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Top 10 DIY Tree Care Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making — And Their Fixes!

Your garden can be a treasure trove of knowledge. There’s always something new to learn, whether you’re planting a new sapling or pruning your shrubs and trees. It’s important that you understand the difference between caring for a perennial plant (for example) during harsh weather and trimming an outgrown tree in your garden. You should also learn how to maintain the general aesthetics of your garden.

Mother Nature is very generous and forgiving; therefore, your garden will recover eventually, even if you aren’t sure what you’re doing to take care of these trees. In fact, mistakes should be encouraged because that’s how you learn. 

And when you do, those changes are usually easy enough to correct. So here’s a list of common DIY garden mistakes most gardeners make these days and some easy fixes you may not know. 

Let’s take a dig!

Mistake #1: Making a Mulch Volcano

It’s a frequent scene in most yards these days, even for those who think they have a very sorted landscape look — mulches piling up into volcano-shape around the base of a tree or plant. This formation often traps moisture from getting into your plant’s stems or trunk, leading to the plant’s degeneration, attracting insect infestation and diseases. This causes the roots to start shaping like loops in and around the mulch bed, similar to a compact container.

How to fix it

Use a 2 to 3-inch deep layer, and pull it away from the tree so that it looks more like a doughnut than a volcano). 

Mistake #2: Not Planting Flowers/Trees

Refresher on your high-school biology: plants need pollination in order to grow fruits and seeds. Some plants pollinate themselves, but most fruit plants (such as blueberries, apples, tomatoes, squash, and watermelon) need pollination through bees, flies, beetles, wasps, and butterflies.

How to fix it

Plant a variety of pollination-friendly plants in your yard, such as catmint, bee balm, lavender, and herbs like thyme, fennel, dill, and oregano, to make it easier for the ‘winged workers’ to discover your vegetable garden.

Mistake #3: Planting in the wrong spot

The lovely-looking, shade-loving hosta beside your front door may look exquisite, but it won’t last long unless you give it some sun. It needs direct sunlight to grow to its fullest. In the same way, sun-loving trees cannot grow in shaded areas, where they eventually lose their colour and ‘spark’.

How to fix it:

Plant experts have a proverb that goes: “Right plant, right spot.” Before buying a plant, make sure you read the label or description and have a spot in mind.

For the record, ‘full sun’ is defined as 6 hours or more of direct sunshine, whereas ‘part sun’ is defined as about half of that. The term “full shadow” refers to the absence of direct sunlight.

Mistake #4: Not knowing a plant’s hardiness zone

During summer, your brand-new bush bloomed so beautifully — but with the winter approaching, and by next spring, it will be all but a few pieces of crispy brownish twigs.

How to fix it

Once again, the plant tag or description is essential. Before buying a plant, you should learn whether it’s the type to survive the climatic conditions in your area. Otherwise, it’ll be totally pointless to buy a plant that cannot get through the seasonall change.

Mistake #5: Placing Plants Too Close Together

Do you like being surrounded by people 24/7? No, right? Plants don’t like being in a crowd either. Whether a shrub or a vegetation plant, it needs proper air circulation and enough space to expand its branches and roots. Not only does cramming everything in too tightly invite disease, but it also reduces the final produce. This is true for plants either underground or in pots.

How to fix it:

To determine how far apart to plant, read the seed label or plant tag and description, sticking to the prescribed spacing instructions.

Mistake #6: Installing One Type of Plant in a Row

It’s natural that you’d want a beautiful row of trees (a.k.a shelterbelts) to block an unwanted view or provide a natural fence for your garden. That’s called ‘monoculture’ planting, and it’s a bad idea. In the case of a pest attack, you might end up losing the entire row — or, even worse, just one or two individual rows, which won’t add to the appeal you’re looking for. 

How to fix it

Plant various types of trees or shrubs in clusters or asymmetrical rows. It adds to the landscape’s appeal and provides more homes for a wider range of important birds, insects, and animals.

In case you’re facing the possibility of an infestation already, call a professional arborist in Christchurch.

Mistake #7: Planting Too Deeply in the Hole

This is certainly one of the most prevalent causes of a plant’s slow death, and you probably won’t be able to connect the death with the planting method easily.

How to fix it

Dig a hole 2 to 3 times wider than the plant container, but maintain the same level as the pot/container. If you want to add mulch (and you should), raise it an inch above ground level. Mulch helps to keep weeds at bay while also preserving moisture.

Trees should be given separate attention. For example, a tree’s root flare, where the base slightly expands, should be seen above ground.

Contact your arborist in Christchurch to know more.

Mistake #8: Underestimating the Mature Size of a Plant

That little container plant or baby tree, which was only 10 or 12 inches tall when you bought it, may not have grown the way you wanted it to. It’s too near your home, crowding and inhibiting the growth of its neighbours, overall turning into a maintenance nightmare.

How to fix it

Before planting, read the plant tag or label and keep in mind the plant’s mature size. If you disregard it, you’ll create more work for yourself in the future. 

Mistake #9: Pruning Shrubs Too Harshly or Too Quickly

You’re naturally excited to go out there and trim your shrubs to the correct shape after a long winter. Some shrubs, on the other hand, thrive on old wood or over the previous year’s growth, while others prefer blooming on fresh wood or this year’s growth. If you’re pruning without correct guidance, you might risk cutting off this year’s blossoms/yields because you would’ve pruned too soon. This is a common occurrence in plants like forsythia and hydrangea varieties. Avoid any untoward risks by calling professional arborists in Christchurch.

How to Fix it:

Wait patiently. It’s okay to prune in early spring if you know which plants bloom on new wood. If you’re unsure what kind of plants you have, wait until the extras die before you can begin shaping your shrubs as you like.

Mistake: #10 Filling Your Planting Hole Using Potting Soil

Adding potting soil (or peat moss) is no longer advisable since multiple studies have shown it’s ineffective. In fact, the soil may block drainage and encourage the plant’s roots to remain in the hole rather than spreading out into the surrounding soil as they should, weakening your tree or shrub.

How to fix it:

While planting, dig a hole that’s 2 to 3 times wider than the container while maintaining the same depth as that of the container. Backfill the hole with only the soil you removed — no potting soil, peat moss, or other additions. Your plant will eventually grow in its natural soil, so don’t overfeed it. 


There you have it — 10 solid tips to protect your gardening efforts from faulting. We hope that this article has helped you in some way. However, if you need an arborist’s direct point of view for your plants, or you just need professional help to maintain your garden, then feel free to reach out to us today. We’ll be happy to assist.