Gardening can be such a fun way to de-stress and relax, grow your own food, or just get outside and enjoy some fresh air. But plants can be very temperamental, and even a small gardening mistake can prevent you from having a bountiful harvest at the end of the season.
What works for one plant may not work for another, and sometimes—no matter how hard you try!—a plant just doesn’t want to grow. To help you out on your journey, we rounded up some of the most common gardening mistakes and exactly how to avoid them.
6 Common Gardening Mistakes You Might Be Making
1. Not Reading the Tag Before Buying
Some plants love the sun, while others do just fine sitting under the shade of a tree. Before buying plants at your local nursery, make sure you have the right conditions for them. If you want a plant that loves the sun, for instance, you should have a space where it can get full sun—aka around six hours of direct sunlight a day—in your garden.
One way to ensure a plant’s happiness is to buy ones that are native to your area. They’re typically already accustomed to things like the natural climate and acidity of the soil. For some outside help, check out Native Plant Finder or download the Planta app.
A common problem many beginner gardeners encounter is overwatering their plants. New seedlings require more water than established plants. That being said, seedlings also need time for the soil to dry out, which makes their roots search for water, resulting in a more extensive root system. Once a plant is more established, watering less frequently is okay.
Understanding each plant’s individual watering needs is a necessity, and growing plants with similar needs together can help prevent over- or underwatering. Pro tip: Instead of just using water from the hose, also try using leftover water from your drinking glass (or even collect rainwater!) to water your plants.
3. Planting Too Close Together
Certain plants don’t mind a little overcrowding while other plants—like carrots and radishes—need more room in order to grow big and strong. Once sprouted and about two inches tall, plants like carrots need to be thinned. Although it may seem like a waste to pull out perfectly good plants, it’s better to have fewer healthier plants than more unhealthy ones.
Additionally, if you avoid over-planting, you can steer clear of inviting in more pests and worrying about unexpected drainage and light issues. By doing this, you also avoid getting more plants than you know what to do with.
4. Planting Seeds Too Deep
Bigger seeds like peas, beans, and corn need to be planted deeper in order for them to get enough moisture and sprout. On the other hand, seeds like radishes, lettuce, and many herbs require light and warmth in order to germinate. Making sure to read the package before planting can prevent you from planting a seed deeper than needed.
5. Planting Fast-Spreading Plants
Plants like mint and lemon balm—and anything with “creeping” in the name—are plants that, if given the chance, can and will take over. If you’re planting them for ground cover, this could be a good thing. But oftentimes we plant them in the garden, not realizing they’ll be nearly impossible to get rid of.
Our recommendation? Put these fast-spreading plants in individual pots instead of the garden. That way, you won’t have to worry about them taking over the space of your other plants.
6. Thinking About Soil Last
Just like a building needs a solid foundation, plants need fertile soil in order to grow big and strong. While some plants might do okay with the natural soil you already have, other plants won’t even take root if it isn’t exactly what they like.
Thus, doing your research before planting—and continuing to properly fertilize your plants—will help grow healthy plants. Sure, reading up on soil isn’t the most fun task in the world. With that being said, it will definitely benefit you in the long run.
No matter how much reading you do, growing amazing, beautiful plants mainly just takes time and patience. Also, a whole lot of trial and error. So don’t let these gardening mistakes prevent you from getting your hands dirty. No one starts with a green thumb—it comes with time.