New Gardeners Should Adopt a Guilt-Free Philosophy

Gardening should be a relaxing and pleasurable pastime, not a guilt trip. If you're new to gardening, losing plants can seem especially devastating. Adopting a guilt-free gardening philosophy can help you keep some perspective. After all, a dead plant isn't the end of the world, it's just a dead plant. Yank it out, replace it, and move on.


Why Plants Die

Plants (never weeds) die. They do. Even when we have sentimental attachments to them. Sometimes it's our fault and sometimes it's not. Here are 10 common reasons:

  1. Incorrect watering (Usually we give them too much, but sometimes too little.)

  2. Over fertilizing

  3. Poor soil quality (Anything from a lack of nutrients, to improper drainage.)

  4. Pests (Insects, animals, and occasionally human feet.)

  5. Improper zone (Go ahead and experiment, but be prepared for some losses.)

  6. Incorrect planting depth

  7. Transplant shock

  8. Mother Nature (Wind, hail, fire, and floods are out of our control.)

  9. It was sick when you got it (See? It's really not your fault!)

  10. Neglect (It's okay. Sometimes other activities and obligations just take priority.)

First, Make Sure It's Really Dead

Sometimes plants appear to be dead, but are in fact just dormant. This is especially true in the spring, when many plants are painfully slow to emerge from a deep winter sleep. Before yanking anything out of the ground, it's always best to remove a bit of soil around the base and search for signs of life. If you see any greenery or swelling white buds on the roots, the plant isn't dead. It's just a late sleeper taking its sweet time to get growing.


Poppies are a good example of a plant that seems to keel over "dead" immediately after they finish blooming. They're not really dead in mid-July, they're just taking a much deserved break. Don't give up on them just yet. Give them some time and their foliage may even green up again before fall.

The Silver Lining

Take heart, beginning gardeners, even experienced gardeners lose plants. But like them, eventually you will have more successes than failures, too. Look at the death of one plant as both a learning experience and an opportunity to try something new. As any gardener with a well established garden will tell you, eventually the amount of space you have for plants diminishes, but the desire for more never does. Occasionally plants will die and you'll be grateful for the open space.


Learning By Doing

With gardening, the best way to learn is by doing. Expect plants to die. Some will. And most likely, it will be your fault. Sometimes you will know what you did wrong, and other times it will forever remain a mystery. All you can do is try to identify the problem, learn a better way, and move on avoiding similar mistakes in the future. Thank goodness garden plants are basically inexpensive and easy to replace.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at


October 9, 20090 found this helpful

Good points. I think it's important to look at the overall improvements you make. How much better the yard looks today versus last year, etc. Sometimes we get too caught up in each plant and forget the overall view.

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