Gardeners say you should never do these things in your yard — & here's what to do instead

The solutions are easier than you think.

Gardeners say you should never do these things in your yard — & here's what to do instead
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Whether you’re looking to overhaul your garden or just give it a few upgrades, there are simple and effective ways to get results. In order to get the best hacks for your space, I’ve consulted with gardening experts to weigh in on the things you should avoid doing and the cheap things that can make your yard look so much nicer. From soil maintenance to plant pruning, check out these easy, clever solutions to common gardening mistakes, according to pros.


Mistake: Removing weeds every now & then

Solution: A tool that makes regular weeding a breeze

Instead of sporadically removing weeds, Pangborn recommends regularly pulling weeds for about 20 minutes once or twice a week. She notes that removing smaller weeds before they set seed is easier to do and can actually reduce the amount of weeds that pop up in the future. And that can be a simple task with this sturdy steel weeder. It has a long 45-inch handle, so you don’t have to bend down, and features a four-claw design that can handle weeds in most types of soil.


Mistake: Letting standing water attract mosquitoes

Solution: A solar-powered fountain with circulating water

When it comes to water, Lindsay Pangborn, plant expert at Bloomscape, discourages standing water that can attract unwanted pests. However, if you are interested in a water component in your garden, she suggests anything with moving water. Case in point, this solar-powered fountain with a pump that keeps water circulating. Just place it in a basin or bird bath with a 1.2-inch minimum depth and, depending on the six included nozzle heads you use, it can spray a height of 15.7 to 23.6 inches.


Mistake: Lighting your garden at night with battery-powered lamps

Solution: This solar-powered yard light in a cute animal shape

You’ll never need to change batteries with this solar-powered light. It’s in the shape of a cute owl, measuring 6.3 by 8.3 inches, with LED lights emanating from its eyes. And since it’s covered with protective coating and a rust-resistant resin, it can withstand any kind of weather in your yard.

  • Available colors and styles: 6


Mistake: Using pesticides to reduce invasive bugs

Solution: A marigold seed mix that creates a habitat for beneficial insects

Another Tait recommendation is the practice of “integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, which involve a combination of biological, cultural, and chemical methods for controlling pests.” To manage your garden pests in this sustainable, pesticide-free way, give these marigold seeds a try. These flowers can create a habitat for beneficial insects, who then prey on invasive insects that can damage crops. Plus, the seeds are GMO-free.


Mistake: Damaging plant roots by walking on garden beds & compacting soil

Solution: A wooden pathway to designate walking areas

Walking on garden beds can compact soil, thereby reducing aeration and damaging plant roots, according to Tait. In order to maintain healthy soil, he suggests a designated pathway in your yard. This lightweight wooden footpath easily rolls out to create an instant walkway. It’s made of natural cedar wood that’s weather resistant and made with nonslip patterns for stability. No assembly is required, and the path featured here is 8 feet long and 17 inches wide.

  • Available sizes: 6 feet, 8 feet, 12 feet


Mistake: Using dull pruning tools that can lead to pests & disease

Solution: These sharp, carbon steel pruning shears

Failing to clean or sharpen your tools before pruning can lead to disease and pest infestations, according to Ben Hilton, founder and editor at The Gardening Fix. So using these sharp hand pruners is a solid bet. They have carbon steel blades with edge retention and are designed to cut through stalks and branches up to 0.75 inches in diameter. They also feature a nonslip, ergonomic handle and a safety lock that can easily be operated with one hand.


Mistake: Applying the wrong type of fertilizer

Solution: An easy-to-use test kit for understanding your soil

Bryan Clayton, CEO and co-founder at GreenPal, often sees a lot of homeowners applying the wrong type of fertilizer to their yard and suggests they get an understanding of “what the numbers on the side of the bag mean and when it’s the right time of year to apply.”

To get a better feel for your soil, this at-home test kit is a great option. It features a simple capsule system that tests for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash innovative (which are all helpful numbers to know before buying fertilizer). The brand recommends testing your soil several times within the growing season, so several testers are included.

  • Available sizes: 20-pack, 25-pack, 40-pack
  • Available styles: Soil test kit, digital soil test kit, soil test kit for pH, N, P, K


Mistake: Watering your plants when they don’t need it

Solution: A moisture meter that lets you know if your plant needs watering

Before watering your plants, Andy Tait, plant expert at True Green Nursery, recommends using a meter to check your soil’s moisture levels. This two-pack of moisture sensors requires no batteries and can be used indoors or outside. Just insert the meter into the soil about 3 to 4 inches and you’ll instantly know how much water your plant really needs.

  • Available colors: 2


Mistake: Not having your gardening tools on-hand

Solution: This heavy duty belt that holds a lot

With one large zipped pocket, five additional pouches, and a loop, this tool pouch is a perfect way to keep all your gardening tools, seeds, and other accessories handy while you work. One reviewer reports, “Easy to use but not too bulky.” Plus, it’s made of heavy duty canvas with an adjustable waistband for durability and comfort.


Mistake: Letting deer overtake your garden

Solution: This plant-friendly spray that deters deer in a humane way

To rid your yard of unwanted animal guests in a humane way, you might want to consider this deer-repellent spray. With potent natural actives, like garlic, peppermint oil, white pepper, cinnamon oil, and lemongrass oil, it can be sprayed directly on plants to repel them (and won’t harm your plants or the deer, according to the brand).


Mistake: Not buying the right type of seed for the region you live in

Solution: A durable seed for thicker, greener grass in transition zone lawns

If you’re buying the wrong type of grass seed for the region you live in, you shouldn’t expect good results, reports Clayton. So if you reside in a transition zone area (that means you experience really cold winters and very hot summers), this grass seed might be just what you need. It has a coating to keep seeds moist and protects against disease, and the brand promises that it will help grass grow faster and thicker.

  • Available sizes: 2.4 pounds — 40 pounds
  • Available quantity: 1-pack, 2-pack, 4-pack, 6-pack


Mistake: Applying fertilizer that doesn’t help your soil

Solution: This professional grade fertilizer with iron & micronutrients

After testing your soil, you may find this 10-10-10 fertilizer (which contains 10 percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphate and 10 percent potash) to be a solid, balanced pick. The fine particles have quick-release nitrogen for immediate nutrition, plus micronutrients and iron for an extra-green lawn. You can use it any time during the growing season, but ideally in spring and fall.


Mistake: Wasting money on lawn patch solutions

Solution: A heavy-duty rake to prepare the soil for grass seeds & watering

Another mistake that Clayton has noticed is homeowners wasting money on lawn patch solutions made of fiberglass-like materials. He notes that home gardeners are better off agitating the soil with a hard rake, applying the right kind of grass seed, and watering. Which is where this heavy-duty garden rake comes in. It has 14 sharp tines to loosen the soil, plus it has an adjustable length and nonslip grip so you can get a comfortable feel while you rake.

  • Available styles: 5-foot, 6-foot


Mistake: Neglecting to aerate your lawn

Solution: These shoes that aerate your soil while you walk

As Clayton mentioned, agitating your soil is important, so wearing these aerator shoes is a solid choice. They feature 13 metal spikes on each shoe that digs deep into your lawn, allowing water and nutrients to seep in. The shoes come in one size, you just need to attach them with the adjustable straps and walk around your lawn.


Mistake: Spreading uneven clumps of fertilizer

Solution: A manual spreader that gives an even distribution & professional finish

When it comes to fertilizer application, Hilton highly recommends using a spreader. This can ensure an even amount of fertilizer is applied, which gives a professional finish and can save a lot of time. Featured here is a mini spreader that’s ideal for pushing around smaller lawns. It has durable wheels for all kinds of terrain and a fold-down handle for easy storage.

  • Available sizes: Single pack, 3-pack
  • Available styles: Mini, Deluxe, Drop, Elite


Mistake: Distributing product around your lawn without a spreader

Solution: This battery-powered, handheld spreader

If you’d rather not go with a manual spreader, this battery-operated, handheld spreader can be a great alternative. It’s designed for year-round use, covers up to 2,500 square feet, and features 23 settings for uniform accuracy. The spreader uses four AA batteries that are not included, but you can get some here.

  • Available sizes: 1-pack, 4-pack


Mistake: Pruning at the wrong time

Solution: An instructional guide on where, when, & how to prune

Pruning at the wrong time can make flowers, shrubs, or trees more vulnerable to disease and pests, Hilton notes. In order to know where, when, and how to prune, this instructional guide can be a great resource. The 336-page paperback features more than 800 plants, step-by-step instructions, and annotated illustrations that can make anyone a more confident gardener.


Mistake: Using peat-based soils that can diminish peat bog habitats

Solution: A sustainable & renewable potting mix formulated with coconut fiber

Peat moss is a common ingredient in commercial potting mixes, but as Chad Massura, founder of Rosy Soil, explains, “it's obtained by extracting peat bogs, which serve as essential carbon sinks and provide unique habitats for various plant and animal species.” If you’d like to contribute to the preservation of peat bogs, reduce your carbon footprint, and promote more sustainable gardening practices, Massura recommends using peat-free soil. One such example is this potting mix, which is formulated with coconut coir (or fiber), a sustainable ingredient that’s OMRI-listed for organic use. It also feeds plants for up to three months with a slow release formula.

  • Available styles: 7
  • Available types: Fertilizer, fertilizer and worm castings


Mistake: Losing track of your seeds

Solution: A storage box for organizing seeds by sowing date

Another way to practice sustainable gardening, as Massura suggests, is with this seed storage box that keeps your seeds organized, safe, and dry. It’s made of powder coated galvanized steel and comes with 20 seed packets and a pencil to write what’s in them. Plus, the box organizes your seeds by sowing date with monthly divider cards.


Mistake: Overwatering your plants

Solution: This sustainable drip irrigation system

Watering your plants is good, but overwatering can lead to root rot, mold, and other problems, according to Tait. To provide precise watering that uses less H2O than a sprinkler, you can try this sustainable drip irrigation system. It easily installs without digging, and comes with three types of sprayer and an adjustable nozzle to get water exactly where and how you need it.


Mistake: Not conserving water

Solution: This system for collecting & recycling rain water

Another great addition to a sustainable gardening practice is this system for collecting and recycling rain water. To attach, you will need to measure and cut your downspout, so make sure you have tools handy. The diverter also comes with a 4-foot hose that connects it to a collection container (not included) and a plug that can stop the flow of water at any time.


Mistake: Forgetting to water your plants

Solution: These watering globes that automatically keep your plants hydrated

If you’re always forgetting to water your plants, or are planning on going out of town, these self-watering globes are a great solution. Just fill them up with water, press them into the soil, and they’ll gradually water your plants for up to two weeks. Featured here is a large four-pack, measuring 12 inches high and 3.35 inches in diameter.

  • Available quantities: 2-pack, 4-pack
  • Available sizes: Small, large, mushroom, jumbo


Mistake: Forgetting what you planted

Solution: This 30-pack of waterproof labels

These colorful, waterproof labels are a simple way to help you remember what you planted. They can be used indoors or outside, and use a hook and loop closure so they can be removed and attached to different plants. It comes in a pack of 30 and the brand recommends using a pen or fine-point marker when labeling.


Mistake: Excessively using chemical fertilizers that can harm your plants over time

Solution: This compost bin for turning food scraps into nutrient-rich soil

“Although chemical fertilizers and pesticides can help to promote plant growth and control pests and diseases, excessive use can harm your plants, soil, and the environment,” says Tait, who recommends the use of organic fertilizers like compost. To get you started, here’s a composting kit. It includes a bin that can fit on your countertop or under the sink, six charcoal filters (a year’s supply), 50 compost bags, a magnet that lists what’s compostable, and an instruction book.

  • Available colors: 2


Mistake: Neglecting the invasive plants that are taking over your garden

Solution: A guide for identifying invasive plants before they get out of hand

Before you start planting, Tait suggests researching the potential invasiveness of any new species so it doesn’t take over your yard. To give you some background on invasive plants in North America, this 464-page paperback can come in handy. It includes color photographs for easy identification, as well as management techniques and an explanation of what makes a plant invasive.


Mistake: Not illuminating your garden at night

Solution: This 8-pack of solar-powered LED lights

If you’d like to enjoy your garden at night and illuminate your pathway, you might want to get this eight-pack of LED lights. They’re solar-powered, so you never have to change batteries, and illumination can last from eight to 12 hours. The lights can be out in all kinds of weather and feature a sharpened point for easy placement in the ground.

  • Available colors: 2
  • Available sizes: 6-pack, 8-pack


Mistake: Planting mint in the ground where it can get invasive

Solution: This 4-pack of terra cotta pots with saucers to keep mint contained

If you’re planting your mint in the ground, that can be a mistake, according to Jen McDonald, certified organic vegetable garden specialist and co-founder of Garden Girls. It makes a good ground cover, but she adds, “you will likely never get rid of it.” This four-pack of terra cotta pots and saucers can keep mint, or any other herb, contained. They measure 6 inches wide by 5.2 inches high, with a small drainage hole on the bottom.

  • Available sizes: 6 inches, 6.3 inches


Mistake: Planting sun-loving veggies outside before they’re ready

Solution: A grow light to prepare your plants for the outdoors

If you’re growing sun-loving vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, they’ll need at least six to eight hours of sun per day, according to McDonald. To replicate those conditions indoors or prepare your plants for the outdoors, you might need an LED grow light, like this one. It features red and white light to promote growth, along with a clip on design, a flexible neck, and an automatic timer for ease.


Mistake: Neglecting the health of your soil

Solution: This slow-release fertilizer that feeds plants up to 6 months

If your garden’s soil is hard and compacted, Gail Pabst, marketing communications coordinator at National Garden Bureau, recommends digging to a depth of 6 to 8 inches (depending on what you’re planting) and adding some slow-release fertilizer to give your plants room and food to grow. This fertilizer can be used indoors and outside. Nutrients are released according to the soil’s temperature, and it can feed plants up to six months.

  • Available sizes: 1 pounds, 2 pounds, 4.5 pounds, 8 pounds
  • Available styles: Outdoor and indoor, flower and vegetable


Mistake: Not organizing your garden space

Solution: This garden planner with a planting guide, sunlight requirements, & more

In the midst of planting, Pangborn often sees home gardeners overlooking the planning phase. She suggests making a rough outline of what you want to plant and where. This garden planner charts out the entire year, so you can set seeding dates and check against the included listing of local frost dates. It also comes with a companion planting guide, sunlight requirements, and minimum soil temperatures.


Mistake: Running out of garden space because all your plants grow outward

Solution: These stakes for growing plants upright

If you’d like to save garden space by growing your plants upwards rather than outwards, Pangborn suggests using garden stakes. This 25-pack of stakes are rustproof and feature sharpened points on both sides so they can easily be placed in the ground. Featured here are 48-inch stakes, but other sizes are also available.

  • Available sizes: 24 inches, 30 inches, 36 inches, 48 inches, 60 inches, 72 inches


Mistake: Keeping your ornamental & edible plants separate

Solution: This seed collection for creating a thriving ecosystem

“There’s no need to separate your ornamental and edible plants,” says Erin Schanen, Troy-Bilt’s gardening partner, a master gardener volunteer, and creator of The Impatient Gardener blog and YouTube channel. In fact, growing them together can make for a beautiful garden and a thriving ecosystem — flowers can attract pollinators for vegetables, while attracting beneficial bugs that will help manage pest problems.

To get started, you’ll want to check out this GMO-free seed collection featuring an assortment of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, like tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and sweet corn. Each set comes with an instructional eBook to guide you.