If you’ve ever made mistakes in your landscape, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. I recently asked my Facebook friends to share their garden blunders and what they learned from them. They weren’t bashful about discussing this at all.
Susan Traver has learned not to jump the gun on planting tender crops. “Do not plant tomatoes or peppers before the end of May, and do not plant basil until mid-June.” Rita Moore also advises patience “when planting tomatoes and peppers outdoors when you live in the Pacific Northwest.”
This sage advice can be difficult to follow because we are all so anxious to get our gardens off to a running start. In my case, the extended forecast in mid-May looked so promising, but I was reminded that Mother Nature likes to play cruel jokes on us.
Even when a vegetable garden is growing well, it sometimes surprises us. As Pam Parson related, “One year, I planted cantaloupes on one end of my garden and cucumbers on the other. I had about 20 gorgeous, football-sized cantaloupes that tasted like cucumbers. Cross-pollination is real!”
JoAnn Fawley shared that her mistake has been not thinning seedlings such as radishes and turnips to help the roots develop. “I am still not good at this,” she admitted.
Amanda Lyn discovered that a hot hose can have bad consequences. “A few years ago, I watered my freshly planted seedlings with water from a hose that had been sitting in the sun. I scorched them with scalding hot water and killed about half of them. Now, I’m always careful to monitor the water temperature.”
I heard a lot of tales about aggressive plants that gardeners unwittingly added to their landscape, only to fight the plants year after year.
Cathi Lamoreux wrote that her mistake has been “planting aggressive groundcovers such as lamium (dead nettle). They have taken over my whole garden!”
Creeping Jenny is another groundcover Sara Bates has had to deal with. “I planted some a few years ago, thinking it wouldn’t last through the winter, but I think the cold only made it stronger. The stuff has absolutely taken over. I wish I’d done my research ahead of time so I’d have saved myself the headache.”
“Several years ago, I planted a chocolate mint plant in a flower bed,” Elizabeth Sedovic Pisani posted. “I didn’t know at the time that it would spread all over by runners so many years later. I pull it out when it gets to be too much. The only good thing is how good it smells when I pull it. I now know to always plant mint in a pot.”
Aspens have caused Martha Kenney plenty of grief. “I planted aspen trees in my small front yard thinking they would shade the front of the house,” she shared. “Five years later, they had spread everywhere, including to my back yard.
“After cutting them down, I spent 3 years killing the suckers that kept coming up all over my yard. Even if you can water them enough and treat them for insects, you can’t stop the suckers. And your neighbors will hate you for it.”
One recurring theme revolved around the importance of researching plants before purchasing and installing them.
A gardener named Janet wrote, “In one of my gardens, I intermixed drought-tolerant plants with some lovely water-hungry plants that I couldn’t resist.”
Linda Gipson Thomaier’s advice was “don’t plant cute little plants too close to the house. They grow up to be unruly teenagers and later grumpy old things that want to get into the house.”
Annie C. from North Carolina shared that “a mistake I’ve made several times is not allowing the proper amount of space for whatever I’m planting. One must always consider the mature plant size requirements.”
Sue Plummer seconded that. “Know how big a tree, bush or plant will get. You may spend the rest of its life wishing you could pull it out.”
The award for the most amusing garden blunder goes to Doug Lilly:
“My mistake was paying money for lion and tiger dung to put around the perimeter of my veggie garden to ‘scare off the deer,’” he wrote. “I ended up with the absolute worst night of damage to my garden from deer in my 30-plus years of gardening.
“I can still hear the deer laughing: ‘He thinks we actually believe there is an African lion roaming around! Ha ha ha!’ I am sure the deer are telling the story of the bonehead gardener in Clayton and sharing it from deer generation to deer generation. I now have a nearly 9-foot-high fence. Now who’s laughing?”
Susan Mulvihill is author of “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch this week’s “Everyone Can Grow a Garden” video at youtube.com/susansinthegarden.