Learning From My Mistakes

One of my gardening philosophies is Try Everything. I am constantly trying to overcome “paralysis of analysis” where I get so caught up in the planning and research stages I never feel ready to implement. If I view all of this as an experiment, and the implementation is the research, then I free myself to make mistakes without guilt or shame. So in the spirit of recording the outcomes of an experiment, here are a few of the mistakes I’ve made this season.

1. Bush beans + sprawling cantaloupes= tangled mess

mistake1This is what the bed looked like a month ago. Neat, orderly. I was excited because this was the first time I ever used inoculant on my beans and I was sure it would contribute to healthier plants and greater yields. I prepared the bed carefully so the plants could survive pest pressure… remember, no pesticides here.

This is what the bed looks like now:

mistake2

A verdant but extremely tangled mess. I’ve never grown cantaloupes before. I knew they sprawled so I gave them plenty of room from each other… and then planted beans in between, expecting to lose 50% of the plants like I did last year. I’ve lost TWO. The inoculant really worked! So. Mistakes here: planting too closely together, not paying attention to mature plant size, and forgetting the permaculture rule of “lumpy texture” in polycultures. Two twining, sprawling plants together in a limited space is poor planning.

2. Tomato cages are not just for tomatoes

mistake5

I decided not to grow tomatoes this year at all. Everything eats tomatoes. I decided to grow tomatillos and ground cherries instead, more “primitive” nightshades with fewer pests and disease concerns. They are healthy and vigorous plants, but they’re just as “tipsy” as tomatoes. They grew tall quickly and then fell over. I put cages over three of the tallest plants a few weeks ago as a precaution before I left for the weekend. By the time I got back, the rest of the plants were already too sprawling to try and add cages.

mistake4

The three tallest tomatillos in the bed are caged. The others have sprawled, smothering their companion ashwaganda in this bed and eggplants and cantaloupes in the other bed. Mistakes here: planting too closely and not caging them while young. From now on, cage all tomato-like plants.

Overall I think the garden is doing quite well. I have been keeping notes in a loose garden journal for the past year, but I think I need something more structured. Keeping a card file of plant notes, one plant to a card, is an idea I am adopting from one of the permaculture books I read last year. Keeping notes on each plant, taking measurements, I think will help me remember all of these lessons from season to season.

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