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Mistakes Gardeners Make

By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners

Honestly it doesn’t matter where you live or what kind of yard you have, we all have one looming problem. Some of our plants die and it’s usually our fault. It seems that there are some common denominators with most failures that happen. In this two-part article we will look at some of these common mistakes. The best way to avoid problems is to do your homework first before you purchase your first plant! Here are some helpful hints for the planning stage:

1. Find a yard you love and adapt it to fit yours. On an evening walk through your neighborhood, take a picture of a landscape feature or a plant that catches your eye. Talk to the homeowner. Most gardeners we know are happy to share knowledge and plants.

2. Develop a plan. Think about how you use or may want to use your yard. Do you want a native habitat or grow your own vegetables? Do you need a space for children to play? Scroll through past PBMG blog articles for ideas for your landscape. Use the resources at hand by attending local area garden tours or educational events to get ideas.

3. Think long term. Don’t try to seek a short-term solution. People ask for a fast-growing tree for their yards. A fast-growing tree is usually short lived and then you just have to start over. A plant out of place will eventually have to be removed, costing money and time.

4. Choose the “right” plant. Plants that are native or adapted to West Texas will grow and thrive. A lovely plant that can be grown in the tropics or our northeastern hardwood forests will not be happy here. Natives or plants from similar biomes, areas of similar climatic conditions, “know” how to get through our weather extremes. And we have beautiful natives that are becoming more readily available. The Permian Basin Master Gardener blog has plant profiles and landscaping ideas. (

5. Plant the right plant at the right time in the right place. So, you’ve done your homework and selected a plant that will grow here (See Know your plant by reading the label or doing research and follow the directions for spacing and size. It is tempting to plant seven plants when only three will fit; overplanting may alter the way they look when mature. A 6’ Bur Oak planted under a utility line will mature to be 80’ tall which means it will be removed or horribly pruned. Read a label through West Texas eyes! “Full sun” on a label is six hours but in West Texas full sun is closer to nine or ten hours.

As gardeners, we have all made mistakes. But the most important lesson is to learn from your mistakes, so you do not repeat them.

If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700. Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at Click on “Resources”.


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