If your plants aren't growing as well as you'd hoped, here are some simple things you can do to help them look their best.

By Jamie Lott
Updated June 11, 2020
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Gardening can require some trial and error. If you notice one of your plants isn't doing well, for example, you might try replanting in a different spot, giving it a little extra water, or adding more nutrients to the soil. While you might have to try several different tactics to fix the problem, there are a few almost-universal gardening errors to avoid so you can keep your yard in top shape. Luckily, most of them are easy enough to correct; perhaps you need to adjust the way you water or switch to natural pest control methods. But if you make sure to avoid these common gardening mistakes, you'll set your plants up for the best success possible.

Marty Baldwin

1. Not Testing Soil

Soil can vary from one spot in your yard to another. If you haven't done a soil test, you have no idea what kind of nutrients (or lack thereof) are in your soil. Without that information, you have no way of knowing what you may need to add to your soil in order for your plants to thrive. Soil can also change from one growing season to another, so it's important to test your soil every year or two.

Helen Norman

2. Watering the Leaves

Overhead watering isn't the best idea. Not only do you risk wasting water as it blows in the wind, but too-wet leaves also can become a breeding ground for fungus and other disease-causing microbes. Consider a drip irrigation system or soaker hose instead. This way your plants get the moisture they need from the soil directly at the roots, where they need it most. Schedule your watering in the early morning hours before it gets too hot and evaporation speeds up.

Marty Baldwin

3. Not Adding Compost

Plants use up nutrients while growing. One of the best ways to replenish the supply is to add compost. This decomposed organic matter also helps your soil to hold onto moisture better, while at the same time improves its drainage. You can purchase it from garden centers or you can make your own at home; all you need is a bin to pile up your yard and kitchen waste. Then, add a 1-2 inch thick layer of compost to your garden beds in fall or spring, right on top of the soil.

David Speer

4. Ignoring Pest Control

Aphids and other garden pests will make quick work of your plants. But using poisons to get rid of them isn't the only solution. Safer options for your family and the environment include choosing pest- and disease-resistant plants, encouraging beneficial insects and birds to eat the destructive bugs, removing pests by hand, and using a strong jet of water to knock them off your plants. There are also several nontoxic sprays and traps you can try. The most important thing is to scout regularly for pests and deal with them as soon as you spot them, before the problem can get worse.

Blaine Moats

5. Not Using Mulch

Think of mulch as the insurance policy that protects all of your hard work. Similar to compost, it helps your soil retain moisture (which means using less water in your garden), and certain types of mulch also can add necessary nutrients back to your soil. A 3-inch thick layer of mulch can help prevent weeds from sprouting too, which means less work for you!

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