The Top 5 Mistakes Made by the New Gardener
1. Planting at the
wrong time of year:
What this means will vary from place to place. While in some charmed
places most things can be planted year-round, the majority of locales
have definite planting seasons. For instance, in many areas of the
Southwest, fall is considered the best time to plant most shrubs,
trees, groundcover and lawns; if you live in the eastern part of the
U.S., however, you will wait until spring to install most of these
This timing issue also comes into play with annual flowers and
vegetables. Some flowers and vegetables like the warmth of the
spring and summer, while others prefer the coolness of the fall and
winter. The goal is to time your planting for the earliest part of
the season you are planting for, but not too early. Let's use
marigolds (a summer annual) for an example.
This plant likes heat, but can freeze if the temperatures are too cold. In some areas, you
might begin seeing marigolds for sale in the late winter. Can you
plant them then? Of course. Should you? Maybe not. Why? While it
might work--if temperatures don't drop too low--you could be
replacing your plants if they do.
If you are not sure whether to plant
something at a certain time, please ask us; we will tell you whether
it's the best time or if you would be better off waiting. Many
garden centers serve a fairly large geographical area and these areas
oftentimes have differing microclimates.
That is why you will sometimes see plants in your local garden center that may be out of
season for your particular area. The other thing to keep in mind is
not to plant too late. Planting too late will not allow your flower
or vegetable to achieve maturity before the cold (or warm) weather
comes and stops it in its tracks!
2. Planting in the wrong exposure:
While some plants will take any exposure, most prefer predominantly
sun or mostly shade. When you are shopping for your plant, take
notice of where the plant is situated in the garden center; this will
give you a good idea of where it will be happiest in your garden. If
you're not sure, ask.
3. Planting in the wrong zone:
Just because you see a pretty plant growing in the sun, does not
necessarily mean it will grow in the sun in your garden. Some plants
prefer hot, dry areas and some prefer cool, misty spots.
where the USDA Climate Zone chart (or in the west, the Sunset Western
Garden Climate Zone chart) will really help. Most plants sold in
garden centers are marked with their appropriate climate zone or if
they are not, the garden center staff can tell you if it will grow in
4. Planting plants with
different water requirements near each other:
Some plants prefer dry, well-drained soil and others like more water.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that you will be able to
manage the two effectively when they are planted next to each other--you won't. Save yourself the angst and use plants with similar
needs together. The plants will be happier--and so will you.
5. Watering too often, too
much, not often enough or not deep enough:
Whew! The above may seem like a contradiction, but what we're
trying to say is that plants have different watering needs and soils
(because of their differing compositions) respond to water
The most common mistake in regard to water is not watering enough (in
terms of frequency) and not watering long enough (in terms of
volume). A small plant can dry out quickly, especially in warm
weather. When first planted, it should be regularly monitored to
observe its water needs.
Also, you need to leave the water on long
enough to saturate the entire root-ball of the plant (for some things,
this might be longer than you think). Standing over the plant and
giving it a quick shower with your hose will probably not be enough.
Also, deeper watering encourages roots to go down, thus increasing
the plant's drought tolerance.
On the other side of the coin is the gardener who is so dedicated that he/she waters constantly.
This is not good either. Too much water (especially in heavy soils) can cause disease; eventually the roots of the plant will rot.
So, strive for vigilance but not obsession
when applying water to the garden.
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