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Learning from failures

 
pollinator
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Gardening is intimidating to some folks. They say "I don't have a green thumb", as if it is a matter of in-born talent. It really isn't. If you learn about what you want to grow and apply what other people have had success with, you increase your chances of succeeding as well. You can also learn from mistakes, your own and the ones of others. I was reviewing some of my gardening activities over the last weekend and I came up with the following list of "don't do this, it's not likely to work":

1) Palo verde trees (Parkinsonia florida) won't grow in Georgia. I wanted to have something to remind me of my days living in the southwest, so how about try to grow a palo verde tree from seeds I collected on a stop in Tucson? I got them to germinate, and fairly soon I had gangly tall seedlings of palo verde, thorny and ready to take a bite out of me. But then winter came. Winter was rough on them in two respects, a little too cold and a lot too wet. I managed to coax them through one winter (a mild one) in my greenhouse by watering them only once a month, but the second, more severe winter came and killed them dead. Unless I want to create a desert arboretum (like the nice one there is in Albuquerque), I had better give up on my attempts.

2)Cardoons and artichokes are for Mediterranean climates, not the South. I got them to germinate, and grow big enough in pots that I could transplant them into the garden. I had visions of being able to recreate a country house that I saw in France where they had the front yard planted in cardoons and artichokes. No. It was not to be. These two did not succumb to the cold, but after each heavy rain, they looked a little worse for the wear until finally after one gullywasher, they just gave up the ghost. Just too easy to drown.

3) Bananas. There are bananas planted around here and you see them advertised as "tolerant to zone 7". But no. Winters here kill bananas down to the ground. If you are lucky, they might resprout when the weather warms up and maybe even put on some impressive growth through the growing season. But that growing season is too short to get to a size where it can flower and produce a stalk of bananas. Maybe you would be better off growing some other tropical plant that is a little better adapted to producing something during what growing season you do have. Taro comes to mind. I'm having great success with my taro plantings, but I won't be putting any more effort or $$$ down the banana rathole again.

What about you? Do you have an "I wouldn't try that if I were you" story to tell?
 
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Don't build mounds unless they're catching some water on one side of them. They require a fair amount more water than any other spot on my property. Not a big deal if I can reshape them to hold some water or find resilient plants, but newfound knowledge.

Some of the common annuals are THIRSTY. Don't put them on top of the mounds that need a lot of water. Those mounds will then require more water.

Other than that; if you don't know, and won't cost you an arm and a leg to find out, don't be afraid to find out by just doing it.
 
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Don't forget to tell your husband not to mow down the native plants recently transplanted to edges of yard...

sigh
 
steward
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Yeah. Don't be afraid to do a little experimentation - it's a part of the learning curve.

But a little friendly advice: Do most of your experimenting with $1.95 packets of seeds, rather than $29.95 trees. Besides saving some money, you are also saving some time. A failed annual will be obvious the first few weeks, where that tree may take several years of your time before you concede that it isn't going to make it in your garden. With a failed annual, you will probably have plenty of time to get something else to grow in the vacant spot this season. It's a lot harder to give up on an expensive tree.
 
steward
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If you want to save seed, learn which families will cross pollinate and avoid planting different species together.
For example, nearly every member of the enormous brassica family will cross, and the results are nearly always pretty inedible:
broccokale with masses of tough leaves and a few tiny florets, caulibrocc which is an ugly brown, with mutant skinny florets...
Check whether something needs another plant to fruit at all, or well-
Once I grew single tomatillo plant which lowered madly and didn't set a fruit;
the next season I had two, and had way more fruit than I knew what to do with
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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John Polk wrote:It's a lot harder to give up on an expensive tree.



I'm not giving up on expensive trees. I may have gotten swindled when the mail-order company sent me birdcherries instead of apricots, but dammit, the rootstock looks fine and healthy. I'm going to topwork these trees and make them into bearing apricots! I did two bud grafts last week, and will evaluate my technique. It they take, then I might soon be on my way to the "tree of 40 fruits".
 
pollinator
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Failures are a very important part of learning. Most of us do not have the old experienced neighbour who grows everything and anyway this neighbour would not
have realized that the climate has changed or trials new things maybe...
There is something with permaculture to first sit down an make a big plan. Yes this has some advantages, you cannot make this plan without experience. Even if you are an experienced gardener, this site is new. So I would advocate to make a rough plan, then go out and start somewhere. Do something every week. And adjust your plan in the meantime.
 
master steward
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I'm having fun trying to create landraces of various crops that I ought to be able to grow well here. The full story is in my project thread. I started by sowing a mixture of different varieties of each crop in the same area, and I'm wondering now if I should have followed a different strategy for biannual plants (like carrots and brassica). My concern is that when I select the plants to grow on next year for seed (assuming I get more than enough!) I want some from as many of the original varieties as possible to start off with a good lot of different genes. However, I don't think I'm going to tell one sort of (for example) turnip from another, so I wish I had planted them separately to make that selection easier.
The other thing I did, which in retrospect was a mistake, was trying to grow all my root crops as a polyculture in the same plot. The Swede (rutabaga) have been by far the strongest growers and their leaves have shaded out the carrots and parsnips (I think the slugs ate the leeks!). I could have thinned out the swede, but the biggest are probably the ones I want to keep (or maybe not - how do I know!?) Longer term I can probably still go for a polyculture, once I have  a mix of genetics. Given how vigorous the swede are in comparison to the others however, I may do better having two roots polycultures with parsnip and carrots in one and swede and leeks in the other. I still fancy leeks, but may need to transplant them until I get some vigorous enough to survive slug attacks. I think the foliage of the swede ought to work to blanch the stems of the leeks though.
polyculture landrace swede rutabaga balancing vigour
Vigorous swede
 
pollinator
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I enjoyed reading about your project, Nancy. I can appreciate the amount of work you put in it.

There seems to be no end as to how something can fail. Two of my worst fails: 4cm netting can be fatal to chickens less than 1 1/2 month old, and trees will eat a pile of compost in no time.
 
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Leila Rich wrote:...for example, nearly every member of the enormous brassica   family will cross, and the results are nearly always pretty inedible:
broccokale with masses of tough leaves and a few tiny florets, caulibrocc ...
Once I grew single tomatillo plant which lowered madly and didn't set a fruit;
the next season I had two, and had way more fruit than I knew what to do with



Thanks for the tomatillo tip: I had a volunteer ground cherry that did the same and had no luck starting them in a container, still have seeds to try starting direct and have a new pigeon compost bed to try them in this coming spring.

As for the brassicas I used to have a short lives perrennial so-called rocket originally from a commercial seed. It used to self seed but is gone for good. I would love more but true rocket is and annual I thought.

Instead I have a very edible mustard lookalike stringy mild chinese taste-alike that the stalks are tender.
Last year I got a wild spiky leaved turnip thingy coming up from the 2 tons of weed seed I got for free (which the pigeons loved and so did their partridge friends) and successfully stomped that out and still have the chinese broccoli-mustard thingy thankfully but I do miss my so-calles roquette. The free Chinese thing produces way better though so I can live with mustard seed from the bulk barn for my spicy leaf.
 
Ra Kenworth
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I still can't grow a decent batch of potatoes although I havent really stopped hoping. My short term solution is to buy 50lb bags in the fall and root cellar them. However the quality is spotty especially since covid not sure how that is and excuse though.

I do know what the soil should be like for potato growing, but am still working on that too. I think I shall try true potato seeds, since I tend to have a lot more luck growing from seeds:

I have had great success growing fruit trees from saved seed, (also asparagus) but my biggest success is from roadside apples and wild cherry suckers.

I have learned to eat what grows (wild strawberries rather than cultivated), raddichio rather than lettuce, kohlrabi rather than cabbage, cooked radishes, buckwheat shoots, wild spinach, naturalized brassica, and mustard grown from the spices section at the local bulk foods store.

I have learned to continue watering rose clippings even if they look dead -- a small handful come up the following spring.

I always grow swiss chard and find the raspberry red chard to be the sweetest but the purple will do. Even this year left to grow during the drought, it grew on its own, unwatered in the crack in the shadow side of a new compost mound in front of a spiral compost guild. I came back from Nunavut to see I had a few survivors -- enough for a small harvest.

Radishes provide a second non spicy vegetable when sautéed.

Carrot tops make a good substitute for parsely, which finds the climate too cold.

Oh, and tomatoes dont mature in time because I dont have room to start them indoors, but Matts Wild Cherry Tomato which is drought resistant and relatively free standing, (thank you Matt whoever you are) will ripen indoors before softening and starting to turn, and besides when green it is sweet enough to be a substitute for tomatillas.
 
pollinator
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One of my best teachers used to say: "If you never make mistakes, you must be very tired of doing nothing". As a former teacher, I have noticed that the kids who dare making mistakes tend to be the most successful later in life.
I was touched by the suicide of a student who felt so compelled to bring perfect grades home that when he got a C, his life ended by his own hand. He wasn't one of my students but he lived over on the next street, less than 1/10th of a mile as the crow flies.
That hit home, so to speak, and I worry about parents who put an inordinate amount of pressure on their kids to be the best, have their every minute scripted with "activities".
Let them be kids...
 
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A lovely person on my Climate for Change facilitators course coined the acronym FAIL when we were talking about the word failure and she expanded it as First Attempt In Learning which is really positive and kind.

https://sccan.scot/support/training/climate-for-change-facilitation/
 
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Never put the trace minerals in the furrow you plant.  They are too concentrated and act like toxins when too concentrated.  Spread them in the compost and spread that over a broad surface area.
 
master pollinator
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This was the year that I was going to grow more than enough green beans for a year. I planted 60 feet of pole beans. I planted 160 feet of bush beans. None of the pole beans sprouted. Only 60 feet of the bush beans sprouted. (new seed) Those have been set far behind by The Bastard Bambi.

Apparently, your bean seeds do not have to look like this to have been weevil damage. AAAARGH!





And apparently, beans that do not float after a 24 hour soak, are not necesarily going to sprout. I've lost time and expected harvest.  Sigh.

Lost.... blue lake bush beans, contender bush beans, two varieties of bumpy pole beans, some pinkeye purple hulled peas, self-saved rattlesnake pole beans (sob) that were accustomed to not being watered by me except for establishment.

Fortunately, I live in an area with 9 months of frost tender annual growing. I have new seed now. Contender, blue lake bush, rattlesnake beans, and purple hull peas. 60 days late, but all have been re-re-replanted, And I am not gonna try the no watering for this year. We're near the seasonal drought and I need to try to catch up!

 
 
Rusticator
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Damn... I'm sorry, Joylynn...
 
pollinator
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I’ve had my share of garden failures, so don’t give up.  Yeah, it’s a bummer to not have your seeds sprout. Happens to most people at least once. But you learn, and try again.
 
Joylynn Hardesty
master pollinator
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Give up? NEVER!

Thanks for the kind words ladies. It's not my first seed failure, but so many, in so much space!... Y'all get it.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
pollinator
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote:This was the year that I was going to grow more than enough green beans for a year. I planted 60 feet of pole beans. I planted 160 feet of bush beans. None of the pole beans sprouted. Only 60 feet of the bush beans sprouted. (new seed) Those have been set far behind by The Bastard Bambi.
And apparently, beans that do not float after a 24 hour soak, are not necesarily going to sprout. I've lost time and expected harvest.  Sigh.
Lost.... blue lake bush beans, contender bush beans, two varieties of bumpy pole beans, some pinkeye purple hulled peas, self-saved rattlesnake pole beans (sob) that were accustomed to not being watered by me except for establishment.
Fortunately, I live in an area with 9 months of frost tender annual growing. I have new seed now. Contender, blue lake bush, rattlesnake beans, and purple hull peas. 60 days late, but all have been re-re-replanted, And I am not gonna try the no watering for this year. We're near the seasonal drought and I need to try to catch up!




For the weevils in the beans: on the plus side, chickens will delight in eating them, especially if you can crush them a bit.
As far as the Bambi family, the 7 ft fence that r.Ransom suggested is by far the best and cheapest idea. As far as spray that will stick, I think Wasabi with either a bit of oil or a bit of Dawn dishwashing liquid will work. Dilute it so it will spray better, but you can also use a watering can if it won't go through the spray.
[The Wasabi sure works on possums! you should see them react after they lick their paws! Hilarious!]
I suspect you don't want to offend your neighbors by erecting a fence, but ask them if they have a garden if it is fenced in and if Bambies are coming to theirs.
Invite them.
Show them the damage and explain that you will have to put up a fence. Ask them for their understanding and hope they won't be offended. [Tough if they are: in many locales, it is absolutely forbidden to feed wild deer.]
 
I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay, I sleep all night and work all day. Tiny lumberjack ad:

World Domination Gardening 3-DVD set. Gardening with an excavator.
richsoil.com/wdg


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