“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
Mmmm…makes me hungry for a mustard and pickle sammie with a slice of…oops, sorry, got a little distracted there. Anyway, that quote by Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s isn’t really about condiments or food, but adroitly addresses the theme of this issue which is ‘failure’. And, specifically, in this short article, I’m going to dig into ‘failure in the garden’ and unearth some reasons for lack of successful growing in the soil.
Whether this will be your first year to grow something on your own or you’re a veteran vegetable grower, anticipate failure. Expect it, even welcome it, for there will be snafus, setbacks,and circumstances beyond your control that all contribute to your success by the end of the season.
Foremost and first, however, keep it all in perspective. (As I write this article in the midst of the coronavirus, it’s all about perspective, right?). About the worst that can happen is that you lose a crop of something or other that you’ve nurtured throughout the season. Disappointing, yes, but it can and will most likely happen at some point. (I try at least 3 new veggies or varieties every year and my only expectation is that the journey from seed to harvest will be fun and interesting.)
Any teacher will remind you that every failure is but another lesson, whether it be about knowledge, experience, resilience or growth. (See, I remembered something, Mrs. E. Walker from the 7th grade).
What can you do to minimize your chances of failure in the garden? If your childhood occasionally involved pulling weeds and picking beans in your parents’ garden, that couldn’t hurt (although it was probably pretty painful at the time). You most likely weren’t ‘actively learning’ then as thoughts drifted elsewhere (mine was riding my bike or playing pick-up baseball), but you were subconsciously being prepped in those early years to later appreciate the work necessary and the reward earned from growing your own food. Regardless of that experience or not, regular researching, reading and reviewing others’ successes in the garden go a long way to reducing your chance of failure. The expression ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ applies no less to the garden than any other endeavor in life.
There are a few basics to cultivating your odds of having a successful garden. If you’re new to the veggie venture, start out slow, small and smart. You can grow lots of produce in a very manageable 4 x 8 plot. Then make sure that plot receives a minimum of 8 hours of sun for proper growth. Before planting, check your soil with either a home kit or by sending a sample to your local county extension office. Begin with the more reliable veggies to grow, such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and beans, and always review the package for specific planting instructions. Provide adequate regular water and fertilizer (organic growing is my preference). Check your crops on a daily basis for any problems from insects or diseases. Solicit a ‘soil-mate’ to share your seasonal sojourn. And continue to read, ask questions, watch, experiment, have fun and grow along with your garden through success or failure.
After all, folks, gardening is all about ‘trowel and error’.
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By: Mark Raymond