Top 5 Mistakes New Gardeners Can Make and How to Avoid Them

Project: Growing & Producing

Inspired by the new 2014 Manitoba Garden Makeover “Newbie” Category: Top 5 mistakes new gardeners make and how to avoid them

Every experienced gardener will tell you that when they started out they made many mistakes, whether it was forgetting to weed, getting the wrong fertilizer or over-watering, it has happened to everyone. What is important to remember is that they learned from those mistakes and moved on which has made them the gardening professional they are today! If you think being a new gardener is intimidating, educating yourself about what to avoid is important to a healthy and stress-free harvest season. Here are the top 5 mistakes new gardeners make and how to avoid them.


When investing in fertilizer there are many things to consider when preparing your garden. Too much fertilizer can harm the health of your plant and the environment, and too little fertilizer will result in a lack of necessary nutrition for plant growth. It is important to educate yourself in advance on which fertilizers to use dependent on the types of plants you are growing throughout the season. The wrong fertilizer can encourage weeds and diseases even while helping plant health. Some additional tips to remember when using fertilizer:

o   Test the soil before you fertilize and be aware of the nutrient content, PH and organic matter composition of your garden.

o   If your test indicates that you are in need of fertilizer, make sure that you are doing it at the right time of year and you are weary of the weather. If it is too dry, the lawn will burn, and if it is too wet the fertilizer will run off into a water source resulting in pollution.

o   Research synthetic fertilizer alternatives. Sometimes it is not necessary to use synthetic fertilizers, and you can use household items or other store bought alternatives to improve plant health. These could include adding compost or mulch, aerating your garden or investing in organic fertilizer.


New gardeners often bite off more than they can chew in a figurative and literal sense when it comes to gardening. Known as “plant lust“, new gardeners often try and grow everything they possibly can as fast as they can whether or not they are limited by space or time. When beginning your planting season it is important to remember that growing something edible from a tiny seedling does take time. Investing in plants that you cannot provide for in terms of space, air circulation or sunlight is costly and disappointing because they often will not grow, and if they do grow they will be overcrowded and prone to disease. Some additional tips to remember when growing:

o   Grow plants that are native to your area

o   Leave plants room for air to circulate constantly

o   Play close attention to the planting instructions outlined on your seed package and make sure you are companion planting (view companion planting table)


When it comes to gardening, watering is one of the necessary components to plant health and growth. One of the mistakes new gardeners make is watering too much, or watering too little, because they are unaware of proper methods. Every plant is different and its vitality is dependent on the soil, weather, time of year and many other variables. The solution to avoiding any H20 dilemma’s is simple, all you need to do is pay attention. The first thing to check when watering your garden is the soil, if it feels moist to a depth of 6 – 12 inches, you are in good condition, if there is no wet residue coming off of your finger or the item you are using to measure, your garden is in need of some care. Before grabbing your watering tool, check the weather forecast and make sure you will not be getting an abundance of rain that day. Too much water can deprive your plants of necessary oxygen and may lose their ability to absorb water. If your plants foliage begins to brown and the edges are beginning to fall off, that is a sign of over-hydration. Although more watering may be necessary if you have extremely hot weather, dry soil or crowded beds, it is up to you to gauge and measure how much water is needed for your plants to thrive. A great tip to think about when watering your plants is that it is like a healthy diet, everything you consume needs to be in moderation and balanced to fulfill your nutrient needs. Plants are living things and are in need of the same consideration and care. Some additional tips to remember when watering:

o   Seeds and seedlings need moisture close to the soil’s surface

o   Ensure that more established plants receive water to the root zone of the plant and not the leaves. This can increase the spread of disease, waste water, and does nothing for the health of the plant.

o   Water slowly and preferably in the morning or late afternoon (still giving them time to dry before the sun goes down)

o   Use the right watering tool suitable for your space (soaker hose preferable over a sprinkler)

o   Know your plants moisture requirements


Many new gardeners have the thought in mind that once you plant the vegetables will come! Being realistic about plant expectations is important when it comes to garden maintenance. All gardens need to be tended to on a regular basis in order to be successful. Many weeds are harmless on their own but when they are competing with your plants for the same space and sunlight they begin to cause problems. Some additional tips to remember when weeding:

o   Try not to let a weed get to seed, it is harder to get rid of and will spread around

o   When pulling out the weed, it is easier if the soil is moist and the weed is young because it has not established a strong root

o   Use mulch in between your plants to prevent additional weeds from growing

Being disappointed because you were unsuccessful

The last mistake many new gardeners make is focusing on their failures and not continuing to garden in the following year. Many gardens are unsuccessful because of things you are unable to control such as weather or pests, but the newbie gardener tends to focus on what they did wrong. What is important to remember when you are a newbie gardener is that everyone was once in the situation you are in. Every professional gardener had to make mistakes and learn from them and there is not one that would tell you any different. There are many things you can do in advance to make your garden healthy and successful, whether that is research on plant requirements, preparing your beds in advance or gathering your compost all year, educating yourself on everything that is involved in maintaining a thriving garden is the only way to maintain hope and be proud of the food you put on your table once your successful harvest is over.

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