Live and learn: Our garden blunders

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Please excuse the long post as we share a few of our gardening mishaps! Let’s start with Niki.

Niki says: What? Me make garden blunders? Never! OK, occasionally. OK, often, but in my defense, it’s how I do my best learning. The truth is that I’ve made some doozies over the years and though I may look back fondly on them now, at the time, they weren’t so funny.
Let’s see… should I focus on the fact that I planted my very first vegetable garden in the shade? Brilliant, eh? It was under the protective branches of a mature maple tree and although we only harvested one measly cherry tomato, we did have a bumper crop of mid-summer greens that seemed to appreciate the respite from the heat.

Niki's out-of-control clump of chamomile in the veggie garden.

Niki’s out-of-control clump of chamomile in the veggie garden.

Or, should I share my former naiveté with generous self seeders like borage and chamomile, which threatened to take over my 2,000-square-foot veggie garden one spring. Admittedly, it was my fault for allowing just a few plants to go to seed, but as the snow retreated in April, the exposed soil was carpeted with thousands of ‘babies’. I pulled and pulled, eventually leaving just a few clumps to keep the beneficial insects and pollinators happy.

I think my favourite blunder, however, was the year I decided to jazz up my newly planted perennial garden with some nasturtiums. The young plants were so small and a few clumps of nasturtiums would add welcome colour. Couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong!! I accidentally planted vining types of nasturtiums, four packets in total. That is over 100 vining nasturtium plants in a 20 by 5 foot garden. After all the perennial-smothering vines were finally torn from the garden in late July, I ended up with a pile of nasturtiums that was 6 feet wide by 6 feet long by 5 1/2 feet tall. Thankfully, I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of gal and decided that all those vines made for an exceptional composting opportunity.

Tara says: The blunders that are most top of mind for me are the ones from last year. But I think perhaps someone could learn from my unintentional mishaps, so I’m not ashamed to share them here. (As long as you promise not to judge!)

Tara's sugar snap pea mishap: The leaning poles are actually holding up the falling willow trellis. Obviously they aren't doing their job either. Giant fail, all around!

Tara’s sugar snap pea mishap: The leaning poles are actually holding up the falling willow trellis. Obviously they aren’t doing their job either. Giant fail, all around!

Two and a half years ago, we moved into our house in the fall. I felt like the previous owner did a great job of cleaning up the yard and pruning, so come spring, everything was ready to go. But that meant that in the early fall, I didn’t even think about trimming the seed pods off my rose of Sharons (I’d never had one before and with this house, I have five). Last spring, there were wee little seedlings EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t figure out what they were until I realized they were only around the rose of Sharons. I could start a rose of Sharon nursery. Lesson learned! My husband made sure to lop off all those suckers this past fall so it doesn’t happen again.

Secondly, similar to Jessica, I decided to get all creative last spring and weave my own trellis from what I’m guessing were willow sticks that I had in my shed (I had bought them at IKEA for a décor assignment for a magazine years ago). So I wove them all together, secured the ends with twine and admired my handiwork. Then my sugar snap peas far exceeded my expectations. Not only was my trellis too short, one side ended up falling over from the weight! Clearly those sticks should have stuck to their decorative roles.

I also have some plants that need some serious pruning (a couple are downright embarrassing) and a couple of yuccas that I’ll need a chainsaw to divide. But I’ll save those for another post…

Sweet autumn clematis. You know, the one that was "infested with bees."

Jessica’s sweet autumn clematis. You know, the one that was “infested with bees.”

Jessica says: I make lots of mistakes. Seriously. Probably more than anyone else you know. I’m good for at least a baker’s dozen every day, making me about as far from a Type A personality as a person can get. The good news is that, unlike making a left turn from the right lane, gardening mistakes are no big deal. They’re nothing more than an “educational experience”, right? Plants are forgiving. Insurance companies are not.

And so, I present to you a few of the more humorous gardening blunders I’ve committed over the years. Learn from them, my friends. For while they won’t drive your insurance rates up, avoiding them will save you time, money, and headaches.

* One year I got all fancy and decided to build a row of pea brush. You know, one of those wattle-like trellising systems built from branched twigs inserted into the soil? I made a whole 20-foot row of it. It took me three days to harvest the branches and weave them together. When it was finally complete, it was about three-feet tall, perfect for supporting spring shell peas. Except that I accidentally planted eight-foot tall snap peas there instead.

* Then there was the time I had the brilliant idea to put a handful of bone meal into every hole as I was planting 225 tulip bulbs. Later that afternoon, I found all the bulbs scattered across the lawn. And my dog’s face completely covered in mud.

Jessica's tulip bulb ready for burial, followed by subsequent removal via her dog.

Jessica’s tulip bulb ready for burial, followed by subsequent removal via her dog.

* Oh, and let’s not forget what the United States Postal Service had to say about the time I planted a sweet autumn clematis at the base of our mailbox. I got a letter in the mail (imagine that!) stating that I had to remove the offending plant because it was “infested with bees” and posing a threat to the mail carrier.

And so now I make a promise. A promise to make 2014 my first mistake-free gardening season ever. I’m done making mistakes. Everything will be perfect this year. I swear.

I’ll see y’all later. I’m headed out to plant a new wisteria. I think it’s gonna look great growing up my downspout.




We could go on and on, but we don’t want to bore you (read: embarrass ourselves) any more. Even people who have been gardening their whole lives still make plenty of mistakes! Take the pressure off – think of the garden as one big experiment and don’t sweat the mistakes.

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8 Responses to Live and learn: Our garden blunders

  1. Kathy Sturr says:

    Oh, I have done the cold frame thing and even tried venting. Automatic vents I say if you are busy which most of us are – especially in Spring! It is very heartening to learn of other gardeners’ mistakes. We all make them. I encourage everyone to try gardening! You cannot really go wrong – nature wants to grow.

    • Niki Jabbour says:

      Thank you for the comment Kathy! I always err on the side of venting for my cold frames and know that if it’s going to be above 4 C (40 F) that I should crack them opened.. I have fried my plants by not venting though!! And I couldn’t agree with you more in terms of realizing that we all make mistakes.. as long as we try not to repeat them, we’ll get ahead! 🙂

  2. I once planted a Mermaid rose. ‘Nuff said.

    • savvygardening says:

      Elizabeth – Was ‘Mermaid’ a mistake because of its overly-rambunctious climbing habits or its suckering habit? Maybe both? We can only imagine what it’s like to wrestle on of those things! (the flowers sure are pretty, though!)

    • The flowers are pretty and it is entirely self-sufficient, so that’s good. But the canes grew to be 20-30 feet, as big around almost as my arm, with the wickedest thorns ever, and so many thorns! And the branches forked like grappling hooks! I pruned it a few times, taking my life in my hands, and afterwards it looked like I’d tried to break of a violent cat-fight! With wildcats.
      I went to England last year and at Sissinghurst, I saw the Mermaid in its element, climbing up a 50-foot stone wall!

  3. TC Conner says:

    Ms. Niki, if you’re a “‘glass half full’ kind of gal” maybe you didn’t notice it being filled to the rim with your favorite wine when you planted those four packets of nasturtiums!

    Ms. Tara, you need a chainsaw to divide your yuccas?? What are you fertilizing them with? Miracle Gro Extreme Mix for Plants with the Strength of Steel?

    Ms. Jessica, you’ve already ruined your 2014 mistake-free gardening season if you’ve planted that wisteria at the base of the gutter downspout!

    Ms. Amy, don’t they make tiny little vent fans for those type of cold frames? But I think they come with tiny little instruction books so you’ll need a magnifying glass.

    Girls: I think I have y’all beat for a “live and learn garden blunder:” I actually watered a fake poinsettia. And at the time was active in my county’s Master Gardener program. Imagine that, a master gardener watering a fake plant. Blunder indeed!

  4. I had to cry last year – my second year starting veggies indoors from seeds – when, after the Spring of Never Ending Rain, I rushed to get all my (non-hardened-off due to rain) plants out into the garden. A few days of blistering sun followed… all that was left of months of tending to them were withered little plant corpses. I cried, and then hung my head as I paid for flats of plants from the garden center.

    Good tip about nasturtiums… will check my packets before tossing all the seeds into the garden (which is what I was going to do in a few weeks)!

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