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How To Benefit From Your Gardening Mistakes

Updated on June 11, 2011

The Gardeners Kitchen

We are obsessed by mistakes, by getting it wrong, by failure. I blame our education system for this fear. We are penalized when we try something and do not get it right. The resulting shame prevents us from going up to the blackboard or raising our hands because we do not want to be humiliated.

Our peers, parents and siblings, all, make their contributions to this reluctance to take a chance, to try something knowing that we may not get it right the first time or the second. It may take several attempts before we achieve success, whatever, form that takes.

We learn by doing and if we will not try because we are afraid to fail we have little chance of learning anything meaningful. We may be able te recite the alphabet, do our multiplication tables and regurgitate a few lines of a number of poems but can we think; can we apply what we know to a new situation and learn?


doing, trying, growing

People learn by doing, yes, instructions and advice are needed. When you do a thing and do not accomplish what you intended to do, you need guidance to point out what you did and what you could have done instead, not a failing grade or derisive comments.

Gardening is a hands-on activity. You can take a course, read a book or watch a video to enhance your knowledge and I recommend you do so, but nothing will move you along the gardening learning curve faster than getting out there and doing it.

I have made a number of mistakes or rather had a number of learning experiences when gardening over the years. I have not planted the bulbs pointed side down but have ignore the instructions on the seed pack and planted things too close together or put them in the earth too soon.

My early gardens all had a number of things that did not work out; putting bean seeds in too early and having them rot was one beginning experience, I won't forget.

Last year, a friend gave me some blue poppy seeds and I, rather than putting them a brown paper envelope and placing them in my refrigerator until spring as the instructions said, decided I'd plant them, this year no poppies.

The garden journal is the most effective way to learn from your mistakes; the second point is stop thinking about what does not work out as a mistake; consider it a learning experience. The journal will help you do that.

In your journal list the seeds and plants you intend to grow, draw a preliminary plan. This plan is not a work of art but provides a guideline when you get too planting. It can be changed.

Keep track of any work you do such as adding compost, when you watered, rainy days, planting dates and so on.

Once a month spend a few minutes reviewing your notes. Get used to including observations you make while in the garden, note insects, birds, spiders and events such as leaves turning yellow dropping off , for example.

In the off season, I usually do this about three months before gardening season begins, review your journal and start making a plan for the next year.

Visit your public library and read about gardening, take your journal with you or have in handy when reaing at home so you and jot down anything that excites your interest.

You may want to create a digital journal and add photos. A blog can make a pretty good garden journal and you can share it with others.

Gardening is a great learning experience and you will benefit from the things that do not work out right the first time around, just keep on gardening.


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  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, for me, liviing is learning and mistakes are experiences that teach us, thanks for dropping by.

  • The Good Cook profile image

    The Good Cook 8 years ago

    I really liked your opening comments. I make mistakes just about every day (and not necessarily just in the garden) but I have learned to never be ashamed to admit them and value them for what they truly are - a positive learning experience.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    good gardening and thanks for dropping by.

  • bk2009 profile image

    bk2009 8 years ago

    Thanks, I'm getting ready to plant my first garden. I have grown stuff in pots for years but now ready to take the next step.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are not the only one who has taken care of a plant and then found out it was what you thought it was. Thanks for dropping by.

  • profile image

    Nelle Hoxie 8 years ago

    Hi Bob, My biggest mistake is gardening when I'm angry. It does calm me down. Although one afternoon in a total snit I pulled out all the marigolds as I cussed away under my breath and left a strange looking weed in its place. Too stubborn to admit my mistake, I diligently watered the weed for quite a few weeks. My husband told me that he hoped I hadn't spent too much money on that ugly plant!