Hatton: Gardening mistakes Part 1

·3 min read

Everyone makes gardening mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you are a professional horticulturist or a newbie gardener; you will make mistakes if you garden.


My mistakes are usually the result of trying to cut corners. I know most of the dos and don’ts, but sometimes try to circumvent them when they are inconvenient or I am trying to hurry. Some things cannot be hurried.

Perhaps the mistake most often made by new and experienced gardeners alike is that of ignoring good soil preparation prior to planting. Experienced gardeners know that similar to eating the proper food in the proper amounts is key to our health, having the right kind of soil for the plants to be growing in is key to their health.

It doesn’t matter if you are planting a tree, shrub, flower, or vegetable, if your goal is to have a nice garden that thrives with minimal attention, good soil preparation is required. After that, the main things you need to know when planting are don’t plant too deeply and green side up, brown side down.

Once you have planted, it is difficult to change the soil substantially if the plant needs something different. This is particularly true for plants requiring good drainage, which is a requirement for more plants than not. It is nearly impossible to loosen or open the soil for better drainage once the plant is in the ground. While difficult, the area around it may be changeable, but the only way to get drainage under the plant would be to dig it up, prepare the soil and replant.

The drainage issue or physical structure of the soil can be addressed once that will last for many years if the proper amendments are used in our clay soils. Organic matter can provide good drainage but is quickly used up and must be replenished. There are many inorganic amendments, for example expanded shale, which will last for many years without degrading, but they cost substantially more than other amendments in the short-term.

Compost and other organic matter, while important to the physical structure, are also important for water and nutrient storage and conditioning the soil so that nutrients in the soil can be released for plants’ use.

For example, many are aware that some plants turn yellow in our area due to a condition called iron chlorosis or the deficiency of iron in the plant. There is plenty of iron in our native soil; it’s just not readily available due to the chemical makeup of the soil. Organic matter and the conditions it creates can allow the available iron to be taken up by plants without having to add more iron in a form that the plant can use.

As you plan your gardens and garden changes, learn the requirements for each specific plant. Put plants with similar needs together and prepare the soil accordingly prior to planting. Providing the correct growing environment at the beginning will save time, money, and frustration.

This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Hatton: Gardening mistakes Part 1

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