Never Be Ashamed of Your Gardening Mistakes

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

-from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

Mistakes. We all make them. All of us. Every one of us has done something we later wish we hadn’t; not done something we later wish we had; or executed an action that seemed to be right at the time, but later proved to be wrong. And so on and so on. And few places are as wrought with the consequences of wrong action as in our very own gardens.

How do we make mistakes in the garden? Let me count the ways.

  1. We get overly ambitious and try to plant beyond our degree of experience, and wind up overwhelmed
  2. We plant something without researching it first, only to find that it fails to grow or grows so well that it crowds out the rest of your vegetables
  3. We don’t properly prepare our soil before planting
  4. We fail to protect our crops from marauding critters that eat everything down to the roots
  5. We plant our garden where there is not enough sunlight
  6. We plant our crops too close together, which causes mold and fungus to attack our plants and either kill them outright or severely reduce the yield we get from them

I’m sure we’re all familiar with these, and I’m sure some of you are familiar with more of these than you care to admit. Some of us, especially the beginners, are apt to feel disappointed, dejected, or even outright humiliated when our hard work comes to naught. Some of us might feel so awful that we’re ready to throw in the trowel and never garden again. Well, don’t. One mistake, one failure, does not define you as a black-thumb gardener.

A very wise man once said to me, “If you’ve never been fired, it means that you never try anything new.” In a similar vein, if you never fail at anything, it means that you never attempt anything new – never try to stretch beyond your comfort zone. And this also holds true in gardening. If you’ve never had a gardening failure, it means that you never attempt anything innovative in your gardening efforts. So don’t waste time lamenting your so-called failure. Take some time to curl up and lick your wounds, if you must. Then give yourself a hearty pat on the back for attempting something new – whether that’s a brand new garden or a brand new plant in an existing garden. Then, and this is the important part, try to figure out where things went off the rails. There is a solution to every gardening problem, and with enough investigation and soul-searching, you’ll find it. Yes, you made a mistake or two, but you made it for all the right reasons. And you’ll be far more knowledgeable and savvy than the timid one who never fails but never grows beyond the confining dimensions of his or her comfort zone.


2 thoughts on “Never Be Ashamed of Your Gardening Mistakes

  1. The only gardening mistake I ever made was buying a house with untended grapevines in the backyard. They were so dry and brittle, that it broke my heart to dig them out. The people who lived there before us, left a yard that was so shaded that no grass grew over have the yard. They left a ton of fencing chain link that was long enough to cover the yard opening from east to west and along the pad of the driveway. So, the summer that I removed the grapevines and stretched that fencing material so the dogs we had couldn’t get into the newly tilled, rolled, seeded, and fertilized ground under a huge maple tree and around that area. Proper watering and care taken ended up to prove no matter how hard I tried, I HAVE A BLACK THUMB! I used a good shade grass seed that should have come in well by the fifth week. Never happened! When I gave up, I ordered a whole bunch of pea gravel and assorted big rocks, and turned that part of the yard into a sort of English Tea garden without the usual plants! I had the requisite iron table and 4 chairs, but I never sat there! My wife loved it until fall and tons of leaves that I had to remove. I spent $199.00 for a backpack leaf blower that could wake up the dead and blew the leaves out of our driveway and into the gutter on the street. Along with the leaves came a lot of that pea gravel!


    • Sorry to hear, Norm, that you had such a rotten experience with a yard. Some conditions in our immediate environment do make it difficult to grow things. But there are better and easier things to grow besides the typical American lawn, which is truly a waste of water and space. There are other and better plants that can do well in a small amount of sun. And as a last resort, there are indoor systems that allow for the growth of flowers and vegetables.


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