How To Avoid The 5 Most Common Spring Planting Mistakes Gardeners Make

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As the spring season arrives, gardeners eagerly anticipate the opportunity to step outside and indulge in their passion for gardening. Envisioning vibrant flowers and bountiful harvests, the urge to dive into planting becomes irresistible.Yet, this eagerness sometimes leads to hasty decisions that can undermine the health of both plants and soil, ultimately dampening the joy of gardening. Whether you’re tending to a vegetable patch, flowerbeds, raised beds, or pots, avoiding three common spring planting mistakes is crucial for ensuring a successful start and a gratifying gardening experience throughout the season.

common spring garden and planting mistakes
As highlighted below, one of the most significant spring mistakes is planting prematurely. Doing so can expose your plants to the dangers of frost, rot, and a myriad of other long-term complications.

The good news is that by steering clear of a handful of common early blunders, you can almost guarantee that both your plants and your soil will thrive, yielding healthy and bountiful results all season long. With that in mind, let’s delve into three major spring pitfalls and how to sidestep them!

The 3 Most Common Spring Planting Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them!

#1) Working The Soil When It’s Too Wet

Ensuring optimal plant health begins with maintaining good soil structure. Loose, clump-free soil facilitates the passage of air and nutrients to your plant’s roots. Conversely, soil that’s soggy, dense, and packed with clods can hinder root development and suffocate delicate seedlings and transplants.

Nothing stunts a plant’s growth quite like planting it in waterlogged, clumpy soil. Similarly, tilling or digging in overly moist soil can wreak havoc on its structure.

During the early stages of spring, the soil tends to retain a high level of moisture. Melting snow from winter and frequent spring rains saturate the soil. Unfortunately, disturbing it during this period can lead to persistent issues for both your plants and soil throughout the entire season.

The melting snow and spring showers often saturate garden soil. However, working this soil too early can lead to compaction, which is unfavorable for plant growth.

When wet soil is tilled or dug, it starts forming clumps, compacting the air channels that aid in draining away excess moisture. This compacted soil also smothers vital organisms like worms, which play a crucial role in maintaining soil health.

Let Your Soil Dry Out…

It’s crucial to let the soil dry out completely before planting anything. When digging in flowerbeds or the garden, the soil should easily fall off the shovel and be free of clumps before proceeding with planting. This advice becomes even more critical if you opt to till your garden space.

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Tilling wet soil can swiftly destroy its structure. That’s one of the reasons why we highly recommend the no-till Raised Row garden method. Not only does it eradicate the need for tilling altogether, but it also enables you to start working in your garden much earlier in the season!

#2) Planting Too Early – How To Avoid The 3 Most Common Spring Planting Mistakes

Arguably, one of the most significant blunders in spring planting is jumping the gun and putting plants in the ground too early. Just because those captivating flowering annuals and vibrant vegetable plants are enticingly displayed at your local nursery, it doesn’t mean it’s time to start planting them just yet!

The same caution applies to sowing most of your seeds too early. For many vegetable plants, herbs, and annual flowers, premature planting can lead to disastrous long-term consequences.

First and foremost, planting too early exposes plants to the peril of a fatal frost or freeze. Even a single night of temperatures dipping below freezing can swiftly spell doom for tender plants. And while you might manage to cover them up, the chilly soil of early spring can inflict severe, lasting damage on plants.

Plants left in cool, damp soil are prone to rapid decay. The excess moisture causes the roots to swell, hindering their ability to absorb vital nutrients for growth. Once deprived of nourishment, the plants simply wilt away in the soil, often succumbing to death in the process.

An early spring cold snap that plummets soil and air temperatures can also make it easy for mold and mildew to take hold. And once on the foliage and stems of plants, it can seriously compromise the plant’s health.

Allow The Soil & Air To Warm – How To Avoid The 3 Most Common Spring Planting Mistakes

Always allow your soil to warm up before planting for warm weather crops and seeds. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, corn and other summer crops need warm soil to grow. Planting them into cold soil can shock and stunt them. Sometimes so much they can’t recover.

Check with your local extension office to find out your area’s average last frost date. Then, to be sure, plant at least a week or two later to avoid any issues.

tomato planting mistakes - temperature
One of the most beneficial steps you can take for tender young vegetable and flower transplants in the spring is to wait until the soil temperature reaches around 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting.

Remember that a few days of 70° to 75°(Fahrenheit) temperatures does not mean your soil is warm enough for planting. In fact, it can take a solid week to two weeks to really allow soil temperatures to climb to a good planting warmth.

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Use an inexpensive soil thermometer to check the soil’s temperature before planting. For best results, wait until your soil temperature reaches at least 55°(F). 60°(F) is even better as roots can quickly spread out and take up nutrients to power early growth. Affiliate Product Link – Stainless Steel Soil Thermometer

#3) Failing To Harden Off Plants – How To Avoid The 3 Most Common Spring Planting Mistakes

Last but not least, failing to prepare your plants properly for outdoor life can put them at risk right from the start!

Vegetable and flower transplants grown from seed or purchased from a nursery need time to prepare for life outdoors. This process is called hardening off, and it can be critical in allowing your plants to hit the ground running right from the start!

Up until the time transplants go into the ground, they have had an easy life. Flowers and vegetable plants have been sheltered in the home or in a greenhouse. If taken from that environment and thrown immediately outdoors, they don’t handle the sudden changes well.

The Hardening Off Process

Plants need time to adjust slowly to the wind, lighting and temperature swings of outdoor life. Without a bit of time to acclimate, they can easily fall victim to wind, strong sunlight or heavy rains that beat them down.

hardening off transplants
Our tomato plants hardening off outdoors, with the added protection of a wooden wall to help keep them safe from strong winds.

Think of hardening off your plants as training for a marathon. You wouldn’t go out and try to run 26 miles before training a bit. Hardening off is exactly that, training for a plant to get ready for planting day.

Set plants outside on a porch or protected area for a few days to first let them adjust. Then, slowly allow them more and more time out in the sunlight. Of course, always bring them in at night if temperatures get too cold or storms are in the forecast. Within seven to ten days, your plants will be ready for planting!

Here is to avoiding some of the biggest spring planting mistakes, and to getting your plants off to a healthy, strong start this year. Happy Gardening, Jim and Mary.

#4) Skipping Spring Clean Up

Spring clean-ups are equally vital as fall clean-ups, perhaps even more so! During the winter, small critters might seek refuge in our plants to endure the cold weather.

Begin by clearing away any leaves or plant debris nestled within your plants. If necessary, trim back or prune your plants during this time.

After meticulously tidying up your plants, it’s essential to give your garden beds a thorough raking to eliminate all traces of leaf and plant litter. Dispose of this debris by adding it to your compost bin or removing it from your property entirely!

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