• Kara Richardson

Lessons from the Garden: 3 Ways I'm Turning My Gardening Failures into Future Success


Blackeyed Peas from our pea plants in the garden.

Although I grew up gardening with my grandparents, the last time I had touched dirt prior to recent was at least 25 years ago. I would have been naive to think that my first season back in the garden would have went off without a hitch. I had some major wins, like actually growing food, but I think it's important to not only highlight our successes, but to take note of our failures as well. It's just as important to to recognize what didn't go as expected and why as it is to revel in what worked. The end goal of recognizing failures is to be proactive, not reactive, to the issues that might arise the next time you try something. I did have some misses in the garden last season but I think that with those misses there's a great opportunity to grow and develop my craft. So for those of you who are thinking of trying your hand at growing your own food, or flowers, or plants, learn from these 3 missteps and how I plan to correct them next time. Hopefully, this will help you out along your gardening journey.


1. Overestimating how much I could handle in my garden. I've planted a lot of seeds to start my fall garden with the expectation that I'm going to grow some, sell some, and give some away. But last season, I grew a lot of different seeds thinking I would be able to transplant them all and just couldn't keep up with the demand. As new gardeners, we get so excited just to get started that we don't sit down and realistically plan out what we can handle.


What I'm doing differently this season: I'm writing down everything that I want to plant, as well as information like how much space each veggie will require, how much sun they'll need, and how long they will take to grow. Then I will draw out my current garden, taking into account new spaces that I want to use and how much sun and shade each space gets. Finally, I will plug in where my new plants will go and take inventory of what plants I will need. Whatever I have left will be sold or given away to other gardeners that want to start their own gardens but don't want to go through growing their own plants from seed.

2. Underestimating how much of my time and money gardening would require. Because I don't garden in-ground (we've had some environmental issues in our area), I knew that I was going to have to buy soil. But I wasn't prepared for how much. I was also buying pre-bagged compost and worm casting to enrich the soil. After adding on the cost for containers, gardening tools and fertilizer, I lost track of how much I was spending.


What I'm doing differently this season: The good thing is I don't have to buy new soil for the pre-existing spaces. And as long as my tools and containers hold up, I won't have to immediately replace them. I'm going to start composting my own paper goods and food scraps so that by the time I want to start my spring garden I can start using my own mix for soil enrichment.


3. Having unrealistic expectations of how much food each plant could actually grow.


I had this lofty vision that the 5 okra plants I planted would produce tons of okra. And they do produce, just like one or two pods per week-ish. I didn't really do my research to find out how much they grew so that I would know how many to plant for my very large family that happens to love okra gumbo.


What I'm doing differently this season: No matter what I plant, I'm going to do my research to see how much each plant will produce. If I have space and capacity to grow enough for my whole family, then I will. But if I don't have the ability to produce as much as we need, I will find a farmer's market that I can supplement my supply with.


A fresh salad with cucumbers straight from the garden.

I had some successes, like growing cucumbers, and considering that my gardening goal for the season was to grow one thing, I think I nailed it out the park. And all of the okra that has grown individually has been dried and the seeds have been saved for next year (although I'm still assuring my mom that we'll have a full bag in time for Thanksgiving). But my ultimate goal is to show people how to do big gardening in small, urban spaces so I'm going to keep learning and sharing my lessons with you. Even the funky ones!


Are you looking to start your own garden this fall? Check out our blog post for gardening newbies. If you've been gardening and have some crazy gardening stories? We'd love to hear them. Share them in the comments below.


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