Turning a Brown Thumb Green: Common Garden Mistakes and Easy Fixes

MAR 22

Gardening the easy way is all about timing and knowing how much is enough. Each month we'll explore common mistakes and simple fixes.

Death by smothering:

Planting too deeply smothers the plant's roots with soil. Believe it or not, planting too deeply is one of the most common reasons trees and shrubs die.

A common garden myth is that plants should be "deeply rooted;" however, this is not the case. In order to thrive, roots need water, oxygen and warmth so they tend to be fairly shallow-growing. It is difficult for roots to breathe, stay warm or get adequate moisture if they are covered with too much soil.

Another effect of planting too deeply is the formation of girdling roots. When roots are deprived of oxygen and water they will grow up toward the soil surface in search of air and moisture. As these roots grow and increase in size they can wrap around or grow close to the buried stem (trunk) and put pressure on it. This pressure can damage the plant tissue, making it difficult for nutrients to flow as well as potentially creating a weak point that can fail during high winds or ice storms.

Even if the plant is correctly planted, the same problem can happen if too much mulch is piled on top of the roots. There should never be more than a 2-3" layer of mulch on top of plant roots and the mulch should not be piled up against the trunk. If you mulch your plants 1-2 times a year, remember that periodically, old mulch will need to be removed before adding fresh mulch to keep to the 2-3" mulch level.