Source: Easy Gardens for North Central Texas (Steve Huddleston and Pamela Crawford), 2009
1. Buying the wrong plants.
Most beginners buy plants that don’t meet their expectations. They don’t understand the plant’s flowering habits or that the plant is an erratic performer. You will have a greater chance of success with tough native plants that are well adapted to our climate. Do your homework and learn how the plants grow before you buy them.
2. Planting in areas with poor drainage.
Most plants grown in soil that is constantly wet will die pretty quickly. Drainage problems are the major cause of wet spots in your garden. Some drainage problems can be solved by tilling your soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches, or punching deep holes through the soil with a shovel or auger. Adding course textured soil amendments, like expanded shale or pine bark, and tilling to a depth of 12 inches, also helps drainage. Do not use sand. Clay and sand make concrete. If your problem is not solved seek out the advice of a professional.
3. Purchasing the wrong fertilizer.
Grass fertilizers are different from the fertilizer you will use on the rest of your plants. Follow the instructions. Twice as much is not twice as good. Slow-release fertilizers are best. They are milder, and most don’t burn plants. The nutrients are released slowly over time. So they don’t have to be applied as frequently, making it easier on you. Testing your soil is the best way to gauge the need for fertilizer.
4. Watering incorrectly.
Plants need quite a bit of water to get established, particularly if planted in spring or summer. Not enough in the beginning could spell death. Too much later could also spell death. Your plants will tell you when they need water. Observe them carefully the first season. If a plant is wilting it needs water. If the soil feels dry when you insert your finger, it needs water. On average, you’ll need to apply enough water to soak into the soil to a depth of six to eight inches. Slow watering directly on the soil is better than a fast hit with a hose because the roots have more time to absorb the water.
5. Piling soil around the stem of the plant.
If soil or organic matter comes into contact with the stem of many plants. the stem rots, and the plants dies. To avoid this plight, plant plants a little higher. To help retain moisture, most people put organic mulch on top of the soil after they have planted. Be sure to pull the mulch away from the trunk or stem when you are mulching.
6. Spacing plants incorrectly.
Each plant requires a certain amount of space to grow properly. If you plant them too close together, they won’t grow as expected, nor will they flower profusely. Pay attention to the size your plants will reach at maturity and give them adequate room to grow. Your garden may look a little sparse at first, but if you planned right the plants will grow to fill it in.
7. Placing plants in the wrong amount of light.
Different plants need different amounts of light. A blanket flower likes full sun; a hosta likes shade. But how much sun is enough for sun plants? The rule of thumb is at least four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. For your shade-only plants, if they are left in the sun, the leaves and flowers will burn. Learn the light conditions around your property and know the light requirements of the plants you’re establishing and before you plant.