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18 Mistakes That Are Destroying Your Garden

Gardening experts say these are the most common mistakes people of all skill levels make.

A lush garden, full of sweet-smelling flowers and delicious vegetables can instantly boost the curb appeal of any home. But cultivating such a stunning display of plant life is easier said than done. Even for those who consider themselves blessed with a green thumb, there are countless gardening mistakes that can accidentally damage plants and hinder their growth. So, before you make an error that causes a beloved plant to wilt and wither, we consulted experts for their advice. Read on to learn what they say are the biggest mistakes destroying your garden.

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18 Common Gardening Mistakes

1. Using the wrong tools

woman gardening
Juice Flair / Shutterstock

You might not think there's much difference between the tools on the shelf of your average garden store, but not being discerning about that purchase could damage your plants, according to Nick Crowley, former owner of The Wonderful Garden Company.

Crowley recommends using bronze or copper garden tools. "They help to prevent infection of plants, enrich your soil with trace elements, deter slugs and snails, ionize surface water, and help to alkalize the substrate."

2. Overwatering

hand holding hose spraying water

Though plants do need sufficient water to thrive, overwatering them can cause serious damage in a short amount of time.

"Different plants have different water needs, but a good rule of thumb is to allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again," advises Ben Hilton, founder and editor at The Gardening Fix. "Overwatering can lead to root rot, which is often fatal to plants. It's important to research the water needs of each type of plant in your garden and adjust your watering schedule accordingly."

3. Underwatering

destroying your garden

This one may seem obvious, but plants can be deceiving in terms of how much water they need.

"Certain plants, like most vegetables and annual flowers, require consistent moisture to thrive," shares Hilton. This is especially true during the hot summer months.

4. Watering plants when it's hot outside

middle age man and his little son watering flowers in the garden at summer sunny day. Gardening activity with little kid and family

Speaking of those hot summer months, watering your plants when the temperature soars is an all-too-common misstep.

"The most common mistake—and one of the most difficult to undo—is watering plants during a sunny day when the temperature is highest," says Bryan Stoddard, founder of home and garden website Homewares Insider. "When the weather is hot, the water drops will evaporate and will not reach the roots of the plant."

Bryan Clayton, CEO and co-founder of GreenPal, adds that "the water can burn the leaves like a magnifying glass." He says the best time to water is early morning or evening when it's cooler and less sunny.

5. Not positioning plants for optimal sunlight

Cropped shot of a handsome young man gardening

"All plants need sunlight, but the amount varies greatly. Some plants need full sun, while others do better in partial shade or even full shade," explains Hilton. "Placing a plant in the wrong light conditions can cause it to be stressed, resulting in poor growth, leaf burn, or even death."

At most garden centers, it will be indicated what a certain plant's light needs are.

READ THIS NEXT: 10 Easy Hacks to Save Your House Plants That Gardeners Swear By.

6. Overcrowding plants

man planting, gardening, bending down in a garden
Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock

While you may like the look of a lush garden, planting too close together can do more harm than good.

"The plants have to fight for sunlight, water, nutrients, and air. This can make them grow slower, produce less, and get sick more easily," says Clayton. "To prevent this, follow the spacing guidelines on the seeds or plants, thin out any extra plants, and prune or divide any big plants."

7. Pruning incorrectly

young man trimming plants in his backyard

And on the topic of pruning, far too many gardeners do this incorrectly or at the wrong time.

"Pruning helps maintain plant health and shape, but it needs to be done correctly. Improper pruning can open up plants to disease or cause unnecessary stress," explains Hilton. "Furthermore, pruning at the wrong time can lead to a loss of flowers or fruit."

"Cutting back too much of a plant can damage or kill it, while not pruning enough can lead to overcrowding and decreased air circulation," adds Benita Middleton, head gardener at Benita's Garden Services.

8. Planting too deep or shallow

lettuce seedlings in garden
Shutterstock / Alexander Raths

The depth of the hole you're placing your plant in can greatly affect its health.

"If planted too deep, the roots may not get enough oxygen, while planting too shallow can leave roots exposed and susceptible to drying out," notes Hilton.

9. Killing worms

Red earthworms on the compost. Close up.

Think those worms in your garden are destroying your plants? Think again!

"When I used to work in the worm business, I would sometimes listen to customers who thought that garden worms harm their plants. Some would think they eat roots. Others thought they contaminated the soil. Neither is true," says bug expert Jeff Neal, owner of The Critter Depot.

"Garden worms are highly beneficial to lawns and gardens due to their castings (worm poop) and because they aerate the soil, allowing water to reach deep roots," he explains. "If you see worms in your soil, don't kill them."

And to attract worms, "add mulch or compost to your soil, avoid chemicals, and keep your soil moist but not wet," suggests Clayton.

10. Ignoring pests and diseases

overgrown plants next to house

But not all outdoor critters are good. "Pests and diseases can quickly decimate a garden if not promptly addressed," cautions Hilton.

"Regularly inspect your plants for signs of trouble, such as discolored leaves, spots, holes, or insects," he adds.

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11. Not preparing soil properly

person wearing gloves testing soil
Shutterstock / Happy_Nati

"Plants need a balance of nutrients, water, and air to grow, and if the soil is too compacted, lacking in nutrients, or not draining properly, it can stunt plant growth or even kill them," Middleton tells Best Life.

To prepare your soil properly, Hilton recommends "testing the soil's pH and nutrient levels, amending the soil with organic matter if necessary, and ensuring good drainage."

12. Using too much fertilizer

Woman fertilizing flower bed with granulated mineral fertilizers, bush hosta. Spring seasonal work in garden, caring for plants and flowers in backyard. Hobby, lifestyle, gardening concept
iStock / Valeriy_G

You can have too much of a good thing in your garden, particularly when fertilizer is concerned.

"The most common damage done to a lawn or garden is in the over-application of commercial fertilizers," says horticulturist Stan Miklis, owner of Caliper Farm to Market. "The homeowner may erroneously think, 'If a little does a little good then more will do better.'"

As Clayton explains, over-fertilizing can burn plants' roots and leaves, create an imbalance of nutrients, and make the soil too salty. "To avoid this, follow the label instructions, use organic fertilizers [which break down slower], and test your soil often to see what it needs," he says.

13. Using too much herbicide

Water Spray Bottle in Garden
SKT Studio/Shutterstock

While judicious use of herbicides can keep weeds at bay, applying them too liberally can kill surrounding plants. Many herbicides also contain chemicals that are dangerous to humans and bad for the environment.

As an alternative, you can make a natural weed killer by mixing horticultural vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap in a spray bottle. As Best Life previously explained, "The acid in the vinegar will dehydrate the weed, while the dish soap aids the process by breaking down the outer coat of the plant."

14. Pulling dandelions

A closeup of dandelions on a lawn
Nataliia Yankovets/Shutterstock

Dandelions are one of the most common weeds, but it turns out, you shouldn't pull them.

"Dandelions can actually be beneficial for your yard," Chris Garrett of Evergreen Lawn & Pest Control previously told Best Life. "Dandelions attract bees, which are important pollinators. They also attract other beneficial insects, like ladybugs and lacewings. And dandelions are a good source of food for birds."

Moreover, since they have exceptionally deep roots, they help to naturally aerate the soil.

15. Mowing the lawn too short

Young man mowing the lawn in the garden. Mowing the lawn on country house

Whether or not your garden is planted as part of your lawn, you'll want to follow good grass practices.

"Cutting your grass too short can stress it and make it more susceptible to pests and diseases. It also exposes the soil, which can lead to weed growth," notes Hilton. "A general rule of thumb is to never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time."

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Reasons Mowing Your Lawn Makes You Happy, According to Science.

16. Forgetting mulch

ronstik / Shutterstock

"Mulch helps retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and add organic matter to the soil as it breaks down," explains Hilton.

Therefore, neglecting to mulch around your garden can lead to dry soil, weeds, and a generally less healthy environment.

17. Planting without a plan

women gardening outside help the earth

For an optimally successful garden, be sure to do your homework ahead of time.

"Planting without considering the mature size of plants, their growth habits, or how they'll look together can lead to a crowded, unattractive garden," warns Hilton. "It's worth spending some time planning your garden to ensure it will look good not only right after planting but also in the years to come."

18. Planting high-maintenance plants

Gardening. Man working in the garden. Hobbies and leisure
Bobex-73 / iStock

If you're new to keeping a garden, you'd be wise to plant mature plants—and even wiser to avoid high-maintenance ones.

"Planting plants from seeds is not an easy job, especially if you are a beginner in gardening," says Stoddard. "In that case, it is best to get a plant that is easier to grow and over time try your luck with the more demanding ones."

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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