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Top 10 Rookie Gardening Mistakes

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Top 10 Rookie Gardening Mistakes

By Colleen Vanderlinden, Planet Green

We were all new gardeners once upon a time. Oh, the mistakes we made. The plants we killed! The dumb choices we made. Mistakes and dumb choices will be a part of your gardening life until the day you set aside your shovel and pruners (or until they day they pry them from your cold, dead hands, in my case) and that’s a good thing. Mistakes help us learn. I can’t imagine gardening without them.

But beginner’s mistakes can be especially disheartening. There’s nothing worse than just getting started in a new hobby and watching everything you’re trying to grow just sit there pathetically when you dreamed of ripe juicy tomatoes and a garden full of flowers. With that in mind, here are the most common beginner mistakes I get questions about most often at the two garden blogs I write, as well as what to do to avoid them. In no particular order:

The Top 10 Rookie Gardening Mistakes

1. Clueless Watering
Many new gardeners kill new plants by either drowning them or letting them dry out too much, too often. There are a couple of things you can do to make sure you’re watering correctly:

  • Know your plant’s moisture requirements.Some plants like to stay consistently moist, while others prefer to dry out a little bit between waterings.
  • Check the soil regularly. Stick your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle. If it’s dry, it’s time to water.

2. Wrong Plant, Wrong Place
If you’re trying to grow tomatoes against a north-facing wall under a maple tree, you’re not going to have much luck. That’s an extreme example, perhaps, but knowing whether your plant needs sun or shade, or prefers dry or moist soil, and then giving it those conditions, will go a long way toward ensuring success in the garden. Make sure you’re buying plants that fit the conditions in your garden. This will also help you avoid many pest and disease problems, since stressed plants (including those unhappily growing in the wrong conditions) attract pests and are more susceptible to disease problems. This information can be found on plant tags, or in catalog descriptions.

Related: Cabin Fever? Start Planning the Garden!

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Planet Green is the multi-platform media destination devoted to the environment and dedicated to helping people understand how humans impact the planet and how to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Its two robust websites, and, offer original, inspiring, and entertaining content related to how we can evolve to live a better, brighter future. Planet Green is a division of Discovery Communications.


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6:00AM PDT on Mar 9, 2014


7:43PM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

thank you for the advice, will share the article with newbies

3:08AM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

Beautiful and bountiful gardens are worth the work!

1:11PM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

Great article,thanks for sharing

12:05PM PDT on Jun 7, 2013

Thank you.

3:03PM PDT on Jun 6, 2013


8:24AM PST on Dec 30, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

3:44PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

At the end of last summer, I was so disappointed with my gardening experience, I swore I'd never try again! Out of the many tomato plants I tried growing in containers, we got to taste one little cherry :( But alas, as Spring nears, it seems that I've caught the fever! I'm very excited to try again! Hopefully, this year will bring about a much larger harvest! Thanks so much for the tips! Here's to try, try again!!!

5:24PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

I am going to show this to my boyfriend. Hopefully this will help with the fact that his tomatoes (and the rest of the veggies he tried to grow this year) are tiny and rather sad-looking.

... We should also probably pay more attention to WHEN the plants are supposed to be planted. The lateness of the planting is probably what is killing the gladioli I planted.

5:13AM PDT on Jul 21, 2011

Thanks for the tips.

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