7. Half-Assed Soil Preparation
This is a pretty common issue. Say you want to plant a vegetable garden. You clear an area of grass, and then plop your vegetable seedlings in, water, and walk away. As the season progresses, you wonder why your plants are just kind of sitting there. They’re alive, but they’re not thriving, and the bountiful harvest you dreamed of is just not happening. Soil preparation is important, whether you’re growing a vegetable or herb garden, or planting a border of shrubs and perennials. At the very least, you need to loosen the soil to a depth of twelve inches and incorporate several inches of compost or composted manure before planting. Ideally, you’d get your soil tested to see exactly which nutrients your soil is deficient on so you can amend it properly.
8. Sun/Shade Fairy Tales
I think every gardener has done this at least once and some (ahem) continue to do it, so it’s not exactly a newbie mistake. Say you want to plant a beautiful ‘New Dawn’ climbing rose. They need absolute full sun to thrive, and you have maybe half a day of sun before you yard is shaded by your house. It’s very easy to say “A half day of bright sun should be plenty!” and plant it anyway. The rose will live for a while, but the blooms will be much fewer, and most likely much smaller than they should be. Your plant will be more susceptible to diseases, especially fungal diseases. The same thing happens with vegetable gardens – most vegetables need at least six hours of full sun to thrive (though there are some that will grow with some shade) and the gardener is disappointed by poor yields. This is an easy one to fix: pay attention to the sun exposure recommendations for what you’re planting, and plant accordingly.
9. Not Knowing Your Site
Hand-in-hand with the issue of not being honest or fully cognizant of your sun exposure is the common mistake of not fully knowing your site before you plant. Every yard has areas that are more windy, or more prone to flooding in heavy rain, or that are just hot and dry and a pain to work with. When you plant before you know these things, what you get is a lot of frustration and dead plants. Spend a little time really getting to know your garden before you do a lot of planting. Spend a few weeks observing your site before you decide what to plant. It will save you a lot of annoyance later on.
10. Listening to “Experts”
It might be weird to finish a post about garden newbie mistakes with a tip about not listening to the experts, but I’m weird like that. When it comes down to it, after you’ve spent some time observing, planting, and growing your garden, you become the expert. No one, no matter how much they know, knows your garden as well as you will. They may tell you “you can’t grow lettuce in November in Detroit!” but they’d be wrong, because you know you have this one awesome little spot where the foundation of your house keeps the soil warm enough to grow well into November. Trust yourself. You’ll make some mistakes, but you’ll be a better gardener because of them.