Buying Plants Just Because They’re on Clearance 

If you’re new to gardening, you might want to start with cheaper plants. This is common, because a lot of people are not sure if they have a green thumb or not. So they usually go for the plants that are on sale or clearance. However, if you’re only buying a plant because it’s cheap, that’s not necessarily a good reason to own it. When you don’t really care about a plant very much, it’s a lot easier to neglect and ignore it. 

According to the National Garden Association, house plant sales surged by 50% in 2019. The number grew even higher after the start of the pandemic. Instead of buying a plant on clearance, I suggest doing a little bit of research and finding a plant that you genuinely love. Even if it’s slightly more expensive then another plant option, all that matters is that you love it.

You don’t have to be perfect when you try to implement these gardening tips. Credit: Shutterstock

1. Trying to Be Too Perfect

Last but not least is that you should not get too caught up in trying to make your garden perfect. There are a lot of people out there who get into gardening as a hobby at first, and then they become obsessed. And if you watch gardening YouTubers all the time, you might also feel motivated to get to their level. If something is out of place, some gardeners spend hours trying to make it right. On one hand, this is good exercise, and it’s great for your mind and body. So time spent gardening is never a waste. This is a much healthier obsession than a lot of things in life.

 

But on the other hand, it can be a huge waste of time to worry about your garden being too perfect. Remember that your garden is a living thing. Plants are going to grow and eventually die. Weather could completely ruin your garden, and wild animals might get into your fruits and vegetables. There’s nothing you can do about the forces of nature. Just get out there, have fun, and enjoy nature to the fullest.

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