Friday, April 17, 2015

Life Lessons From Gardening: There Are No Mistakes

Queen Composter is learning from life's little curve balls.

I love gardening for so many reasons, not least of which because of everything gardening has taught me. Anyone who has tried to grow something can tell you something that they have learned through the process. Some speak of the appreciation they have for nature, for being witness to the life around them. Others speak about the time spent outdoors and the meditative effect of daily tasks and chores. Then there is the satisfaction of growing one's own food and being intimately connected to the earth.

My favourite gardening lesson is also my favourite life lesson.

There are no mistakes in gardening, only learning experiences.

It is all a matter of perspective, really, as is most of life. Glass half empty or glass half full?

Sure there are posts and books about common newbie gardener mistakes, like not giving plants enough space, under or over fertilizing, or planting in the wrong location. I have read many of them, and when I started container gardening many years ago, and then gardening in my raised beds 5 years ago I did what I do when I start anything new: I read up on how to do it.

But gardening, like life, cannot always be anticipated perfectly, and sometimes things do not go as planned. Of course it feels like a mistake when the garden does not turn out the way you intended it. 

But there are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

An example is my backyard garden so far this season. I was very excited to plant asparagus for the first time this year because I love perennial plants that are plant once and go. I wouldn't be able to harvest any spears this year to allow the plants to establish themselves firmly in the soil, but oh the wait would be worth it for delicious, fresh homegrown spring asparagus. I read the information packet that came with the roots I ordered from a local seed company, did a quick search on the internet to read a little more and then I planted them quickly before heading off on a family vacation.

Asparagus crowns: the roots are the long dangly parts. You
maybe can see why I thought the part of the crowns in the
bottom of the photo were the beginning of the roots,
rather than the future spears. Basically this is upside down.

While away, I woke up one night in a sweat because it suddenly dawned on my that I had planted the roots upside down. A typical newbie mistake! After cursing my mistake and being upset that I would now have to wait two years for my own spears, I calmed down and vowed I would measure twice, cut once from now on, so to speak. 

My asparagus bed with nothing. 

When it came time to plant my potatoes, after properly chitting them (another lesson learned), I decided to fill the raised bed where I had planted the asparagus (in half of the bed). As I finished the planting I came upon two asparagus plants that had not rotted. Instead of leaving them, I decided to pull them up and have a peek. Lo and behold, a spear! I am crossing my fingers that these little plants survive so it isn't a complete bust (and it very well might be because I think I've still planted them incorrectly), but if it is I have learned what asparagus roots look like, what it looks like as it is growing, and that I should always ask questions at the gardening shop about how to plant when trying something new

Hooray, a little spear! Isn't it so cute (it's about an inch long).

But the story doesn't end there. 

Last year I tried growing potatoes in three grow bags to free up space in my limited raised beds. They appeared to do well, but I found they dried out too quickly, and I was disappointed in the yield compared to the three plants I had in my beds the year prior. This past weekend I decided to pull out the grow bags out of the back of the junk area of my yard to dump the remaining soil into my garden. Surprise! There are now three grow bags with potatoes growing in them. It's a good thing we love potatoes in my family, because hopefully we will have enough to last until the fall, and maybe some early season ones now as well. 

With each mistake, and each season, I am slowly learning which plants are hardy and can take abuse, and how much abuse (newbie gardener mistakes) each plant can take. 

The very neglected potatoes in the grow bags. 

So, there are no mistakes in gardening and in life, just learning experiences and happy surprises. 


Julia (Color Me Green) said...

That's all well and good when you get to garden in the same place/same soil etc for more than one growing season - gives you more of a feeling of learning from mistakes and seeing what might happen next year. However, when you live in a city and rent and never know if you'll get to keep your plants for more than one growing season, and then nothing really grows and you can't even figure out why (we never figured out if it was lack of sunlight and/or we didn't buy good enough soil and/or didn't fertilize enough) and then at the end of the summer you have to move and sell all your gardening supplies on the cheap essentially losing money on the experiment, well that felt very much like a mistake when it happened to me, without much chance to try again.

Green Bean said...

I am with you. I have been gardening for many years now and every year I learn quite a bit. Some things go well. Some don't. You would think after doing this for 15-20 years, I would be a master but I still consider myself a novice in many ways.

Leigh (@greenforu) said...

I still have so much to learn and I have been gardening since I was a kid. I admit that the last few years I did very little gardening between pregnancies and small children I just did not do it... but now I have helpers!

BethBot said...

Let's hope that's true! This will be our first growing season in the new house. We'll be doing two raised beds for the first time ever. I'm a little nervous to graduate from containers!

Tiffany said...

The garden teaches me something new each and every year!

Anna (Green Talk) said...

I make a ton of mistakes. I learn and try again. It is adventure.

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