4 Garden Mistakes That Are Blessings

Are you frustrated that your gardening efforts are never what they should be?  Short on time and not doing things “perfectly”?  Here are 4 grow-your-own garden mistakes that will turn out to be blessings this year and every year. 

Four Garden Mistakes That Are Blessings on the Homestead l Repeat these garden mistakes to grow your own food every year l Homestead Lady.com

There are cottage gardens and English gardens and xeriscaped gardens and children’s gardens and on and on and on.

Ever been in The Garden of Whatever?  It’s where I live.

The Garden Mistakes Reality

Despite my commitment to grow my own, do it myself and do it all I’m always:

  • grasping for time
  • exhausted
  • busy with the rest of my life
  • gardening with toddlers
  • out of money
  • looking for my garden journal
  • forgetting my compost
  • killing my seedlings
  • and on it goes, ad nauseum

I’ve discovered over the thirty years I’ve been growing gardens that there’s no perfect year where all my efforts bear fruit.  There are, however, so many lessons to be learned and harvests to bring in.  Even when I make mistakes, the garden is always there, growing along and forgiving my stumbling efforts.  Somehow, as I learn through messing up, I find better ways of growing food and smarter ways to work the garden.

Here’s a little something to think about from our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead:

“Fortunately for all of us gardeners, nature is adaptable and resilient and whenever I have a garden failure I just say right out loud, ‘Well, that’s why God invented next year!'” 

The following are 4 garden mistakes that can actually be blessings in your garden.

Garden Mistake #1 – Life Happened This Year!

See if you recognize yourself in these words from Sharon Astyk, author of Independence Days – A guide to sustainable food storage and production:

“You see, there were these sheep, that escaped the fencing and ended up in my garden.  That took care of the strawberries and the early tomatoes.  Then there was this book.  And then there were a host of reasons, some real and some stupid, why half my garden is in cover crops or something else.

“I could claim it was because of my deep commitment to the soil, but that wouldn’t explain why I was crawling around on my knees sticking random unplanted onions in between things.  Do you know when you are supposed to plant onions here?  The middle of April.  And I was planting them on June 26.  Nor would it explain why there are sad-looking hot pepper plants looking at me and crying, ‘Plant me…plant me…I could fruit still before frost if you’d just get me…out of my flat, where I’ve been since March!’  And here I am ignoring them.”

Sound at all familiar to you?  It does to me.  Especially this year.

You see, there was this pregnancy that just took me for a ride.  That meant I didn’t get any of my veggie starts started.  Then there was the baby to take care of.

And then there have been a whole host of reasons, some real and definitely some stupid, why half my garden is in native weeds and re-seeding flowers.  I could claim that I’m growing them up as fodder for my animals but that wouldn’t explain why I can’t even walk through the vegetable garden because of all the “fodder” growing in the aisles between my boxes.

4 Garden Mistakes that are Blessings l Plant flowers with your vegetables l Homestead Lady.com

The Benefit of These Garden Mistakes?

The weeds are nutritious!

Don’t believe me?  Here’s an article on growing native plants in your backyard for animal fodder – Goat Salad Bar in the Backyard.

Here’s another article on foraging these wild plants as food for humans – Wild Free Food.

Here’s a roundup article of all the things you can do with flowers – food, medicine, crafts – Perennial Flowers

The biggest benefit to using flowers in your veggie garden is that they easily attract honey bees and other pollinators.  The more pollinators you have, the more you ensure a harvest from your vegetable gardens and orchards.

Here’s some information on 10 Perennial Flowers that Attract Bees from Attainable Sustainable.  Here’s another from  Grow Forage Cook Ferment with 12 more ideas on flowers for pollinators.

What may have started out a goof – a simple case of benign neglect – can result in more pollinators and bigger harvests!

Garden Mistake #2 – I’m Too Disorganized!

Do you know how far apart you’re supposed to plant vining snap-peas for optimal results?  At least three inches, with a nice trellis for them to run up.

You want to know what I did with mine this year?

My four year old and I went out with my jar of peas – at least, at least, I was using seed we saved last year.  That made me feel slightly better.  However, all we did was sprinkle the peas on top of the soil like pepper on a salad.

Then, I said to my little one, “Ok, kiddo, use your finger and push those babies into the dirt.  You tuck them in nicely and they’ll come up and make peas for us.  Their bed is a little messy but, whatever!”

So, there I was with my very pregnant stomach, on a blustery day in early March, not a square foot marker or a ruler in sight, throwing my pea seeds out to take their chances in this world of chaos.

Did the peas sprout?  They sure did.

Are the beds a royal mess?  Uh, yeah. Some radish and kale seeds had blown in the season before and eventually started coming up after the peas had died back in summer’s heat.  That added a layer of crazy.

Did I eat peas this spring?  Yes, ma’am, I did.

You’re very welcome in my garden of WHATEVER.  Please feel free to stop by whenever you’d like to feel better about your own gardening efforts.  4 Garden Mistakes that are Blessings l Not Square Foot Garden measured but companion planted l Homestead Lady.com

Want a Few More to Make You Feel Like a Super Gardener?

What about the carrots that went to seed?  Forget about it, I totally remembered they were there and let them go to seed on purpose (ha, ha).  Biennials require planning, you know.

4 Garden Mistakes that are a Blessing l Reseeding vegetables reduce the work in the garden l Homestead Lady.com

What’s that about the Purslane growing in among the artichokes?  Of course, I meant for it to grow there.  It will all be out and fed to the animals before the artichokes get too much bigger.  I grow Purslane whenever I can because it has the highest protein count of any land plant.  I’m smart about plants.  4 Garden Mistakes that are Blessings l Companion plant with beneficial weeds and wildflowers l Homestead Lady.com

So smart, in fact, that I decided to let the radish and lettuce go to seed last year and then let that seed drop or fly where it would.  I did this so that I could deliberately grow lettuce in the rows between my vegetable beds.  Some plants are just born free, man; let it be.

4 Garden Mistakes that are Blessings l Let lettuce reseed and grow where it will for continuous crops l Homestead Lady.com

The Benefit of These Garden Mistakes?

Some people actually garden this way on purpose!  It’s called permaculture, a system of growing food that involves planting a variety of different plants in one space to support and sustain each other.  Here’s an example from Joybilee Farm: How to grow asparagus and strawberries together.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you just throw your seeds out and expect success every time.  What I am saying is that if the picture you have in your head of your garden requires that there be neat, tidy rows from house to horizon, get over it.  Row crops are fine, if you insist, but botanical variety (different plants in the same space) add dimension to your vegetable garden and make it better able to self-sustain.

To learn more on this idea, here are some basic articles on companion planting, a vital aspect of permaculture:

If you decide you’d like to continue this practice and even expand it, here’s an article from Tenth Acre Farm on How to Develop the Permaculture Homestead in Phases

Garden Mistake #3 – I Can’t Afford the Right Equipment!

So, we’ve lived in this house three years and every year the pink climbing roses in the backyard send out arms of lovely rose buds to celebrate the summer.  Every year I tell myself it’s time to put up some trellis so those little arms stop tearing at my hair and causing me to holler un-Christian things as thorns gouge out my eyes when I walk by.

Well, I had no time or money but I had several lengths of newly harvested bamboo from generous neighbors.  So, I stuck those sticks in among the climbing roses and forced them back to a less lethal setting.

Do I have bamboo sticking randomly out of my roses?  Yes. Have I decided it looks interesting and I’m going to do it every year?  Of course!  You’re in the garden of WHATEVER, lest you forget.

4 Garden Mistakes that are Blessings l Learn to DIY in the garden to save money l Homestead Lady.com

What did I do when we needed a path through a wall of vines and plastic trellis panels for our ducks and their people to waddle through?

Duh, I got the Sawsall and we made a doorway.  Whatever.  It totally looks like we were being artsy fartsy with an archway of vines.

4 Garden Mistakes That Are Blessings l DIY an improvised arch in the ivy l Homesteadlady.com

The Benefit of These Garden Mistakes?

Learning to DIY a project when you would rather buy a tool to do it more easily can be a challenge, I know.  However, necessity really is the mother of invention.

Instead of giving up because you feel like you can’t afford all the cool garden tools, or even all the plants you want, learn to pace yourself.  Allow yourself the time to learn the difference between needs and wants.  Learn to do it yourself as often as possible.  Learn, too, what you’re willing to save up and purchase.  Both are important lessons.

You don’t have to be wealthy to grow your own food.  You will sometimes need to be creative, though.  Maybe these articles will help:

Garden Mistake #4 – I Failed So I’m Giving Up.

Last year’s potatoes were a test, an exercise in the name of horticulture.  I wanted to see if we could get them to grow in layers of straw. The result?  No potatoes.  Not one harvestable potato.

We didn’t fail miserably, though, we simply found a way not to grow potatoes.   Whatever.

4 Garden Mistakes that are Blessings l Experiment with newgarden methods l Homestead Lady.com

I was frustrated and about to take the whole thing apart when I noticed that the chicken wire that held all that useless straw in place was still around the old potato bed.   There were leftover seedling potatoes leafing out, too.  Figuring it couldn’t hurt we stuck some cardboard and feed bags between the wire and the soil.  We piled the dirt and straw up over the stalks to encourage tuber growth.

The result?  Some potatoes grew!  It’s sound science to run trials with similar variables but different parameters, right?!

The Point of the Garden Mistakes Blessings

The key to garden success is not to give up.  Try again, try something different, try something new!  But don’t you quit!  Me and you, our halting efforts to grow our own food, they’re so much better than doing nothing at all.

Try to see all those garden mistakes as blessings and thank your Higher Power for them every season.

As Miss Sharon says,

“Am I panicked?  Nope.  Guilty?  Nope.  But only because I’ve been here so often that I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the reality.  All the perfect gardens live in my head, and the truth is, every year’s garden is totally messed up.

“The thing is, I end up eating a lot of food from that messed up garden, and it does get better every year.  Or at least every year without sheep in the front yard.”

Amen, Sister.

Did I ever mention I’m a Master Gardener.  Bwa haa haa!


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26 thoughts on “4 Garden Mistakes That Are Blessings

  1. Wonderful post! Sounds like my garden, except its dill, oregano, chives, tomatoes, kale, plantain and other chicken fodder growing between my raised beds. After 4 growing seasons, the clematis tumbles and wraps itself around every nearby shrub, not happy staying on its trellis. Columbine and violets self seeds themselves freely. Rasberry plants pop up in mysterious places. We will be moving from this house in 6 weeks and I doubt the new owners will be able or want to keep up with the gardens. My husband accuses me of over landscaping at every house we have ever owned, 7! Next house is an acre flat lot blank slate in TN. The foundation plantings will be ripped out and new landscaping will go in. The back yard will get new raised gardens and a chicken coop, but I promised him, I will plant more wisely at this new house.

  2. Oh, I do love this post! You had me smiling, chuckling, laughing out loud. Have I ever said ‘whatever?’ Oh, yeah, more than a few times, in my mind, under my breath, straight out loud.
    I’ll have to check out the book. Thanks for the review and tour.
    (stopping by via Teach Me Tuesdays)

  3. I have some rebellious lettuce too, volunteering to shade the carrots…yeah. I mean to do that…
    The roses with the bamboo does look nice, I’ll have to try it myself.
    And hey – if you’re getting food from it, you’re doing better than you would without the garden!

  4. Whew! What a pleasure it was to read this post. My kitchen garden is only half garden and the rest is still waist high grass. I am comforted by your post. It DOES get better every year and one year it will be complete..maybe. 🙂

  5. Now THIS is the best way to garden!! Seriously, do we need to have it all trimmed and fancy looking? NO! The best garden is the garden that gives you joy. I call peas that you can pick and eat – joy. Lettuce you can trim – joy. If you can truly find joy in it – you have succeeded!

  6. I love this post!! I hear ya sister…:))) I just got my raised beds together and stuck 3 okra plants, a tomato plant, and 2 pepper plants and filled the rest out with marigolds and lantana (you can’t have empty beds). My husband just shook his head and laughed at me…..he said that was like having a tiny little sprinkle when you needed a flood……..oh well……it was all about making the garden look cute….that’s what’s most important….:))))))

  7. Love, love, love this post! With all the rain we’ve had this year my garden is just filled with weeds, and the carrots, I don’t know the seeds just never sprouted! My potatoes look like a plague hit them they are so covered with potato bugs! Thanks so much for sharing on the Home Acre Hop! Do come back and share this week too! – Nancy The Home Acre Hop

  8. This was fun to read! I call our garden The Experiment. What grows gets put in a Experiment to, finding new combinations and Eating what we Grow 🙂

  9. I was just out in my forelorn potato patch,came inside and because it was so depressing hoped in the internet. Thank you for this post. It will keep me chuckling in to the night.

    1. I’m glad my ineptness served this noble purpose! And I bet your potato patch is more rockin than you think…:)

  10. I love this! I had all these plans in the winter to start seeds – I have a lot of seeds – but being in my first trimester of pregnancy then…well nothing happened besides me laying about and complaining that it was too cold to move 🙂 I just got *most* of my garden planted, I’m sure there will be more things to put in as the days go on, but right now I am feeling good…until I have to get out there and weed…and then I probably will ignore it…nature takes care of itself and all 🙂

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one! Babies take precedence, that’s for sure. I once read an Italian proverb that said, “A baby in the house is the perfect example of minority rule”. 🙂

  11. Oh my gosh this couldn’t be more perfect and fitting in every way! I recognized myself in each paragraph! I let me lettuce go to seed last year thinking it would regrow in the bed. Nope! It blew over to the rock pathway instead. Oh well! I dubbed it “sidewalk salad” and just let it be! Or how my potato boxes are now exclusively used as cat bathrooms and chicken baths! 🤣Life is what you make it, after all! Glad to see others who don’t take it too seriously!

  12. I love this! Your posts are always so real and encouraging… and we aren’t even having a real garden this year because LIFE! I do still have some blueberry bushes, strawberries, and paw paw trees that I need to get in the ground somewhere, though!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Emily! Uh, it sounds like you’ll be gardening with those fruits! Isn’t that always the way? We plan not to plan this year and then we somehow still end up with plants.

      Ah, the garden life!

  13. I don’t feel so guilty anymore. My most spending goes to the garden. And it looks a mess. And every year the same. Never gonna give up.

    1. Go you! I know, we spend money there and it’s hard to tell that we’ve done anything at all some years. At least herbs always look good in the garden, right?

  14. This is a great post for beginning an veteran gardeners alike. Beginners may feel like they have to do everything perfectly and sometimes we veterans are too hard on ourselves. It has taken me a while to learn to embrace my many gardening mistakes. I now love letting my lettuce and some herbs go to seed so that I have them without thinking about it. They may not come up exactly where I wanted, but I just adjust my beds a bit and it is fine. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Chelsea! You’re absolutely right, sometimes we are way too hard on ourselves – it’s just lettuce, after all. Right? I say re-seed away! It’s easier to let the plants decided where they want to grow anyway.

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