Let’s face it! Gardening doesn’t look like a complicated job. You drop the seeds in the soil, water them regularly and when they start to grow, you nourish them with fertilizers. All the books, web articles and neighborly chit chat will tell you that. But when you really start your garden, you’ll find that it isn’t so simple after all. Whether you are a newbie gardener or an old hand, here are some of the common gardening mistakes to avoid when container gardening.
Common Gardening Mistakes When Container Gardening
1. Buying Weak Plants from Nursery
The local nursery is a great place to buy healthy plants, but not all of them may actually be doing great. If you see signs that the plants with brown, yellow or wilted leaves, avoid them. Also inspect the plant for aphids, scale, spider mites and other tiny creatures as you don’t want to infest the rest of your garden. Instead choose plants that are lush with vibrant foliage.
2. Having Too Many Small Pots
Its easy to get carried away and try to have as many plants in your garden as possible. This will lead you to make stupid decisions like buying plenty of small plant containers to hold the different plants. That’s certainly one mistake I made in the initial years of gardening. I ended up with a clumsy balcony and my plants eventually ran out of space to grow. Keep several large plant containers to grow multiple plants in creative collections.
3. Over/Under Watering Plants
If you live in sunny India, chances are, you feel the need to water your plants generously morning, noon and evening. However, you must remember that plants grown in containers don’t need that much of water love. Yellowing of leaves is a sure-fire sign of over watering the plants.
Place your finger into the soil until your second knuckle is reached. If the tip of your finger is not moist, you can water the plants. Understand the moisture requirements for your plants and follow them judiciously.
Just as you feel the need to over water your plants, you may also feel lazy to water them, leaving your plants bereft of water. Signs of drooping leaves is a sure fire sign that your plant is dying of thirst. But don’t worry, once you water your plants, they will quickly spring back to life.
Remember that your container is small and can hold only so much moisture, so when you are pouring water, don’t just sprinkle the top layer of the soil but pour enough water that it reaches the bottom of the pot and a little bit drains out.
4. Watering the Leaves
Another common mistake that we tend to make when watering plants is to water the leaves. It may feel wonderful to have green leaves glistening with water in the fading sunlight, but this us a sure-fire way to set up a breeding ground for fungus and disease.
If you can’t use a drip irrigation system, pour the water in the soil so that the roots can take it directly, where they need it the most. Schedule your watering in the early morning hours and avoid evening watering as overnight moisture can encourage disease.
5. Not Pruning Regularly
Some plants require regularly pruning to keep them healthy and promote growth. Pruning is the removal of certain parts of the plant that are of no use to it. However, you may fear that pruning will kill the plant and not do it. In some cases, you may just keep putting it off until you start to feel that the plant will be fine even if you don’t prune it.
It may seem like a dastardly thing to do when you have to chop off stems that are full of gorgeous looking buds, but if you don’t do that, you may end up living with a zombie plant. My jasmine plant had plenty of gorgeous looking green leaves but showed no signs of growing further or flowering.
When I nipped off all the older leaves, new shoots started to grow everywhere and I had a plant full of flowers in about a week’s time. So don’t hesitate pruning the plants at the right time. Also keep removing dead leaves and flowers as they shed. You will not only have a clean garden, but your plants will not feel stressed as well.
6. Not Composting
All plants require a nutrient rich soil to grow. Its even more significant when it comes to container plants as the nutrition gets quickly zapped when the plants are growing leaving the soil in need of constant replenishment. You must therefore make time to compost your plants as often as possible.
If you don’t have the time to make your own compost, you can buy them from a local nursery or online stores. You can make your own compost at home from your kitchen waste in an easy way.
7. Over Fertilizing
Fertilizers are essential for the healthy growth of plants. Often, in your enthusiasm to see more vegetables in your plants or more flowers in your bushes, you may keep piling on the fertilizers. This will have a detrimental effect on your plants; in some cases your plants will stop flowering and in other cases, they will just die on you. Moderation must be practiced in the use of fertilizers.
8. Ignoring Pests
Pests are called pests for a reason. Give them a little room and they will completely destroy your plants before you know what hit you. I made the mistake of ignoring those pesky mealy bugs on my gorgeous orange Ixora plant and before I knew it, the whole plant dies on me.
There are plenty of organic ways to get rid of pests; if you don’t want to use pesticides of any kind, you can boost your plants with nutrients to help them beat the pests on their own. Sometimes, just nipping off the infected parts of the plant solves the problem. Whatever you do, never ignore these tiny creatures as they are capable of great damage. Better to lose a plant than a whole garden.
9. Not Mulching
Mulching is a simple job but a very effective one. It helps the soil retain moisture, keeps the frost and cold away, and prevents those villainous weeds from showing up. It also eventually ends up nourishing your soil but again laziness may just keep you from doing this simple task. Stop making this mistake and take action. Your plants will be happy and so will you.
10. Planting Out of Season
Its easy to get discouraged when seeds you planted failed. It may have been because you simply planted them in the wrong season. Be aware of which plants grow in which season and plant them accordingly. You can sign up to our free guide Terrace Gardening for Beginners, which features a gardening calendar to help you plan your vegetable garden.
11. Planting in the Shade
My roses never grew a new leaf for over a year and I simply assumed that it was because they were not suited to the hot Chennai weather. But the actual reason they were struggling to grow and were eventually dying was because I did not allow it the full 6-8 hours of sunlight it needed to grow.
When I moved my pots from a shady spot to my terrace, I had fresh leaves and buds sprouting in 3 days. Do your homework properly and check if your plants require sunlight or partial shade. Place them in the appropriate part of your terrace and you will start to see the rewards.
12. Planting the Same Crop In the Same Pot Repeatedly
You may be used to the idea of using the gorgeous yellow rectangular container to host your greens and may keep repeatedly growing greens in that container after the first yield has come through. That is a completely bad idea.
Just as you have gone used to the idea of seeing greens in your yellow container, the insects and bugs may have gotten used to munching on them as well, leaving behind plenty of larvae and eggs to feed on them. Doing a plant rotation actually helps break that cycle.
Another advantage is that the greens may have replenished the nutrients required for their growth, leaving the subsequent yields poor. Some plants like legumes actually repair the soil by fixing nitrogen in the soil, thereby helping the next batch of crops that need it.
Now that you are aware of these common gardening mistakes, you can give your plants the right care and attention it requires.
Have you been making any of these mistakes in your garden? I’d love to hear how you learned from your mistakes and there is something that I haven’t covered in this post.