Gardening mistakes - wear sunscreen, Getty Images

10 gardening mistakes to avoid

Save both time and money by following these practical tips for gardeners.

Gardening shouldn’t be about slavishly following a rule book, but there are some common mistakes that could cost you both time and money.


We share 10 ways to have a happier, more productive gardening life, below.

Not warming up before digging

Gardening mistakes - warming up, Getty Images
Gardening mistakes – warming up, Getty Images

If your body isn’t used to it, digging can be really damaging, potentially leading to strained or pulled muscles, and lower back pain. Warming up before digging can save hours of aches and pains – simply do a few stretches beforehand and make sure your body is ready for the challenge.

Taking on an allotment when you don’t have enough time

Gardening mistakes - allotment, Getty Images
Gardening mistakes – allotment, Getty Images

Taking on an allotment requires commitment, hard work and some essential allotment tools. Usually, plots have been left for some time before being allocated to a new tenant, so often need a complete overhaul, which includes getting rid of garden weeds, removing rubbish and sometimes erecting a shed or greenhouse. After that you need to sow seeds, plant plants, weed, water, deal with pests, diseases and other problems, and remember to harvest the crops, as well. Managing an allotment gets easier after a couple of years, when you can stay on top of weeding and other jobs, but the first couple of seasons require a lot of effort, which can be challenging, especially if you’ve never grown your own fruit and veg before. If you’re not sure you can commit then consider sharing your plot with a friend or asking for a smaller space initially. It pays to be realistic and not set yourself up for failure.

Letting weeds take over

Gardening mistakes - weeding
Gardening mistakes – weeding

Weeds are easy to manage when they’re small. Simply hoe off the tops of annual weed seedlings every couple of weeks, and dig out young perennials while they have a small root. But let them grow and before long you’ll have a huge problem on your hands. Weeds grow quickly – annuals develop flowers and set seed within a short amount of time, while perennial weeds can take hold and grow from even the tiniest pieces of root. By weeding little and often, you can avoid weeds becoming a problem, and keep your borders weed-free.

Not organising your shed

Gardening mistakes - tidy shed
Gardening mistakes – tidy shed

A tidy, well-organised shed means you know where everything is when you need it. Having tools stored correctly means you’re more likely to look after them, and you’re also less likely suffer injuries from any that have been badly placed. If your shed is untidy you’re less likely to get on with the jobs that need doing if you had easy access to the tools required. So keep your tools in order and you’ll have no excuse not to get those jobs done.

Leaving death-traps for wildlife

Gardening mistakes - using netting
Gardening mistakes – using netting

It’s easy to forget that wildlife use our gardens as much as we do, and that some areas of the garden can be dangerous for animals. If your pond has steep sides then hedgehogs can fall in and drown. If you use pea netting then birds, reptiles and small mammals can become trapped and starve. Birds can get their legs trapped in plastic netting surrounding fat balls, while a new fence or wall can cut off a wildlife corridor, prevent animals from finding food and a mate. What’s more, not checking before you strim can cause injury and death to slow worms and hedgehogs.

Pruning at the wrong time of year

Gardening mistakes - pruning at the wrong time of year
Gardening mistakes – pruning at the wrong time of year

Pruning shrubs and climbers requires a little know-how to ensure you don’t harm the plant, remove the following year’s flower buds, or even shock the plant into producing masses of leafy growth at the expense of flowers and fruit. Did you know grapes must only be pruned when dormant to ensure the plant doesn’t bleed to death? Or that plums and cherries must be pruned in summer to prevent the spread of silver leaf disease? Arm yourself with a little knowledge before you start pruning, for the outcome you intended.

Find out more about pruning:

Not wearing protective gear when using machinery

Gardening mistakes - using protective gear
Gardening mistakes – using protective gear

Protective gear is there to protect you. Goggles prevent injury to your eyes when operating machinery such as strimmers and hedge trimmers, ear defenders protect against loss of hearing when using loud machines such as leaf blowers, and sturdy shoes enable you to garden without risk of harming your feet while using any tools or machinery, from a garden fork to a lawn mower. Not protecting yourself is not only not sensible, but can be potentially dangerous.

Not taking care when lifting heavy items

Gardening mistakes - heavy plant pot
Gardening mistakes – heavy plant pot

Lifting heavy items, such as large plant pots, can lead to painful back problems. However, lifting the items carefully can prevent injury, while moving the pot while it’s empty can save a lot of hard work compared to moving it when full. If moving pots and other large garden items then make sure you bend your knees and keep your back straight, and ask for help when you need it.

Not wearing sunscreen

Gardening mistakes - wear sunscreen, Getty Images
Gardening mistakes – wear sunscreen, Getty Images

Gardening exposes us to harmful UV rays, and we can easily develop sunburn without realising it, even on overcast days. We all know the long-term dangers of sun exposure. Gardeners are particularly vulnerable, as we’re outside more often, and for longer periods of time, than non-gardeners. Wearing a hat, long sleeves and sunscreen can help keep us safe.

Not cleaning your tools

Gardening mistakes - cleaning tools
Gardening mistakes – cleaning tools

Cleaning and sharpening garden tools helps them work better and last longer. Simple tasks such as wiping mud off your spade after using it helps keep the blade sharp and prevents rust developing, while cleaning and oiling secateurs ensures sharp, clean cuts that enable plant wounds to heal quickly and therefore reduce the likelihood of disease setting in. What’s more, disinfecting tools after pruning certain plants can reduce the transference of diseases from one plant to another.