Tuesday, July 1, 2014

When Things Don't Grow as Planned

A White Coneflower transplant that I planted in my wildflower garden this past week after most of the wildflower seeds that I planted this spring failed to grow as planned.

Dear Readers, I will admit it: I am a Planner.  I love it when I have a carefully laid out plan, and everything works out according to that plan.  When things work out according to the schedule that I have planned, and all of the details that I worked out in my mind and on paper come to fruition, I think to myself, “Ah, all is right with the world!”  and, “Of course it all worked out.  I had a plan!” 

The truth is, though, most of the time in life, things do not actually work out according to “the plan.”  Things come up in our carefully planned out schedules that we didn’t anticipate and we must adjust our plans, or we must completely throw them out the window.  People get sick.  Accidents and bad weather happen.  Events get cancelled.  Our financial resources fall through and we must make different arrangements or change things entirely. 

In our gardens, things don’t always go according to our plans either, and if you are a newer gardener like me and are still learning a lot of skills and other things about gardening, a lot of things can happen that disrupt your lovely garden plan for the season.  The truth is, nature doesn’t really care about your plans.  Weather events are unpredictable, and for most of us, such things are beyond our control.  

I actually think that secretly, squirrels and other critters laugh at our garden plans and plot against them… 

So far this season, dear Readers, I have had issues with a lot of rain making things very soggy in my garden, and this has made it difficult for some plants to establish themselves.   A number of them have not survived (I will likely have no cabbages this year, for instance, as none of the cabbage transplants that I started and planted in my garden have lived) and others have been slower to establish.  I have had ants in multiple places throughout my yard, which has made it difficult to grow things in certain areas.  I have had squirrels digging in my herb spiral and eating my strawberries from my strawberry plant.  The squirrels don’t seem to care that I have a fence around my main garden area, as they just climb up and over the fence and dig wherever they please.  My perennial wildflower garden, which I attempted to seed twice with wildflower seeds also failed to take off on its own.  These are just a few of my gardening woes that I had not encountered last year. 

I have vowed to make this blog a record of many of the good things that happen in my garden and homestead, but also a record of when things don’t go so well, and to tell you about many of the things that I have learned along the way.  I want you to know that you don’t need to be the perfect gardener right away, or ever.  I certainly am not a perfect gardener yet.  Perhaps I will never be one.  I think that’s okay. 

Don’t be afraid to try different things, experiment and learn.  I think that in our culture, we are often told, “Do it right or just go home.”  To expect perfection right away does not leave much room for personal growth or for learning from our mistakes.  We are in a time of history that we can learn right now.  Although, for some around the world, if your crop fails you will not eat, for many of us, we still have the blessing of being able to experiment and learn “as we grow.”  Take advantage of that and work to gain knowledge and skills as best you can, at your own pace.  Don’t be afraid to try new garden techniques, and try growing different plants and varieties that you’ve never tried growing before.  What’s the worse thing that could happen? 

It’s okay for things to fail, because we can learn a lot through those experiences and we will be all the wiser next time if we are paying attention to what happened.  You can even share with others what you have learned, which can help them in their own gardening endeavors.  Gardening and homesteading is an entire global community of people that love doing these things and love to share their knowledge and wisdom.  As you learn more, you can contribute to the global network of knowledge as well.

I hope that with my willingness to be open about my garden and homestead triumphs and failures, you are inspired to go for it and just be willing to fail if you must.  Often, success happens after we have failed many times.  A successful product often has a history of many failed products and projects before it. 

Thomas Edison, the great inventor, said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”  He also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  If anyone knew about what it takes to succeed, it was Thomas Edison.  Never give up, whether it is in your garden or homestead, with your health, or to achieve your dreams.

The Black-Eyed Susan transplant that I purchased from my favorite local garden center.  The fact that I had to buy some transplants for my garden is another reason why we can’t always “go it alone.”  Often, our plans for our own resiliency need to include our community.  It is very difficult to “be an island” unto ourselves, and we may need help from others when our own plans fail.

My new Prairie Splendor Coneflower plant.  I hope that the pollinators will like it, along with the other transplants that I planted this past week.

Even though I planted four tomato transplants that I started from seed in my new keyhole garden bed, it looks like none of them are going to make it.  This week, I purchased and planted two organic Roma tomato plants in their place, along with a dill and a parsley plant.  Here’s hoping that these plants will do well and produce abundant tomatoes and herbs!

An example of my failure to accommodate for adequate spacing needs for a few of the different types of plants growing in my main garden area.  As a newer gardener, I have been very excited to grow as much as possible in my garden, but perhaps I haven’t adequately planned for the necessary spacing.  Here is one of my two “Three Sisters” plantings that include corn, red kidney beans, and pumpkins.  As you can see, the pumpkin plants have started to get pretty large now, and are starting to crowd out the kale plant in the foreground, as well as one of my “Moon and Stars” watermelon plants to the right.  My plan has been to grow some of these plants vertically as they mature, so we’ll see how everything does if I try that.  Sadly, I may need to make some choices and have to do some plant “sacrifices” soon.


  1. Thank you for sharing the un-happy as well as the happy. With all the gorgeous pictures and piles of produce people share, it's nice to be reminded occasionally that I'm not the only imperfect person on the internet.

    1. I hear you, Shannon. I'm sure that there are plenty of people out there who aren't perfect gardeners, but they are just afraid to show when things don't go so well. I figure that people can learn from my experiences and mistakes, so I am for being authentic with my readers.

  2. Hi Rebecca,
    It is so therapeutic to read your honest and authentic reflections. Yes, this rings true for me as well. Despite our best laid plans things are not necessarily going to work out the way we planned--especially in the garden. But we must not give up--we must try and try again! Some of life's greatest lessons can be learned in the garden. Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring experiences and insights with us on the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Blog Hop! I appreciate it!

    1. Hi Deborah. Thanks for your encouraging comments. I'm glad that you host the blog hops every week. It's a great way to see what other folks in the green community are doing. Keep it up!