20 Common Landscape & Garden Mistakes You’re Making

Creating a lush and thriving garden involves much more than simply planting your favorite flowers; it requires thoughtful planning, understanding plant needs, and careful maintenance. Despite the best intentions, it’s easy for gardeners to fall into common pitfalls that can significantly hinder their outdoor spaces’ health and visual appeal. From choosing the wrong plant locations that don’t match light requirements to neglecting the crucial aspects of soil health, these errors can be detrimental to plant vitality and garden aesthetics.

This guide addresses these issues by identifying frequent mistakes in landscaping and gardening. It also provides detailed solutions to correct these missteps and enhance your garden’s overall success and beauty, helping it flourish as a well-maintained and stunning landscape.

The Importance of Planning

Stone path by gate with hydrangeas.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

To start planning your landscape or garden project, define your goals for the space. Consider if you want a relaxing retreat, a vegetable garden, or an area for entertaining. This initial step will guide all other decisions in your planning process.

Assess the area available to you. Take note of the garden’s size, any existing vegetation, and permanent features like buildings or large trees. It’s also crucial to observe how sunlight and shade affect the area throughout the day, as this will significantly influence where you place certain plants.

Get out a pencil and some graph paper and start sketching! You can transfer this into software later, but start the good old-fashioned way.

Begin sketching a preliminary design for your garden layout. Include elements such as pathways, beds, focal points, and specific areas for activities. This sketch helps organize the space efficiently, allowing you to visualize how different components will interact within the garden.

As you start this exciting new project, here are some common mistakes and things you must remember.

Not Leading With Shrubs

A large tree surrounded by flowers.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

One of the best ways to strike a visual impact that’s also low-maintenance is with shrubs. Stop planting fussy flowers, especially annuals, everywhere, and design your gardens and landscape around shrubs of varying heights and colors.

Evergreen shrubs, as will the striking red branches of dogwoods and willows, will make a winter landscape less dreary.

Fix: When planning out your landscape, make room for shrubs first and then design everything around them. Your flowers and other plants will look better against their backdrop too.

Overcrowding Plants

A beautiful garden and lamp post.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Many gardeners underestimate the space needed for plants once they reach maturity, leading to competition for light, nutrients, and air. This can stunt growth and foster disease.

Fix: Always check each plant’s expected mature size and provide adequate space from the start. This spacing promotes healthier growth and minimizes the need for stressful relocations later.

Yes, your newly planted garden will look sparse as the plants grow and reach maturity, but that is better than tearing things out down the road.

Poor Plant Placement

Two women working in garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Placing shade-loving plants in full sun or sun-loving plants in the shade can stress plants and hinder their growth or flowering potential.

Fix: Understand each plant’s light requirements and observe your garden’s sun patterns throughout the day. Position plants where they will thrive, ensuring optimal health and aesthetic appeal.

Ignoring Soil Health

Ferns and other plants ingarden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Soil is the foundation of your garden. Neglecting soil health can lead to poor plant performance.

Fix: Perform a soil test to determine pH and nutrient deficiencies. Amend your soil based on test results, using organic materials such as compost to enhance fertility, improve drainage, and encourage beneficial microbial activity.

Over or Under Watering

Beautiful garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Incorrect watering can cause root rot or drought stress, leading to weak plants.

Fix: Install a drip irrigation system for consistent, deep watering that reaches the roots. Use a moisture meter or manually check soil moisture to guide your watering schedule, ensuring plants receive what they need.

Cutting Lawn Too Short

Beautiful landscaping work.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Mowing your lawn too short can expose it to sunburn and allow weeds to take hold.

Fix: Adjust your mower to a higher setting, ideally leaving grass about 2-3 inches tall. This height helps shade the soil, retaining more moisture and suppressing weed growth.

Neglecting Mulch

A man's hand holding mulch.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Mulch suppresses weeds, retains moisture, and adds a protective layer to the soil.

Fix: Apply a 2-3 inch layer of organic mulch around plants, avoiding direct contact with plant stems to prevent rot. Replenish mulch as needed to maintain its benefits throughout the season.

Using Inappropriate Fertilizer

Beautifully manicured gardens and trees.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Over-fertilizing can burn plants and pollute waterways, while under-fertilizing can lead to poor growth.

Fix: Choose a fertilizer that matches the specific needs of your plants and apply it according to the package directions. Consider slow-release formulas to reduce the risk of over-application.

By the way, you can also garden in a way that completely eliminates the need for fertilizers; they’re not a requirement.

Planting Invasive Species

Beautiful landscape.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Invasive plants will overrun your garden, your neighbor’s garden, and local ecosystems. They starve native pollinators, bees, and butterflies, which in turn starves the songbirds who have nothing to feed their young.

Fix: Research plants before purchasing and opt for native or non-invasive alternatives. Native plants often require less maintenance and provide better support for local wildlife.

Ignoring Pest Problems

Plants and flowers in large outdoor pots.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Pests can quickly escalate from a minor annoyance to a major infestation.

Fix: Regularly inspect plants for signs of pests. Employ integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, starting with the least invasive controls such as manual removal or barriers, and escalate to biological controls or organic pesticides if necessary.

Planting at the Wrong Time

Woman walking through beautiful landscaped gardens.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Timing affects plant health and productivity. Planting too early or late can expose plants to unfavorable weather conditions.

Fix: Consult local planting calendars to determine the best planting times for each type of plant in your region. This ensures they have the optimal conditions for growth right from the start.

Not Planning for Growth

Stone cottage with beatiful landscaping and gardens.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Underestimating how large plants can get leads to cramped conditions and overgrown gardens.

Fix: Plan your garden with growth in mind, allowing ample space between plants for air circulation and access. Use garden design software or consult with a professional to envision how your garden will evolve.

Skimping on Planting Holes

Apple tree grown in the garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Small, shallow planting holes hinder root growth and plant stability.

Fix: Dig planting holes that are twice as wide as the plant’s root ball and just as deep. This allows roots to spread easily and anchor the plant securely.

Overlooking Seasonal Interest

tulips and other flowers growing.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

A garden that looks great in one season but bare in others misses opportunities for year-round enjoyment.

Fix: Select a variety of plants that offer visual interest in different seasons—think spring flowers, summer foliage, autumn berries, and winter bark textures.

Improper Pruning

Pruning at the wrong time or in the wrong way can harm plants.

Fix: Educate yourself on the specific pruning needs of each plant type. Generally, prune flowering shrubs after they bloom to avoid cutting off future flowers, and prune for shape and health in the dormant season.

Lack of Diversity

A garden with arched trellis.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

A monoculture is more susceptible to pests and diseases. An entire species can be wiped out leaving you with a dead garden.

Fix: Introduce a variety of plant species to create a balanced ecosystem in your garden. This not only enhances the garden’s beauty but also increases its resilience.

Not Using Native Plants

Flowers and plants in landscape.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Non-native plants often require more water, fertilizer, and pesticides to thrive. They also starve the native pollinators as already mentioned.

Fix: Incorporate native plants into your garden. They are adapted to your local climate and soil conditions, requiring less maintenance and providing better support for local wildlife ecosystems.

Ignoring Vertical Space

Woman walking in garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Failing to utilize vertical space can make your garden look flat and uninteresting.

Fix: Incorporate structures like trellises, arbors, and vertical planters to add dimension to your garden. Climbing plants such as clematis, morning glories, and ivy can be used to adorn these structures, adding height and visual interest.

Failing to Consider Color Combinations

Evergreens outside in landscape.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Random color combinations can lead to a chaotic-looking garden.

Fix: Plan your garden’s color palette intentionally. Consider using a color wheel to find complementary colors or choose a monochromatic scheme for a more unified look. This can enhance the overall aesthetic of your garden and create more impactful visual displays.

Over-relying on Chemicals

Tulips.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Chemical solutions harm the environment, pollute the water, kill beneficial insects and birds, and can also harm pets and people.

Fix: Use chemical treatments as a last resort. First, explore organic and natural alternatives, such as mulching, hand-picking pests, or using natural predators like ladybugs. For diseases, improve air circulation by properly spacing plants and keeping foliage dry.

Addressing these common mistakes with thoughtful and sustainable practices can greatly enhance your garden’s health, productivity, and beauty. These detailed fixes offer a way to solve immediate problems and prevent future issues, ensuring your garden remains a vibrant and enjoyable space for years.

Take Inspiration From the English

Stone footpath over pond with flowers.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Learn More: 10 Examples of British Cottage Garden Design to Inspire You

Shade-Loving Plants & Flowers

Little girl running through garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Learn More: 19 Flowers & Plants That Grow In The Shady Parts of Your Garden

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