10 Beginner Gardener Mistakes to Avoid

In the Garden Sue May 27, 2024
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Sue's Garden

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I have been gardening all my life and I still make gardening mistakes. It makes us a stronger gardener and more knowledgeable in the long run.

Remember gardening is a beautiful experiment! When you are a beginner gardener, it would be advantageous to learn from others who have been doing this for a while.

I grew up gardening with my family on a farm. When I was young, it was just about doing what my parents told me and learning the basics like hoeing, picking the crops and canning. I remember eating the tomatoes right out of the garden and then throwing what was left over at my little brother. Now that I am older, I think I have learned a few things not to do, like throw those precious tomatoes!

In this guide, we will explore the top 10 mistakes that beginner gardeners often make, helping you to avoid them and set yourself up for gardening success. By understanding these pitfalls and learning how to overcome them, you can save time, money, and frustration while creating a beautiful and flourishing garden.

Mistakes I made in the garden when I was a beginner:

1.  Not getting a Soil test:

I would guess what to put in my soil, paying no mind to what nutrients were already in my soil, guessing what to amend the soil with and using fertilizer if I needed it or not. What a waste of money and time. Getting a soil test is easy, not to mention a time and money saver in the long run. My first home had the best soil and I didn’t have to think about what my pH was or the soil quality.  Then I moved to a location where the soil had a very high pH and sandy soil… I learned quickly to get the SOIL TEST! 

A soil test should be done once every 1-3 years  to see what amendments it may need to optimize nutrient uptake. Your county cooperative extension agency has soil tests for free or at a low cost. Here is a list of the cooperative extension services by state. 

soil test



2. Not making a plan and keeping notes on your garden:

Planning is one of the most important parts of a successful flower or vegetable garden, not to mention the time and money it may save you. Each new season in the garden can seem overwhelming to the beginner gardener. Taking the time to plan will help you be successful. Using a garden planner or garden log book may assist you in the garden plan, organizational details, and help you rate the performance and growth in your garden, and, of course, Save Money! 

Here are the ones I published on Amazon and use yearly:



3. Not following directions on the back of the seed packets.

Wow, I made this mistake so many times!!!! Please, Please read and follow the back of the seed packet like it is your job! It tells you everything you need to know: the plant name, when, where, and how to plant it. It will tell you how to germinate the seeds, if you need to plant it indoors then transplant or just sow in the ground.

back of seed packet instructions

It takes the guessing out of the garden equation, so your plants will thrive and your harvest will be plentiful. 



Planting too soon and then the frost kills my plants

 Why does everyone get overly anxious and plant their flowers earlier than they should? I still have a hard time holding myself back when I see the local garden center getting all their beautiful flowers in.  Your flowers and vegetables will thrive and grow faster if you wait until it's time!

First make sure you know your plant hardiness zone and your first and last frost dates for your zone. Then you can make sure you are planting the plants at the optimal time of year. 

5. Growing more than you can eat or give away:

 Planting too many seeds turn into too many plants, which turn into more produce than you can give away.  I know it's difficult to “waste the seeds”, but you are not wasting them. Seeds, though they may have a lower percentage of germination, can wait till the next year. Or you can succession plant your seeds in the vegetable garden so your harvest won’t be all in the same week. Spread out the joy! 

vegetable garden

6. Watering too much, not enough or not watering the right way:

This can be tricky for all gardeners. Again the seed packet or the tag in your plant when you buy it will educate you on the watering requirements for each specific plant. Follow it as best you can.

My problem for many years has been how to water the right way! I have drip lines in my shrubbery and perennial beds because this is the optimal way to water at the SOIL Level. But for my vegetable garden I installed overhead watering sprinklers a long time ago.

That is when I was tilling the garden every year and I have just kept this system. Well, it has led to some disease problems with my cut flowers and tomatoes and squash.  Now that I am doing more no-till or little till gardening I need to start watering them at the soil level.

Water with a soaker hose, drip irrigation or use a regular hose and try not to spray overhead on the leaves.   

Recommended drip irrigation systems with and without timers  (amazon):

drip irrigation for raised beds

50 ft soaker hoses

150 ft soaker hose kit

Recommended one zone and two zone timers for automatic watering (amazon)

one zone timers for drip systems and soaker hoses

two zone timers for drip systems and soaker hoses


7. Not thinning your seedlings:

Overcrowding whether it's in the garden or your flower pots does nothing but waste time, effort and money. The plants suffer and don’t reach their full potential if they are constantly fighting for space, light and the nutrients. So JUST PULL THEM OUT! 

8. Not holding yourself back from buying one of every pretty plant:

When it comes to flower gardens, they look best with odd numbers of plants and grouping a larger number of flowers together. She get 3-5 of one kind of plant to make a statement.

garden beds

9. Not weeding on a regular basis:

Keeping the weeds in check when they are small is much easier in the long run than to pull the big ones out and “break your back” . Hoeing is a chore but keeps you active and makes your garden a masterpiece as the neighbors drive by.

Make sure you keep your hoe sharpened and use good body mechanics to avoid injuries. Using a weed barrier or mulching will reduce weeds and is a good form of no till gardening. 

 Highly Rated Hoes on Amazon

Highly rated Weed Barriers

10. Not planting more bulbs or perennials:

Take the time to plant the bulbs. You just plant them once and enjoy the beauty for years to come.

The same goes with bulbs as it does perennials–Plant them in volume, and not one of each kind, to get a more designer effect in your yard. It’s more aesthetically pleasing to see a grouping of the same plant.

I have researched all the common bulbs for the Planting Zones of 6-8 and put together a great reference for you. Use my charts to create a masterpiece of blooms for years to enjoy.


I have also created a convenient chart featuring 10 easy-to-grow perennial flowers for each season.


By being aware of these common mistakes and actively working to avoid them, you can set yourself up for a successful gardening journey. Remember that gardening is a joyful and fulfilling endeavor, and with a little knowledge and perseverance, you can create a beautiful oasis that brings you joy for years to come.

We all have fear of failure, but don’t give up on your gardening journey.  Even experienced gardeners need to experiment and take a chance. Try and you will succeed. 

Gardening is a beautiful experiment!

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