Mistakes, mishaps and fails - it's all part of the gardening journey

Its not all roses in the Sow Clever garden…this month we share our gardening fails!

We’re learning like everyone and we’ve had to adapt when we make mistakes. Below are some of the errors we’ve made whilst creating our garden, and some tips on how you can avoid them.

Not having enough patience

This is a big challenge for me (Lucy!)  My lack of patience manifests itself in overcrowding the space available with too many plants! I think it stems from me wanting our garden to look fabulous straight away! My advice would be to plan well and factor in the mature height/width of a plant when deciding on how many plants you need. A little tip, groupings of odd numbers work best (3,5,7 etc) when planting. 

I’m also impatient when it comes to giving plants enough time to establish themselves. I have been known to issue a final warning to a plant if it hasn’t flowered after a couple of years! Some plants take several years to develop enough of a root system to flower. We have a Hydrangea Petiolaris which can take a few years to flower, even in good conditions! It finally flowered after about 4 years (maybe my ‘talking to’ worked!) and is thriving now along one of our fences.


Hydrangea Petiolaris (not ours!)

Right plant wrong place 

A common mistake, and one I still fall foul of. How many of us have bought a plant because its gorgeous and not bothered to check the label to see whether it needs sun or shade, or how much space it needs at full maturity?  We bought a lovely variegated Phormium plant which was about 30cm tall when we bought it. The space we planted it in was much too small for it once it grew to about 1m x 1m! Mistakes like this are a pain, as we then had to remove it and replant it elsewhere. We ran the risk of the Phormium not enjoying the transplant process and potentially not surviving (which it didn’t). Think about what plants suit the space you have, and make a list before heading to the garden centre or nursery. That way you will be less tempted to buy something unsuitable. 

Check out this great guide from the RHS on planning and designing your dream garden.


Guilty of both! When young plants are establishing its very important to give them plenty of water to help them get going. I’ve lost plants after putting them in the ground and not watering well enough afterwards. My tip here would be make sure you plant when you know you are going to be around to water for the following week or so. Planting and then going on holiday for 2 weeks is not a good idea! 

Overwatering plants in open ground is not as common.  Established plants should have developed enough of a root system to find water when they need it.  I tend to only water established plants if we have hot spells of dry weather. I check to see if the soil is dry underneath the top surface and if it is, I’ll give it a water. Sometime plants can look dry on the surface and but they are moist underneath. If you are watering and there are pools of water not draining away, then you are watering too much. 

Creating a high maintenance garden (when you really want a low one!) 

When we moved into our current house we thought a nice lawn would be an easy option. We planned a design with my very talented mother-in-law which had grassed areas and some beds to plant some trees, shrubs and perennials in. 

However, because we were lumbered with poor soil (heavy clay) and despite John putting some serious hours into a soil drainage system, the lawn just looked well, awful. It was boggy, patchy and uneven. John spent hours, walking around in spiked shoes to help the soil drain, he re-sowed areas where the turf hadn’t taken well, cut the grass regularly, fed the bloody thing and it was still terrible! So after a few years we admitted defeat, removed the turf and created a riverbed effect out of small and larger stones. It was the best option for our garden and is much lower maintenance than grass. 

We were still able to add trees, large shrubs and loads of perennials to our garden and we do seem to have a lot of birds and insects come visit – even without any grass! 

As with most things in life, failure is part of the learning process. So don’t despair if things go wrong. Chalk it up to experience and move on! 

With best wishes,

Lucy X

Mistakes, mishaps and fails - it's all part of the gardening journey