So, you tried your hand at a backyard vegetable garden, this year, and it didn’t turn out so well? Seeds didn’t germinate? Plants didn’t set fruit? Some (or maybe even all) of them up and died on ya? Are you’re thinking, “I give up; I’d better just leave the growing to the experts”?
Hold on! Let’s not be hasty — Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Like fine wine, friendships, and love, building a successful garden takes a lot of hard work and plenty of time, too. If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to keep at it! Learn from your mistakes. Build on your successes — no matter how small. Every season brings another opportunity to begin again and create the garden of your dreams!
In the meantime, let’s do a little trouble shooting and see if we can’t figure out what might have gone wrong, this year…
First, how was the quality of your soil? When I first started gardening, I knew nothing about healthy soil. I figured dirt was dirt, and that I could just plop my seeds and transplants any ol’ where I wanted and they’d grow like weeds and produce like the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Um. No. I absolutely set myself up for failure when I failed to deal with the health of my soil.
Could your soil be the source of your problems? If so, I suggest you curl up with your computer and a nice cup of tea, and do a Google search on “how to build healthy organic soil”, or “permaculture”, or “sustainable gardening”, and prepare to be amazed at what you will learn! I also highly recommend watching this video to learn about one of the best ways to prepare your garden beds for planting.
Next, did you plant often, and at the right time? I know. I know. As soon as that first frost-free day of the year hits, Spring Fever takes over, and we all want to get everything into the garden at once. While it is often necessary for people who live in places with short growing seasons to take this approach to gardening, those of us who live in more temperate climates will often have much more success when we slow down, and take our time sowing, transplanting, and harvesting at different times throughout the growing season, taking into consideration the full number of growing days we have available and making the most effective and efficient use of each and every day, week, and month we have until the weather turns and we must put the garden to bed for the winter. When we fail to start seeds or transplant seedlings into the garden at the right time we often sabotage our efforts in the garden.
How do you know when to plant what? Again, a quick Google search, or trip to your local library will turn up loads of useful information. Search for “vegetable planting guides”, or “vegetable planting schedules”, and then learn all you can about growing vegetables in your area (know your USDA hardiness zone, first). One of my favorite resources for month to month garden planning is The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan. At the back of the book, you will find a planning calendar, based on the number of growing days in your region, that tells you, month by month, what plants to start in flats, sow directly, and transplant into the soil. Armed with this knowledge, just see what a difference it makes in your gardening success!
Finally, did you make adjustments and corrections as you saw problems arise? As squash bugs began to appear on your zucchini, did you take measures to eradicate them, or did you leave them to spread and destroy all of your plants? As pests began to nibble away at young seedlings, or maturing fruit, did you look for ways to protect your precious crops, or let nature take it’s course and devour the fruits of your labor? When seeds failed to germinate, did you re-plant time and time again, or leave the ground fallow, and figure you’d try again next year or never again? A garden is not something to be planted and then left alone. We must tend it. We must nurture it. We must constantly interact with it so that we are aware of problems, immediately, when they arise and then take care of them. Gardeners who neglect their gardens will almost assuredly reap what they sow. I know, ’cause I get just as neglectful as anyone else.
But, if I can bounce back and find success in gardening, then you can too. So, don’t you ever give up! Just stick to the advice of Winston Churchill, who wisely stated, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”, and I’ll bet someday you’ll be the expert that everyone else comes flocking to for sage vegetable gardening advice!