i call it learning

Gardeners sometimes tend to shy away from owning up to their shortcomings. I guess that’s normal. It’s a pretty positive calling, so why not put the best foot forward? But every gardener has done stupid stuff.

Raises hand.

Here’s a sampler:

  • I made a walkway in the garden with used bricks that we had lying around. They were there, free, waiting for a purpose. I dug and leveled, put down landscape fabric to prevent weeds, put down a layer of sand, made the nice pattern, filled the spaces with extra sand and admired. Then a year later, and for several years afterwards I was down on my knees pulling weeds and grasses from the cracks between bricks. The most painful and stubborn weeds I’ve ever seen. The walk came out a few years ago.
  • One year I had some magnificent pumpkins. A single plant covered a full third of the garden, and by Halloween it bore seven of the biggest pumpkins I’ve ever grown. The kids loved them. But I didn’t pay attention to the plant; just the fruit. When I finally got around to pulling the dead vine, it was a horror show. Squash bugs entered my consciousness that year, and they’ve never left. Every time I pass a melon or squash plant now, I unconsciously lift its leaves checking for those gross yellow eggs,
  • I won’t go into depth on this one, because as you get older you tend to repeat yourself. I laced my garden with wood stove ashes. Not a smart with an alkaline soil.
  • Free manure? Yeah baby. Pile it on. And boy did it work. Some truly beautiful, lush tomato plants. A great story until August, when I didn’t have any tomatoes. Just pretty plants. Like getting Double Espresso when you thought you were getting small DeCaf.
  • When we were starting out, we had a small market garden. I was looking for free mulch, and contacted the local Department of Public Works. Free leaves? Heck yeah. As many as you can handle. Giant dumptrucks of them? Bring it, man. When the leaves arrived they were dumped, and maybe two thirds of them were loose…the other third were in wet, ripped plastic garbage bags mixed among the loose leaves. I wasn’t about to sift through all that crap. Too much other stuff to do. Work it in with the tractor and deal with the plastic later. Like forever later. Worst thing ever. (Yeah, I’m ashamed)
  • Sun is good, right? So a location in a treeless field should be a prime spot for the newly conceived garden beds. The trouble is, fields don’t generally sit next to the back door, and that means a trip for harvesting, a trip for weeding, a trip with a long, heavy hose for watering in 100-degree heat. It lasted a year. Make your garden close to where you hang out. You’ll never regret it. That garden’s lawn now.
  • Japanese beetles were ravaging my grapevines and beans and raspberries. So I discovered that they actually made a solution for this that doesn’t affect your soil; a Japanese beetle pheromone trap. Hot diggety! Set it up, and boy did those guys like it. But the thing is that these gizmos act as the opposite of a trap (a sexy lure?) if you stick them in the middle of your garden. I seriously can’t see myself ever capitulating to reading directions. Not my style, man.

I could make this post lots longer, but you get the gist. Most gardeners could name you more mistakes than successes if they were being honest. Nothing to be embarrassed about, just the way we learn.


14 thoughts on “i call it learning

  1. Well, I so much enjoyed reading through your humoristic list of mishaps, and of course recognise that we make bad garden decisions every year. One that I made is that I got topsoil for my ten raised beds without checking what soil I would be getting, and after very hard work to lift it all in, we discovered that the soil was clay, yes clay and it is taking forever to make it light enough for serious vegetable growing. The up-side is though that I have a multitude of very healthy Dandelion plants growing without any effort on my part, and of course they are on the menu. Enjoyed your writing very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for posting this, Dan. I’m going to make oodles of mistakes in the coming years as I learn to garden on a large scale. It’s comforting to read about someone else’s blunders, and I can learn from your list too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My biggest mistake (my biggest laziest mistake) was not pulling out the running bamboo that the previous home owners chucked into the garden. The day we moved in, I saw the bamboo placed on top of the soil. I figured the previous owners took the garden pot that the bamboo was planted in and left the plant – on top of a garden bed. I knew I needed to act fast to remove the bamboo before it settled into it’s new environment. I didn’t and three months later I regretted not doing it when I thought of it. It took me weeks of hard labour to get rid of it. Nasty, evil plant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarhn, I really appreciate the catharsis of telling other gardeners what we’ve messed up. I’ve never experienced bamboo, but it sounds like a tough plant to deal with when it gets its own way. Live and learn, they say. I HAVE experienced evil plants, so I sympathize.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve even duplicated your tomato mistake right in my backyard. The most beautiful looking tomato plants I’d ever seen, and they stayed that way all year, without a single tomato. They sure did look nice though. So I have no doubt you’ve managed a few more mistakes than me in the area your covering. I agree with you on the learning part though, there’s no better way than through mistakes.


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