I am slowly making my way back into the garden after a long winter ... not weather-wise, but in every other way. Late last summer my Dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer, something we are still dealing with; in January my Mom had a stroke and broke her hip and we lost her in March; in March Jim's sister was diagnosed with dementia and we are currently trying to get all of her affairs in order. Meanwhile my ladies await help in their gardens and I fit them in as I can.
I always try to learn from mistakes, and as I tell my son, the best mistakes to learn from are someone else's. I was on a job a couple of days ago that reminded me of a few biggies.
As I try to type with a painful finger that has the remains of a rose thorn in it that I cannot dig out, I will begin with a lesson I learned years ago and a vow I made when I started growing roses. Never, no matter how big a hurry or how convenient and innocent it seems at the time, throw a rose cutting (or anything else with thorns) in the garden. NEVER! Even if you wear gloves 99.9% of the time in the garden, the time will come when you see something you want to catch really fast, and as you grab that leaf, weed or piece of trash that needs your attention, you will inadvertently grab the now hidden cutting, driving in and breaking off a time hardened and brittle thorn into your finger. It is not worth the pain. Take the time to properly dispose of every rose cutting. If you see one that accidentally made its way into the garden, pick it up immediately.
Instead of trying to grow healthy plants, grow healthy soil. Soil is where plants get their real nutrients, so when the soil is healthy, plants will be, too. It is tempting to skip that step, but if your soil is unhealthy, with few exceptions, your plants will not reach their full potential. Every aspect of gardening is easier and more enjoyable in beautiful soil. Soil is the foundation of your garden; make sure it is strong.
If someone offers you an invasive plant, run. Often these are the plants marketed as "will grow anywhere" or other such descriptions making them irresistible to the struggling gardener or a difficult area. If you have already planted invasive plants, get them out now; every season you leave them makes them harder to get rid of. This is especially important if you live near the edge of a natural habitat. You may think you will be able to keep them under control, but eventually they will escape. Once in the wild, they take over, choking out native plants or waterways and the wildlife that depends upon them. Even in the suburban garden, the time will come that you want to grow something else, or maybe you already are, and you will not want some invasive plant popping up in and around it. There are a plenty of plants that grow well and even spread in a variety of conditions, but are not invasive. They are a much better choice.