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Top 10 Rookie Gardening Mistakes

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3. Not Giving Plants Enough Space
That ‘Doublefile’ viburnum looks so cute in its little black pot. Surely, you don’t really need to give it 15 feet of space the way the tag says. So you plant it between a couple other cute little shrubs (that also said they needed at least ten feet of space) and within a few years, you have a tangled mass o’ shrubs on your hands. It’s not pretty. The same can happen with perennials, which often look so dinky in their nursery pots (and even more so when you buy them bare root) but, in a few seasons, are choking each other out competing for sunlight and nutrients. Pay attention to the instructions on your tag or in plant catalogs for spacing your plants properly. If you don’t like how much space there is between them for the first couple of years, simply plant a few annuals between them. They’ll fill the void, and within a few years, you’ll find that your perennials, trees, and shrubs have filled in enough that you don’t need to plant them anymore.

4. Not Knowing Your Zone
Finding your USDA Hardiness Zone, as well as your Sunset Zone, is easy and, once you know your zone, you won’t waste money ordering plants from catalogs that need cooler or warmer climates than you can provide.

5. Haphazard Fertilizing
If one dose of fertilizer is good, two must be better, right? WRONG! First of all, we’re obviously talking about organic fertilizers here, not any of that Miracle Gro garbage. But even with organic fertilizers, you want to make sure you’re using the amount recommended on the package. Ideally, you’re practicing deep organic methods and making your own fertilizers from compost and compost tea, which is hard to go overboard with. Too much of any fertilizer can cause fast, spindly growth that is more susceptible to pests and diseases not to mention the danger of runoff into our water supply, where it wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. Just make sure to read the directions and stick to them!

6. Not Mulching
Mulching with organic mulches such as wood chips, leaves, or grass clippings, does several things. It reduces evaporation, keeping moisture in your soil where you need it. It discourages weeds, and helps keep the root zone of your plants cooler, which makes your plants less stressed. And, as it breaks down, it adds more organic matter to the soil. Mulch everything vegetables, herbs, perennials, trees, and shrubs, with at least a three-inch layer of mulch.

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Samantha, selected from Planet Green

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.


+ add your own
1:36PM PDT on Aug 20, 2015

Thank you Samantha.

1:03PM PDT on Jun 24, 2015

Thank you Samantha.

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!!!

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