Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sorry Garden, My Fault

Now that the growing season is pretty much over at the Red House Garden, I'm looking back and taking stock of some things I could have done better this past year.

Mistake #1:  Better Soil Prep
Really I guess the first thing to have done when starting my garden was to get a giant load of compost delivered and till it into my terrible clay to a good depth.  But when given the choice of buying plants or buying, well, a load of cow poo, the plants won out.  I tried to amend as I went, or at least loosen up the clay with my pickaxe...

 This is a sunflower that grew from a seed I planted.  It is quite pretty up close, but there is a problem.

It was supposed to have been a 10 foot tall mammoth sunflower.
My preparation of this site was obviously lacking.

Mistake #2: Location, location, location
Another common mistake that I made this year was placing a plant in the wrong spot.  Some plants did not get enough sun, and some got too much.  Some garden areas I planned in winter.  However, the sun changes from winter to summer, and some areas got different amounts of sun than planned.   For example, the wonderful vegetable garden that I had planned in what I thought was a good amount of sun...

Yeah, that didn't turn out so well.  These are tomato plants that I started indoors from seed early last spring.  By summer, my tomato plants were just leggy, scraggly looking things.  This area was much shadier than I had previously thought, and the effects show.  I think that my dirt was not quite rich enough as well (see mistake #1).  

I had given some of my tomato seedlings to my neighbor who had them on her deck in full sun, and when visiting one summer day I was blown away with her giant productive tomato plants!  I thought she had bought some seedlings from a nursery, as her plants looked so different from mine.

Mistake #3:  Plan Ahead Better
One could also rephrase this as 'use your brain and actually think before you plant'!  I don't know if I get caught up in the joy of planting or what, but I have had several issues with measurement.  I misjudge how big something is going to get and before I know it I have a plant that has eaten half of my porch (yeah, I'm talking about you, 'Bill Mackenzie' Clematis)!  

Accordingly, the most embarrassing gardening mistake I have made this year has to do with the thoughtless planting of black-eyed susan vine, Thunbergia alata.  I love this vine, it's easy to grow from seed, and I thought it would look lovely climbing up the sides of my brand new arbor.  I was correct on all counts. 

But there was one little detail I forgot about.
Can you see what the problem is in this picture?
Look a little more closely.

Yes, folks, that is the door handle for the gate in my arbor, and yes, it swings out, past the trellis.

And yes, you guessed it, I was unable to open my gate all summer for fear of ruining the vine. 

But it was pretty, and thankfully it's an annual.
I can try again next year.

You can check out PlantPostings' site to see what lessons other gardeners around the globe have learned this year!


  1. Indie, you're being too hard on yourself! At least you didn't have to dig a tree out with a tractor like we did, lol. I have sandy soil here and can only imagine what you go through with clay. I have never grown a thunbergia as lush as yours (even if it did keep you from going through the gate!) Tomatoes this year weren't great here, either, the last few years things have been a bit disappointing harvest-wise.

    I think your garden is just wonderful and look forward to watching it grow next year, too!

  2. That sunflower sure looked woefully lonesome! I was LOL while reading this post because it was so witty! Sigh, my tomatoes didn't do too well this round either.

    Are you looking thru seed catalogues now & planning for next year? Looking forward to the new growth! Happy winter!

  3. I think you've come up with a pretty universal list of Things to Do Better Next Year. I am thinking about what fun thing to do this winter. Succulents! And I am Giving Away a great book to help others with their succulents, to celebrate my 4th blogoversary. Come visit.

  4. I had to laugh at the last one. That's something I would have done - and like you, instead of messing with the vine, I would have just not opened the gate all summer! I do the first two all the time, although I know better. Some habits just die hard!

  5. Funny Indie! You could always reverse the gate to swing in, then you could plant that giant clematis there.

  6. I laughed at your description of loosening the soil with a pickaxe. People who don't have to contend with heavy red clay subsoil might imagine that was an exaggeration. But that's my favorite method, too. I was shocked when I started a garden at the cottage in Maine and realized I could loosen the soil with my hands.

  7. don't we all make mistakes ? I think it's our lot, try and try again, that way we get to know our plot of land more intimately, and can tikkle its many corners again and again... That's the fun part of being an amateur !

  8. Indie: This was a delightful post! I hope you'll add it to the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme now live on PlantPostings. Regarding the climbing Black-Eyed Susan vine--you sure had me chuckling out loud about that! It's lovely even if you couldn't use the gate door. Nice post! --Beth

  9. I'm sorry, Indie, but I couldn't help laughing at that poor little sunflower. Nice, honest post with some helpful advice you learned the hard way. Your fence and gate are lovely, by the way. Even if the gate was only decorative for a while, at least it was very decorative!

  10. What a host of opportunities for next year. In my mind eye our garden is going to be great next year.....
    At least you can do it all with a sense of humour!

  11. I am sure everyone who reads this post can relate to everything you did. We all go through the same stages.

  12. We all started at the same point. We all have to have mistakes to learn what works. You can't imagine how many years it took me to figure out that garden books written by midwestern and pacific northwest gardeners were not what I should be reading.

  13. Hahaha!!! Your post is making me laugh. I can just picture you stuck outside the gate. i've never had that kind of success with thunbergia before, so at least yours was beautiful.
    And do you mammoth sunflowers were not that mammoth, either!

  14. Thank you all for your kind comments! At least I've had lots of fun in the garden this year, no matter the results. And next year will be even better, I'm sure, as a result of lessons learned!

  15. Great list of lessons learned, these are definitely painful ones!! It took me a few years of grading before I realized how important good soil was. I have been composing like crazy since then! I've also started using a method called lasagna gardening this fall to start a few new garden areas, and will definitely expand that method to my existing garden areas next summer. You should look into this method to make amending your soil much easier (and cheeper) than buying a whole load of compost. Good luck!


  16. (oops should have proof read this, that was supposed to be *gardening* and *cheaper* - darn. :-)


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