10 Most Common Gardening Mistakes

It’s all fun and games until the garden takes a heavy frost – unfortunately, that’s one of the easiest mistakes to make as a gardener – planting too early! However it’s not the only one. Make sure you are able to identify and prevent these 10 common gardening mistakes, too.

In today’s guest post by Samantha Rainwater, she’ll walk you through just how to do that.

Here at J&R Pierce Family Farm, I think it’s important to connect my readers with valuable insight from other experts. Today’s post is a guest post brought to you by Samantha Rainwater.

Gardening is a fun and rewarding activity that is enjoyed around the world. While gardening is not necessarily done for survival purposes as much anymore, it is still a fun task to grow your own food or to grow beautiful flowers that add character to your home. 

As with nearly anything, however, there are mistakes that can be made in the gardening process which may make your experience less enjoyable than it would have otherwise been. 

most common gardening mistakes

**J&R Pierce Family Farm is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to allow sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products on Amazon. I often link to Amazon when recommending certain products, and if you choose to purchase, I may earn a small percentage of the sale. It costs you nothing extra, and all recommended products are ones that I personally vouch for. **

10 Common Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

common gardening mistakes
Photo: Unsplash

Gardening is a delicate process and is much more complex than simply providing the basic survival needs of your plants. There are a number of things to consider when planning out your garden, planting your garden, caring for your plants, and harvesting your crops. By reading up on some of the more common gardening mistakes that occur, you can better prepare yourself to avoid these mistakes all together. 

1. Planting Too Early

While you may be eager to get your seeds or seedlings planted in the soil, resist the urge to plant before the recommended planting windows for your growing zone. For most plants, it is important that they are not planted outside until frost is no longer a possibility—this includes overnight. Frost can easily kill most young plants and can prevent seeds from germinating and sprouting. 

If your plants are planted outside too early and are exposed to temperatures below their tolerance level, they may wilt, experience stunted growth, lose their leaves, or be susceptible to certain diseases due to their overall low health. 

Not only does the outside air need to be warm enough for your plants, but the soil temperature needs to be warm enough as well. If soil temperatures are too low when you do your planting, your plants may experience stunted growth or poor root development, resulting in below-grade plant quality. 

This mistake can be avoided by watching your local weather from a reliable source. While general planting windows may be available for each growing zone, each year is different, so it is important to stay up to date with the most current weather predictions. As a general guide, here is a link to ideal planting times by growing zone.

And if you planted too late? Don’t panic. Just put some row covers or cloches over your plants to protect them from a late frost.  

2. Planting in the Wrong Location

When planning out your garden, it is important to take location into consideration to ensure you don’t plant a shade plant in the sun, a sun plant in the shade, a delicate plant in the path of straight line winds, or any other problematic locations. 

When a plant that prefers shade is planted in a full-sun location, it may experience sun burn—also called sun scorch—because the leaves are not designed to take in much direct sunlight. Likewise, plants that require full sun may not grow to their full potential or produce crops if sunlight is not available. 

If the plant cannot get the energy it needs from the sun to perform, it will save the energy it can make for basic survival and won’t be able to flower, produce, or grow as much as it would have otherwise. Moreover, plants that are particularly tall may not do well in open areas because the wind can cause damage to them—especially if your home is in the country surrounded by nothing but fields. 

To avoid these mistakes, know the requirements and traits of each plant you are growing. Take some time to walk your garden area and determine which sections are full-sun, partial-sun, or full-shade areas. Also note the wind potential for your garden area along with potential waterlogging if your garden falls below or near a water source such as a pond. 

3. Choosing the Wrong Varieties of Seeds or Plants

Regardless of what you are planting, there are most likely a variety of sub-categories of the same species. For example, if you want to plant tomatoes in your garden, you will have thousands of different options to choose from, all with different traits. 

One of the first mistakes that can be made regarding plant varieties is choosing a variety that is not hardy in your region. Unfortunately, there may be plants that you cannot grow outdoors in your region altogether. In most cases, you just need to make sure you choose a variety that does do well in your growing zone. 

Another variety-related mistake that can be made when gardening is choosing a type of plant that is a hybrid when you want to save seeds for the following season. For many gardeners, it is fun to harvest seeds from their garden plants each season in order to grow the same plants the next year.

If that is your goal, choose heirloom varieties because hybrids will often cross pollinate with other species nearby, resulting in a whole new variety that is generally unpredictable in subsequent generations. 

The above mistakes can easily be avoided by researching your plants before purchasing them. Any nursery or seed source should have data on the plants that can tell you ideal growing zones along with characteristics such as hybrid or heirloom. 

4. Not Testing the Soil

If you suspect that your soil may not be quality or contains too much clay, it may be a mistake to start planting before you have it tested. Most counties have agricultural extension offices where soil samples can be taken for quality testing. Some soil may not have enough nutrients to support plant growth, while other soil may be too dense for proper water drainage to occur.

By not doing a soil test prior to planting, you risk losing all of your seeds or seedlings by planting them in soil that cannot support them. If nutrient content is the issue, certain fertilizers or compost can be added to help resolve the issue. If a test determines that your soil cannot support planting, the easiest solution is usually to build raised garden beds and add store-bought soil for a proper garden environment. 

As mentioned earlier, you can take a sample of soil to the agricultural extension office for your county or you can take your own sample at home. 

5. Overwatering

For many gardeners—particularly those who are new to gardening—overwatering is a common issue. Gardens that are overwatered tend to have gardeners who care greatly about their plants, but they become over-ambitious and accidentally provide more water than the plants can absorb.

Signs that your garden plants have been overwatered include wilting leaves, browning leaves, yellowing leaves, stunted plant growth, or diseased plants. Overwatering can cause harm to your plants by weakening the root system, blocking air from penetrating the soil—resulting in a lack of oxygen, and causing disease in the affected plants. 

Consider watering from below using drip irrigation methods – this will dramatically improve not only the quantity but the quality of the water your plants receive. 

To avoid overwatering your garden, know the specific water needs of each of your plants. It is also important to know what kind of soil you are working with as different soil types will retain more water than others. Finally, it is a good idea to monitor rainfall; if you receive heavy rainfall in a short period of time, you may want to avoid giving your garden extra water as this can result in accidental overwatering.  

6. Underwatering

On the other end of the scale, underwatering is as common of a mistake as overwatering, and it can cause just as many problems. Water is a vital necessity for all living things, and plants are no exceptions. Different types of plants will have different water requirements, so it is important to understand the watering needs of your entire garden. 

Some signs that you are underwatering your garden include stunted growth, brown and curling leaves, brittle and thin stems, and no flowers or produce on plants that should be flowering or producing. Soil that does not retain enough water can also be problematic because plants will draw water from the soil as needed. 

Avoiding underwatering is very similar to avoiding overwatering—even though they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Know your plants and your soil because these factors play major roles in determining water needs. Monitoring the weather to account for periods without rainfall is important also to ensure you are providing enough water manually. 

7. Not Growing Cross Pollinators

A common mistake that many new gardeners encounter is not realizing that some plants need other plants of the same or similar species to cross pollinate with in order to produce crops. Not all plants require cross pollination and can self-pollinate, so gardeners need to do their research ahead of time to determine if their specific plants and varieties require other plants to be planted nearby or not. 

One thing to consider if you realize you have a plant variety that requires cross-pollination is that many plants require a different variety of the same species in order for fertilization to occur. This means that planting two of the exact same plant may not be enough, and you will want to consider planting a different variety of the same plant for cross-pollination to occur properly. 

This mistake is easily avoided by researching your desired garden plants ahead of time and planning accordingly. If you don’t want to worry about cross pollinators, simply look for plants that can self-pollinate instead. 

8. Harvesting Too Early or Too Late

Harvesting is the rewarding part of your garden endeavors where you get to reap the benefits of your labor. It is important to harvest your crops at the right time and avoid harvesting too early or too late. While some crops can be harvested a little bit early and will continue to ripen after harvest, other produce will not continue ripening, therefore they must be kept on the plants until they are finished maturing. 

On the other hand, some crops can be left on the plant too long, resulting in damaged, eaten, or overripe produce. When certain crops are not harvested in time, they may start to fall off the plant, encourage pest damage, or even start to rot if left too long. Other plants, such as lettuce or basil, will start to flower if not harvested soon enough; once these plants have flowered, they are generally not suitable for consumption. 

The best way to avoid harvesting your crops too early or too late is to research general harvesting times on each of your plants and keep notes on when to expect certain plants to be harvest-ready. It is also a good idea to know what your crops should look like when they are ready for harvest; this will help with the visual inspection when you will decide what crops are ready and which ones are not. Here is a guide to some common vegetable harvesting times.  

9. Growing Too Much Produce

While this may not be a problem for the gardener with plenty of friends and family living nearby, growing too much produce can result in wasted food—and wasted efforts. It is easy to get carried away because there are so many great plants to grow and it’s hard to determine how many of each plant to grow in the garden. 

There are a few solutions to this common mistake. If you plan ahead, you can sit down and determine what crops you are truly going to need for your family—and any family or friends with whom you wish to share. 

If you’ve already grown too much produce, you can look into canning or freezing some of your produce, or find a local food bank to which you can donate extras. In reality, growing too much produce is never a true problem as long as you can find someone willing to take it or if you know how to preserve extras. 

10. Not Growing Pollinator-Attracting Flowers

Depending on where your garden is, you may not have a lot of pollinators nearby. Lack of pollinators is a problem when growing fruits, vegetables, or flowers as they are the primary source for pollination, so keeping them nearby is important.

Many flowers are more than just pretty additions to your garden and landscaping, many attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies. By planting these flowers in the vicinity of your garden, you will encourage natural pollination of the plants in your garden. 

If you have problems encouraging pollinators to your garden, hand pollination is also an option. Many gardeners who hand-pollinate will do so either with their fingers, with a paintbrush, or with a cotton swab. This is a simple process where you touch the pollen on the stamen of the flower and gently brush it onto the female flower to begin the fertilization process. 

There you have it! 10 of the most common gardening mistakes. Now that you know how to identify them, make sure you avoid making them in your garden this spring. 

What sorts of mistakes do you find yourself making? Be sure to let us know in the comments! 

Samantha Rainwater is a full-time business owner and recent mom who spends her free time writing. Her degree in Biology gives her a background in science, which she likes to apply on her small hobby farm. Writing about her experiences is one of her passions, and she finds joy in sharing her experiences with others. 

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Rebekah PierceI'm a writer and small farm owner, and lover of everything outdoors. I'm hoping to share my passion for farming, gardening, and homesteading with you on my blogging journey.

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