Shrivled Blackberries, Runaway Squash, and Other Garden Failures

Shrivled Blackberries, Runaway Squash, and Other Garden Failures

I’m going to confess to y’all some of my garden failures already this year:

  • For whatever reason, my first round of blackberries from the new bush have shriveled before they could fully fruit (we’ll see how the second round goes).
  • My squash is TAKING OVER. Literally, headed for the hills (a.k.a. the wheat field)…if they don’t bust out of their concrete raised beds I will be pleasantly surprised.
  • Some of my later-planted corn is struggling to make it up above the canopy of the previously mentioned gargantuan squash.
  • I unthinkingly planted my peppers on the north side of my tomato plants, which means I’ll likely now have to make a late attempt at transplanting them (hey – maybe that’s another mistake!).
  • Overall, I just planted too much of a lot of things – squash, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce – and, with the man of the house absent for large chunks of the summer thanks to his job, I simply can’t keep up, especially with things that can’t be preserved or canned.

But you know, I am absolutely unfazed by all of this.

Family & friends ask me about how my garden is doing, and I joke, “it’s taking over!” Yet I’ve said from the moment we moved into our new home and I started planning this garden that it’s a big experiment, that this year would be a true FIRST year, because even though I’ve planted small backyard gardens and spent a summer experimenting with work on an organic farm, I’ve never grown this much food all by myself before.

I remember all the overwhelming literature when I was first researching the building of my garden, about how your soil PH has to be “perfect” and how you can’t possibly garden without something to measure the PH.


Now granted, I’m not trying to win a perfect tomato competition here; for me, it’s about learning to feed yourself from the ground, to commune with nature, to be outdoors and away from all the damn electronics for a part of the day. And for me, the strict science takes all the fun out of it.

Besides, do you think they were measuring PH in the 1800s? Or do you think people will be ordering compost, topsoil, etc. to make up the perfect garden soil when the SHTF?

Likely not I’d say.

I also remember as I was planning out the contents of my garden often hearing, “that’s awfully big, are you sure you want to take on that kind of project? It’s a lot of work…,” or, “you’re growing (insert here: pumpkins, squash, corn, asparagus, etc.) this year? That’s a hard thing to grow and you’ve never grown that before, why don’t you try something easier…”

And I would say, to coin my husband’s favorite saying, “I’m not scared.”

I still have a lot to learn about gardening (and boy, am I learning), and will likely keep learning new things about it until the day I die. I knew coming into it that I would fail at a number of things as I learned, probably some pretty spectacularly. I knew that plants would die or kill other plants, that some things might get eaten by pests before the human (that would be me) can get to them, that some plants might not produce what they’re supposed to. But really….so what?

Sometimes I wonder of people….has anyone ever told them that failure is ok? Because it is. And I wonder…why are we all so afraid of it? Failure means you tried something new, something that is outside of a comfort zone, and that takes bravery. In a society where playing it safe increasing becomes the norm, bravery is something which should be commended, not scoffed at when it doesn’t work out the way in which it was expected to.

The further beauty in failure is that you can almost always pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try it again.

Next year I’ll keep learning and make new plans based on this year’s failures. I’ll plant fewer tomatoes, broccoli, and squash; I might even try my hand at pruning my tomatoes. I will definitely move some of my plants around and change the orientation for others. I may try some additional new plants and nix some of the ones I tried this year. And in 2018 I’ll have a whole new arena to fail in, because for the first time I’ll be starting all of my plants from seed.

So if you’re out there similarly struggling with a failing garden in any way, know that you’re not alone; there are plenty of us (whether it’s admitted or not) whose gardens aren’t behaving the way we want them to. But it’s all good, because we’re acting as our own little pioneers in our own little worlds.

I relish all of my failures this year and in the years to come; from my point of view, all I see is an endless vista of opportunities to learn and grown.

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