The garden confessional: Selected failures and learning experiences of an adventurous grower

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.-Einstein

I am an adventurous sort, especially for someone who spent the first three and a half decades of her life terrified of failure.  I don’t actually know how much of it was fear of failure and how much of it was a dislike for wasting time.  Gardening is good for breaking one free from such concerns because nothing is guaranteed.  Nothing.  And I don’t mean in the existential sense that nothing is guaranteed in all of life and anyone of us may be gone in a minute from this foggy world.  I mean don’t count your chicks before they hatch because this is entire endeavour is reliant directly on the whims of nature sense.  Don’t think I’m being fatalistic, au contraire, I’m being honest.  That is why large farms and mono-croppers get crop insurance.  It is why we plant such a variety and partner with other growers.  Variety protects us from infestation and total loss.  Being part of a network gives everyone a hope that someone else had success where we didn’t.

Sometimes there is nothing one can do to prevent loss, sometimes there is nothing one knows to do and sometimes you just roll the dice and lose.  

So now, from a girl who just today found an armadillo had made a cave in one of her precious garlic beds, a short list of misses.

This morning I found out the “cabbage” I planted is actually cauliflower.  Opps.  Label everything.  It takes one bad night’s sleep for the obvious contents of an unlabelled flat to become something else.  It sounds simple but when you are just going to plant a few flats really quickly and get back to marking them later, you may not get back to them.  No sauerkraut this year.

I tried to save myself a few dollars by using egg trays to start seeds.  They had to be watered every 5 minutes.  So I set them in pans of water.  They promptly died.  Lesson learned: such small amounts of soil require more attention than I am willing to give.

We learned right away that starting seeds under lights only produces healthy plants if you keep the lights about an inch above the plants.  Much more than that and you will make long, skinny, spindly plants that never recover.

We go from bone dry to flooded down here in the blink of an eye.  We once planted potatoes, which will rot if kept wet, in a area that flooded at the first rain.  Know your land.

Every gardening book gives different spacing recommendations.  Plants who need some shade do better planted close together in the middle of summer.  We almost lost an entire crop of tomatoes because we decided to spread them out too far.  The heat stress from not shading each other almost killed them by the time we figured it out and got some shade cloth over them.

On that note, when you plant far apart you had better suppress the weeds or nature will fill in the spaces for you.  This was gardening 101 for us.  It was as if we were surprised that first year that stuff was growing in the spaces we left empty.

But don’t plant the same varieties too close unless you are prepared to thin them.  Some things will choke each other out.  Some will just stay small as a reaction to competition.  I HATE thinning.  It feels like wasting plants.  I also hate individually sowing itty-bitty carrot seeds.  But if you don’t thin, you are asking for itty-bitty carrots.  I have proven this time and again.  Suck it up and thin.  Leave the sacrificed plants as mulch to return to the soil.  

We built an inexpensive greenhouse that worked great for a season or so but the cheap plastic disintegrated when it warmed up for the summer.  Don’t skimp on quality if you can help it.  It will cost more in the end.

We get so excited for spring planting that we only recently started basing our seed starting date on our garden journal.  For years we started our seeds too early and had stressed plants because they had to stay in the trays too long.  

We have repeatedly tried to grow things that don’t do well in our zone.  This is us trying to work against nature instead of with it.  There are zero successes to report.

I have put off more chores in the gardens over the years that have come back to bite me in the butt later than I can count.  You can bet that if I decide something can wait, it won’t and I’ll end up regretting my procrastination.

Ever tilled an invasive like dollarweed?  I have.  It just multiplies exponentially.

Loose birds are eaten by fox where we live.

Most dogs have to be trained not to eat birds.

If you tell a child a flower is edible, they will eat every, single one you have.

Don’t plant watermelons near the horses.  If the horses get out, they will take a bite out of each melon, say all 50 of them, to see which are ripest and it will look like some creepy killing field from the kitchen window when you discover it.

We have left town at times when the garden really couldn’t be left unattended and found it a disaster from which it is hard to recover upon our return.  Schedule trips for off season or rely on someone to keep things up while you are gone.  

Tah-dah!  There is more, so much more, but I’ll bid you adieu today and save some for our next confessional.  

What mistakes have you made?  Have you had experiments go wrong?  Feel free to share your lessons!

Chew on this—-a-farmer-explains-why_b_8153978.html

Thank you

Fairweatherpaddler was kind enough to nominate me as a versatile blogger.  The compliment made me blush.  You can find her refreshing and honest blog here:

Per the rules of this, I am to share some of my favorite blogs and some things about myself.  

First, since I am primarily a clean food advocate, I love a lot of food blogs:

Jen at is fantastic and always has something yummy.

I also really like  , , and .

For garden blogs I keep up with Fairweatherpaddler,  Sarah the Gardener at , , , .

For humor I like and .

I also follow ,  and .

There are many more but that is 15 so I’ll leave it there.  

Seven quick things about me:

I’m a bibliophile.

I only bother getting my hair cut once a year.

I homeschool my children.

I love the ballet.

My ideal temperature is 80 or so.  Nothing less.

I have Arabian and Morgan horses I rarely get to ride.

I love good well water and hate city water.


Love from the farm

Happy eating, Katy

9 thoughts on “The garden confessional: Selected failures and learning experiences of an adventurous grower

  1. Great post!

    My biggest fail was planting a batch of seeds in a plot then hoeing them off a couple of weeks later when I forgot what I had planted.
    Moral of the story? Make sure you note what you planted and when you planted them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My list of mistakes is endless. 😂 planting spuds in the tunnel without thinking about how I’m going to water them without a hose being my most recent biggie. I like to call my mistakes ‘ny experiments’. Makes feel easier about making them. 😉
    Delighted you got your award post done so fast and looking forward to having a mooch through your nominees’ blogs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate thinning. I even tried replanting the plants I pulled. Don’t waste your time. I have also started my seeds too early in the spring and gotten tall fragile seedlings which I tried to plant deep to support the stems. I think I got 2 tomatoes that year. Live and learn. Oh, and remember opposites attract, so my husband wants me to drown my plants, while I err to dryness, probably because I am the one who handles the hose among a multitude of other things. I should probably invest in irrigation.

    Liked by 1 person

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