How many of those gardening blunders have you made? | Georges weigel


As the 2021 growing season fraught with rain, leaf diseases, armyworms and lanterns draws to a close, it is again evident that there are many outside factors that can threaten a smooth journey through the ancient landscape.

But there’s a good chance that a few “operator errors” are also involved when things aren’t looking so good in October.

The good news is that trial and error is an effective way to learn gardening – or just about anything, for that matter.

The mess has a hammering home lesson style that, if you pay attention to it, leads to success later on.

Fortunately, gardening offers an almost limitless array of potential mistakes.

Some of the best gardeners will admit they missed their path to mastering botany.

Here are 10 of the most common misfires … in case you’d rather learn from others than fend for yourself.

Underestimating the size of a plant

Almost everyone who plants a plant is guilty of this one.

Unlike furniture, plants don’t keep the same size once you place them. They keep growing until they die … some much faster and bigger than expected.

The lesson: Pay attention to heights and widths on plant labels and space at least so much. (Even these are estimates at fixed times, often 10 to 20 years.)

Then prepare to start pruning, pruning and / or dividing once the plants have reached their allotted size. Do not wait until they are overgrown and so try to push them away.

Prune these spring-flowering shrubs right after they have finished flowering.

Prune flower buds

This is usually the answer to the question “Why are my hydrangeas / azaleas / forsythias / etc.” flowering?”

Trees and shrubs that bloom in the spring (usually before June) bloom on branches that form their flower buds the previous fall. If you hit these branches in the fall, winter, or very early spring, you will cut off any buds that would have opened in the flowers.

The Lesson: Wait Until You’re Right after spring bloomers finish blooming to prune them. Go there no later than midsummer.


Not watering the plants is a quick way to kill them.

Kill plants by not watering enough

Even drought tolerant plants need consistently moist soil until their roots grow enough to extract enough moisture from the soil.

Until then, it’s up to you to make sure the soil around the roots stays moist. Rain rarely does the trick for you – at least not consistently.

New factories are particularly threatened. While perennial flowers can establish reasonably well in two years, allow three or four years before trees, shrubs, and evergreens can do it on their own.

The lesson: Your index finger – sunk a few inches into the ground – makes an excellent moisture meter.

Newer plants with relatively shallow roots such as annuals, vegetables and perennials benefit from soaks every two to four days instead of rain, while larger trees, shrubs and evergreens can go every five to seven. days – but with deeper soaks to account for their larger root systems.

Too much water

Plants can also die if they receive too much water.

Kill plants with too much the water

Ironically, you can also kill plants by overwatering them, although this is much more common with houseplants and plants growing in pots without sufficient drainage holes at the bottom.

For buried plants, the main threats to excess water are: 1.) plants in poorly drained places, 2.) when it rains constantly, and 3.) if you water too much and too often. .

The lesson: Improve the soil and / or build raised beds before planting in low areas or lousy clay soils (or stick to plants that tolerate moist soil). These resolve Threats # 1 and # 2 because you can’t regulate precipitation amounts.

Use this finger before watering. If the soil at root level is already wet, store the hose.

For houseplants, wait until the soil is barely dry and the pot is noticeably lighter before watering.

Spray drift

Drift from herbicide sprays can kill unwanted plants and plant parts.

Accidentally killing plants with sprays

Many homeowners have burned leaves or killed whole plants by using the wrong spray, mixing too hard, or applying the spray in the heat of a bright summer afternoon.

One of the most common examples is killing the grass using an all-killer herbicide (i.e. Roundup), thinking it was just supposed to kill the weeds.

It is also common to damage plants by not cleaning the sprayer after using a herbicide.

The Lesson: Read these labels to know what you are using and how to use it safely.

Consider dedicating different sprayers to insecticides, broadleaf weedkillers, and all-killing herbicides – or limit sprays as much as possible.

Fertilizer burn

This lawn was destroyed by the granular fertilizer that was spilled while the gardener was filling a lawn spreader.

Burn the lawn with fertilizer

Some chemical fertilizers are strong enough that, if applied in excess, the nitrogen in them can cause the grass to turn brown. Uneven applications can also cause streaking.

Another all-too-common mistake is when DIY enthusiasts dump granular fertilizer into their spreader and inadvertently spill it on the surrounding lawn. These spills frequently cause brown spots on the lawn.

The lesson: Apply fertilizer in the amounts indicated. Or switch to organic fertilizers or slow-release nitrogen-rich fertilizers, both of which are much less likely to burn a lawn.

Fill your spreaders on the driveway or other hard surface so you can sweep up spills.

Mulch volcano

Wrapping mulch from tree trunks like a volcano is a good way to rot bark and kill trees.

“Mulching the volcano”

This is the term for placing mulch in a funnel-shaped mound that hits tree trunks.

Yes, you’ll even see professional landscapers doing it, but it’s harmful to trees by causing bark to rot and providing shelter for rodents (mice, chipmunks, and voles) that chew on tree bark.

Mulch longer than three to four inches – even if it’s not right against the trunk – is also detrimental by “stealing” rain in dry conditions and reducing the amount of oxygen reaching tree roots.

The lesson: keep mulch a few inches from tree trunks and limit layers of mulch to no more than four inches.

Leave the bulb foliage alone

Post-bloom is when spring bulbs do most of their “recharge” for the next year by absorbing sunlight through the leaves. Don’t prevent this by braiding or removing the leaves too early.

Playing with bulb foliage while it is still green

The weeks after the end of flowering of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other spring bulbs are very important because this is when the foliage absorbs sunlight which provides energy to recharge the bulbs for the flowering next year.

You will interfere with this refill by cutting off the still green foliage or reducing the area by braiding or tying the leaves, as many people do to “clean up” the post-bloom appearance.

The lesson: Don’t cut, braid, or mess up the foliage of spring bulbs until it has at least started to turn yellow – signaling that most of the season’s photosynthesis work is done.

Not dead

This hydrangea is not dead … it’s just still dormant from winter.

Dig up plants that are not dead

You might think that those crepe myrtles, hardy hibiscus, butterfly bushes, figs, and other late leafy plants are dead when almost everything else is already green and growing.

Be aware that some plants, especially those from warmer climates, wait until the weather is consistently warm before springing back to life in late spring. Until then, these might appear leafless and dead when they are in fact still dormant.

The lesson: If you don’t know what is normal for your plants, wait until at least the end of May or even mid-June before digging them up to dig them up.

You can also tell by scraping the bark off the stems of leafless woody plants a little. If there’s green underneath, there’s a good chance the plant is still slumbering, not dead.

Those late spring frosts ...

This is what happens to impatiens and other annuals if you plant them before the frosty nights of spring are over.

Plant too early

Gardeners are eager to get these petunias, tomatoes, and other summer annuals and vegetables into the ground at the first sight of frost-free spring weather.

You may have a jump in the season in some years, but many gardeners have seen their tender plants die when a frost follows a warming or two.

The lesson: Our last official all-time killing frost for Harrisburg is May 11, so wait until then to know it’ll take a record-breaking frost to get you. Those who live in cooler, higher, and / or more remote areas might see frost as late as Memorial Day.

At least wait for the late frost-free weather to approach and check the 10-day forecast to make sure nothing is even close to a frost before you plant.

Just because garden centers and home improvement centers sell tender plants doesn’t mean they should be buried.

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