Gardening #FAIL: If at first you don’t succeed, you’re normal

VegTrug Lesson #1

VegTrug Lesson #1

I stopped gardening for a while. About nine months.

That’s how long it’s taken me to stop moping and grumping and beating myself up for not “succeeding at gardening” — and admit that not everything I plant will grow and flourish. After all, I’m a gardener, not a Norse god.

Granted, all this not-gardening time hasn’t been entirely wasted. I’ve watered plants (or thrown ice cubes at them) daily. I have put some seeds in some dirt. I have thrown a lot of that dirt into my cute little compost spinner thingie, ungerminated seeds and all.

Our patio looks like the set of Gardening 101, the Outtakes Edition.

And that’s okay. I learned a lot about gardening, even if I didn’t learn much about how to garden.

Gardening Successful Failures – and Lessons

Don’t Try So Hard

  • Patience is less a virtue and more a necessity.
  • Rushing seedlings makes for ticked off veggies (or impatiens…).
  • Not everything grows up.
  • Not everything grows everywhere.
  • Not every seed will make a plant.

Listen to your Instincts

  • Gardening slows your heart rate.
  • Listen to what the seed wants; seeds don’t write seed packet instructions.
  • Talking to plants is fine; arguing with plants is pointless.
  • If you hate cucumbers, don’t grow cucumbers.
  • Nobody is running around the forest pushing each seed 2/3 of an inch into the dirt.

Plan Ahead but not TOO Far

  • It is silly to fill a VegTrug with subpar soil and expect stuff to grow.
  • Don’t fill a VegTrug with soil then decide you shouldn’t have positioned it in brutal desert sun.
  • Harvest veggies when they’re ready, not when you’re ready.
  • Invest in a great hose once or a cheap hose ten times.
  • The hose won’t reach.
how not to dry rosemary

The wrong way to dry rosemary


Fret Less, Not More

  • Not all plants want water every day.
  • More plants die from drowning than neglect.
  • Staring at plants does not make them grow faster.
  • When they say to turn compost every few days, they don’t mean every few hours.
  • Unless there’s a seven-foot monster eating the seedlings, panic is pointless.

Trust Your Failures

  • The supermarket is less than a half mile away.
  • Broccoli was not designed to GROW in 104-degree desert air.
  • Good soil does not sprout clouds of gnats.
  • Raised beds are for your peace of mind, not rabbit control.
  • Rabbits can fly.

Sales People Sell Stuff

  • Home improvement stores will sell you anything without asking what you need it for.
  • Not every gardening invention is your new best friend.
  • Life’s too short to mourn a manicure.
  • Clean your tools.
  • That twelve-foot-wide cedar-walled raised bed looks better in the pictures than it will on your eight-foot patio.

When It’s Time, It’s Time

Over the past nine months, I’ve learned more about gardening than I did during my initial Garden Lass forays. By watching what plants survived my beginner’s luck approaches, by pausing before taking on too many more seed starter sets (and looking at the results of the ones I did take on).

By asking questions and listening to the answers my good friend, Master Gardener Mia Myers of Smart Seeds, patiently gives me.

By sitting on my hands instead of buying new stuff, (“But it’s such a lovely shade of lemon!”) and learning to use old stuff smarter.

Now, two packages of peat pots and a bag of EXCELLENT potting soil lure me, siren-like, back to the potting bench, though I do better at potting when I’m near a sink and can safely lean my elbows on the counter.

I’ve missed the bulk of the Planting Season (whatever that is – some call it Spring), and I still haven’t got any sense of what to plant when and where. But I’m done moping and grumping and griping and beating myself up for my failures.

Now it’s time to begin again.

To more successful failures!
Casey — the Garden Lass

Cardboard Palm Fate in Hands of the Saints

The now-famous Cardboard Palm Project almost came to a halt earlier this month after “meeting” Mia Myers of SmartSeeds by email. I got some straight scoop about cardboard palms from her, without boot-piss.

Cycad, cardboard palm

At the rate mine are germinating, this cycad must be ancient!

Cardboard Palms without Boot-Piss?

Let me take a side road a moment. A dear friend of mine from New Jersey mentioned that she appreciated my candor about a topic we were discussing recently, because (as she put it), I would not “piss on my boots and tell me it’s raining.” When she said that, I had to laugh. Her comment reminded me how much I also appreciate people who don’t piss on my boots – and Mia is no boot-pisser.

Cardboard Palm / Cycads are Old-Man Slow

I should have gotten a clue when comment after comment lamented that cardboard palm are “slow to grow.” If you have a Gardener Decoder Ring, you’ll find this means “a rock will germinate faster.”  One group of forum posters over at was encouraging each other along as they waited for their cardboard palms to germinate. I stopped reading after a year – and no germination.

(I went back today and read further – one cardboard palm did sprout after a year and a half, on page 6 of the forum posts!)

Cardboard Palms May or May Not Germinate in my Lifetime

Somewhere up there in my family tree is a very strong branch of Scottish blood, complete with never-say-die mentality and the ability to withstand properly hideous moor weather. This Scottish backbone got itself in a twist when it came time to drop the wee darlin’s on the trash heap. Well – ah cannae do aet, lass. I paid good coin for that batch of seed and by Saint Jude, Saint Andrew and Saint Maud (Queen Margaret of Scotland), I will get $9 worth of gardening entertainment out of ’em if it’s the last thing I do.

Bottom Line

Well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we? I kicked the planter full of procrastinating palms under the supplies shelf in the planting room, not so close I can trip over it, but not so far that I can’t imperiously toss a jug of water its direction when I so choose. We’ll see.


Farewell, recalcitrant cauliflower who refuses to flower

seed packets should say which seeds are picky

Picky plant needs exacting care

Wave bye-bye to the nice cauliflower seedlings, all nine of ’em. That’s right, the ones that’re supposed to be eight days from harvest but haven’t yet produced a hint of a flower.

They’re headed to the Great Rabbit Heavenly Field in the Sky, out next to the yellow squash near the puddle under the evergreen, where I’m preparing a bunny smorgasbord, one wilting course at a time.

It turns out that what was not said on the seed packet is that cauliflower is an extremely picky plant. None of this “Stick the seed in the ground and out pops something to eat” stuff. Oh no. Nuh.uh. You’re going to work for that cauliflower ‘n cheese bake, son.

Turns out also that growing cauliflower is not a spur of the moment decision. One guideline I found said that we should begin preparing our cauliflower bed soil “a year before planting” since cauliflower needs very well cultivated grounds. Drat, and I’d already stowed my time machine for the season.

Now if some nice greenhouse manufacturer wants to come set up a 15’x20 prototype in my yard to test for, oh say, 18 to 24 months (free, please), then I will certainly give cauliflower another shot. Please direct inquiries and offers to my admin [@] email address. Thanks.