10 Gardening Mistakes to Stop Making Now
Everyone wants a dream garden, but conservative budgets are one of the main factors that it make it difficult to bring that vision to life. Plus, it's easy for eager and overzealous gardeners to fall into the temptation to finally achieve that desired garden—and do so right now—by hastily filling their garden center shopping carts with the first colorful blooms that catch their eye or by grabbing the largest plants available. Many first-time gardeners also overlook important factors governing our gardens (or maybe consciously ignore because they can seem daunting and confusing), such as how much sunlight our perennial beds actually get in the summer, whether the temperature occasionally drops into the chilly teens in the winter, or the fact that our gardens have been cursed with seemingly unworkable clay soil.
Creating a garden—whether you're breaking ground and starting from scratch or adding a grouping of plants to a design that already exists—is a continual learning process filled with unexpectedly dead plants, mysteriously nibbled leaves, and strangely unharmonious vibes. While much of it can feel uncertain, one thing is for sure: gardens can be amazing teachers showing us some important life lessons, including the perennial truth that more is not always merrier, that doing our homework now will pay off later, and that impatience can be excruciatingly costly.
To give you a leg up on these garden teachings and to hopefully save you money, unnecessary frustration, and water (our planet's most precious natural resource), keep reading. We've collected some sage advice on the common pitfalls to avoid so you can start enjoying your dream garden sooner.
Not Making a Plan
If you visit a nursery without doing your homework and having an idea of what plants will work in your garden, then you could end up buying plants based on your whim and not what you actually need. Before going, understand your planting area in regards to temperature, sunlight amounts, soil conditions and whether you have hungry visitors like deer. Ideally, sketch out the space on graph paper and research plants you think will thrive.
Having a Big Idea
Of course, it's tempting to buy the biggest plants available to make a garden look completed, but the price of impatience is high. Consider purchasing plants as small as you can tolerate. Tip: Most annuals and some perennials should be bought in four-inch or cell packs because they are rapid growers and will catch up size-wise to larger containers in no time. Even consider planting from seed. One exception is if you are buying privacy trees or hedges then go ahead and splurge.
Encouraging Space Invaders
Plants grow. Repeat that phrase until you believe it because we all seem to ignore spacing recommendations to avoid unsightly bare spots. But if you overplant now, and your garden beds will soon be overcrowded, forcing you to pull out plants you paid for not so long ago. Plus, a congested garden can lead to disease and a decline in plant health. While you are practicing your patience skills, consider putting down some mulch in sparse areas.
Handing water your plants is not always ideal. While the chore sounds easy, relaxing even, and possibly cheaper than installing a pricey drip irrigation system, this method wastes water, stresses plants, compacts the soil, and creates excess runoff. Consider installing an irrigation system so that your plants' roots get the water they need and you get more free time.
Forgetting the Other Seasons
It's easy to put effort into making your garden its best during the spring and summer months when growth is prolific and people spend more time outdoors, but don't forget about the other months. A simple fix is to add evergreen shrubs and trees to your garden mix or choose some fall and winter blooming beauties with autumnal leaf tones or striking bark.
Having Flower Fever
Yes, flowers are undeniably beautiful, but a garden relying only on petals will lose its power when the last bloom falls. Countless plants with fabulous foliage exist with unique shapes, adorned with variegated patterns and some with colorful shades.
Being in the Dark
Remember that you will be enjoying your garden at nighttime, plus you and visitors need a safe way to get to the front door. Remedy this common oversight by installing outdoor lighting—even easy solar lights can make a huge difference. Not only will nighttime visibility improve but lighting can highlight garden features and create a charming ambience.
Creating Potted Pandemonium
More pots, containers, and garden accessories are not always better, much like jewelry. Too much decoration and excess random objects can create a busied look and make the space feel unharmonious and chaotic. To avoid a tchotchke vibe, be selective in your decoration purchases and choose one style of pottery and then create groups of three for a balanced feel.
Going Overboard with Color
A garden highlighting every color in the rainbow is not a pot of gold. Too many colors can be jarring to the eye. When designing a garden, stick to a limited palette.
Thinking of Soil as Secondary
All healthy, thriving gardens come down to excellent soil. Picking out bags of compost is definitely not as fun as picking out petunias, but without healthy soil, your garden will not thrive. Put in the extra time and make sure your soil has the proper nutrients it needs and has good drainage before you plant your first perennial.