I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several years, contemplating what I think are the five biggest mistakes we make in our gardens and landscapes. Consider the following list personal opinion, but I’ve drawn a lot of conclusions from my observation as I travel, speaking to scores of gardening enthusiasts and taping television shows in gardens across America. It also stems from my research for my latest book, The Green Gardener’s Guide. And as I like to say, as we do so much to beautify our own little corner of the world, we’re doing a lot of not-so-pretty things in the process. Here’s my list.
Poor Water Management: We are in a global water crisis. Of all the water in the world, only 1% is available to us as fresh pure water. Yet between 1950 and 1980, when the world’s population doubled, the demand on that water tripled! It’s a finite resource and we’re using it an unsustainable rates. Half of the water we use outside is wasted because we overwater or do so during the middle of the day. Consequently we lose much of it to evaporation and runoff. And harvesting rainwater using rain barrels is an easy way to collect and store this valuable resource for use on-demand, especially in times of drought.
Failure to understand a plant’s cultural requirements: Plants growing in their ideal environment are naturally more vigorous and therefore more pest and disease resistant. Plus, when we don’t read or heed the information on those plant tags, we make the mistake of planting that three-gallon holly against the foundation, only to cut it down a few years later when it overtakes the house. Put the right plant in the right place and you eliminate most of your maintenance problems, specifically the need to apply excess fertilizer or pesticides.
Failure to promote healthy soil: There is another world below the soil surface that we home gardeners know little about. Yet soil scientists tell us that in ideal conditions, it is teeming with billions of beneficial microorganisms that provide our plants with everything they need to grow and prosper, naturally. Of course that assumes we haven’t desiccated our soil with excessive salts that come from over use of synthetic fertilizers. Instead, we should improve the soil with a steady supply of organic matter, to promote plant growth by maintaining a healthy soil food web.
Excessive use of fertilizers: More is not better. Fertilizer that isn’t absorbed by the plant can leach into ground water or runoff into watersheds, polluting water systems and harming amphibious habitats. Excess buildup in the soil can desiccate life underground, making plants chemically dependent for their nutrients and creating unsustainable soil for plants to thrive naturally. Using any chemicals with discretion and on-target will go a long way to improving ecosystems everywhere.
Indiscriminate use of Pesticides: Only about 3% of all insects are considered pests, so why do we carpet bomb with non-selective pesticides when 97% are either neutral or beneficial. If you want to have a bug problem, start spraying. Many pest insect pests have developed a resistance to insecticides while beneficial insects are often the ones most adversely affected. In addition, according to the National Audubon Society, about seven million backyard birds die each year as a result of consuming insects that have been killed by pesticides.
I have plenty more examples for the above five and rivals for other common mistakes. Now it’s your turn. What are some other big mistakes? I’d love to hear about them. I’ll give away a copy of my book, The Green Gardener’s Guide to the best comment. Thanks.
(photo credit to iStock Photo)