The 5 Mistakes Every Beginning Gardener Makes, and How to Avoid Them

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Rookie gardeners who don’t want to poison their petunias or smother their snapdragons should keep these five common gardening mistakes in mind.

If you follow them, you’ll be well on your way to a lush, magazine-worthy garden!


1. Ditching leaves

fallen autumn leaves

One common error that rookie gardeners make is raking fallen autumn leaves into a pile and burning them.

By incinerating leafy matter, these gardeners are wasting free fodder for that most enriching of fertilizers: compost.

Since the best compost piles are a mixture of kitchen leftovers and shredded fall leaves, dead leaves should be valued and not thrown out.


2. Bad compost


It is important for gardening neophytes to learn about materials that should not be used in compost piles, like paper and grass clippings.

Paper has few nutrients and the ink may contain dangerous chemicals.

Grass clippings should not be used as they add excessive levels of nitrogen to compost piles and often carry traces of herbicides that will kill the plants the compost is placed around.


3. The pitfalls of wood

wood chips mulch

Beginner gardeners don’t realize that the wood mulch they use around their plants is actively leaching valuable nitrogen from the surrounding soil, stealing the nutrients from needy plants.

If the wood comes from a tree cut when its sap was flowing, it can also kill the plants with acidic sap residue.

Wood mulch does have its uses farther away from gardens. The pests in your yard can be kept from moving between woods and yards by placing several inches of wood mulch between the thick brush and the lawn.


4. Too much of a good thing


When it comes to mulch, more is not necessarily better.

Mulch should only be applied in two-inch layers at the most. Any deeper, and rainwater will not be able to permeate the layer of mulch to reach the plant’s roots.

An essential part of successful mulching is making sure that the mulch does not actually touch the plant stem or trunk.


5. Attack of the trees

backyard garden trees

Another common rookie mistake is planting trees too near structures.

That four-foot tree may seem perfect now, but it could grow to unexpected heights and spread its skirt out farther than planned.

Decorative grasses and skinny evergreens should be used near houses instead of oaks and poplars. The roots of these broad-leaf trees can crack foundations.



Whether beginners are piling on the mulch or using improper materials in their compost piles, taking the steps to recognize and correct their gardening mistakes will result in a more beautiful garden.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for freshness and consistency.

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    Greener Ideal strives to help you live your life in more sustainable ways with green living tips, healthy recipes and commentary on the latest environment news. The views expressed by guest authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.

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