Question What are the Biggest Gardening Mistakes You Have Made?

Kevin Lawson

Jun 18, 2024
Greenfield, OH
Temperate (all seasons)
Hello everyone! I am new to this forum, but I have always found it helpful (not to mention reassuring) to see that I am not the only one who has made mistakes while gardening. For several years, I have made mistakes and no doubt I will continue to make them - I just hope that I have the intelligence to learn from them. I thought it might be fun and beneficial to start a thread about the mistakes we have made to give our fellow gardeners some funny stories with lessons to be learned ;).

As for some of my mistakes, I will try to keep these relatively short:

1) The very first garden I made was immense. I greatly overestimated how big it needed to be. It was no less than 80 ft x 60 ft (4,800 sq ft), and the rows were at least 40 ft long and a minimum of 3 ft apart. As you will no doubt guess, I was unable to keep up with the weeds as I did not have a tiller at the time, and soon my garden became a wildlife exhibit for local and invasive weed species. It got even so bad that a friend of mine was walking about a quarter mile away from my property, spotted my garden, and said "Kevin, what's that huge batch of weeds in your yard?" I felt rather crushed, but I informed him it was my garden, after which he apologized profusely.

2) I grow a pumpkin patch every year. About three years ago, when I tilled up a different part of the property than usual, I soon learned that there had apparently been thousands of Spiny Pigweed (Amaranthus spinosus) seeds lying dormant in the soil 1-2 ft below the surface, because they all germinated at once seemingly. It got so bad that they replaced the grass through a quarter of an acre. In spite of this, my pumpkins were doing well until the Spiny Pigweed began to overtake the pumpkin vines. In response, as I was too lazy to try tearing out the thorny weeds and risking death from blood loss (kidding), I simply picked up the pumpkin vines and placed them on top of the Spiny Pigweed. In result, I ended up with over 200 pumpkins that year, but they had to be harvest with a machete and many of them were hanging at eye level. Still, in spite of my mistakes, I had the best crop year for pumpkins I have ever had. The pumpkins did, however, get covered with scratches and scars from the thorns.

3) This last one, I made this year. Not sure if I was being lazy or if I just forgot, but I planted another gala apple tree in the sheep pen (we have 2 young Katahdin-mix rams - looking for ewes currently) and for some reason I didn't put a cage around the tree. It didn't take long for the sheep to eat the lower branches and strip some of the bark off. The poor tree didn't last long.

And there you have it! Those are my biggest gardening mistakes..... to date. Hope you can find something to learn from them!

I can't wait to hear about everyone else's!
I'm surprised no one replied! Surely there are many people with many experiences.

Anyhow, I'll keep it short as we're having internet troubles over our place.

My main "mistake" when I started was that I was using bad soil. I genuinely thought I had a black thumb as I couldn't get anything to thrive. I had a tomato plant that was doing "okay", but often dropped leaves, looked skinny and quite unhealthy. It produced next to nothing and what it did produce, often rotted.
Lo and behold, my partner, being supportive, took me to buy a bag of soil from Bunnings. I knew exactly which one I wanted as I'd seen Mark use it in some of his videos. I bought it, put it in a pot and put some seedlings inside. And bam, everything just grew! I've even had plants since that simply refuse to die (even after cutting them out of the pot, the leftover stem just re-rooted and/or regrew).

So please, when freshly starting out, and finding that your plants look unhealthy... try investing in some proper soil. You'll learn how to compost and improve your soil later on, but to start with, give yourself that little added bonus.
Good advice! I have had a similar experience, but it was the difference between one part of the yard having bad soil and the other having good soil, so I just moved the garden. Lucky for me! Thanks for sharing!
Another tip!

I struggled with understanding how much water to give my plants. I'm a potted gardener, and I used to think that because the top layer was dry, the plant needed water. So many plants that I waterlogged... sorry guys!
Anyway, my partner one day showed up with a moisture meter! It has been vital in my understanding when to water the plants. Nowadays I can mostly just look at my plant and know when to water, but it was such a great help in teaching me! And I still use it for my indoor plants as I still find those a little tricky 🤗
Another good lesson! I still struggle with this... my wife thinks I overwater, but I'm not sure I'm watering enough. I get especially anxious about potted plants out in the summer sun. I have tried to balance it out by not watering as much (in terms of volume), but I still haven't found the right method. That moisture meter sounds interesting! I never knew there was such a thing. I will have to check that out!
I find that watering a lot in amount rather than frequency is the way to go. Especially if you have well-draining soil and drainage holes in the pots. I will absolutely fully saturate the soil, and let it get almost completely dry between waterings. I will only lessen the amount of water if I know it's not going to evaporate over the next week or two, to avoid it becoming waterlogged.

I definitely recommend the moisture meter! It's been such a help for me.
My family's greatest food garden disaster was my Mother. Dad once tried to grow a veggie patch in the backyard. He worked hard to plough out a section of ground with regular gardening tools, put a raised edging around it, built it up with compost, fertiliser, mulch, all the good stuff, and worked out his planting plan. First up was spinach. Several weeks later whilst Dad was at work Mum decided to help with the veggie patch. The spinach was about 3 inches tall, and there was a weed growing among the veggie patch that was a little bit larger, so Mum went and did the weeding. Yeah, you guessed it, Mum removed all the spinach instead of the weeds. Dad saw the funny side of it and decided to plant more spinach, and also some beetroot, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, and radish. Later on, just as it was starting to look good, Mum decided to help again by buying some liquid fertilizer and giving the veggie garden a good spray with it... but got the liquid fertilizer container mixed up with a herbicide and well... Dad concluded that Mum was not to be trusted with a veggie patch in the yard, turned it into a lawn and never did any gardening again. She later learned more about gardening and became great with flowers, ended up with an amazing cottage style flower garden anyone would be proud of. She never dared to grow anything edible though.

My greatest gardening bungle so far was the first time I grew mint. My grandmother grew it in a garden bed and it was always a neat little cluster - I didn't know she had it contained by growing it in a buried black plastic bucket that was mostly hidden by the loose leaf mulch on top. I created a little garden circle in the corner of the lawn and planted the mint there, blinked, and ended up with a mint lawn that smelled lovely when mowed.

My most recent biggest mistake was putting in a ground level garden bed in my front yard. I planned to just grow ornamentals, flowers, etc, so figured that I didn't need to be bending over to be working the soil and planting and picking as crops mature and rotate all the time like with veggie gardens, so I could just plant and water and forget... but of course I forgot about deadheading, pruning, reseeding, weeding... I have now torn it all up, potted the plants I wanted to keep, redesigned, assembled Birdies beds, and trellis posts, and garden arches, and almost finished with it and I going to need a lot of soil! 😟 And need more plants. 😇 And need more money. 😖

Other noteworthy disasters: I learned that sometimes too much success can be a different type of disaster. I planted twice as many beans as I needed because I didn't trust that they'd all grow... they all grew. The packet said they crop then stop... but they kept flowering and producing more and more and more... I didn't have the heart to destroy any of them, figured I could give plenty away. Turned out most people in my town don't like beans. I never thought there was such a thing as too many green beans, but my freezer and eventually my appetite for them, disagreed.

I once grew a heap of the tallest variety gladiolas but didn't know I needed to stake the flower stalks. They grew beautiful and tall and just as the flowers started to open... they all became victims of gravity.
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