The great thing about gardening is each year you have the opportunity for a fresh start. Here are tips to analyze your garden failures and plan how to make improvements for next year.
No matter how much gardening you have done in your life, it is always a trial and error activity. Each season is a learning experience even for the veteran gardener. There is always something unexpected such as pests that you’ve never had problems with before, diseases, and weather related issues that can lead to crop failure.
Our First Year Gardening
We went into our first year gardening knowing that it would be a big experiment for us. I spent the winter studying up on raised beds and companion planting and pests.
I started a few tomatoes and peppers indoors in late winter and we were given a few flats of tomato, broccoli, and pepper starts from a neighbor. We had spent the whole winter diligently composting and we were ready to start our incredible garden.
Each lovely little seedling was placed in its perfect little spot. Weed, Water, Wait. Wait some more. Weed some more. Never stop watering. I gave all the love I had and the plants responded accordingly.
They grew and grew and before we knew it, tiny fruits and veggies were forming. My stomach lurched every time I’d find a new treasure glittering in the sunshine. Everything was going just as planned, until it wasn’t.
Suddenly, problems popped up out of nowhere. Our tomatoes had aphids. The cukes were wilting. White spots formed on the squash leaves. Slugs lurked under broccoli leaves. We were getting attacked at every angle.
We did everything the books said to do. We ordered ladybugs to attack the aphids. Imagine the look on my mailman’s face when he had to deliver a box with tiny holes, labeled “live insects.”
I sprayed the squash leaves with milk and water, which helped control the mold. We poured our grossest beer in tiny cups to lure away the slugs. I ran outside the next day hoping they would be filled with drunken slimeys. All we caught were beetles. We lost most of our cucumber plants to bacterial wilt. Our watermelons, which were just beginning to bear fruit, were trampled to death by our dog. Each lesson was a painful reminder that we didn’t know what we were doing.
Trying to remember the advice I had read all winter, I diligently wrote down every problem in my journal. I tried to remind myself that this was our first time, we should expect garden failures, and we were bound to mess up.
I had very high hopes of how much produce we’d get out of our garden. In the beginning, I imagined myself in 3 months time, slaving over a hot stove bubbling with sauces while pickles pickled in our fridge. That didn’t happen.
We did get plenty of cucumbers, tomatoes, and potatoes out of our garden, but not enough to preserve for winter.
Tips to Turn Vegetable Garden Failures into Successes
“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments” ~ Janet Kilburn
If your garden was a flop this year, try to figure out what happened and make improvements. Here are some things you can do to make next year better:
1. Keep a Garden Journal
It is helpful to keep a garden journal so you can review at the end of the season to make improvements.
In your journal, keep track of the garden failures, successes, what you think went wrong, what went right, what to do differently, things you want to try, and ways that would make gardening easier for you.
Even if you didn’t keep a journal throughout the growing season, sit down at the end of the season and jot down what you do remember. Next year, start a journal as you plan your garden.
2. Analyze the Garden Season
Why did your garden fail? Take a look at your garden journal, read through the problems you had, and try to pinpoint the reason for your garden failures. Was it pests, neglect, lack of sun, weeds, poor soil, too dry?
What successes did you have? It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the negatives, but there had to be something that succeeded in your garden this year. Did you harvest fresh tomatoes, salad greens, and string beans?
Review what flourished in your garden and what you think contributed to that success. Does that section of the garden get more sun? Is the soil in better shape?
3. Make Changes to Fix the Problems
Once you have identified the problems that led to your garden failures, you can plan on making changes for the next gardening season.
Did you have problems with weeds taking over? Consider mulching the garden beds to smother the weeds.
Not enough sunlight? Consider growing crops that don’t need full sun all day.
Poor garden soil? Make compost and build your soil.
4. Try Gardening Again Next Year
Turn your garden failures into successes by improving your knowledge. Begin the next gardening season with positive determination.
Here are some vegetable gardening tips from Grow a Good Life:
- 7 Tips for a Low-Maintenance Vegetable Garden
- 8 Easiest Vegetables to Grow in Your Garden
- 5 Ways Organic Mulch Helps Your Garden
- How to Build a Square Foot Garden
We had a lot to learn in our first year vegetable gardening and we made a lot of mistakes. It took a few years to really understand the lighting, soil, and temperament of our property.
Learning what works and what doesn’t work is the best way to go forward. Each season, we take away both garden successes and failures and used these to make it better the following year. Each year the garden improved, we gained knowledge and experience, and enjoyed fresh harvests.
What gardening lessons have you learned this year? What are you going to do change for next year? Let us know in the comments below.