15 Gardening Mistakes to Avoid This Spring
Spring is around the corner and you are ready to start planting. But spring gardens don't always turn out the way many gardeners expect. In this article, gardening expert Jill Drago shares 15 common spring gardening mistakes that many gardeners make, and how to avoid them.
As I am writing this, I am staring out my window and my brown winter gardens. I cannot wait for spring to arrive! I already have all sorts of plans for rearranging my gardens, dividing some plants, and re-doing the foundation garden at the front of my house.
With all of these dreams floating around in my head, I can already tell that my heart has taken on more than I will physically be able to handle this season. So, what spring gardening task is most important? What should I prioritize in my garden?
If you find yourself in the same boat as me, it gets hard to focus on exactly what to do. So first, let’s talk about what not to do, with some of the most common spring gardening mistakes we should do our best to avoid this season.
Growing a Garden That’s Too Big
It is so easy to dream very large garden dreams during the cold winter months. It can be easy to get carried away. Planting too large of a garden in the springtime can be a recipe for disaster. You may not be completely familiar with the soil structure or the sun exposure in the garden.
Plan your garden out but plant it in steps. Not only could this save you money (or at least spread out the costs), but it can save plants! Start small. You could begin at the front of your garden and work your way back. Or you could install larger plants in the back and fill the front with annuals for the time being.
Whatever you decide, think long and hard about what you have time to care for. And if you are a beginner just starting out, start small and work your way up in size.
Choosing the Wrong Plants
The internet can help get our garden inspiration juices flowing. But not all plants will grow well in all locations. While you are planning your gardens, make sure you do your research on the hardiness zones where each plant will thrive.
Shopping at your local garden center is the best way to ensure that you are getting plants that will grow well in your area. Many online retailers will only ship to zones where plants will thrive, but it is always a good idea to double-check!
Planting anything that may not be hardy in your zone will lead to poor growth and likely the death of the plant. Many plants can be grown and treated as annuals. If you are prepared for this, then go for it!
Planting Too Early
Before you begin to install your new beautiful plants in your garden, make sure your soil is ready! You want to allow the soil time to warm up and completely thaw before you plant anything in the ground.
You will want to wait until after your last frost date has passed. You will also be looking for temperatures of 50-60 degrees.
If you are antsy, grab some springtime annuals, such as pansies, and plant them in your window boxes or containers. You can also add forsythia branches or pussy willow branches into these containers for a classic spring display.
Planting Too Close Together
It is so important to keep the full size of any plant in mind when you are planting a garden. If you have dreams about growing a hedge or a border of one specific plant, it can be hard to wait for these plants to fill in. However, in this case, it is worth the wait.
Planting too close together may work for a few seasons, but in the end, it will be detrimental to the health of your plants.
Airflow between plants is very important when it comes to keeping fungal diseases at bay. Allowing plants the appropriate space to grow is also important so that the plant will grow to its full beautiful size.
Skipping Spring Clean Up
Spring clean-ups are just as important as clean-ups in the fall, maybe even more so! Over the winter, little critters may use our plants as a place of protection so they can make it through the winter chill.
Start by removing any leaves or plant debris from within your plant. If you need to cut your plants back or prune them at all, this is a great time to do so.
Once you are all done detailing your plants, give your garden beds a good rake and remove all of that leaf and plant litter from the beds. Add it to your compost bin or remove it from your property!
Even though garden weeds may be scarce when spring arrives, it is still a good idea to pull them before they get out of control. Weeds have a very quick life cycle and spread seeds like wildfire. Getting this under control as early as possible will only set you up for an easier summer.
Weeding can be done in multiple ways, simply pulling by hand or using a tool. I love to use my cape cod weeder! It easily pulls many types of weeds out of my soil with little strain to my back. You can also use pre-emergent weed control at this point in the season.
Be careful, however. If you are planning on planting seeds of any sort, you should not use this type of product in those areas as it is not specific and will kill any newly germinating plant.
Mismanaging Your Watering
Springtime watering (and even late winter watering) is just as important as summer watering. Once the temperatures reach over 40 degrees, you can begin to water your gardens.
Watering in the spring is important because your plants have desperately been waiting for you to give them a drink. For your plants to grow and thrive, they will need water to produce all of those beautiful leaves and flower buds!
Do not water if your temperatures dip below 40 degrees this could cause frost heaves which can damage your plant. It is also important not to overwater your plant.
Your plants are active but not as active as they are in the summer, and they will not take up the same amount of water as they do when it is hot.
Spring is a really good time to lay down some compost in your gardens. Compost is a wonderful and natural way to add nutrition to your soil. You can get compost at garden centers or from local farms or landscape supply companies.
You can add a few inches of compost to the top of your gardens, or you can add compost just around the base of certain plants that may need an extra boost. Either way, do not skip this springtime task!
Forgetting to Mulch
Adding mulch is one of my favorite spring gardening tasks. Not only does it greatly benefit our gardens, but it instantly beautifies our homes!
There are a lot of mulches available in bags which can be suitable if you have a smaller space to mulch. I prefer mulch delivered from a local landscape supply company.
As I said, mulch can make our gardens look pristine. There are other benefits to mulch as well. Mulch provides a great weed barrier that allows our ornamental plants to grow happily without little interference from pesky weeds. Mulch also helps soil retain moisture once the weather heats up.
Bringing Potted Plants Out Too Early
If you have overwintered some potted plants in your home or garage, you are probably anxious to get them back outside. Hold off for just a little while longer. You have taken such good care of these plants all winter long, you don’t want to risk something happening to them!
It is advised to wait until the nighttime temperatures are at least 50 degrees before moving your pots outside full-time. Until then, it is a great idea to harden them off just as you would with seedlings. Bring your pots out on warm sunny days to get used to the elements again and bring the pots back in at night.
Be sure to water your plants as they adjust to being back outside!
Forgetting to Start Your Seeds
Growing plants from seeds can be such a rewarding process. As with many gardening tasks, timing is everything! Once you have purchased your seeds, take a look at the packet and locate the suggested planting time.
There will likely be an indoor and outdoor suggested sow date. This date is an estimated time before or after your last frost date that you should plant your seeds. This frost date is easy to find online if you search your zip code.
Planting your seeds too early can cause them to grow too large before you can get them outside. While planting your seeds too late could result in plants that do not reach maturity at the proper time.
Not Sharpening Tools
Sharpening your tools in the fall is a great idea, but it is also easy to forget to do. Spring is just as good of a time to sharpen your shears and loppers before you need to use them.
If this is not something you are comfortable doing on your own, ask your local garden center or local landscape equipment shop if they will do it for you, they may even recommend a different vendor.
Sharpening stones for loppers and shears can be found at your hardware store. Clean the tools first and begin by removing any rust with some steel wool.
Next, you will want to take the sharpening stone and sharpen the edge of the blade by running it in the same direction as the grain. When you have finished, add oil to the blade or store them in a pot of sand to prevent rust.
Not Cleaning Containers
If you are like me, you may have left your containers full of soil and dead annuals last fall. Whoops! I love to move my pots around and enjoy them until there is nothing left to enjoy, which often leaves them a forgotten mess all winter long.
When spring comes around, take the extra time to clean your containers out. Dump any remaining plants and soil and give the containers a rinse. If you notice any cracks, this is a great time to patch them or get rid of them.
You may opt to disinfect your containers using a soak of one part bleach to 9 parts water. Let the containers hang out for at least ten minutes before removing them. You may need to use a scrub brush to remove any build-up. Give your containers a good rinse and let them dry out before planting.
Not Prepping Raised Beds
Whether you plan on planting vegetable seeds, flower seeds, or plants in your raised beds, preparing the soil is very important. In the spring, remove any remnants of last season’s crops and give the soil a good turn. Remove any weeds that may have sprouted in the spring sunshine.
Next, add several inches of organic material to the bed and work it all together. Once you have your soil nice and blended, it is time to clean up the area around the raised bed. I like to add mulch around my raised beds to keep weeds away.
Weeds that grow on the ground around your bed can blow their seeds into your raised beds and drink up any excess water.
Forgetting to Prep Water Tools
Hoses, watering cans, and sprinklers all have a lifespan, even if you winterize them correctly. Before the heat of the summer rolls around, take an inventory of your watering artillery and do an inspection.
Check your watering cans and sprinklers for cracks or clogs and mend them if possible. Cleaning any leftover soil, insects, or other plant debris with soap and water.
Before you wrap your hoses up on their reels, stretch them out straight and lay them in the sun. This will warm the hose up, making it easier to wrap without any kinks. Attach the hose to your spigot and run the water to make sure there are no leaks.
Springtime is also a great time to lay out your soaker hoses. Just be sure to wait until you see signs of life from all of your plants so you can make sure your plants are all getting enough water from your hoses.
Spring is such a busy time in the garden, but it is the best time. You can set yourself up for great success with a little foresight and planning.
Take your time and devote yourself to some of these seemingly mindless tasks, and you will be rewarded with an easy and successful growing season.