By Jenny Peterson

Here are some of the most common mistakes gardeners make, and how to avoid them.
Although most everyone in my family gardens, this is kind of a first-generation activity. My father loved to work in the yard, but didn’t really tinker in the garden, so we kids didn’t grow up learning about best gardening practices from him. Most of what I know is from trial and error, which is the way many gardeners learn. But you can learn from other people’s mistakes, too! Here are some of the most common mistakes gardeners make, and how to avoid them.
1. Planting a plant in the wrong spot. Some plants need full sun in order to grow and bloom, while others will burn in anything but shade. How about the plant that will eventually grow to 20 feet tall and is planted outside the dining room window? Know the growing requirements of your plants, along with their mature size, and choose a spot in your garden carefully before you plant.
2. Not mulching enough. What’s even worse is not mulching at all! Mulch is essential in holding in soil moisture and keeping weeds at bay. Plan on a good 3-inch layer of shredded hardwood mulch-although some very arid plants like agaves and yuccas will prefer being mulched with gravel or decomposed granite.
3. Not amending the soil. If you have rocky soil, shallow soil, or nutritionally depleted soil, you’re asking for trouble if you try to grow plants in it. Roots will have a hard time spreading out through bad soil, leading to weak plant growth. Sure, there are some plants that will grow anywhere you plant them, but that’s the exception to the rule. Plan to loosen up your soil and add all sorts of amendments to make it rich-compost, worm castings, peat moss, or even sand for drainage.
4. Not watering correctly. Some plants need daily watering (annuals like impatiens, for example), while others like cacti thrive in a once-monthly dousing. I’ve also seen people watering the foliage instead of watering down by the ground, where the water is absorbed, or irrigation systems going off at 3:00 in the afternoon, when the water can scorch the plants’ leaves. Water well, water efficiently, and water appropriately.
5. Not continuing to care for plants properly. There are best times of the year to plant, to prune, and to fertilize, and they can differ from plant to plant. Read up on the best care for your plants, and ask experts for suggestions! If you avoid the first four mistakes, but don’t continue to care for your plants appropriately, you’ll be back at step 1 next year!