Have you ever looked at your garden and felt that it wasn’t growing to its true potential? Perhaps your flowers are dying and you think you’ve either invested in dud plants or inherited the dreaded black thumb. Chances are it’s not that at all. Everyone has the ability to create a beautiful garden and take great care of their plants – but sometimes, crucial knowledge gaps lead to tragic gardening outcomes. Here are a few common mistakes you might be making in the garden. Remedy them, and watch it blossom like never before!

 

Mistake 1: Water, water everywhere…

Generally speaking, watering plants is crucial to their survival – but how much is too much? Yes, over-watering is definitely possible, and can be the cause of root rot and other nasty fungi. There’s an easy way to check your water situation out, and that’s by testing the soil with your fingers. If it’s rock hard, your thirsty plant is crying out for hydration. If it feels moist, or forms a loose ball fairly easily when picked up and squeezed by the handful, hold off – your plant has what it needs for now.

It’s also possible for your plants to go thirsty if the water you give them isn’t getting to the right place. Plants absorb nutrients through their roots. While watering the leaves of your plant might perk it up temporarily, it won't do much in the long term. Wherever possible, direct water toward the soil so that it can be absorbed.

Still finding your plants are a bit droopy and dry? If it's been left to dry out for too long, as is common in drought conditions, your soil might actually be hydrophobic - meaning that it repels water, preventing it from reaching your plant's roots. If this has happened to your soil, you can use a soil-wetting agent like Amgrow's Wettasoil to help treat the problem and allow water to find its way to the root of your plants.

 

Mistake 2: Food for thought

Fertiliser is a key tool for any gardener, as it helps deliver the nutrients your plants need for healthy growth and maximum flowering. You’d think that more would be better in this situation, right? Wrong! Over-fertilising your plants can have many nasty consequences. Some of the worst include wilting leaves, slow or no flowering, chemical burns and even death of the plant. Yes, you could be killing your garden with kindness – so be sure to follow your fertiliser package’s instructions to the letter. As with humans, food is not a one-size-fits-all scenario either, so make sure you’re using the right kind of fertiliser for your plants. Some plants require special formulations that go beyond an all-purpose fertiliser.

 

Clockwise from left: A person wearing red gumboots digging a vegetable patch with a shovel; a person planting colourful petunias in a sunny garden; a watering can between two garden beds. Clockwise from left: Be sure to aerate and prepare your soil well; consider your garden's sun and shade conditions when choosing plants to ensure they bloom where they're planted; always keep your plants hydrated - but don't overdo it, and always water the roots.

Mistake 3: Preparation is key

The impulse to dive right in and start planting is strong – but it could be the reason your garden is suffering. Preparing the soil in your garden bed is crucial to your plants' survival. It’s always a good idea to dig through your garden bed a few times before planting to help aerate the soil, up to 30cm deep for root vegetables and a little less for shallower-rooted plants. Be sure to dig in plenty of compost to add nutrients to the soil.

It’s also a good idea to know your soil before you begin planting. Your soil conditions will dictate what plants you are able to grow successfully – but keep in mind that soil conditions can be changed. Check your soil’s pH so you can make any adjustments (adding lime for soil that’s too acidic, or an acidifier like sulphur or composted animal manure for overly alkaline soil) a few weeks before planting, ensuring that the conditions are just right for your choice of plants. Similarly, you can do a simple test to see what type of soil you have sandy, clay or loam – and make the necessary improvements to ensure your plants have the right drainage and nutrient conditions available to them.

 

Mistake 4: Priority placement

Sometimes a garden bed freshly planted out with seedlings can look a little barren. Whatever you do, resist the temptation to plant them closer together than recommended! Remember, these tiny seeds and seedlings will grow and quickly fill the spaces left between them. If you plant them too closely together, you’re leaving them with no room to grow, limited air circulation, less sun exposure than recommended and fewer soil nutrients upon which to draw – effectively both suffocating and starving them. It’s better to be patient and wait a little while for your plants to grow into their spaces than to over-plant and restrict your plants from achieving their potential.

 

Mistake 5: A day in the sun

Another easily overlooked factor when caring for plants, whether seeds, seedlings, shrubs or trees, is sun requirements. Just because you think a plant would look pretty in a particular spot in your garden doesn’t mean it belongs there. A plant requiring full sun, for example, won’t thrive planted in a shady spot along the side of your house. Similarly, a sensitive plant that requires full shade will struggle in an exposed spot in the middle of your garden. While planning, consider the sun conditions in each part of your garden and choose plants that will suit. This also goes for established plants - if your conditions change, for example if you build an extension on your house that blocks the sun, you'll need to reconsider your garden's configuration as this will affect your plants.

 

Have you been making these mistakes? Let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes peeled for more helpful gardening tips coming soon.