Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Cleaning Up Someone Else’s Gardening Mistakes


There were so many things wrong with these gardens when we bought the house.  It is really amazing that everything wasn’t completely dead since almost everything was planted with seemingly no knowledge or planning.  From what I have heard, the previous owners even hired a “professional” to plant and maintain everything.  To me, most of the things they did horribly wrong seem like they should have been common knowledge.  Since common sense is not as common as one would hope, I decided to detail a list of the problems that I have had to clean up in these gardens.  It is shocking that someone may have actually paid to have so much done horribly wrong!

1.  It is never a good idea to plant an extremely large cactus where it will reach over a walkway, gate, and stairs.  That is just dangerous and a lawsuit waiting to happen.  That cactus was one of the first things we removed.

2.  No roses thrive in full shade!  Nearly all roses need full sun.  There are a few varieties that will grow in partial shade such as white iceberg roses, but no roses will thrive in full shade, such as when they are planted directly under very large trees.  Sadly, there were numerous rose bushes planted in this manner at our house.

3.  The tropical “tree” shown above was being burnt in full sun, and will do much better in its new home in partial sun.  It was also getting too leggy and should have been trimmed down and re-rooted.  Besides all that, one random tropical plant stuck in with a bunch of roses and daisies is the strangest planting choice I have ever seen!  I gave this guy away for free on Craigslist…hopefully it is happier in its new home.

4.  The flowering mini tree also shown above should have been in full sun, and it was planted in full shade.  It also started sending out runners around it, trying to create little baby trees everywhere.  Thanks a million for this one…I am really looking forward to digging up all of these runners under the grass in the front yard where they have spread like a disease.  I really do not need baby trees popping up all over my lawn!  This was another one given away on Craigslist.

5.  Bushy perennials like the shasta daisies planted everywhere should be periodically dug up in early spring and divided so they don’t end up taking over everything around them.  I really enjoyed digging up years worth of overgrown flowers and trying to divide them.

6.  Flower bulbs should be dug up yearly (or at least on a somewhat regular basis!) and divided.  I found so many bulbs all smashed together in one spot.  Luckily for me, I will have tons to spread around for next spring!

7.  Flower bulbs placed ON TOP of the soil WILL NOT GROW.  They need to be buried in the dirt to grow!

8.  Short, low growing flowers like begonias should be planted toward the front of a flower bed where they can be seen, and not in the very back where no one will ever notice them!

9.  Ferns of all sorts should not be planted in full sun.  Pretty simple and straightforward…plant them in partial shade or full shade.

10.  There is no point in planting an asparagus fern or spider plant directly behind a rose bush.  No one will see it.  I do however, appreciate the free found plants that I have used elsewhere.

11.  Fig trees get tall.  Ridiculously tall if you let them.  They should be pruned periodically, and whoever thought it would be a good idea to plant a huge fig tree in a tall raised planter bed was crazy.

12.  Grape vines need to be pruned yearly when dormant.  I have a huge task ahead of me this winter.

13.  Flowers should be deadheaded when the blooms are spent.  Letting dead flower heads just sit there creates a messy situation in some cases.  I am not enjoying my battle with the very large shasta daisies growing in parts of the grass since they were left on long enough to go to seed and spread their seeds in unwanted areas.

14.  The large overgrown bushes that were previously in our backyard were a haven for wasps.  Those also had to go.

15.  The irrigation system previously set up here was the worst ever.  I will go into all the details in a later post, but having the timer set up to water the grass twice a day is a huge waste of water.  Furthermore, the best time to water grass is early in the morning, around sunrise.  The worst times to water grass are in the middle of the day, and late at night…the two times of day the timer was set to water.

16. Lantham flowers should be planted in full sun.  In our yard,they were  planted in the partial shade area and they were diseased and rotten looking.  I also removed those.

17.  Ivy is the worst thing to plant near a retaining wall.  The tentacles grab onto the mortar and slowly weaken the wall.  Getting rid of the ivy has become a long battle.

18. Putting down layers of sod over and over does no good if you make no effort to keep weeds from taking over the grass.

19. Furthermore, the existing layer of sod is generally dug up and removed before a new layer is planted.  I really enjoyed digging through two layers of dead sod when creating my vegetable garden. 🙂

20.  Placing a nursery container of flowers that has been taken over with weeds in the flower bed will still spread weeds throughout the flower bed.  Just because the weeds are in a container does not mean they will not spread.  Who buys flowers that already have weeds growing in them anyway?

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