Experts reveal 10 common mistakes amateur gardeners make – and share their top tips on how you can avoid them

While there are plenty of people who take pride in their gardens, many people who own outside space find the prospect of gardening a little daunting.

As Easter is just around the corner, the days become longer and temperatures warm up, many Britons will soon be venturing out into their gardens and attempting to begin sprucing them up.

Of course, for amateur gardeners who are attempting the hobby for the first time, it’s natural that mistakes will be made.

But fear not, experts have revealed some of the common blunders people make when they begin gardening – and how to avoid them. 

A garden with plants and various coloured flowers in sunshine below the blue sky (stock image)

1. Too many plants at a time    

When it comes to flower beds, it can be tempting to pack an area with lots of different, colourful shrubs.

However according to an expert, the ‘less is more’ philosophy is key.

Gardening designer Lee Burkhill explained on his blog, Garden Ninja, that planting too many plants in small spaces leaves them ‘competing for resources’ which is detrimental to their growth in the long term.

It means they will need excessive watering and, eventually, it’s unlikely they’ll all survive. 

2. Planting in the wrong soil

Gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh has previously revealed the importance of using the right type of soil to plant your shrubs.

Speaking to YOU magazine in 2021, he said: ‘To most people, soil is just dirt. But to plants, it’s life or death. 

‘Whether you garden on clay, sand or chalk, it affects what will grow well. 

‘And unless you’re lucky and have naturally good ground, it’s likely yours will need improving.’

He explained that the best type of soil to use for planting is loam, which he described as ‘dark brown soil which contains a good mix of everything’.

In his blog, Lee also noted the importance of knowing about your soil and learning which plants fare best in each type.

3. Not considering sunlight  

Beautiful blue flowers subject to rotting after inadequate care (stock image)

Beautiful blue flowers subject to rotting after inadequate care (stock image)

Some gardens get more sun than others – and according to Lee, this is an important consideration when you’re choosing your shrubs.

While all plants need some sunlight in order to grow and photosynthesise, he explained that some shrubs can manage better without.

Lee recommends getting to know your garden to understand which areas enjoy more sunlight than others, so you can understand which plants will fare best in different areas.

If your garden is dark, for example, you should pick plants that can tolerate less exposure to the sun.

He even recommends drawing a sketch of where the sun and shadows move in your garden to help your understanding. 

4. Planting at the wrong time of year

If you plant too early on in the year, your shrubs may struggle to grow due to lack of light and warmth. 

Similarly, sowing certain seeds too late in the year, such as fruits, may not achieve the best results. 

Lee recommends checking the packets of seeds before you propagate them, so you can ensure you’re doing so at the best time of year for them to thrive. 

5. Inadequate nourishment 

A young woman's hand showing damaged unprotected tomato plant after a cold morning in a greenhouse (stock image)

A young woman’s hand showing damaged unprotected tomato plant after a cold morning in a greenhouse (stock image)

When you’re trying to grow fruit and vegetables, you need to take extra care to nourish them.

The best time to feed tomatoes, potatoes or squash, for example, is early summer when they’re about to fruit. Lee explains that plants which produce food need more feeding themselves.

In contrast, herbaceous perennials such as verbenas need significantly less nourishment and in some cases, may only need to be given mulch every other year.

6. Planting far away from water or your tap 

Planting a stunning selection of shrubs is one thing, but maintaining them is another thing entirely.

Lee explains it’s important to ensure you have a sufficient water supply when it comes to replenishing your garden. 

If you have a big garden but only one outdoor tap, it could take a very long time to water the whole thing.

Therefore the expert recommends adding in water butts around the garden – perhaps attached to a shed. 

7. Missing harvesting season

When late summer hits and people are enjoying the last of the sunshine, new gardeners can be forgiven for forgetting it’s actually harvest season.

Before you know it, your plants that are ripe for harvest may become spoilt, leading to disappointment after all the hard work you have put in. 

Lee recommends setting a simple reminder on your phone to ensure you don’t miss your opportunity.

8. Not creating pathways

Many new gardeners forget to put in some paths or ways to get around the garden when they’ve designed their lawns.

Lee revealed people sometimes fall into the trap of packing their space with flowers, fruit, and veg, before realising they don’t actually have a route into the beds to water them.

The gardener recommended planning access points like 1m wide paths, particularly if you have raised beds.

9. Use of pesticides

Woman spraying plants using water pulveriser (stock image)

Woman spraying plants using water pulveriser (stock image)

When you’ve put time and effort into perfecting your garden, the last thing you want is for pests to spoil it.

But before you reach for the weed killer and pesticides, Lee recommends considering natural alternatives that are less damaging to your plants.

There are almost always natural alternatives to these chemical concoctions, he explains.

10. Irregular watering 

British home decor magazine Livingetc revealed one of the most common mistakes new gardeners make is not watering their plants enough. 

Chris Bonnett, founder of Gardening Express, told the publication: ‘Over watering, under watering, and inconsistent watering can put the crops under stress and affect their growth.

‘To overcome this, create a watering schedule based on the needs of your vegetables. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil and reduce evaporation.’

New York-based landscape designer Kat Aul Cervoni also recommends looking into drip irrigation systems if you are able to afford them.