Thursday, July 15, 2010

Blunders in the Garden or What Was I Thinking?

Each year brings new ideas of things I want to try in the garden. Sometimes the experiment ends with me wondering why I never did it before. Other times I have to ask myself why in the world I ever thought such a notion would work.

I take a walk through the garden in mid-summer with a pencil and pad of paper and make notes of things that are going well, things I want to change, and things I'll never be tempted to try again. I do the same at the very end of the season. Then in the winter when I'm planning my garden for next year, I go over my notes and make plans accordingly.

Today the blunders seem to be uppermost in my mind so I'll share some with you.

A while back I made a second planting of spinach and a third planting of radishes. (Or was it the fourth? I love radishes.) I planted alternating rows in a raised bed thinking the radishes would be pulled and out of the way before the spinach needed more room to grow.

Well, it was so warm the radishes didn't want to form. But the tops kept growing and growing and growing. My poor spinach got crowded out and in protest bolted when it was just a few inches high. What was I thinking?

My plan for this bed was to have a circle of red geraniums in the center with petunias surrounding the circle. I bought a whole flat of these insipid yellow petunias (what possessed me to make this poor color choice?), planted them too thickly and they have all but crowded out the geraniums that are hanging on to life by a mere thread. What was I thinking?

In another bed I had only enough red onion sets to fill the center of the bed so I planted each end with more of those blasted petunias interspersed with bright colored dianthus. Once again the petunias have over-run the dianthus and are trying to smother out the onions. What was I thinking?

Back to the woes of my supposed wild flower bed. It's nothing but 99.9% Bachelor Buttons that have grown so tall they are starting to topple over in the strong winds we've been having. The packet of seeds said the mix contained a variety of about 20 different flowers, only one of which (other than the Bachelor Buttons) has shown up. I do not have good luck with wild flowers. I really should have know better. What was I thinking?

This bed is usually the first one I see when I walk out into the garden. I like it to be full of blooming flowers. For several years I've planted it out to Sweet Peas and a Pot Zinnia that just blooms its little head off from early on to late in the fall. This year I got the bright idea to try something else besides the Pot Zinnias. The Sweet Peas are always slow to start blooming and the bush Asters I planted are huge with not one single flower bud in sight. So my colorful flower bed is one big bunch of monochromatic green foliage. What was I thinking?

Ugh. My California Poppies. I don't think I'll ever let them self-seed again. They were much too thick in the bed and although made a dazzling display for about two weeks, now are a bedraggled, ugly disaster. I think I'm going to pull them out and plant a little more judiciously by hand with new seeds next year. What was I thinking?

Lastly, here are my experimental potatoes planted in a raised bed, surrounded by a three foot high "cage" and mulched with straw. I evidently mulched waaay too heavily because I seem to have killed all the lush sprouted and growing potato vines in the center of the bed. Only the ones around the sides (and one brave one in the middle) are growing. What was I thinking?

Well, we live and learn, right? And in the process I seem to do some dumb things, too.


Jenyfer Matthews said...

Well, at least you are taking notes - my "what was I thinking" moments mostly come from not remembering mistakes I've made in the past!

Jo said...

I love hearing about people's mistakes more than their successes. We learn more that way. Thank you!

Kim said...

It is nice to know that an avid gardener like yourself hasn't figured it all out yet. It's trying new things that keeps us digging, isn't it?

Erin said...

I'm sorry... there's no cure for this, you know! It's always good in our heads but then Mother Nature shows up and does her own thing anyways, I usually only retain one good memory from my "notes" year to year, the rest you just can't help!! Plant on...

Anonymous said...

I love that you keep notes for the following year, such a great idea! And don't beat yourself up too much, that is how we learn what works and what doesn't.

beth said...

I thought the same thing as your other commentors...that's how we learn!! And...You're learning a TON.

Susan said...

I like that you take notes - I usually take pictures but then can't figure out what I'm looking at during the winter. And thank goodness you're not a perfect gardener -- I was worried there for a while ;o)

Katidids said...

It's nice to know the "experts" have second thoughts on choices! It's all a learning curve right?

Conny said...

It's great you took the time to make notes - most people just keep making the same "mistakes" each season. :>) Note about the Calif. poppies: even in California the poppies only beautifuly last about 2 weeks - then the foliage turns brown and they look crappy here too - that's just how they grow. They also don't make good cut flowers - the petals fall off within a few hours.

So, inspired by you, I should go out to my garden in a few weeks and take some notes. :>)

Patty said...

Hey Mama Pea-
At least you tried things when you thought of them. I have such trouble trying new things! I finally decided that I had to adopt the attitude that if I never try I'll never learn. If a few foods are ruined along the way, or something I try to grow dies, that's just a part of the process. So, I say, keep on trying! At least we all get to learn from you! ;)

meemsnyc said...

I always chalk things up to lesson learned!

Mama Pea said...

Jen - All I have to remember is where the heck did I put those notes at the proper time!

Jo - We must not think of them as "mistakes." They're all experiments and part of learning! (Some just hurt more than others.)

Kim - I'm sure I'll NEVER have it all figured out. There will always be something new to try.

Erin - So true! What works wonderfully one year can be a failure next because of different conditions.

Stephanie - Oh no, no beating up on thy self allowed! It's all interesting.

Beth - Don't they say learning keeps us young? I think the physical act of gardening does too. I may wear out, but I won't rust out!

Susan - No-no-no-no! Not a perfect gardener by a long shot! Not to worry.

Katie - Please don't call me an expert . . . I'm far from it. Being an expert would mean I couldn't play around anymore for chance of failure, right?

Conny - When I first started growing California Poppies, I tried and tried to bring them in for cut flowers . . . but they just do NOT like that, do they?

Patty - Oh, you've got to try LOTS of new things! You never know what wonderful new treat you'll find! (Hubby thought he hated green beans when we first married. He was used to ones from a can cooked to a gray mush. Beans straight from the garden and cooked just barely enough are a totally different animal!)

meemsync - We've all got to remember to keep that attitude!

Sue said...

Such a great post. I think everyone has these moments (I have TONS of regrets!). At least you have sense enough to make notes...I always plan to, but never actually do it.
Well, at any rate, thanks for sharing. It's nice to know I'm not alone with this.

Mama Pea said...

Sue - So good to hear from you again! I just recently stumbled upon your "new" blog after you took your winter hiatus. So glad I did.

You say you don't take/make garden notes but you have them right there in your blog. That's one of the main reasons I originally started my blog . . . so that I could keep track of all that was happening on our little homestead. My daughter is even in the process of making hard copies of my posts and binding them in a hard cover book. How cool is that??