14 Gardening Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

gardening mistakes

Gardening is one of life’s simplest pleasures, offering a unique sense of satisfaction and joy as you watch your plants grow and thrive. Whether you’re new to gardening or have years of experience, every gardener faces challenges. These can range from pest infestations to soil issues, and even the most experienced gardeners make mistakes from time to time.

Learning from these common garden mistakes is essential for achieving a thriving garden. Understanding what can go wrong and how to fix it can save you a lot of heartache and help you enjoy a more bountiful harvest. One helpful tool in overcoming some of these challenges is our Natural Plant Wash. Made with natural and organic ingredients, this product helps maintain plant health by controlling pests and diseases without harming beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs, and praying mantises.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 1: Overwatering Your Plants

Overwatering is one of the most common gardening mistakes that both novice and experienced gardeners make. While it might seem like giving your plants plenty of water is beneficial, too much water can actually harm your plants more than it helps them.

Overwatering can lead to waterlogged soil, which suffocates plant roots and prevents them from absorbing the nutrients they need. This is particularly problematic for plants in containers where drainage might be limited.

gardening mistakes

Signs of Overwatering

How can you tell if you’re overwatering your plants? Here are some common signs to watch out for:

Yellowing leaves: This can often be mistaken for a nutrient deficiency, but yellow leaves can also indicate that the roots are drowning.

Wilting despite wet soil: If your plants are wilting and the soil is still wet, they may be suffering from root rot caused by overwatering.

Mold or fungus: Overly damp soil can lead to mold or fungus on the soil surface or on the plants themselves.

Leaf drop: Plants may drop leaves in response to stress from overwatering.

gardening mistakes

Proper Watering Techniques and Schedules

To avoid overwatering, it’s important to understand the water needs of your specific plants. Different plants have different requirements, so always check the plant tag for guidance. Here are some tips for proper watering:

Check soil moisture: Before watering, check the top inch of soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still damp, wait a bit longer.

Water deeply and less frequently: Instead of watering a little every day, water deeply so that the moisture reaches the root zone. This encourages roots to grow deeper and stronger.

Use well-draining soil: Amend the soil with organic matter to improve drainage. Raised beds can also help with drainage issues.

Mulch: Applying mulch around your plants can help retain moisture and reduce the need for frequent watering.

gardening mistakes

The Importance of Good Drainage

Ensuring proper drainage is essential to prevent water from pooling around your plant roots, which can lead to all sorts of problems. First, if you’re growing plants in containers, make sure to use pots with drainage holes. These holes allow excess water to escape, keeping your plants happy and healthy. Next, be mindful of your soil. Compacted soil can really hinder water movement, so it’s a good idea to loosen it regularly. Adding compost or other organic matter can also improve soil structure, making it easier for water to flow through.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 2: Not Understanding Your Soil

Understanding your soil is fundamental to successful gardening, yet it’s a step that many gardeners overlook in their eagerness to get plants in the ground. Conducting a soil test is essential as it acts like a health check-up, revealing the nutrient levels and pH balance of your soil.

This information is crucial because different plants thrive in different soil conditions. For instance, blueberries love acidic soil, while most vegetables prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil. Knowing your soil's pH can help you choose plants that will naturally flourish or guide you on how to amend the soil to suit your plants' needs. Additionally, soil tests can highlight nutrient deficiencies, allowing you to address them before they impact plant health. A well-balanced soil pH ensures that nutrients are available for plant roots to absorb, preventing common garden issues like yellowing leaves and stunted growth.

Without this knowledge, you might end up planting in soil that is too acidic or too alkaline, leading to poor plant growth and wasted effort.

gardening mistakes

Different Types of Soil and Their Characteristics

Soil generally falls into three categories: sandy, clay, and loam. Each type has distinct characteristics that affect plant growth:

Sandy soil: Drains quickly and warms up fast in the spring but doesn’t hold nutrients well. Ideal for plants that need good drainage, like herbs and some vegetables.

Clay soil: Holds water and nutrients well but drains poorly and can be compacted easily. Suitable for plants that require a lot of nutrients but needs amending to improve drainage.

Loam soil: A balanced mix of sand, silt, and clay, making it ideal for most plants. It retains moisture and nutrients well and drains efficiently.

Nutrient deficiencies identified by the soil test can be addressed by incorporating the necessary fertilizers or organic amendments. For example, adding compost or well-rotted manure can boost nutrient levels and improve soil structure, making it more hospitable for plant roots. Regularly amending your soil with organic matter helps maintain its fertility and structure, ensuring that your plants get the nutrients they need.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 3: Planting in the Wrong Location

Plants have specific needs regarding sunlight, wind exposure, and air circulation. Placing them in the wrong spot can lead to poor growth and make them more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Before planting, observe your garden throughout the day to identify areas that receive different amounts of sunlight. This helps in placing each plant where it can get the light it needs.

Difference Between Full Sun, Partial Shade, and Full Shade Plants

Full sun plants require the most light and are usually more drought-tolerant, while full shade plants can thrive with minimal light but may need more moisture. Partial shade plants sit somewhere in between, requiring moderate sunlight and cooler conditions.

Full sun: Common vegetable garden plants like tomatoes, peppers, and most herbs need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Partial shade: Plants such as lettuces and spinach thrive in 3-6 hours of direct sunlight.

Full shade: Ferns and some perennials prefer less than 3 hours of direct sunlight, thriving in dappled light.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 4: Ignoring Plant Spacing Requirements

One of the most common mistakes gardeners make is ignoring the recommended spacing on plant tags. It might be tempting to pack plants closely together to maximize your garden space, but this can lead to several issues that ultimately harm your garden.

Plant tags provide essential information about how much space a plant needs to grow properly. These recommendations are based on the mature size of the plant, including its root spread and height. By following these guidelines, you ensure each plant has enough room to access the nutrients, water, and sunlight it needs. Ignoring these recommendations can lead to overcrowded conditions where plants compete for resources, resulting in stunted growth and poor yields.

How Proper Spacing Affects Air Circulation and Plant Health

Proper spacing is key to maintaining good air circulation around your plants. Good airflow helps dry out foliage quickly after rain or watering, reducing the likelihood of fungal infections. It also makes it harder for pests to spread from one plant to another. Healthy air circulation can significantly improve plant health and vigor, leading to more robust growth and higher yields. Additionally, well-spaced plants are easier to care for, as you can easily access them for weeding, watering, and harvesting.

Tips on Planning Your Garden Layout

Thoughtfully planning your garden layout can help you avoid the pitfalls of overcrowding. Start by considering the mature size of each plant and follow the recommended spacing on the plant tags. Incorporate vertical gardening techniques to maximize space, especially in small gardens. Using trellises, stakes, and vertical planters can help you grow plants like beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes upwards, saving valuable ground space. Also, consider the height and spread of each plant to ensure taller plants don’t overshadow shorter ones, and place sun-loving plants where they will get the most light.

See how to design a stunning flower garden from scratch.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 5: Neglecting to Mulch

Mulching involves covering the soil around your plants with a layer of organic or inorganic material. This layer helps to retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation, which means you’ll need to water less frequently. It also suppresses weed growth by blocking sunlight from reaching weed seeds, thus reducing the need for frequent weeding. Additionally, mulch helps regulate soil temperature, keeping roots cool in the summer and warm in the winter, which is crucial for the health of your plants.

Different Types of Mulch and How to Apply Them

Organic Mulch: Includes materials like straw, wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, and compost. Organic mulch breaks down over time, adding valuable nutrients to the soil and improving its structure.

Inorganic Mulch: Includes materials like plastic sheeting, gravel, and landscape fabric. These don’t break down but can be effective in weed control and moisture retention.

To apply mulch, spread a layer about 2-4 inches thick around your plants, being careful not to pile it directly against the stems or trunks to prevent rot. For annual plants, organic mulch is preferable as it will decompose and enrich the soil. For perennial plants and shrubs, you might opt for a combination of organic and inorganic mulch to provide long-term benefits and reduce maintenance.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 6: Planting Too Early or Too Late

Every region has a specific growing season determined by its climate. The growing season is the period between the last frost in spring and the first frost in fall. Knowing this timeframe is essential for planning your garden. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map is a valuable tool for determining the growing season in your area. Planting too early or too late in the growing season can spell disaster for your plants, as they are highly sensitive to temperature and environmental conditions. 

Soil temperature is crucial for seed germination and plant growth. Many seeds won’t sprout in cold soil, and frost can severely damage or even kill young plants. Therefore, it's essential to wait until the soil has warmed up sufficiently before planting.

Planting tender crops like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers too early can lead to frost damage or death. On the flip side, planting too late can mean your crops don’t have enough time to mature before the first frost in the fall. Timing is everything in gardening.

If you plant too early, seeds might not germinate, and young plants could be wiped out by frost. If you plant too late, your crops might not have enough time to produce a full harvest. Balancing soil temperature and frost dates ensures your garden thrives.

See essential spring planting tips here.

gardening mistakes

How to Extend the Growing Season with Raised Beds and Row Covers

Raised beds and row covers are excellent tools for extending the growing season. Raised beds warm up faster in the spring and drain better than ground-level gardens, allowing you to plant earlier. Row covers provide a protective barrier against frost and cold, helping tender plants survive unexpected cold snaps. By using these methods, you can get a head start on the growing season and protect your plants from early fall frosts. 

gardening mistakes

Mistake 7: Not Rotating Crops

Planting the same crop in the same spot year after year can lead to depleted soil nutrients and an increase in pests. Crop rotation is a time-tested practice that involves changing the types of crops grown in specific areas of your garden each season. For example, if you planted tomatoes in a plot one year, try planting beans or peas there the next. This helps maintain soil fertility, as different plants use and replenish different nutrients. It also disrupts the life cycles of pests and diseases specific to certain crops, reducing their presence in your garden.

To boost the benefits of crop rotation, incorporate our Natural Plant Protector into your routine. This product, as part of an integrated pest management strategy, helps manage pests naturally without harming beneficial insects. By combining crop rotation with the use of Natural Plant Protector, you create a balanced and sustainable garden ecosystem.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 8: Overlooking Pollinators

Pollinators like bees transfer pollen from one flower to another, enabling fertilization and the production of seeds and fruits. A garden rich in pollinators will generally yield more bountiful and diverse harvests. Without sufficient pollinator activity, plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash might produce fewer fruits.

Types of Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects

Certain plants are especially effective at attracting pollinators. Flowers like marigolds, sunflowers, and lavender not only beautify your garden but also draw in bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects. Herbs like dill and fennel are also excellent choices. Incorporating a variety of these plants can create a pollinator-friendly environment that supports your entire garden ecosystem.

To create a welcoming environment for pollinators, plant a diverse array of flowers and herbs that bloom at different times throughout the growing season. This ensures a continuous food source for pollinators. Avoid using chemical pesticides, as they can harm beneficial insects. Instead, use natural and organic products like our Natural Plant Wash, which is safe for ladybugs, bees, and praying mantises.
gardening mistakes

Mistake 9: Using Too Much or the Wrong Fertilizer

Over-fertilization can cause fertilizer burn, where the high concentration of salts dehydrates plant roots, leading to scorched leaves and stunted growth. It can also lead to excess nutrients leaching into groundwater, causing algal blooms in water bodies. These blooms deplete oxygen, harming aquatic life and disrupting ecosystems. Moreover, too much fertilizer promotes rapid but weak plant growth, making them more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Proper Fertilization Techniques and Schedules

To avoid these issues, it’s crucial to use the right fertilization techniques and schedules. Start with a soil test to determine your garden's specific nutrient needs. Based on the test results, choose the appropriate fertilizer and apply it according to the recommended rates.

For organic fertilizers, incorporate them into the soil at the beginning of the growing season and periodically throughout the year. Organic options, such as compost and manure, release nutrients slowly, supporting steady plant growth. For synthetic fertilizers, follow the label instructions closely, typically applying them during the growing season when plants are actively taking up nutrients.

Avoid applying fertilizers before heavy rain, as this can cause nutrient runoff and pollution. Instead, fertilize on calm, dry days to ensure the nutrients stay in your soil. This way, you can promote healthy plant growth and protect the environment from the harmful effects of over-fertilization.

gardening mistakes

Integrating Lost Coast Plant Therapy

While fertilizers provide essential nutrients, our Natural Plant Wash helps control pests and diseases, reducing plant stress and allowing them to utilize nutrients more effectively. By using natural and organic products you create a holistic approach to pest management that promotes plant health and environmental sustainability.

See how it works here.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 10: Neglecting Weeds

Weeds are opportunistic and can quickly outcompete garden plants for essential resources. They have aggressive root systems that can absorb water and nutrients faster than your plants, leading to nutrient deficiencies and water stress. This competition can stunt the growth of your plants and reduce yields. Weeds can also harbor pests and diseases that can spread to your garden plants, compounding the problem.

Effective weed control involves a combination of prevention, physical removal, and sustainable practices. Mulching is one of the best preventative measures, as it blocks sunlight and prevents weed seeds from germinating. Regularly pulling weeds by hand or using a hoe can keep them from establishing deep root systems. 

gardening mistakes

Mistake 11: Ignoring Pest and Disease Management

Keeping your garden healthy requires vigilant pest and disease management. Common garden pests like aphids, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies, along with diseases such as powdery mildew, blight, and rust, can cause significant damage. This damage ranges from stunted growth and leaf discoloration to the complete death of plants. 

Regularly inspecting your plants for signs of pests and diseases allows you to take action before issues become severe. Look for symptoms like yellowing leaves, distorted growth, and visible pests. One tip would be to keep a garden journal to help you track recurring issues and plan preventative measures, ensuring you stay ahead of potential problems.

See effective ways to protect common garden plants from pests here.

gardening mistakes

How Our Natural Plant Protector Helps Control Pests and Diseases

Our Natural Plant Protector is a powerful tool for naturally controlling pests and diseases. Its unique formulation suffocates and dehydrates soft-bodied insects, their larvae, and eggs on contact. It also helps control fungal diseases like powdery mildew by washing off spores and altering the pH of the plant surface, making it inhospitable for fungal growth. Made with natural and organic ingredients, it’s safe for beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs, making it an excellent choice for integrated pest management.

See tips for keeping your plants healthy with our natural and organic pesticide here.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 12: Not Pruning and Deadheading

Regular pruning removes dead, diseased, or damaged branches, promoting healthier and more vigorous growth. It allows plants to focus their energy on producing new growth and flowers rather than maintaining old or damaged parts. Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, prevents plants from wasting energy on seed production, encouraging them to produce more blooms instead. These practices enhance air circulation, reduce disease risk, and improve your garden's overall appearance.

Techniques for Pruning Different Types of Plants

Trees and Shrubs: For trees and large shrubs, prune to remove dead or crossing branches. Make cuts just above a healthy bud or branch to encourage proper healing. It's best to prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

Perennials: Prune perennials after flowering to remove spent blooms and tidy up the plant. Cut back to a pair of healthy leaves or buds.

Roses: Prune roses in early spring, removing any dead or weak growth and cutting back to outward-facing buds to encourage a vase-like shape.

Fruit Trees: Regularly prune fruit trees to remove dead or diseased branches and to shape the tree for better sunlight and air circulation. This can improve fruit production and reduce disease risk.

gardening mistakes

Deadheading Promotes More Blooms and a Tidier Garden

Deadheading involves removing spent flowers from plants. This simple act encourages the plant to produce more blooms by redirecting its energy from seed production to flower production. For example, regularly deadheading marigolds, petunias, and zinnias can result in a longer blooming period and a more vibrant display of flowers. It also keeps the garden looking neat and tidy by removing faded blooms.

gardening mistakes

Mistake 13: Storing Tools Improperly

Tools left exposed to the elements can quickly become rusty and dull, making your gardening tasks much harder. Leaving tools outside or in damp environments leads to rust and corrosion, which weakens the metal and makes it harder to cut through soil and plants. Wooden handles can crack or split if exposed to moisture, making them uncomfortable and unsafe to use. For instance, a rusty pruner won’t make clean cuts, damaging plants and making them more susceptible to disease.

To keep your gardening tools in top condition, store them in a dry, sheltered place like a garden shed or garage. Hang tools on hooks or store them in bins to keep them off the ground and prevent moisture buildup. Regularly clean and dry your tools after each use to remove soil and plant residue that can accelerate rusting. Applying a light coat of oil to metal parts can also help prevent rust. Proper storage not only extends the life of your tools but also ensures they are always ready and effective when you need them. 

gardening mistakes

Mistake 14: Planting Too Much of One Crop

Planting too much of one crop can lead to a significant portion of your harvest going to waste, especially with perishable vegetable garden staples like lettuce, zucchini, or cucumbers, which have a short shelf life. Overproduction can also attract pests, as dense plantings create ideal conditions for insects and diseases to spread rapidly.

gardening mistakes

To avoid waste, carefully plan your garden based on the types and quantities of vegetables and fruits your household can realistically consume or preserve. Start by listing the vegetables you enjoy and how much of each you typically use. Use this information to calculate how many plants you need. Succession planting can help spread out the harvest over a longer period, reducing the risk of having too much of one crop at once. For example, instead of planting all your lettuce at once, plant a few seeds every two weeks. This way, you'll have a continuous, manageable harvest rather than a sudden abundance that you can't use up in time.

gardening mistakes


Whether you’re a novice gardener planting your first garden or an experienced one expanding your space, avoiding common mistakes can transform your gardening experience from frustrating to fulfilling. Remember, it’s not about having a big garden, starting small and understanding the basics can lay a solid foundation for future success.

Don’t let the fear of making mistakes hold you back. Every gardener, from beginners to seasoned pros, has encountered and learned from these challenges. Whether it's understanding the importance of proper plant spacing, getting a soil test to know your garden soil better, or recognizing the need for an irrigation system, each step contributes to a healthier, more productive garden.

If you’re a new gardener, focus on growing vegetables you love and will use. Even experienced gardeners, after three to five years, still learn and adapt their techniques. Keeping tools properly stored and planning your garden layout can save you time and effort in the long run.

As you grow more confident, you may decide to build a bigger garden or try more complex setups. No matter what stage you are in, gardening is about patience, persistence, and the joy of watching your plants grow. Embrace the journey, learn from each season, and enjoy the fulfillment that comes with nurturing your garden.

gardening mistakes


What are some common gardening mistakes to avoid?

Some common gardening mistakes to avoid include overwatering, planting too close together, not understanding your soil, ignoring plant spacing requirements, neglecting to mulch, or ignoring pests and diseases. Each of these mistakes can impact plant health and garden productivity.

How important is it to get a soil test?

Getting a soil test is crucial for understanding the nutrient content and pH level of your garden soil. This knowledge helps you amend the soil appropriately, ensuring that your plants have the optimal conditions to grow. It’s one of the most important steps to take before planting, as it can significantly impact your garden’s success.

gardening mistakes

Why should I avoid planting my plants too close together?

Plants need room to grow, and planting them too close together can lead to competition for water, nutrients, and sunlight. This can stunt growth and make plants more susceptible to pests and diseases due to poor air circulation. Always follow the spacing recommendations on the plant tag to ensure your plants have the space they need to thrive.

What is the significance of proper watering techniques?

Proper watering techniques are essential to avoid overwatering or underwatering your plants. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues, while underwatering can stress plants and reduce their productivity. You’ll want to water deeply and less frequently to encourage strong root development and check the soil moisture before watering.

gardening mistakes

How can Lost Coast Plant Therapy Help?

Our Natural Plant Protector is a natural and organic solution that helps control pests and diseases in your garden without harming beneficial insects. It can be used as part of an integrated pest management strategy to keep your plants healthy and free from common pests and diseases.

See more FAQ's here.

gardening mistakes

Additional Resources

Growing an Organic Garden - Penn State Extension

Aphids, in-depth- Wisconsin Horticulture

Powdery mildew in the flower garden - University of Minnesota

Thrips - University of Idaho

Spider Mites - Virginia State University

Growing an Organic Garden - Penn State Extension

How to recognize and manage spider mites in the home garden - Oregon State University

How does IPM Work - University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources