Tag: Gardening blunders

Common, Ordinary Gardening Oops

The first day of the month is GOOPs day at Joene’s Garden, the day when I share a Gardening Oops – that’s what GOOPs stands for.  On GOOPs day I generally recount a gardening miss-step I’ve committed during my thirty-plus years of digging and sowing, but my focus this month is on common, ordinary GOOPs I encounter while caring for for the gardens of others and coaching clients on proper gardening tactics.

I’m asked a lot of questions and end up trying to fix a lot of GOOPs, but the following three stand out as extremely common.

Planting in poor soil.

Food provides nutrients to us. Soil does the same for plants. Remember this before you sink a newly purchased plant into the ground. If the soil is the color of sand, filled with rocks, and impossible to dig into because it is packed down, think of it as a Twinkie. Would you expect yourself or your kids to be able to thrive on the ‘nutrients’ from Twinkies? Don’t expect a plant to do so either.  Soil – and I use this word tongue-in-cheek – back-filled around building foundations is rarely plant-ready. The beautiful, healthy shrubs or perennials you just picked up at the garden center will not thrive planted in Twinkie soil. Before planting, work compost – the fruits and vegetables of soil nutrients  – into the poor soil around most foundation beds. Compost, available in handy bags from the garden center if you don’t make your own, introduces nutrients plants need and the soil-building microbes that will continually work to maintain soil health. Plus, compost will improve the moisture-holding capacity of the soil. After planting, mulch with aged wood chips, shredded wood, chopped dry leaves, or weed-free straw. Each will hold soil in place during watering and rainfall, maintain soil moisture so you can water less, help control weeds, and help feed the soil microbes that work to make your soil and plants healthy.

Mulch mounds, mulch volcanoes.

Mulch is a wonderful thing … too much is not. About two to three inches of shredded wood or other types of mulch is beneficial in planting beds and around trees for all the reasons I just listed above. Deeper mulch, mulch pushed up to the crown of plants, or mulch piled against the trunks of trees is not good.

Please, please, please DON’T CREATE MULCH VOLCANOES … unless you want to slowly kill trees.


Think of how skin looks after being bandaged too long? It gets all white and wrinkly and weak-looking. Tree bark – a tree’s skin – does the same when covered my mounds of mulch. Weakened bark is susceptible to insects and disease.  Mulch volcanoes also prevent moisture from reaching a tree’s feeder roots along the surface of the soil. A tree mulched like the photo above sends feeder roots up into the mulch in search of moisture. None of this is healthy. Trees should be planted so the flair at the base of the trunk is at soil level. Keep mulch about an inch from the trunk and only an inch or two deep encircling the base of the tree.

Too much mulch in planting beds similarly prevents plant roots and soil microbes from getting the air and moisture they need to perform their amazing act of nutrient transfer – microbes create soil nutrients through their digestion process, plant roots take up these nutrients. Too much mulch slows/stops this process and weakens plants.

I asked at [insert name of any big box/big-chain store] and they said …

I’m sure some big-box/big-chain employees know plants and can offer sound advice. However, my experience hasn’t identified any. I was recently shown a photo of a bug on a vegetable plant and asked what to do about it. My advice was to squish it or hand-pick it … it was not a terribly prolific type of bug, one easily controlled by simple vigilance. I was told the ‘advice’ offered by a big-box store employee regarding the same bug on the same plant was to spray the plants with a harsh chemical insecticide.

If you find a bug or a disease on a plant please seek advice from your local garden center, preferably one well-versed in organic practices. They are more likely able to identify diseases, pests, and plant problems common to your local area. If this resource is not available then seek advice from local experts. In Connecticut contact the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station or the Home and Garden Education Center at UConn.

Now that you’ve read my July 2012 GOOPs, please share one of your own in a comment below or on your own blog (just leave a teaser comment below). Don’t be shy … we all make mistakes.  If we share, we can learn from one another.

Garden thoughtfully …

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A bad combination-A Gardening Oops

Garden bloggers love to share pleasing photos of beds or containers they’ve created or seen and wax poetic on the attributes of this plant or that. Gardens are supposed to be beautiful … well, duh … so why wouldn’t bloggers flock to their computers to post their best, most spectacular photos and plant wisdom?

But, in real life, gardens are not always beautiful. Sometimes things just don’t work. A plant is in the wrong place, the season is too wet or too dry for a plant to thrive, or plant-eating creatures/plant-attacking pathogens take over.

To deal with these real-life gardening issues there’s GOOPs Day. GOOPs is the acronym I created for Gardening Oops. I’ve declared the first day of each month GOOPs Day … the day I share one of the gardening blunders I’ve made in my 30+ years of tending Connecticut gardens and the day I offer you the chance to do the same.

I come to my October 2011 GOOPs after missing, thanks to hurricane/tropical storm Irene’s power outage, the chance to post a September 2011 GOOPs. Irene’s life and land damage was enough of a regional and local mess that I need not go there. So, back at it this month, I present a plant combination from one of my gardens that caused me wonder what I was thinking!

I love coleus. I grow them in pots on windowsills during cold months. I start new coleus from seeds each spring. I grow them in outdoor containers and use their seemingly endless foliage and color variations for interest when garden flowers are taking a rest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m always on the outlook for new coleus and this spring ‘Saturn’ coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) caught my eye. When I purchased Saturn the yellow-green mid-leaf color was more pronounced than that depicted on the plant tag. But it was early, Saturn had been growing in a greenhouse in partial shade so, I reasoned, its darker red coloration more similar to the plant tag had not had a chance to fill in as it might have if grown in full sun.

I brought Saturn home to plant along the outer edge of a morning-sun bed dominated by two hydrangea, a variegated lace cap and a classic blue Endless Summer. The bed also contains ivy ground cover punctuated by what ever dark-reddish heuchera decides to survive. I thought Saturn’s dark-red-tinged-with-a bit-of-yellow-green foliage might complement the heuchera and ivy without distracting from the hydrangea.

Well, plants don’t always turn out to look like the lovely photo on the plant tag.

My Saturn’s foliage never developed more burgundy. It continued on its mostly yellow-green leaved path. It never bushed out in response to pinching back, as other coleus do.


It grew lankier than I expected and, at the same time, the lace cap hydrangea grew more bushy and wider.


The blue-green-edged-in-white variegation of the hydrangea foliage and the yellow-green-edged-in-burgundy variegation of the coleus foliage became a visual cacophony that makes me cringe!


The best thing I can say about this combination is that it’s provided me with GOOPs fodder.

I still like Saturn … it still has a chance in my gardens. I’ve taken Saturn cuttings to see how its foliage acts when grown in pots with indoor light but, if it survives the winter without coming down with aphids, I’ll find a more complementary spot for Saturn to thrive.

Now it’s your turn to share a gardening faux pas. Leave your GOOPs in a comment below or share a comment and a link back to your own GOOPs Day blog post. Here’s hoping my GOOPs prevent similar GOOPs in your gardens.

Garden thoughtfully …

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Joene Hendry