Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby to begin, but comes with some important things to keep in mind. There are a lot of potential pitfalls that one can fall into, ranging from annoying to some that can outright kill your plant. I’ve personally made mistakes in the garden, and hope to spread a bit of my knowledge to help other aspiring gardeners avoid making the same ones. Below you’ll find listed 10 of the most common gardening mistakes we’ve experienced to help you grow the best garden with the least effort!
One of the most common mistakes for beginner gardeners is vastly overestimating how much water their plants need. It can be easy to look at your plants and think they need daily watering, but in many instances, this is not the case! For most plants, in moderately humid environments, watering once to twice a week is more than enough. Some even need less than that.
The trick is to check the soil and use its moistness of it to determine whether it needs water. Most plants won’t need water until the first inch of the soil is dry. This is a good rule of thumb, but doesn’t apply to all plants; so make sure to read up on your particular species’ needs!
This is also important to watch during the winter months. Many plants grow more slowly during the winter, and therefore need less nutrients. This includes water. Always take extra care to check the soil before watering in the cooler months to prevent overwatering.
Another good tip, especially in dry environments, is to lightly mist the plant with a spray bottle between watering. This helps keep exterior leaves moist and healthy without having to soak the rest of the plant.
The problem with overwatering is it can quickly lead to root rot. This happens when the plants receive too much water, and the roots of plants sit in too highly saturated soil. This can eventually kill the plant, so it’s important to watch out for it. The ways to prevent this is to make sure to use well-draining pots, as well as not overwatering in the first place.
The inverse to the above point, many gardeners are also guilty of under-watering. Many times this can simply be from forgetfulness, but it also frequently stems from fear of overwatering. It’s very easy to try not to overwater and then accidentally under-water!
The best advice remains the same, always check the soil! Know your plant, understand how wet the soil should be, and go from there.
When first starting out, make a habit to check the soil daily. After a while though, it’s likely you’ll have a good idea of how often your plant needs to be water, but it’s still smart to build good habits early.
3. Filling a Large Container In the Wrong Place
One of the more comical mistakes is filling a large container with soil, and then attempting to move it. For those that don’t know, dirt is heavy…Really heavy!
It can be a pain to move a dirt-filled container, and a huge waste of time to remove and replace the soil. If you’re growing in a sufficiently large container, make sure to fill it where you want it to end up. While not a strictly gardening tip, this has happened to me enough times that I wanted to call it out and spare you the embarrassment.
Another common mistake is putting plants in areas that do not get enough light. This is especially a problem in winter months when the light is less intense. While it may have been sufficient during the summer, the lessened intensity during the cooler months can spell trouble for your plants.
The best weapon here is knowledge, knowing your plants and their needs. Plants vary wildly in their light needs, and can even have different requirements depending on their stage of growth and the season. Make sure you know what types of and how much light your plants need, and gauge that those needs are satisfied year-round.
A good way to get that extra light is to utilize grow lights. These can be bought and operated cheaply, and are an excellent way to add a few hours of bright light a day.
5. Buying Sickly Plants
A good way to crush your gardening dreams before they’ve even begun is to buy the wrong plants. Buying weak or sickly plants is a surefire way to make things harder than they need to be.
The best advice for buying high-quality plants is to visit a reputable nursery. A good nursery specializes in plant care and is likely to have the highest quality, healthy, and pest/disease-free plants available. They’re also very knowledgeable in what they do and can help find plants that match your specific growing conditions. While typically more expensive than a big box store, the help they offer is oftentimes worth it for beginner gardeners.
For those looking to stretch their budget a bit more, going to a larger chain store is likely to be a bit cheaper. Here though, the stock usually varies a bit more in quality, and the knowledge of the staff is likely to be more general. Take care to examine any plants before you buy them. Look for signs of pests, wilting leaves, sickly stems, and other signs of issues. If a plant doesn’t look 100% it’s a good idea to keep looking and hold off buying that one.
Using the wrong containers is many times related to the size of the plant. A container is generally a limiting factor if too small, and can prevent your plants from reaching their potential. This also applies to certain types of plants that have unusually wide or deep root systems. Planting a deep root plant in a shallow container can limit its growth. Once again, understanding the type of plant you have goes a long way.
Another common mistake is forgoing the drainage holes in a container. This is often an issue in decorative or improvised containers like mason jars. If you look at a typical clay pot, you’ll see a good amount of drainage holes that help to prevent overwatering. Without these, it’s very easy to overwater and kill your plant! If your container doesn’t have good drainage, you can either opt to make your own if possible or take extra precautions like filling the bottom with small pebbles.
7. Not Pruning
Keeping good pruning practices is essential to good plant growth and something many newer gardeners are a bit hesitant to do. While cutting off pieces of your plant may seem a bit counterintuitive, it actually helps to promote healthy growth. This is especially the case when removing dying or dead branches/leaves as they are prime targets for pests.
Keep an eye on your plants, and if the leaves start to look weak or ragged don’t be afraid to cut them back. This also applies to the regular harvesting of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. When you harvest, you encourage your plant to grow more.
8. Not Using Fertilizer
Plants grown in containers generally need to be fed more than those grown in natural soil outdoors. Potting soil typically only comes with some nutrients, and it is quickly washed out due to watering. New nutrients can’t be naturally created like outdoors, so it’s up to you to make sure your plants are fed.
Your fertilizing schedule is going to depend on your plants and the season. The needs of each plant differ, and some go dormant in the winter months and don’t require feeding at all. Read up and find out what your plant prefers.
It’s also important for most plants to regularly re-pot. Generally, once every 1-2 years, change out the soil in your container to give your plant a fresh place to grow.
9. Having Different Plants in Similar Locations
This problem affects a lot of beginner gardeners who go out and buy a wide range of plants to start with. The real problem is then when each is placed in the same location and cared for in the same manner.
All plants are different, and even similar ones may have different requirements for light, watering, and general care. Keep each plant in mind when deciding the makeup of your garden, and don’t, for example, keep all your plants in partial shade because that’s what one of them requires.
10. Growing Too Much at Once
Another mistake common among beginners is being a bit overzealous at first. While it’s great to be excited about gardening, it’s important to manage your expectations and start slow. Too many gardeners go out, buy a dozen different plants, and then get discouraged when none or only a few grow.
The fact is that gardening requires a time investment, and the more plants you grow the more time you need. This is even more so when growing from seeds that require extra special attention.
If you’re a beginner gardener, the best advice is to start small and grow. Pick a couple, maybe 2-3, of similar type plants and grow those. It’s also easier if you pick plants that have similar care routines. Then, slowly grow from there making sure to leave space as your plants become larger!
Hopefully, this list will help you in your gardening endeavors and keep you from repeating our mistakes. With a bit of persistence, anyone can grow a beautiful garden both indoors and out!