The Top 3 Mistakes New Gardeners Make

The Top 3 Mistakes New Gardeners Make

The beauty of a well-groomed garden is hard to beat. Emerald grass, pretty flowers, and lovely landscapes make for the kind of outdoor space that lends itself to meditation, wellness, and epic garden parties.

To get there, though, you’ve got to cultivate your green thumb. This means avoiding some common gardening gaffes. Here are the top 3 most common new gardener mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

  1. Not properly preparing beds

When you plant little seeds or seedlings in damp earth in the spring, it may seem like the itty bitty holes you make with your fingers (or a small shovel) make enough room. In fact, the soil can quickly dry out, becoming hard and uninviting to new plants. If a young seedling’s roots can’t penetrate down into the soil, your plants will end up stunted.

The fix: Dig and double dig! You want the garden beds to be nice and aerated and loose. Add lots of leaf mold and compost to loosen up the soil for a solid root run (room for the root to grow down). This is like doing all the prep work before you paint – ensuring the preparation is correct will make for easy growing once the seeds are actually in the soil.

Bonus tip: If you don’t want to dig deep, try making (or buying) raised beds.


  1. Over- or under-watering

This is an extremely common first-time gardener mistake. When you want to make sure your plants do well, it’s easy to overwater or think you’re watering when you’re really just spraying on top of a plant’s leaves.

It’s good to water frequently as seedlings or cuttings get rooted. But once they’ve become established and have a solid root system, you want to stop watering as much because, believe it or not, you could drown them. If the air pockets in the soil are constantly filled with water, roots can’t breathe.

Conversely, particularly if you water with a handheld garden hose, many first-time gardeners simply spray the top growth, showering the plant and thinking it has gotten a good drink. It hasn’t – the roots have gotten very little water.

This is problematic since plants drink through their roots. It’s known as “shallow watering” and it results in shallow root run, which then makes plants dependent on frequent watering. They wilt and tend to topple over easily since their roots haven’t grown deep enough to anchor.

The fix: Water frequently at first, but once plants have established themselves, cut down on the frequency. However, water deeply every time. If you’re nervous about doing this on your own, try a drip irrigation or a leaky hose watering system, both of which ensure deep watering. Bonus: they also save water.


  1. Using weed killers at the wrong time

If you’ve ever sprayed herbicide on a weed-infested patch of lawn only to discover that the nearby flower beds are dead the next day, you know what we’re talking about here. Even if you pick selective herbicides that will kill only dicot weeds in the lawn (sparing the grass), the wind can carry these sprays to the dicots growing peacefully in the nearby flower bed.

The fix: Avoid chemical herbicides whenever possible. If you do have to use them, do so on sunny, windless days. Both wind and rain (in the form of runoff) can carry them elsewhere. Your garden is an interconnected system, just as the whole earth is. Love and care for them both and they will love and care for you back.

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