Much of gardening is learned by trial and error – that means, from mistakes. We have all been in that situation.
The good news is we can learn from other people’s mistakes and our own.
Associated Press garden writer Jessica Damiano has this advice: “First, we need to admit we’re not perfect.”
Many years ago, Damiano planted some morning glory seeds near the front gate of her garden. The seeds are often called a “fast-grower” and “self-sower.” She was sure the vine would immediately bloom with leaves and flowers.
But, the morning glory did its job too well. She now spends about a half hour every week during summer pulling up seedlings that grow as far as 15 meters away.
Damiano said that was not her only trial and error in gardening. One summer, she planted some mint in a garden bed instead of a container. But the mint jumped the garden bed and spread everywhere. By the third year, Damiano had to dig up the whole bed to remove it. She learned not to plant invasive plants.
Here is a list of Damiano’s five common gardening mistakes with advice on how to avoid them.
Not testing soil
Having the right pH level, a measure of acidity, for the soil is important for gardening success. Tomatoes, for example, grow best in soil with a pH between 6.0-6.8. Blueberry plants, however, will likely turn yellow and produce little if the pH is higher than 5.5.
That is because nutrients are available to plants only at target pH levels, which are different for each kind of plant.
Test kits for pH are not costly and you should test the soil in each garden bed individually. The pH level is often not the same in different parts of the garden. A reading of 7.0 is considered neutral. A lower number means the soil is acidic and a higher number means it is a base.
It is best to select plants that do well in your garden conditions.
Most garden plants require 2.5 to nearly four centimeters of water weekly. The water could come from rainfall or from your home.
Mold, mildew and bacterial diseases, however, could spread if too much water becomes trapped between plant parts. Too much water can spread these problems from infected leaves to healthy ones.
Make sure to direct water to roots, where it is needed. Avoid watering leaves, fruit and flowers.
Compost, made of food or plant waste, is a gardener’s best friend. It improves the drainage of heavy clay soil, increases the water-holding ability of sand and adds high-quality nutrients.
Add compost into new beds and borders, or add an amount equal to half the removed soil to individual planting holes.
Wrong plant, wrong place
A plant that needs “full sun” will likely disappoint if planted in an area without sunshine. The same is true the other way around. And do not put “drought-tolerant” plants, or plants that can survive long periods without water, in “poorly-draining, soggy soil.”
Choose the plants that are right for your growing conditions. The result will be a better-looking, healthier garden that requires less care and less work.
Mulch is material made out of old leaves, wood or compost. It can keep water and heat in the soil. It also suppresses unwanted plants, or weeds. So, it is an important part of every garden.
Mulching incorrectly, however, can kill your plants.
Always use mulch from natural materials such as tree bark, wood chips, straw or pine needles. They enrich the soil as they break down.
Add five to seven centimeters of mulch around plants several times a year. Keep the material about seven centimeters away from trunks and stems to avoid blocking air and preventing water from escaping, which would result in rot.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Jessica Damiano reported this story for the Associated Press. Hai Do adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
drainage –n. the act or process of removing or pulling water out of or away from soil or some other material
soggy –adj. heavy and soft with water
rot –n. the slow break down of wood or similar materials because of water
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