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9 Common Gardening Errors and How to Avoid Them



9 Common Gardening Errors and How to Avoid Them

Did you know that 76% of Americans with a yard consider it one of the most vital parts of their home? So, it’s no wonder roughly the same percentage (72%) say a yard is at the top of their wish list should they look for a new home.

After all, a yard lets you connect with nature in the comfort and safety of your home. It also enables you to enjoy gardening, which can aid in preventing osteoporosis. Gardening can even help improve your mental health.

However, you might feel stressed instead if you commit common gardening errors. That’s because many of these mistakes can damage your lawn and plants.

To that end, we created this guide discussing the most common gardening blunders. Read on to discover what they are so you can avoid committing them yourself.

1. Not Testing Your Soil’s pH

A soil’s pH is a measurement of its acidity or alkalinity. It ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 to below 7.0 being acidic and anything above that being alkaline. A pH of 7.0, in turn, is neutral, meaning it’s neither acidic nor alkaline.

Too acidic soils can deprive plants of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. By contrast, too alkaline soils can cause plants to be deficient in iron, boron, manganese, or zinc. Either way, these imbalances can affect plant growth or even kill them.

For those reasons, it’s wise to test your garden soil’s pH if this is your first time planting. You can conduct a test with an easy-to-use home soil testing kit.

Once you have the results, the next step is to consider what you’re planting. Most plants thrive in soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5. Likewise, beneficial earthworms and microorganisms prefer that range.

However, some plants, including blueberries and azaleas, like acidic soils (pH 5 to 5.5). Others, like asparagus and lavender, prefer soil with slight alkalinity.

If your soil is too acidic, you can increase its pH with a liming material, such as powdered lime or limestone. On the other hand, if it’s too alkaline, you can decrease its pH with organic materials, compost, or manure. Sulfur and aluminum sulfate can also reduce alkalinity.

2. Planting Without Preparing Garden Soil

Plant roots will only spread and grow deep enough if the soil is rich, soft, and well-aerated. Without these soil qualities, plants won’t grow and be productive.

Thus, only plant something in your garden after you’ve prepared the soil.

The first step in preparing garden soil is clearing out rocks, debris, or weeds. Then, use a spade to free up a handful of soil and squeeze that chunk of dirt with one hand. If it remains balled up, the soil is too wet; if it’s powdery or has large clumps, it’s too dry.

What you’re looking for is soil that crumbles freely. In this case, you can proceed to plow or spade the area.

After plowing or spading, inspect the earth and remove any rocks or debris you see. Next, break down larger clumps with a garden fork or hand cultivator. Finally, add two to three inches of organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, to the soil.

Once you’ve completed soil preparation, you can start planting.

3. Ignoring Weeds

The world is home to 250,000 plant species, 3%, or about 8,000 of which classify as “weeds.”

Weeds are undesirable plants for gardens because they grow where they aren’t wanted. They compete with other plants for nutrients, sunlight, water, and space.

Some weeds, like dandelions, already have live roots implanted in the soil. These are what you call perennial weeds. Since they’re already alive, they can grab resources as soon as they become available.

That’s how weeds often outgrow other plants, especially those that have to start from seed. Even worse, they can grow better than and kill your precious plants.

For the same reason, never make the mistake of ignoring any weed you see. Instead, remove them by pulling or digging them out from their roots.

Another reason to eliminate weeds is that they attract lawn pests. Examples are grasshoppers, beetles, and moths, which feed on almost all types of plants.

4. Not Mowing Your Lawn Enough

Mowing at least once a week should be a critical task on your garden maintenance checklist. It’s vital because it ensures your grass is at an appropriate length. Correct turf length or height, in turn, promotes proper plant photosynthesis.

If allowed to grow too long, the bottom of each grass blade won’t receive enough sunlight. That’s because the blade’s highest sections may cast a shadow over them. Their tips may also overlap the lowest areas of the leaves next to them.

Over time, that can result in the sunlight-deprived areas of the grass turning yellow. It won’t be long before they completely turn brown and die.

Also, unkempt grass attracts pests. After all, the more leaf surface, the more food critters can eat.

Some pests, like fleas and ticks, also love to hide within long grass blades and leaf litter. Fleas can cause allergy dermatitis in dogs and cats but can also bite humans. Ticks are also dangerous; they can spread at least five known diseases.

5. Overwatering

Overwatering can drown turf grass and plants and trigger root rot. The excess water not absorbed by the plants can also attract weeds and pests. For instance, molds and fungi can grow on overwatered sections of your lawn.

Excess water can also form pools, especially on ground that isn’t level. When that happens, mosquitoes can start breeding out in your garden. You don’t want that, as they bring malaria, which kills over a million people yearly.

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To avoid those problems, your weekly garden watering routine should only use 1 to 1.5 inches of water. It’s also wise to spread that across two days, just in case it rains. Use the weather forecast in your area to adjust your watering schedules.

6. Not Maintaining Your Landscape Irrigation System

In the U.S., household leaks waste almost 900 billion gallons of water yearly. Ill-maintained and misused landscape irrigation systems contribute to that waste. A defective or incorrectly used irrigation system can waste up to 25,000 gallons of water a year.

Aside from wasting precious water, faulty landscape sprinklers also jack up water bills. They can also drown your garden plants and attract more pests like mosquitoes.

Prevent those problems by hiring a professional to inspect your landscape irrigation system.

When hiring an inspector, choose one certified by a local WaterSense-labelled irrigation program. It’s a partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

7. Underwatering

Underwatering can occur due to a faulty irrigation system. For instance, its sprinklers may have developed clogs, preventing them from releasing water. The problem may also be due to a busted rain sensor, a cut wire, or a broken timer.

Like overwatering, underwatering can also cause plants to wilt. It may also lead to stunted plant growth. The longer the problem goes on, the higher the risk of plant death.

That’s another reason to ensure your gardening maintenance checklist includes annual sprinkler servicing.

8. Sticking To One Type of Garden

Not introducing various types of gardens into your yard can cause pest infestations. That’s because pests, including insects and pathogens, tend to have food favorites.

For example, a disease called Verticillium wilt favors the Rosacea (rose) family. Soil-borne fungi known as Verticillium dahliae and Verticillium albo-atrum are behind this disease.

If you only maintain a rose garden, your plants will become more susceptible to that illness.

Unfortunately, Verticillium wilt-causing fungi also infect members of the Solanaceae family. These include bell and chili peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, million bells, and petunia.

Thus, you’d want to grow various types of gardens with plants prone to different pests.

For example, let’s say you want your yard to feature a rose garden. Then, you should also grow herbs and vegetables resistant to Verticillium wilt. These include celery, carrots, asparagus, sweet potatoes, beans, and peas, to name a few.

9. Planting In-Ground All the Time

In-ground gardens provide benefits such as ease of maintenance and lower water requirements. However, they also have several drawbacks, such as soil compaction and poor draining.

Compacted soil has particles with little to no pore space between them. That inhibits plant growth because their roots can’t spread.

As for soil with poor drainage, it promotes waterlogging, which, in turn, can drown plants. It also induces root rot, ultimately leading to plant death.

Many plants are also more susceptible to waterlogging and root rot. These include rosemary, tomatoes, and peppers, to name a few.

Fortunately, you can prevent those problems with a raised garden bed.

A raised garden bed allows the soil to drain better than an in-ground garden. It also helps prevent soil compaction and plant damage due to foot and machine traffic. Plus, its elevated feature makes it ideal for people with mobility issues.

Avoid These Common Gardening Errors

As you can see, most common gardening errors can result in plant disease and death. Others, like failure to maintain an irrigation system, can also waste resources.

Therefore, to keep your precious plants healthy, do your best to avoid such mistakes.

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