10 Gardening Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Even though the process of growing plants and vegetables from scratch may seem daunting, we found out the most common mistakes—and how to avoid them. Read on for 10 tips on what not to do, according to experts who school you on first-timer no-nos.

© Illustration: Julia Abbonizio/Getty Images

Mistake 1: Setting too lofty of a gardening goal

A bigger garden isn’t always better, at least if you’re a beginner, notes Megan Gilger, the gardening blogger behind Fresh Exchange. “It is easy to let your eyes get big when wandering the plant stores or looking online at ideas,” Gilger says. “Instead use those ideas to spur a bigger plan. Growing a great garden successfully takes time.” Gilger advises gardeners who are creating a garden from scratch to start small, but think big. A garden is a long-term investment and you should think about your goals three to five years from now.

Mistake 2: Not interplanting 

Let all of your buds play together. “Break away from the idea that you can only grow one type [of plant] in a bed,” Gilger says.  Interplanting, or intercropping, is a gardening practice that encourages pairing companion plants, as well as bundling taller and shorter plants. Mixing and matching can also whittle weeds and bring in beneficial pollinators, she explains. Bonus: Interplanting is also said to reduce pests and disease. 

Mistake 3: Overcrowding plants

Although mixing plants together is A-OK, you still have to be mindful of spacing, notes Michael Giannelli of East Hampton Gardens, a garden and home shop in East Hampton, New York. “[People] want that instant garden full and colorful—big mistake,” he says. “Plants need room to grow and spread naturally.” Follow the planting recommendations, which typically suggest 2 to 3 feet between plants. You can probably cheat a little by skirting the recommendations by a few inches, but don’t pack plants side by side like sardines.

Mistake 4: Planting too much variety

Tempting as it may be to plant everything from acorns to zucchini, focus on growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers that bring joy to your plate. “It seems simple, but you are most passionate about growing the vegetables, herbs, and flowers you already find yourself grabbing for at the grocery store or farmers market,” Gilger says. No need to fuss over fennel if you think it tastes blah. 

Don’t make a mistake. Click the link to see all 10 gardening mistakes.

Written by Sarah Lyon for Architectual Digest©

Source link: 10 Gardening Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs (msn.com)

Plant Asters for Unique Display of Fall Color

Fall gardens may need some added pops of color this time of year to maintain beauty and diversity until winter arrives. Asters are a late-blooming, pollinator friendly flower that looks great in the garden and in a fall floral display. 

Photo by Kelly Allsup. 

Think beyond the obvious, fall-blooming favorite mums this year. Select a gorgeous, full-of-color aster instead.

There are 180 species of aster, many of which are native to Illinois. Their dainty, daisy-like flowers range in color from purple, white, pink, and red, all with bright yellow centers. New England aster, Symphyotrichum novaeangliae, and aromatic aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, are two easy-to-find favorites. 

Where to Plant Them

Asters grow best in full sun to partial shade areas with well-drained soils. They are typically perennials in Illinois gardens, but need to be in the ground at least six weeks before it freezes to develop a good root system and overwinter successfully.  

Varieties can vary in height from 6 inches to 6 feet. Taller varieties can be pruned back by a third several times throughout the summer, stopping in late July, to create a more compact plant. This will also increase the number of blooms on the plant.  

Asters will begin to bloom when the days get shorter in late summer to early fall. They are short-day plants, like mums, meaning they need long periods of darkness to initiate flower buds.  

Beware, it is normal for the lower leaves to turn brown and dry up when the plant is in full bloom.

Care and Dividing

To prevent asters from self-seeding throughout the garden, cut back the plant to about 2 inches above ground level after the first hard frost has turned the foliage brown. Gardeners can also choose to leave the plant and developing seeds for winter interest and for the birds to enjoy.  

To keep asters tidy and healthy, divide the plants in early spring every two to three years, or when the center dies out. Some varieties are unfortunately prone to powdery mildew, which can be reduced with good air circulation and watering in the morning at the base of the plant. 

A bee and butterfly favorite, asters are a great source of fall nectar for pollinators traveling on their fall migration. While most flowers have already finished blooming, asters are just starting their show in the garden.

They serve as the larval host plant for several butterflies and moths, including painted lady butterflies.   

Asters also make great cut flowers for mixed fall arrangements. Arrange them with bright yellow goldenrod and ornamental grasses for a stunning autumnal décor display.  

Article by Brittnay Haag, horticulture educator

Source: Gardeners Corner Fall 2021: University of Illinois Extension

What Is a No-Till Garden?

We might be fussing over our gardens so much that we’re actually harming them. As it turns out, all of that tilling, spading, hoeing and weeding can be destructive because it disrupts the habitats and hard work of all those helpful little creatures who turn our plain dirt into rich soil.

No-till gardens, AKA no-dig gardens, are growing in popularity because of their effectiveness and environmental benefits.

© Cavan Images/Getty Images

In a no-till garden, you don’t turn or mix the soil to prep it for planting. Instead, you just add amendments to the top, then cut spent plants at the soil line instead of yanking them out. This keeps the soil’s structure intact, protects its diversity of life, and provides ample space for water and oxygen to reach roots.

While many experts, including our Family Handyman editors, promoted tilling in the past, new technologies are helping soil scientists better understand what’s happening underground.

“Tilling has been a widely accepted practice for centuries, but we had very little understanding of soil and its many complexities,” says Kathy Glassey, director of renewable resources for Monster Tree Service.

Here are some of the benefits of a no-till garden.

Better Soil Structure

Soil is more than dirt. It’s a complex structure of interwoven pathways, residues, nutrients and life. When soil is allowed to retain its structure, it stays more resilient and healthy. Your plants will do the same.

Increased Water Retention

When soil has good structure, it absorbs water better and slows evaporation. That means you can water less and lower your water bill.

Less Erosion and Healthier Watersheds

Well-structured soil is less likely to erode, keeping your topsoil in place and preventing runoff from polluting water downstream. “As it turns out, keeping the residue on the soil surface, rather than tilling it under, not only protects the soil from erosion, it also helps migratory waterfowl,” says Mary Phillips, head of Garden for Wildlife.

Increased Carbon Sequestration

Plants absorb carbon from the air and transfer it into the soil. Microorganisms in soil also store carbon. “Tilling disrupts the natural cycle of carbon storage and releases it into the atmosphere, increasing climate temperatures,” says Phillips.

Greater Weed Control

The organic weed maintenance practices in no-till gardening, like landscape cloth, mulching and hand weeding, are often more effective and thorough than other methods.

“One of the misnomers of tilling is that it is thought to kill weeds,” says Phillips. “Unfortunately, it only kills weeds at the surface. The turning redistributes weed seeds into the ground that then come to the surface when they germinate.”

More Nutrients, Less Fertilizer

When not disrupted, underground communities of microorganisms and earthworms thrive. That’s important because they break down organic matter and supply micronutrients and minerals to the plants. The healthier their ecosystem, the more nutrient-dense the plants will be, and the less fertilizer you’ll be tempted to add.

Less Physical Effort

Yeah, you heard that right. This is one of the few instances in life where not doing something actually works to your benefit.

Fewer Diseases and Pests

Greater biodiversity in the soil means there will also be a greater diversity of insects above it. Both help maintain a natural balance, which keeps pests and diseases in check. So there’s less of a chance you’ll need pesticides or other interventions.

Less Fossil Fuel

No-till means you can retire the power tilling equipment. That reduces greenhouse gasses and other pollution in the air we breathe.

Money Saved

No power equipment and gas, less water and less fertilizer all adds up to more money to buy more seeds!

By Karuna Eberl for The Family Handyman©

Source: What Is a No-Till Garden? (msn.com)

For Your Garden: Lemon Cypress Evergreen

The Lemon Cypress is a familiar little evergreen that people might recognize as the chartreuse Christmas trees that seem to show up in every big box retail store during the holidays. However, this citrusy-looking tree should be considered as more than just a one-season-a-year plant.


Of course, the lemon cypress gets its name from the light citrus fragrance the needles express when touched or crushed. This sensory trifecta of sight, smell, and touch makes the tree a perfect candidate to include in a sensory garden.

Lemon Cypress Care

One of the great things about C. macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’ is that it is an easy plant to care for in the outdoors. The only maintenance required will be some pruning if you want to keep its size down or yearly trimming if using it as a hedge.


Whether planning to keep the lemon cypress outdoors or as an indoor plant, it requires a good amount of light. It will thrive in full sun to partial shade outdoors or direct sun indoors five to six hours a day. If keeping the plant as a houseplant, too little light will quickly kill the plant.


Planting this tree in soil that is too rich invites trouble. The lemon cypress is adapted to grow in poor, sandy, well-draining soils that are low in organics and not very fertile. This infertile soil allows the slow-growing tree to pace its development to match its height with its roots, helping to ensure that winds do not blow the thin and narrow plant over.

If keeping the lemon cypress in a container, it should be repotted once every three to four years. Move it to a larger pot and give it some fresh soil. Prune your plant’s roots conservatively to keep growth in check while repotting.


As an outdoor shrub or tree, once established, the lemon cypress needs little supplemental watering. To allow the plant to establish itself, water once a week during the first season.

If kept as a houseplant, be sure to give a thorough deep watering once weekly, being sure never to let the soil be too dry.

Temperature and Humidity

A lemon cypress prefers cool, moist climates. Temperatures above 80oF in dry areas will tax the plant, while temperatures lower than 20oF may cause tree damage or death. In colder climates, it is best to shelter the tree from cold winds, which will burn the needles. The recommended USDA Zones are 7-10.

When used as a houseplant, the lemon cypress needs to be kept in a place that has sufficient humidity. Keeping it moist during the winter is vital and will be most difficult when a heater is being run or windows are shut. Misting or a humidifier might be needed to help supplement the ambient room humidity.

Source: midwesttropicals©

Cottage Garden Charm

Old-fashioned flowers, a custom white picket fence, and colorful containers make this charming cottage garden a spot you never want to leave!

Organized cottage garden style

A little more than 10 years ago this charming cottage-inspired garden in Maine was a blank slate. Erin and Dan Clark had just added the 29×35-foot paver patio to their existing deck, but then Erin started dreaming of a garden. What inspired her? “I knew I wanted cottage flowers, but I’m also kind of a neat freak,” she says. “And my mum, Linda, has always had really sweet gardens and great style.”

Even though she had a sense of what she wanted, she mulled it over for years before landing on the horseshoe-shaped border anchored by a picket fence and arbor you see below.

Secret to a quick start

In late summer 2019 the couple built the fence and arbor and installed the plantings. It’s hard to believe that the perennials in these photos are only a couple of years old. The fast growth is a testament to how important starting with great soil can be.

Before they planted anything, Dan tilled up the planting area and spread 4 or 5 inches of biosolid compost purchased from a nearby municipality. Erin dug the compost in as she planted the catmint (Nepeta racemosa) and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), divided and moved from the front yard, and the other small end-of-season perennials picked up at a local garden center.

The quick start has been this garden’s biggest surprise. Erin kept the plants’ mature sizes in mind when she planted and spread them out rather than giving in to the temptation to pack them in: “It hurt me. I had to keep telling myself, it’s going to look fine.” Now she’s glad she did.

Flower progression

In this zone 4 garden, you can’t count on frost-free nights until the end of May and can expect a frost by the end of September. Erin packs a lot into her short summers!

The flowers start in May with bulbs, such as tulips and alliums. Then the garden transitions into the blue, pink and chartreuse June palette you see above. By July, pinks take over, with coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), hollyhocks (Alcea rosea), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), and pink-flowering annuals like zinnias (Zinnia elegans) and cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), which Erin starts from seed in her portable greenhouse. Late summer brings Japanese anemones (Anemone x hybrida) and the annuals in all their glory.

Sweet pea cottage

Once the planting was done, Dan and Erin turned their attention to building Sweet Pea Cottage at the back of the yard as a studio space for Erin’s painting and other creative endeavors. Next up on their project list? A path to the cottage and, of course, a flower bed. They started it late last year, and you can follow the progress as well as see the garden throughout the year on Erin’s blog, or on Instagram @Clark.Cottage.Gardens.

Erin’s cottage garden plant palette

Here are a few of the plants that bloom in June in this Maine garden.

A) ‘John Davis’ Climbing rose Rosa

Shrub; climber with lightly fragrant double pink flowers from late spring through fall; full sun; 6 to 8 ft. tall, spreading; cold hardy in USDA zones 2 to 9

B) ‘Thai Pink Jade’ Garden phlox Phlox paniculata

Perennial; soft pink flowers on mildew-resistant foliage in summer; full sun; 30 to 48 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8

C) ‘Walker’s Low’ Catmint Nepeta racemosa  

Perennial; lavender-blue flowers rebloom from late spring through fall; full sun; 18 to 36 in. tall and wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9

D) ‘Silver Mound’ Artemisia Artemisia schmidtiana  

Perennial; soft, silvery mounds of foliage; full sun; 8 to 10 in. tall, 10 to 15 in. wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

E) ‘Vision Light Pink’ Bloody cranesbill Geranium sanguineum

Perennial; pale pink flowers start in midspring and repeat through fall, red autumn foliage; full sun to part shade; 9 to 12 in. tall, 12 to 24 in. wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

F) ‘Thriller’ Lady’s mantle Alchemilla mollis  

Perennial; clouds of tiny chartreuse flowers top plants in late spring and early summer; full sun to part shade; 18 to 24 in. tall and wide; cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Vintage style

As you wander this garden, you’ll find vintage chairs, old watering cans and copper tubs tucked in here and there, some turned into containers, and even an old rusty bicycle with flowers planted in the basket and the cargo box.

BY: KRISTIN BEANE SULLIVAN for gardengatemagazine.com

Source: Cottage Garden Charm | Garden Gate (gardengatemagazine.com)

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