Mistakes to Avoid
May 1, 2024

by Kate and Len Lucas

We can’t remember who first said “live life to the full” but whoever they were they should be able to write a very long list from which we can all benefit. Here is but a short list from our lives as gardeners which we hope you may find useful. There are other lists which we have no intention of publishing such as five ways to spot a handyman who actually can’t do what they say they can.

Water based paint. Years ago all paint was oil based, today a lot is water based which is good for the environment and you can clean the brushes under the tap. We use water based paint indoors because it has almost no smell. Outdoors is different. It is our experience that it does not last and repeat painting every year may be needed. Solution: If what you want to paint started off as natural wood avoid the temptation to paint it and think about natural coloured wood preservatives.

Grouting paving slabs. The grouting will all fall to bits creating gaps for weeds to grow in. What started off looking great ends up with yet more work. Solutions: Don’t have any gaps so don’t grout at all or use kiln dried sand for the gaps if you must.

Painting trellis. If your trellis intends to have something growing up it and even if you use the most expensive paint that money can buy and are the world’s most creative gardener you may find that once painted and now covered in special plants you are unable to re-paint it. Solution: don’t paint trellis at all with no matter what kind of paint.

Watering Azaleas from the tap. Azaleas and Rhododendrons do not like lime (technically that means calcium). If there is lime in the soil they should be grown in ericaceous compost in a pot because it has no lime in it. If you do that then they should not be watered from the tap because in an area like Cambridgeshire there is likely to be lime in the tap water. Solution: Use rainwater from a water butt if you have one.

Clipping a Leylandii hedge too close. Despite their vigour these splendid hedges do not like close clipping and will die if you are not careful. Because they are so vigorous the temptation is to let them overgrow themselves and clip them drastically. Solution: clip them regularly and if you have yet to plant the hedge have a look at using Yew instead.

Pruning a Clematis montana too early. Montanas are very vigorous and can look a mess in the Spring before they flower. We know some gardeners tidy them up by cutting them back early in the year. They look a lot tidier and the montana will grow just fine but it won’t flower because all the flowering growth has just been removed. Solution: Prune Clematis montana after flowering.

Laying stepping stones in a lawn. They look fantastic in a magazine or somebody else’s garden what with the grass nicely cut. Then you begin to notice that the grass has started to grow over the edge of the paving and your mower squashes that overgrowth making green stains on what should be an attractive feature. Try it by all means but give yourself an extra half-hour when it comes to mowing the lawn and remember- lager in a glass will not stay cold for ever. Solution: Don’t.

Using mixed seeds in a bird feeder. Most of the seed falls on the ground, germinates and you end up with a small lawn made of wheat and barley which becomes a mess and yet another chore which was exactly what you didn’t want. Solution: Use sunflower hearts assuming you can afford them.


We love wild life in our garden however there are four animals that we would like to see visit somewhere else:

Moles. Of course they are just like you see in the adverts on the tele wearing glasses and being all round jolly fellows.

Foxes. We don’t see them much but it’s what they leave behind.

Wood Pigeons. Fat, fearless, flamboyant fornicators that raise their young on a pile of firewood. They really are the epitome of brazen pomposity. All of which makes them one of the least endangered species on planet earth.

Grey Squirrels. The darlings of anybodies garden we might suppose but we do wish they had better memories so they could find the walnuts they buried last year let alone keeping them off the bird feeders.

Solutions: More patience, watch more carefully where you are walking and take up yoga.