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5 Things Master Gardeners Wouldn’t Do In Their Gardens

Updated Nov 2, 2022

Updated Nov 2, 2022

Home > Lawn > 5 Things Master Gardeners Wouldn’t Do In Their Gardens

Master gardeners are the cream of the crop when it comes to horticulture knowledge. 

They spend hours in the classroom learning about gardening and then apply their knowledge through volunteer planting and community outreach.

Along with their wealth of horticultural skills, the masters know which tactics to avoid. 

We’ve researched the top five things skilled gardeners steer clear of to keep their plants happy and flourishing. We’ll key you in on these gardening don’ts so you can grow prizeworthy plants.

What is a Master Gardener?

A master gardener is someone who has completed in-depth horticultural training through a master gardening program.

These programs – offered through university extension offices – instruct students on everything from propagating fruit trees to recognizing essential pollinators.

After completing training, students participate in master gardener volunteer programs in local community gardens. 

Students earn volunteer hours by presenting lectures, managing plant sales, or participating in home garden outreach programs.

The University of California Marin operates a demonstration garden to provide students with a place for hands-on learning. Volunteers care for the vegetable garden using their knowledge of plant pathology, pesticides, and irrigation techniques.

Now that you know what a master gardener is, you can start applying some of their tactics in your garden. 

Whether you’re a new homeowner or a beginner gardener, these tips will help you improve your landscaping with healthy plants.

We’ll discuss what the masters don’t do in their gardens so that you know what to avoid.

5 Things Master Gardeners Don’t Do in Their Gardens

Skip Soil Testing

Master gardeners don’t skip soil testing when preparing their gardens for planting. Soil is one of the main contributors to plant growth, so its health is imperative to a flourishing garden. 

Luckily, you can perform DIY soil tests right in your own garden. 

Observe the following factors when testing your yard’s soil:

DrainageMany plants require well-drained soil to flourish.

If you notice withered plants and standing water in your garden, it’s time to test and improve your yard’s drainage.
PH value Soil pH measures your yard’s acidity or alkalinity. 

These factors significantly affect how well some plants can grow, so testing is crucial in understanding your garden’s health. 

Learn more in our guide to testing your soil’s pH value.
TextureTexture refers to the particle makeup of the ground. 

Different regions have varying textures conducive to the health of native plants. 

Test your yard’s soil texture to understand how to manage or improve it.

Skimp on Compost and Mulch

After testing your soil’s texture and drainage, you may need to make amendments based on the results. Composting and mulching in your garden are two ways to do this.

Master gardeners don’t skimp on compost and mulch because these two substances are essential to good garden health.

Compost is an all-natural fertilizer that helps plants grow strong with key nutrients. It improves the structure of fast-draining, sandy soils that can’t retain water.

Learning how to compost at home can do wonders for your garden’s health.

Mulching around your plants is another effective way to improve your garden’s soil structure and drainage. It stamps out pesky weed growth, controls soil temperatures, and improves the overall appearance of lawns and gardens.

Plant Out of Their Hardiness Zone

A hardiness zone is a classification of an area’s climate. The zones range from 1a to 13b, depending on the average lowest winter temperature of a region.

The United States Department of Agriculture has developed the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which helps gardeners determine the plants that will thrive best in their locations. Hardiness zone classifications in the United States range from about 3a to 11a in more extreme climate regions. In milder areas, zones sit within the 5a to 8a range.

Master gardeners use the hardiness zone map to select the best plants for their gardens.  

The University of Minnesota Extension service provides tips on choosing the right plants for your hardiness zone:

By no means do master gardeners always plant according to their zones. Some gardeners select plants able to survive in various climates, while others like the challenge of keeping a plant alive in an area it doesn’t typically live in.

However, new gardeners should first stick to native plants and hardy zone-specific perennials. These plants are more likely to thrive in their classified zones and will be easier to revive should you forget to water or fertilize them.

Water on a Strict Schedule

Watering your plants on a strict schedule may seem like an excellent way to ensure consistent growth and health, but that’s not always the case.

In the same way our hunger and energy levels differ from day to day, plants’ water needs vary depending on external factors.

Master gardeners value flexibility in their plant care schedules. For example, plants won’t need watering if they just got rain. Alternatively, outdoor plants may call for some extra hydration during a dry spell.

The NC State University Cooperative Extension offers the following tips for watering your garden:

  • Water your plants at their roots. Applying excessive water to foliage increases the risk of fungal disease and mildew.
  • Water your garden in the early morning to give plants the best absorption rate. Water applied during the day’s heat will evaporate too quickly for plants to absorb. Water left on the plants overnight could lead to disease problems.
  • A master gardener keeps tabs on the area’s rainfall and weather predictions. Plants should typically get around an inch of water per week. If rain isn’t providing that moisture, they’ll need to water the plants. 
  • Beginner gardeners should consider hand watering their plants instead of using an irrigation system. Hand watering provides more tactical practice and hands-on experience in understanding your garden’s water needs. You’ll be able to monitor how much water your garden is getting daily.

Ignore Sunlight Needs

Knowing your plants’ light needs is vital to healthy growth.

All plants need sunlight to live, so monitoring their light intake is necessary.

Photosynthesis is a part of every plant’s health and ability to grow, but some plants need more or less light than others. 

For example, shade-loving plants need no more than 6 hours of sunlight per day. Other varieties, known as full-sun plants, thrive best in full, direct sunlight all day long.

The Pennsylvania State University Extension provides the following definitions for understanding plant light requirements:

Full Sun6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day
Partial SunBetween 4 and 6 hours of sunlight per day
Partial Shade2 to 4 hours of sunlight per day
Full ShadeFewer than 2 hours of sun exposure per day
Light ShadePartially filtered sunlight like that under a canopy of trees; sometimes called “dappled shade”
Moderate ShadeLight that reflects onto a space instead of directly from the sun
Dense ShadeNo direct sunlight; entirely shaded by a wall or canopy at all times

Master gardeners will tell you to choose your plants based on your garden’s light exposure. This is much easier than trying to remove shade structures or install grow lights around your property.

Assess your garden’s light exposure by noting the spots that stay shaded or lit throughout the day. 

Then, select plants suited for those areas.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve had some master gardener training, you’re ready to plant the ultimate home garden. 

If you’re eager to become a certified master, check the American Horticultural Society’s page for region-specific master gardener classes and programs. You’ll find the resources you need to become the best gardener on your block.

Even if you don’t master the art of planting, that’s okay. We have comprehensive gardening guides to help you improve your green thumb.

Whether you start with low-maintenance houseplants or a full-fledged vegetable garden, you’re sure to succeed with these techniques. 

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