I started my first flower and herb garden years ago thinking I knew all about flowers. After all, my parents had grown their own huge vegetable garden my entire life. While I tried to avoid working in it as much as possible, I thought, “How hard could it be?” Answer: Pretty hard. I killed my fair share of plants by making common mistakes new gardeners make. Whenever someone tells me they have a black thumb, I share these easy tips to help avoid killing off their crop.
5 Common Mistakes New Gardeners Make:
1. Not reading the instructions on the plant. Plants can be picky. Different plants prefer different soils, different amounts of light, and different amounts of water. Planting a plant that requires full sun in a shady area (or vice versa) is asking for trouble. It may not die, but it won’t grow full and lush either. Spindly, sickly looking plants don’t make a pretty garden.
2. Overcrowding the Plants. Most of us want our garden to have an overflowing look. (I know I do because it crowds out weeds.) But, plants that are too close together will compete for nutrients in the soil and not thrive. There is also the risk of fungal infections in some plants when they are overcrowded, as I discovered with my crop of Bee Balm.
3. Buying Perennials for the Wrong Planting Zones. I love perennials. They come back year after year and usually spread over more of my garden. I can remove the excess perennials and plant them in different areas, giving me more plants without having to purchase them over and over. When I first started planting, I wanted to grow the lovely tropical flowers found in Florida. Great idea, except my planting zone is 7 and their planting zone is 9. I could grow them in our hot, humid summers, but when the weather took a dive into our uncertain winter temperatures, they died. Once I realized I could still find lovely flowers that grew in my planting zone, my garden took on new life.
4. Not Preparing the Soil. We live in Georgia where the soil tends to be red clay. This is not optimal for plants as it tends to compact the plants. Once we learned how to turn the soil and add nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer, the flowers began to improve. Check to see which types of soil are common in your area and if they need improvement before you plant.
5. Over or under fertilizing. Most plants have specific fertilizer requirements and need a mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. I try to use organic fertilizers as much as possible since I grown many edible herbs. Egg shells are a good way to add calcium to the soil, coffee grounds mixed with hay or grass clippings can add nitrogen, and Epsom salts can add magnesium. Plus, these are all cheaper than purchasing commercial fertilizer!
What are your favorite gardening tips?