If you have been gardening for a while, you know things do not always go well. Usually, we don’t talk about it much, and that might give the impression that it does not happen to us. Well, it does, and here we share what to do if plants fail to grow. We have had a lot of practice with this, so if you are here and think it only happens to you rest assured that you are not alone. Hope these tips can help you in your gardening journey.
Recognize it is not all you
As a beginner gardener, you might think the growth of the garden really all depends on you. Well, that is not true. Sure, a lot does depend on the gardener, things like how you work the soil, what seed you use if you water right, etc. But there seems to be a lot more we as gardener can’t do too much about. Or do you make the weather, the wind, and the bugs come and go? Do you command the worms and fungus in the soil? No, we do not, we just work with what we get and try to create an environment that encourages growth.
Truth is, we can’t make anything grow or produce. Gardening is very humbling when we realize how little we are actually in charge of. We might do everything right and nothing grows, or we do everything supposedly wrong but still, the garden thrives.
Failure is part of the growth
I am talking here about your growth mindset as a gardener. To become a great gardener you have to start somewhere and grow your experience and knowledge. I’m quite sure that there is no child that has learned to walk without falling. And there is no gardener that has not killed at least some plants. If you are afraid to fail, you will not grow. Sure, you can stay on the safe side, only doing what you know will work. But that will limit you from getting to the next level. There is so much more possible, go for it even if you do fail. But make sure to learn from your failures. Don’t waste those valuable lessons.
The subject of a growth mindset is an interesting one, not just for gardeners. A great read on it is the book: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., She discovered after decades of research, a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset.
A gardening notebook is very important. If a plant failed, you want to make notes on what happened so that you can learn from it but not dwell on failure. It can be a gardening notebook, an online journal, pictures or videos on your device, or whatever is comfortable for you.
One of the reasons we started this blog was to keep track of what we grow as a gardening journal. We put ourselves out there so we can learn to grow, and also you can benefit from it.
Things that you want to take note of:
- What variety did or did not do well. Not all tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots etc. are the same. Some varieties are better for the climate you live in than others. And some even better for your specific soil than others. And there is also personal preference, we all have different taste.
- The location of a plant that failed. Location can make all the difference. If you grow a heat-loving plant in partial shade or a cool weather crop in full afternoon sun, both will not do well and you might get the impression you can’t grow anything. Not true, these plants just need to switch locations.
- The timing of planting and harvesting. Again, if a cool weather plant is planted too late or a warm weather plant too early, you might get some problems. That’s why we do not follow the general planting time rule.
- Soil quality does it need some improvement, compost, mulch, moisture. Also the geological conditions, where is a slope, degradation, wet or dry spots.
Replant and continue to grow
We grow a garden for food, and also for fun, pleasure, and achievement. So if something does not grow it gets replaced with something that does. Yes, pruning shears and the composting bin can be my best friends in order to obtain a beautiful and productive garden. In most cases, we do not try to save the plant at any cost, but rather take it out and plant new.
If a plant fails at the beginning of the growing season it simply can be replanted with something that might do better in that spot. This year most of my broccoli failed due to a dry warm spring; the plants started flowering before making a head. So they became chicken treats and the garden bed became a spaghetti squash patch.
If a plant fails in the middle of a growing season there is still time to replace it with a plant that is good at any stage. Baby carrots, beets, onions, and even potatoes make great replacement plants. They will not mature, but that is okay since all of these plants are great at any stage.
And even at the second half of a growing season, the space can still be used for new growth. Spinach is my favorite if space becomes available. It will grow till the frost and will continue to grow in early spring, giving us very early greens. Radishes, Tom Thumb peas, or anything that matures fast can also be planted. Read also planting a fall garden in a northern garden.
As you see, there are options if plants fail to grow in the garden. As the years go by one would think that we have less and less failure. True, we usually do not repeat the same mistakes too many times, but we constantly test out our limits and that often results in even more failed plants.
So let us encourage you to keep on growing, especially if a plant fails to grow.