Breathe, my perfectionist friend. We’re about to dive in and talk about failure. I know, I know. You strive to do all the things right and you want your garden to be just as perfect as can be. But can I let you in on a secret? No matter how many “right” things you do, you will have some failure in the garden. And that’s ok!
I’m a perfectionist. And I know a ton of perfectionists. Failure can be such a hard thing to grasp when you always strive for things to be “just so”. If you’re like me, you go out into your garden and want straight row lines or perfectly square bed sections. The tomatoes all must be tied up, the weeds pulled, the plants thriving. But the thing is, we don’t have total control. When you’re talking about a garden, you have so many factors that are out of your control! And ultimately, no matter how perfectly set up your garden is to succeed and produce bountifully, you can still have failures. How, you ask? Let’s dive into it.
Weather is the standout number one reason that a garden can have failure. The truth of it is that you don’t always know what the weather is going to do. You might have a windstorm or hail come through and completely put your plants in shambles. If you don’t have regular rain, you can at least water your garden regularly. But when other weather comes through, your once beautiful garden can be brought to nothing.
Can they recover? Yes, they most certainly can! Will they recover to what they once were? Likely not. It all depends on the circumstance. If a storm hits at the beginning of the season, you might be able to replant and reap a harvest. If it’s later, you might just have to find a few survivors and nurse them back a bit. They still likely won’t produce as well, but you might get some produce.
Pests. The typical ones that first come to people’s minds are insects. Cabbage moths, worms, grasshoppers. They can wreak havoc on your plants and cause them to put more effort into surviving rather than producing. Sometimes the year is just right that no matter how much you do to save your plants, the insect force can just be so unmanageable that your production is dinged. There are pesticides that you can purchase at your local garden store and other more natural ways to reduce insect pest damage. I encourage you to look into them! Do your research and be knowledgeable. But also know that sometimes, no matter what you do, the insects can simply be too much.
Insects aren’t the only pests you necessarily have to worry about though. Animals can also cause problems in your garden. Depending on where you live, you may have issues with them. The first one that always comes to my mind is rabbits. They like your lettuce, spinach, and kale just as much as you do… trust me! And if you’re in the country, deer can also be a problem. They’ll go after your leafy vegetables and your cabbage. Squirrels and other animals in your area can cause just as much damage to your plants.
Are there precautions you can take against animal pests? Sure. And I’ve seen some pretty crazy ones. The usual one is adding a fence around your garden to keep out animal pests. For the most part, this works! However, you can still have some creative ones that get in there. For us, having a dog around usually helps reduce pest damage believe it or not. Our heelers do a pretty good job of chasing off any rabbits, squirrels, or deer.
Let’s be honest, summers can get VERY busy. Maybe you have kids that are in activities or you get super busy with haying in the fields. I get it. Been there, done that. I’ve had points where I had so much on my plate, that the garden simply got put on the back burner. And when that happens, well sometimes things can get a little wild. All of the plants, weeds included, can simply get overgrown and a mess. And when that happens, it’s definitely discouraging to wander out and see all the work that needs done.
And if it’s already looking rough and you add in one of the other factors mentioned… well, we can have a real mess on our hands. Don’t worry, take a breather. The best way to combat a mess in the garden from lack of time in the garden is well, to spend time in the garden. Block out some time to get some weeding done. Work on it section by section, piece by piece. Harvest your produce, get rid of the fruits that are unsalvageable. Basically, clean house, but in the garden. All you have to do is just start.
The worst part about some mistakes is that you don’t know you made them until you’re in the thick of it. Maybe you planned your garden to be spaced out and pretty except you didn’t account for the increased weed pressure that might come with that. You accidentally pruned a determinate tomato plant that should have been left alone and now you have decreased production. Or maybe you planted some plants closer together than you should have resulting in them being stressed.
The possibilities are endless here. Even when you think you have everything planned correctly, you are going to find that some tactics work better for you than others. This is simply a learning process.
The Plants Themselves
This reasoning is probably the one that people forget about the most. Personally, I found myself saying, “Well I’ve given the plant everything it should need to grow… Why is it still struggling?”. If this is you, maybe you need to look into the plant itself. All plants have certain conditions that they thrive in. Some prefer cooler weather, others prefer heat. Some plants like lots of rain and humid conditions while others like dry heat. All plants want to grow, but sometimes we simply can’t provide them with the exact conditions they need to thrive.
This problem is easily solved if you aren’t sold on planting that specific variety or type of plant. My best recommendation is to match the plants you grow to the environment you have for them. And if the plants don’t perfectly match the environment, understand that they simply might not thrive as well.
When you plant varieties that match your environmental conditions, you have a pretty high chance of achieving beautiful and bountiful garden success.
There’s always next year
Failure in the garden is inevitable. Some failures will be larger than others. Some will be out of your control, such as weather events. Some years the conditions will be absolutely perfect and you’ll have a bumper crop while others you might barely get any produce. It’s all about perspective.
The important thing to remember is that with practice and experience, you will start to see results from different short comings. Then, you can adjust in the coming years and the end result will be success more often than not. Simply being able to recognize how you can affect your results is huge.
Just like with everything else, success comes from failure first. And the only way to succeed, then, is to make as many failure’s as you can at first to learn. Breathe, friend!