Good News! We Made These Mistakes So You Don’t Have To!
These are six of the most common gardening mistakes (and regrets) that experienced gardeners share. It can be overwhelming to learn to garden, and, while I encourage simply digging in and letting the garden be your teacher, there are some basic pitfalls you can avoid to save yourself a lot of headaches later.
I started my first garden on a budget of just $100 per year, and yes, I made a lot of rookie mistakes. Some of them, such as unknowingly introducing invasive plants, had long-lasting negative effects that I would not wish on anyone.
I hope by providing this information, you will benefit from our hard-learned lessons and get on with the fun part of creating a gorgeous, sustainable garden. Do as we say, not as we did!
1. Unrealistic Expectations
- Many new gardeners start too big, go over budget, get overwhelmed, and let it all go.
Instead: start small, try a few things in garden beds or containers and do them well.
2. Ignoring The Soil
- Most gardens benefit from ongoing soil amendments like compost and mulch.
Find out what your soil needs and provide it. There’s no point in adding good plants to bad soil.
3. Bad Plant Choices
There are two extremes gardeners regret:
- Fussy Plants that require too much coddling (extra watering or weather protection) to be worthwhile.
- Invasive Plants that take over the garden. You can see my invasive plant regret list here.
- What’s invasive in one area may not be in another: do your homework and focus on native plants or plants that are well-adapted for your area.
- Don’t be fooled by local garden nurseries or your neighbours: both may have invasive plants and not know it or provide them due to consumer demands despite known issues.
4. Ignoring Valuable Information
- Not reading plant tags – Plant and seed producers want you to succeed and they provide a lot of information on those tags to help you including where, when, and how to plant it, preferred conditions, best spacing, and how large the mature plant will grow. Believe them!
- Not reading seed packets – Good seed companies provide a tremendous amount of useful information on those little seed packets. Read them. You’ll save youreself a lot of mishaps.
- Got neighbours with great gardens? Ask them about known pests, problems, and of course, successes. They might just save you from some critical mistakes. But again, don’t assume because they tell you so, it’s true. Nod your head and then Google a few trusted resources for confirmation.
Short-Term Gains Without Long-Term Benefits:
- Annuals – so beautiful, yet so short-lived.
If you really want to establish a thriving, long-term garden, plant perennials. If you can’t resist the wow-factor of annuals, grow veggies! At least then you get beauty and food. If your budget is not limited, grow both perennials and annuals.
- Pesticides and Herbicides
Most home garden pesticide and herbicide use is short-sighted,. Consider your role as a steward of the earth. Is the problem you are trying to resolve really worth the secondary damage they may cause?
Keep in mind, there are no perfect gardening years. Each year some plants may thrive while others struggle. Pests tend to come in waves. Always weigh the long-term effects of your choices.
Don’t be fooled by “natural” versus “chemical” products. These are popular terms that can be meaningless. Do your homework and find out what they’re made of and what they really do. Personally, I hand-pick most pests and stick to organic practices.
- Common Garden Pests and Their Natural Controls: help for organic gardeners.
This should be #1: I’ve talked to so many gardeners over the years and the number one regret is putting off starting a garden.
- Whether you grew up gardening or are starting from scratch, there will be a learning curve, and that comes back to: just dive in! Avoid these common mistakes and make your own! You will indeed learn as you grow.