15 Mistakes New Gardeners Should Avoid

Are you new to gardening and want to be successful at growing plants and flowers? Here are 15 common mistakes that both experienced and new gardeners should avoid.

And be sure to get my FREE printable must-have plant list for what to plant to get continual color and blooms throughout the growing season at the bottom of this post.

If you are a new gardener, it seems like there’s so much to learn.

Am I right?

But once you understand the basics, you’ll become a more confident and successful gardener.

There will be lots of trial and error.

Some plants do well and some don’t.

It’s a part of gardening.

But there are some things that we have control over when growing a garden.

There are a few gardening basics that when followed will bring the new gardener down a path of success.

And believe me when I tell you I’ve made almost every one of these mistakes at some point in my gardening career.

So don’t beat yourself up if you’ve made any of them.

Even the best gardeners still make some of these mistakes today.

Myself included!

Here’s what you need to avoid to grow a happy, healthy garden both indoors and out.

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Cottage Garden by the Shed

15 Mistakes to Avoid as a New Gardener

The following are common mistakes that are listed in no particular order.

Mistake #1 – New Gardeners Not Knowing Their Hardiness Zone

It’s important to understand what hardiness zone we live in.

Knowing our hardiness zone helps us understand how plants will survive in our climates.

I live in New Jersey, Zone 6a, so certain plants won’t survive outside in winter.

In those cases, they are either treated as annuals or they must be overwintered indoors.

Moreover, some summer-loving annuals may not thrive in cool spring weather.

So it’s important to understand how plants will adapt to climate conditions.

Thrift Unique Decorating Ideas

Mistake #2 – Not Testing Your Soil

So many people do not test their soil.

Both experienced and new gardeners alike.

If you want to ensure success with what you grow, I strongly recommend testing your soil.

Understanding soil quality is the key to gardening success because you will have a better idea what will grow best in your soil.

For example, some plants prefer acidic soil, while others prefer alkaline. If you plant an acidic loving plant in soil heavy in alkaline, it won’t do well.

Thus, it’s important to know the quality and make-up of your soil.

You can contact your local cooperative extension to help test your soil or try a kit like this one.

Results will include what your soil conditions are and make recommendations for improvement.

bricks n blooms weekly

Mistake #3 – Not Keeping Spacing in Mind

Before purchasing plants, it’s important to know how big your garden is so you know what size plants to get.

Crowding plants too close together can promote pest and disease problems.

And we don’t want that – so read your plants tags, follow the grower’s recommendations and space plants accordingly.

Plus overcrowding can cause one plant variety to choke out another.

So be sure to read the plant tag for spacing information.

15 Mistakes New Gardeners Should Avoid

Mistake #4 – Overwatering

While we could chat about a number of ways to keeping gardens and houseplants alive, there is one BIG thing we do wrong without even realizing it.

And that is…overwatering.

I know we want to schedule watering on the same day every week.

Or we see a plant struggling and we think it needs more water.

The Secret to Keeping Houseplants Alive

But rethinking how we water plants will save a lot of heartache when a houseplant succumbs to pest and disease problems due to overwatering.


Because when we overwater, roots stay soggy.

Soggy roots promote pest and disease problems.

And with some plants, like succulents for example, they don’t want to be watered all that often.

With plants, sometimes less is more.

So be cognizent of the plants you have and what care they require.

Read the plant tags and do some research.

And before you water houseplants and other container gardens, do THIS TEST to see plants actually need it.

If you have larger outdoor gardens, consider these factors before grabbing that hose:

  • Has it rained?
  • Will it rain?
  • What time of day?
  • What’s the air temperature?
  • How wet is the soil?
15 Mistakes New Gardeners Should Avoid

Mistake #5 – Underwatering

Underwatering plants is just as bad as overwatering, but can be a little easier to correct if the plant is easy-going enough.

Most plants will let you know they are thirsty when they start drooping and looking kind of sad.

Some plants may not recover from severe underwatering while others may bounce back.

If you are a beginner gardener, I strongly suggest working with easy-care plants that are hard to kill until you get a feel for caring for them and achieve some success.

Try THESE houseplants and THESE garden plants to start.

15 Mistakes New Gardeners Should Avoid

Mistake #6 – Planting in the Wrong Location

Location location location.

Before buying plants, it’s important to know what light conditions we have.

And they may be different in various spots of our property and inside our homes.

Depending on where the garden is sited, check to see how much sunlight it gets: full sun (6-8 hours), part sun (4-6 hours), part shade (2-4 hours) and shade (0-2 hours).

If siting plants indoors, determine whether it’s receiving north, south, east or west facing window light.

And keep indoor plants away from excessive heat and drafts.

Read THIS for more specific details about siting houseplants indoors.

Vegetable Garden in Raised Garden Beds

Mistake #7 – Not Planting Native Plants

If you are a new gardener, working with native plants is much easier than planting those that are not naturally found in your region or hardiness zone.

They are much less work than their non-natives counterparts.

Not sure what’s native in your area?

Check with your local cooperative extenstion office, nursery or fellow gardeners to see what they recommend.

early summer Jersey garden tour

Mistake #8 – New Gardeners Not Reading Plant Tags

Read plant tags to determine light requirements, size, and bloom times.

Save them in a garden journal or notebook file.

Or take a photo of them and save in your phone for easy reference.

Happy gardening with dark horse wiegela, peonies and container gardening

Mistake #9 – New Gardeners Taking on More Than They Can Handle

Have you ever heard the saying don’t bite off more than you can chew?

The same theory applies to gardening.

Because of the work involved with planting, growing and maintaining a garden, start small and expand your gardens as you gain experience.

Starting with too much too soon is a surefire way to overwhelm yourself as a new gardener and get discouraged.

woodland garden

Mistake #10 – Not Weeding

This is a big one.

Yes you have to weed.

There’s no easy way around it, hand pulling or hoeing is the best method to weed gardens.

THIS is my favorite hand weeding tool.

THIS is my favorite stand-up weeding tool.

I don’t always use a garden hoe, but when I do, it’s one like THIS.

The Complete Guide to Roses Care

About Chemicals for Weed Control

Please don’t use toxic chemicals to remove weeds.

They are really bad for the environment, bad for your garden, bad for the water table, bad for you pets and other wildlife and most importantly, it’s bad for you and your own family’s health.

It’s just bad.

And this includes what we put down on the lawn.

With all the talk about climate change and the environment, one of the BEST things we can do as individuals is stop using harmful chemicals in our lawns and gardens.

Think global and act local because it starts with us as homeowners and gardeners.

So yes, stop using the lawn chemical service to maintain a thick green lawn and allow some weeds to grow.

Other organic methods to getting rid of weeds in the garden is using boiling hot water or home recipes with a mixture of vinegar, dish soap, and epsom salt.

What If You Don’t Weed?

Gardens will become overgrown.

Weeds zap nutrients from your plants and flowers.

And worse, you can grow a weed that can totally take over your garden in such a bad way that you might need to rip it all out.

This happened to me before and it was a disaster.

roses in my jersey garden

Several years ago, I was really busy running around with my kids and saw a yellow threading weed growing around plants in my front yard cottage garden.

I kept putting off dealing with it.

In fact, I wasn’t even sure what it was!

Well, I waited so long that it thread its way through my garden and all of my perennials plants.

When I finally read up on what it was (dodder) and how to get rid of it, it was so bad and extended throughout so much of the garden, that I had to rip out all of the affected plants.

And it took a few years to eradicate as well.

So stay on top of the weeds!

Nursery Trip

Mistake #11 – New Gardeners Not Inspecting Plants Before Buying at the Nursery

Before bringing a plant home from the nursery, always check it out.

Make sure you don’t see any bugs on the leaves, stems or soil.

Be sure to check the undersides of plant leaves.

Also check the foliage to ensure there is not yellowing or fungal spots.

The last thing you want to do is bring a plant home that has pest and disease problems that you’ll introduce to the rest of your garden.

And if you can, remove the plant from the plastic pot and check the root system to see how root bound it is and how healthy the roots are.

If the roots are soft, mushy and decayed, don’t buy it.

green garden stake safety tip

Mistake #12 – Not Considering the Critters

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For me, deer are a huge problem so I follow these tips to deer-proof my garden and focus on choosing the right plants.

But I’ve also had problems with rabbits, chipmunks, groundhogs, squirrels and birds.

Keep a close eye on your gardens.

Walk the beds every day to catch wildlife problems early.

15 Mistakes New Gardeners Should Avoid

Mistake #13 – Not Caring for Plants While On Vacation

Before heading out for vacation, even if it’s just for a weekend, make sure your plants and garden have the care they need to survive while you are away.

HERE are some great tips to keep your gardens happy and healthy while you are out of town.

The complete guide to roses care

Mistake #14 – Not Planting Near a Water Source

When growing a garden, know where your water source is located.

If a water source is really far away, it will be tough to establish new plants or keep plants hydrated during the heat of summer.

My former vegetable garden was really far away from a water source and it was difficult to keep the garden watered as needed, particularly in summer.

As a result, my vegetable harvest suffered from inconsistent watering.

Don’t make the same mistake I did and really think about where that water source is and how you will water plants.

15 Mistakes new Gardeners should avoid

Mistake #15 – New Gardeners Not Feeding Plants

New gardeners often ask me what to feed plants often.

For perennials, shrub and trees, I recommend focusing on good soil quality.

Amend the soil yearly with compost and other organic materials, and mulch.

That’s it.

For vegetables, I recommend a good organic plant food like THIS.

For roses, I recommend using THIS.

I had THE BEST rose blooms this year that I largely attribute to the plant food I used. You can check it out HERE.

Annuals, houseplants and container gardens, need to be fertilized.

Since annuals have such a short life span, it’s important to feed them with a fertilizer so they bloom profusely through the season.

Where houseplants and container gardens are concerned, they also need the nutrients so they can grow

I love using THIS slow-release fertilizer for my annuals, houseplants and container gardens because it is set and forget.

And note, when using any sort of fertilizer, ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s directions.

For more container gardening tips, CLICK HERE.

15 mistakes new gardeners should avoid

Want to Learn What to Plant for an Everblooming Colorful Garden?

Click here to get my FREE Must-Have Plant List!

Be the plant parent you’ve always wanted to be with these tried and true flowers that will give you a beautiful garden that’s always in bloom.

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Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling

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  1. Hi- Love this post- I hadn’t thought of using drip irrigation systems available for home use! Thank you for all the useful information. Your gardens show how much you love them!

    1. THank you Karen! Yes the drip seems to be working really well for my container gardens. Its much easier to just turn that on than watering every container I have…cause I have a lot hahaha

  2. Stacy, I love all these tips. I’ve got to really focus on native plants and not spread myself so thin trying plants that don’t grow well in my zone. Thanks so much!

  3. Hi Stacy – I am drooling with envy over your gardens. It is so nice of you to take the time to do a video of your gardens.
    Just LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    My best to you

    1. I am so glad you enjoy the video!!! There’s only so much you can see from the photos. I love seeing it in action!

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