Top 5 Gardening Mistakes

Brown thumbs, lend me your ears.

We’ve all been there – a bright and lively plant reduced to a pile of wilted leaves overnight. Don’t give up. Read on to see if you’re making one of these common mistakes.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Having Too Many Plants

I’ll be the first to say I’m guilty of this. I turn into a kid at a candy store the minute I walk into a garden center. Variety is always great, but if you’re just starting out you may find it difficult to care for the individual needs of multiple plants. Start small and build from there.

Photo by: Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Not Knowing Your Zone

The USDA divides the country into 13 different growing regions to help gardeners choose plants that will thrive in their area. The USDA bases their zones on winter hardiness – a Zone 3 grower needs plants that can withstand extreme temperatures as low as -40 to -30 degrees F while winters in Zone 9 fall between 28 to 18 degrees F. Since the USDA only addresses winter lows, Sunset created its own climate zone map that factors in rainfall, elevation, summer temperatures and other factors. Still need help? Ask the staff at your local garden center, a neighbor with a green thumb or call your local county extension office. Your extension office has people on staff who can help with everything from determining your zone to identifying garden weeds and pests.

Photo by: Will Heap

Will Heap

Not Paying Attention to Your Plants’ Needs

You can’t grow tomatoes in deep shade (if you can, please tell me your secret) and succulents will wither with too much water. Always check the plant tags. “Full Sun” means your plant needs six or more hours of direct sunlight, and fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and peppers grow best with eight or more hours. Anything less and you may notice foliage, but no blooms or fruits. Knowing your plants’ water requirements is also vital – with most plants, you want to keep the soil moist but not wet. Don’t let plants sit in standing water and keep an eye on the weather to make sure you don’t water right before a rainstorm.