The Top Ten Mistakes Novice Gardeners Make

1. Planting in the wrong soil type

This is probably the most important thing to remember but one which many new gardeners overlook. Plant any plant in the wrong type of soil and you are likely to kill the plant or stunt its growth. There are generally three types of soil with slight variations in their composition: sandy, clay or loam. You might ask, how do you identify what type of soil you have in your garden? Well, that’s really simple. Get a handful of soil and attempt to compact or mould it. If it moulds fully and feels like plasticine or play dough in your fingers then it’s clay soil. If it is impossible to compact or escapes your fingers quite easily then it’s sandy soil. And if it’s somewhere in between then it’s probably loam soil. The ideal soil type for many plants is loam but not everyone is lucky to have that in their garden. Mine is clay soil and we’ve had to do quite a lot of working to make it conducive for plants. This is because clay soil is very heavy and easily gets water logged. So find out about what type of soil you have and decide if the plant you want to put in the soil is right for it. If the soil isn’t right, look for ways to improve the soil so you get the best outcomes from your plant. I like to think of it like ‘The parable of the sower’ story in the Bible, the seed or plant is not usually the problem, the type of soil it’s grown in can be the difference between good, bad or awesome outcomes. In my first ever blog article I wrote about buying some sunflower seeds in the uk on a visit and attempting to plant them in Nigeria. My very first mistake was the choice of soil in pot I used. It was extremely sandy and I doubt if anything could grow in it looking back now in retrospect. So basically chose the right soil.

2. Over watering or under-watering

Probably the second most important thing to remember. Plants need water to grow. Water is required for photosynthesis and plants need water to survive much like every living thing. Except you are growing a plant in the desert you’ll find this is a universal principle and even plants like cactuses have a remarkable way of storing water for long periods of time. Most plants are not drought resistant so failing to water them regularly is one sure fire way to stunt their growth or even kill them. imageI’ve been guilty of this a good many times especially with my potted and house plants. However sometimes the reverse is the case where plants are over watered and basically killed. Depending on the type of plant some will benefit from just a weekly watering or watering every few days. Watering everyday is probably not necessary except in very hot conditions. Plants don’t usually like to stand in water so ensure that when you water the pot has drainage. If you have plants in the garden rely on rainwater or in very hot conditions water every other day either early in the morning or in the early evening. This is because watering in the afternoon increases the risk of evaporation faster because of the warmer temperature , so your plants don’t get sufficient water. If you leave in a temperate region you don’t need to water your garden in winter and water potted plants sparingly. We all probably agree that too much of most things is often bad and the same applies to over watering plants.

3. Sun exposure 

Some plants like partial shade, full shade or full sun. Do your research and find out what type of sun exposure your plant likes. Planting a shade preferring plant in a sunny position is one sure fire way to kill it and vice versa. Again if you live in the tropics it’s probably not a good idea to plant a shade loving plant in your garden except you plant in a shady corner. In the same vein even house plants require a measure of natural sunlight to photosynthesise and grow so always sure that there is some sun exposure or natural light.

4. Pruning

This is a tricky one. My first recollection of pruning was helping my mom trim down the edges of some bushy plants when I was a little girl. Since moving to England I’ve become keenly aware that timing of pruning and how one prunes is equally as important. For example roses need pruning now and again to continue to be vibrant. During most of the flowering season just the dead flowers need to be clipped using a small secateur. This isn’t pruning. Pruning is when the stems of a plant are cut right back using a shear or similar gardening tool. How far back or hard you prune will depend on the type of plant you have . Some plant like roses do not mind a hard prune or a light one. If you have a climbing rose then it is advisable not too prune too hard. In the same vein the timing is extremely important. Most plants are pruned either immediately after flowering, early autumn before the first frost starts or early spring. Prune in late autumn you run the risk of frost getting to the cut stems and affecting them negatively. Leaving it to late in spring and you run the risk of pruning off the new buds beginning to come and are less likely to get any flowers from your plant. If you live in a warmer climate the later point is not as important. Some plants are not meant to be pruned so again do a little bit of research. Google is an amazing tool.

5. Climate Type

No matter how good your soil is, if you plant the a fantastic plant in the wrong climate it’s doomed from the start. Some plants like daffodils, crocuses prefer cooler or temperate regions while others prefer tropical or warmer temperatures and thrive best. A good way to find out more about your plant and the climate it’s most suited for is to check out reputable websites like the Royal horticultural society website.

To be continued

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