The 5 most common "new gardener" mistakes

By Sye Macey

As a new, or inexperienced, gardener you will most likely make a fair few mistakes before you really get the hang of it. But, one of the most amazing parts of gardening is that you can learn so much from it. You will learn how to appreciate the art of patience, humility and self-discipline, and hopefully make some new friends through it too.

Whilst some people have a secret knack for just throwing things in a pot and letting them grow however they please, the majority of us gardeners don’t have such luck, and we need to do thorough research and planning in order to have a garden full of life and healthy plants. 

There are so many mistakes that you can easily make as a new gardener, but the key thing to remember is that we have all made them at some point, and even experienced gardeners struggle sometimes - even if they have done everything right! 

Whilst some of the advice you find online is universal, and you may also find your own way of growing things and taking care of them, there are lots of things you can find out to ensure you have the healthiest of gardens. 

Here, we’re starting you off with the five most common gardening mistakes and how to avoid them!

1. Get to know your garden

Before filling it with shrubs, plants and vegetables you need to get to know your garden. You need to understand the climate in your neighbourhood and make a note of where the sun lays across your garden, how much rainfall you typically receive and are there any parts of your garden that are particularly affected by the wind. All of these aspects of the climate can have both a positive and negative impact on your garden, depending on the type of plants you’re growing.

2. Check the soil

Once you’ve decided to start gardening, it can be tempting to just get planting straight away. However, this is often one of the easiest ways to create extra work for yourself. You need to check what kind of soil you have in your garden, and find out what type of plants work best. You can buy and add your own soil into pots and flower beds, but this will still depend on what you want to plant. 

Using the wrong soil can create a number of problems, including increased chances of root rot, poor drainage and stunted growth. However, using the right soil is often the key to a healthy, happy garden. 

Healthy soil contains millions of bacteria, organic matter and organisms that are necessary for supporting strong growth, and you should always try to avoid adding chemicals to it.

Your soil could be mostly sand, clay or loam and each will require different preparation methods before planting and caring for your grasses.

Sandy soil

Can be difficult for new gardeners to work with, but it is easy to dig up, provides excellent drainage and is well aerated. However, the issue is that sandy soil does not retain water and increases the chance of fertiliser burn. Sandy soils can be mixed with compost or manure, depending on your garden, and mulching becomes important to help keep the moisture and nutrients in the roots of your plants and grasses. Sandy soil also requires continuous care and upkeep, so make sure you prepare it well before planting.

Clay soil

Clay can be a difficult medium for plants to establish themselves if you've picked the wrong ones as it can easily become waterlogged and heavy to work with, but on the plus side clay can save you a lot of extra effort because it is packed full of nutrients and retains water well. 
To improve clay soil and make it more appealing to work with you should consider adding organic matter to it, such as compost or manure, as this will help to lighten the soil, improve the drainage and provide more air space throughout the soil, all of which are vital for growth.

Loamy soil

Loamy soil is a mixture of sand, silt and clay and is one of the most adequate soils to work with. It easily provides ideal drainage, retains plenty of moisture and nutrients and adapts to the warm weather in the spring and summer.

Most gardens will thrive in loamy soil, but you will still need to take care of it by occasionally adding organic matter. Whilst trial and error is okay, it is always better to speak to an expert if you're looking for help on how to start gardening, or if you need advice on how to care for your lawn.

3. Not every critter is a pest

It is often misunderstood that anything crawling over your garden is a pest, and that simply isn’t true. Whilst there are plenty of pesky critters that will eat everything in sight and leave you with a browning, unhappy looking garden, many other bugs and insects are beneficial for a healthy garden.

Our plants need bees and spiders to pollinate and keep away the pests, but slugs are not going to be your friend!

Choose your pesticides carefully and take into consideration whether or not they will be harmful to pets and children, if you have them. Not all pesticides are healthy and some can cause more damage than warding off unwanted guests. 

You should consider trying to invite the following into your garden:

Bees, birds, butterflies and spiders by planting a range of colourful plants that have nectar and pollen, lay mulch when the time is right and grow plants native to your region.

Bats by providing a source of water and growing night-scented flowers, keep cats indoors and remove any artificial lighting overnight. 

But try and ward off:

Snails by adding wood chips or bark, or scattering coffee grounds over your flower beds.

4. To fertilise, or not to fertilise?

This is a really tricky question for many novice gardeners and will definitely depend on the climate, the type of soil and the plants and grasses that you have in your garden.

There are many things to look out for when considering fertilising your plants, including whether or not to make your own fertiliser, what levels of nitrogen to look for and how, and when, to apply it.

Using fertiliser incorrectly can cause stunted growth, fertiliser burn from the chemicals, or death of the plant by feeding it too many nutrients and chemicals.

If in doubt, use fertiliser infrequently and at a lower dosage to avoid killing your plants completely, as you can always feed it again if you find out you haven’t used enough, but it is hard to revive your plant from burns or overfeeding.

5. Be thrifty!

It can be incredibly easy to spend $300 in one afternoon at the local garden centre, but in most cases it is probably unnecessary.

It’s also not the best idea because the next time you visit a plant store or a nursery you will probably find that you could quite easily spend another few hundred dollars.

Learn to spend in moderation when it comes to your garden and try to find items that are on sale, in the bargain stores or through neighbors.

With the rise of technology and social media, more and more gardeners are joining online forums, Facebook groups and even the younger generations are creating Instagram accounts just for plants and gardening.

Through these channels you will find never-ending advice, potential plant swaps and sales and the opportunity to make many new friends. Whilst this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it is certainly an excellent way to make your hobby a more sociable one. 

You may need to spend some money on a decent set of gardening tools, as they will be key to taking care of your lawn and plants safely. However, fertiliser and pesticides do not need to cost a lot of money, and neither do plants if you know where to shop.

Whilst this list is not exhaustive of the number of mistakes you can make in the garden, it is a collection of the most common ones.

Remember of you ever have any garden maintenance issues that you are unsure how to deal with, or frankly lack the time, you can call one of our experts.

We have mentioned that trial and error can sometimes work out, but more often than not it can result in necessary plant death and a lot more work for you!

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