By Jan Phipps
There are some common mistakes we gardeners make that result in a lot of extra work. Perhaps “horticulture horrors” is overly dramatic, so let’s call them gardening gaffes – the been-there-done-that learning experiences we all have. The following are some things not to do.
1. Don’t plant mint in your vegetable garden.
Mint spreads by both seeds and underground roots that are fast-growing and tenacious. To keep it in check, plant mint where physical barriers will control the root growth. In a pot works or in a narrow strip between the house foundation and a concrete sidewalk.
2. Don’t allow dill to go to seed.
Dill produces many seeds that blow around and germinate where they fall. Fortunately, they are easy to pull when small and add a delightful scent to the job of weeding.
3. Don’t throw morning glory vines in your compost.
Do not put morning glory vines in the compost after a killing freeze in fall. The vines are chock-a-block with viable seeds that even hot composting will not completely eliminate. Next spring those seeds will be distributed to your gardens, hidden in the compost.
4. Don’t treat the soil to get rid of weeds.
Another mistake is treating the soil in which weeds grow instead of treating the weed directly. An old method of controlling weeds in asparagus was salting the ground. The asparagus is salt tolerant but the weeds aren’t. Gardeners have also been known to mix herbicides containing borax laundry soap to douse creeping Charlie and the soil around it. Fortunately, we now know better than to poison the earth for future generations.
5. Don’t water with automatic sprinklers.
Improper watering is a common gardening gaffe, especially for people with automatic sprinkler systems. Daily watering results in surface roots at the expense of deep anchoring roots. To foster good root development, water deeply once a week instead a superficially seven times. Avoid watering right before sundown. Your plants need time to completely dry before night to prevent fungal diseases.
6. Do not walk on or work the soil when it is wet.
Treading on wet ground squeezes out air pockets, thus compacting the soil. Trying to till wet dirt will result in clods that quickly dry out and remain clods for the rest of the summer.
The Illinois growing season is starting. Avoiding these mistakes will guarantee you have more time for the fun stuff instead of recovering from gardening gaffes.