Your garden should be a haven from the outside world -- a place where you can find peace and solace when the rest of the world has gone insane. Sadly, many well-meaning gardeners accidentally create high-maintenance landscapes, turning their garden into an endless chore. Common garden mistakes lead many gardeners down this path, but fear not; with careful planning, you can avoid future garden mishaps and problems.
How to Avoid Garden Mistakes
It may sound overly simplistic, but avoiding mishaps in gardens really comes down to long-term planning. Some of the most common garden mistakes are due to enthusiastic gardeners who don't take the mature size of their favorite plants into consideration when designing a landscape or vegetable garden. It's important to space your plants so they have plenty of room to grow -- annual or perennial nursery plants don't stay small for long. It may seem that your newly installed landscape is sparse, but tightly packed plants will soon be competing for space, water, and nutrients. In addition, packing your plants tightly together encourages the development of many fungal diseases that need the high humidity that builds where air circulation is poor. Probably the second most serious of the landscape errors to avoid is not taking your plants' needs into consideration. Not all plants will grow in all soils, nor are there one-size-fits-all fertilizer programs. Before you ever set foot in the nursery, prepare your soil well and test it thoroughly. One test isn't going to be sufficient if you amended your soil with a soil conditioner or enhancer, and until you know what that product will do to your soil, don't even think about putting in plants. Most gardeners test again several weeks after an amendment to see the results of their actions. Once you've established a baseline for your garden, you can take that information to the nursery and choose plants that thrive under local conditions. You can certainly alter your soil drastically, but keeping the pH abnormally high or low requires a great deal of work on your part - better to choose plants that are suited to your growing conditions.
Simplify Chores to Avoid Garden Mishaps and Problems
Weeding and watering are big concerns for every gardener, but using weed cloth and mulch together can help spread these chores out a little further. Weed cloth on a properly prepared garden will cut down on the weed seeds that germinate within your beds, and the addition of 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm.) of mulch helps the soil retain moisture. No garden is completely weed-free or self-watering though, so make sure to check your plants often for weeds that are trying to get a toehold in your mulch. While you're at it, part the mulch and check the soil for dryness. If the top two inches (5 cm.) are dry, water deeply at the base of each plant; avoid the use of sprinklers or other overhead watering devices since those help spread fungus and bacteria.
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Kristi Waterworth was a regular contributor to Gardening Know How for many years, answering countless queries on plant pests and diseases.