For me, gardening (before I actually had a garden) was all about the outfit. I gave much thought to the accessories I’d wear—a wide-brimmed sun hat, a bandana around my neck, a pair of galoshes, perhaps—but not much to the actual process of digging and planting, which I figured would come naturally and easily. The first afternoon I spent on my knees in the dirt proved the folly of my assumptions.
Gardening is much more physically demanding than I had anticipated—and, in hindsight, many of the errors I committed in my first garden had to do with looking for shortcuts to avoid the back-breaking work. The shortcuts, unsurprisingly, weren’t worth it. Instead of a lush garden, I had many flowers that wilted and died. The ones that survived didn’t thrive.
Here, all the lazy planting mistakes I made in my first year of gardening.
Featured photograph by Meredith Swinehart.
Mistake 1: Not Digging Deep or Wide Enough
I thought digging a hole would be child’s play, literally. Needless to say, it was nothing like that. Our soil was hard, rocky in places, and sometimes shot through with the unbudging roots of a nearby tree. Digging turned out to be back-breaking work, and because it was so physically demanding, I did the bare minimum.
Here’s what I should have done instead: Dig holes twice as wide as the pot the plant came in and twice as deep. Add enough compost, mixed with some of the dug-up soil, to the bottom of the hole so the plant ends up being flush to the ground. Then fill in the sides with more of the compost and soil mixture. This creates looser soil surrounding the plant, which aids air and water movement, and ensures roots can grow unhindered.