Gardening shouldn’t be about slavishly following a rule book, but there are some commonly 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
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
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 weeding, 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
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
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
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.
- Browse our selection of articles on wildlife-friendly gardening
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.
Not wearing protective gear when using machinery
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.
- Browse our Buyer’s guide to hedge trimmers and best hedge trimmer round-up
- Browse our Buyer’s guide to budget leaf blowers
- Browse our Buyer’s guide to cordless lawn mowers and best cordless lawn mower round-up
Not taking care when lifting heavy items
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 needs and keep your back straight, and ask for help when you need it.
- Watch our No Fuss Guide to moving and lifting
Not wearing sunscreen
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
Cleaning and sharpening garden tools helps them work better and last longer. Simple task 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.