18 Funny beginner gardening mistakes from folks who learned the hard way. Learn from our mistakes or commiserate about shared problems with these useful tips for your first garden.
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I have been thinking a lot this year about some of the mistakes I’ve made gardening and chuckling over them. I wanted to share some with you and I checked in with some other blogger friends who garden to see if they had any funny stories too. And boy, I’m glad I’m not alone. It’s funny to see all of the things we did wrong with our first gardens!
Please enjoy and learn from these!
Funny Beginner Gardening Mistakes
1. Growing Corn All Wrong
Historically, I have winged it when it comes to gardening. I spend hours putting in soil and garden space, impulse purchase random plants, then plop them into the soil according to the instructions on the tag.
So I can’t remember if I found these as seedlings or if I planted seeds, but there were one or two years where I attempted to grow corn. I planted 5 plants (or seeds) in a single row along our privacy fence, then found myself incredibly disappointed to have no/few ears of corn at the end of the year.
And this is how I learned that:
- Corn likes friends. You need, at bare minimum, 5 rows of corn plants to pollinate each other (which is done with the wind, not bugs).
- You may only get 1-2 ears of corn per plant.
2. We were 110% Safe from Poison Via Potatoes
The first year I attempted to grow potatoes, I planted them in the back of our yard. It got swampy, they rotted. The end. The next two years, I did not enough research, but enough to be dangerous. I read that I needed to cover my potatoes or I could poison my whole family… panicking, I diligently piled straw on top of my potatoes regularly. No green leaf would show. I wondered how I would know if my potatoes were done growing.
And that’s how I learned that:
- “Cover the potatoes” was literal. Cover. The. Potatoes. Not the whole plant.
3. Know Your Plants
I picked up some sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and decided to plant them in the garden. Only later did I learn that they’re incredibly invasive, and no matter what I did, they just came back stronger and expanded every year. I eventually had to abandon that garden location altogether, and now it’s a huge and ever-expanding patch of sunchokes. -Ashley from Practical Self Reliance
When I first planted my medicinal garden bed I found this itty bitty wormwood plant and though it would be a great addition. In just a summer it had taken over the whole bed and was keeping anything else from growing. It was beautiful and everyone always asked what it was, but definitely learned my lesson about checking not only how big a plant will get but also if it plays nicely with others. -Leah at Little House ATL
4. Underestimating Your Success
The first year we planted zucchini we planted 6 of them for a family of 4. We never researched to see how well it produced, and ended up with zucchini coming out of our ears.
We supplied 2 entire streets in our neighborhood that year with zucchini and still had too much! We’re down to 2 plants now, and I learned how to freeze the extras for later. -Adriana from Backyard Garden Lover.
5. Old Habits Die Hard. So do over watered plants.
I grew up in the desert in southern California, where a garden won’t survive without daily watering (sometimes twice daily).
When I moved to Vermont, I kept gardening the same way, planting the same crops, putting up sun shades to protect peppers from burning in the midday sun, and watering daily, sometimes twice daily. Needless to say, everything was a soggy mess, and I actually had to re-plant the whole garden. I took down the sun shades and didn’t water once the rest of the summer and everything thrived. -Ashley from Adamant Kitchen
6. Late Minute Mistakes
I’m always scrambling to get my garden in, one year I planted pole beans instead of bush beans, everything was great until they started strangling the peppers! I threw together a trellis and everything survived. I pay much better attention to my varieties now. -Alecia from Chicken Scratch NY
7. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should can.
Cucumbers are one of my favorite plants to grow. Unfortunately, I’m the only one in my family of five who truly enjoys them. This is something I forgot the first two years I (over)grew them. It might not be a surprise, but I’m also the only one who likes pickles.
There’s really only so many cucumbers you can give away so I made pickles. No big deal right? Until I quickly discovered that canned pickles don’t really last very long… and they’re kinda gross and squishy a year or two later. Disposing of them wasn’t a pleasant task. They took up “mason jar” space, pantry space, and all for no reason!
8. Happy Unhappy Volunteers
I am usually happy to let volunteers pop up in my garden. But sometimes the placement isn’t ideal. I let a squash of some sort pop up in my privacy planters… which, at the time, had cucumbers growing up the trellis.
These planters were along the path coming down from my deck. Full disclosure: I can let bees crawl on me and snakes don’t bother me, but I hattttte squash bugs. And pretty much any bug with a carapace. (shudder)
As you might guess, I quickly had squash bugs taking over the planters. They decided my cucumber plants were a perfectly good substitute when they were done with the squash. UGH. I finally gave up and pulled the cucumber plants out, squealing every time I had a bug hit me in the process.
9. Soil is Labeled for a Reason
I really had no idea which bag of soil to use when I first started gardening… so I just grabbed bags. Whatever was cheap or easy or near the checkout. I’m sure I’ve filled many pots with garden soil and many gardens with potting soil.
And that’s how I learned that:
- Potting soil is developed to help retain moisture in pots. This helps keep you from needing to constantly water the plants.
- Potting soil, assuming you get good stuff, is supposed to be safe for indoors so you aren’t bringing bugs indoors.
- Garden soil is developed to help improve drainage. You don’t want your in ground garden to retain moisture like your pots would… too much water isn’t good for your plants.
10. Working Too Hard
I didn’t realize when growing greens that you were supposed to just snip the leaves to eat and leave the rest of the plant intact so that it could grow new leaves.
So I waited weeks for my arugula to get perfect, then yanked the whole plant out of the ground. I was like, “Wow this is so good, but sort of a waste to spend that much time growing it for just one salad.” -Alyssa from Good + Simple
11. No, You Can’t Drink That Many Mojitos
Unless you want mint growing out of your ears and around every crevice, do not ever plant mint in the ground! Learned this the hard way and had uncontrollable mint for years. -Melissa from Create and Find
12. Vanishing Plants
I love basil, so when I moved into my new house in Washington state I went out and bought 10 pots of it to give me an entire summer of happiness. (These were not small pots either.) I planted some of the pots in the front yard and some in the backyard. I watered them and went in the house, happily dreaming of my future Caprese salads in the future.
The next morning, I went outside to admire my new plants and it was if all the plants had vanished overnight. It turns out, I moved to slug and snail country and they absolutely love basil. I think the whole neighborhood of slugs and snails came to the buffet of fresh basil. They didn’t leave me one leaf. -Kelly at Montana Happy
13. If at first you fail, turn your plants upside down.
We planted a whole 24 asparagus plants upside down because we thought the roots were the little hairy things. (In my preschool garden) nothing happened for months, so we checked, realized it, turned them all over and sure enough they still grew. Amazing! -Christina at Little Sprouts Learning
14. Listen to your mother
A pretty obvious one is don’t plant an herb garden in a shady area! I did that the first time I planted an herb garden. I was about 21 and my mom told me the area was too shady, but I didn’t want to listen! Of course, it was a disaster! -Lydia from Lydia Loves Purple
15. Buy the right plants for your climate
I used to garden in a much warmer climate and always grew pole beans. So when I moved to Zone 3 I just when ahead and planted pole beans. Then I learned our temps when down too far at night.
So every night I had to go out and over my pole bean tents with sheets. Then every morning I had to go out and uncover them. Rinse and repeat….for months. Big mistake.
One afternoon, friends came by, we ended up having a few glasses of wine and….yeah, forgot to go out and cover the pole beans that night.
Went down to about 3C and the next morning, every single plant was dead…after literally months of covering and uncovering, my undoing was 3 glasses of wine. -Annie at Country Living in a Cariboo Valley
16. Don’t forget the holes
I didn’t know that you should put holes in the bottom of pots in order to drain plants. I have a black thumb and my friend had to do a 1-on-1 Skype session with our bamboo plant in a last desperate attempt to save it after it did not look so green anymore due to over watering with no drainage… Sadly, the ER Skype session did not save it, but I’ve since replanted cat grass there successfully! -Karen at Wanderlusting K
17. Don’t welcome the wrong weeds.
Cultivating weeds thinking they are something you want. Even as an experienced gardener we can make mistakes. Not too long ago I found a plant growing in the garden that I thought was milkweed. I knew that I did not plant it there but I’m pretty sure it’s a native so maybe I somehow got a volunteer. Since this is a crucial plant for the Monarch Butterfly I let it be. Well, I eventually found out that it was actually dogbane. I’m still pulling it out. -Patti at Hearth and Vine
18. Jumping the gun.
Getting overly eager and starting too soon. Only to have everything demolished by a random mid/end of May snow storm. Even with experience, this has happened more than once. -Mary at Boots and Hooves Homestead
Interested in gardening? Here are some other posts about gardening that I’ve written and you might enjoy: DIY Concrete Planters | Privacy Planters | How to Use Pine Straw as Mulch | 13 Stunning & Easy Garden Trellis Ideas | How to Setup a Pond and Patio | Gifts to Make from the Garden | Everything You Need to Know about Grow Lights
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