Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gotta Love the Failures

I will be the first one to tell you that I'm a failure as a gardener. I say that because I've had many more failures than successes. More seeds die and rot in the ground than sprout. Fail! Of those that do sprout, more wither and die or get eaten by bugs or suddenly quit trying to grow in the desert heat than make it to maturity. Fail! Of those that actually make it to maturity, most don't yield fruit. Fail! Of those that yield fruit, most, well, a lot of it is not as exciting to eat (toughness, heat-induced bitterness, thick skin, small size) as one would hope. Fail!

Fail! Fail! Fail!

Why, then, do I keep at it?

I keep at it because I get excited about what I learn. For some reason, I was blessed with a great deal of optimism. I hope. Eternally. Continually. I get excited at the potential, at the prospect of success. I love the idea that I don't have to accept the fail as an absolute and that I can build on it to hopefully have another chance later on. I keep trying.

My mother taught me that no matter what I try to do, if I keep at it long enough, I will get better and better at it until one day I will succeed. (Maybe that's why I have 12 kids. Hmmmm.) She taught me that if I stick to what I'm working at, no matter how many times I fail, the only real failure is quitting.

She also taught me a love for learning. I love to see what happens if....

What would happen if I plant tomatoes in buckets?
Can you grow a tomato in a bucket? Who knew?
Tasty, tasty, yum, yum

What would happen if I took a bunch of 10-year-old pinto beans off the pantry shelf and planted them?
10-year-old beans, sprouting through the mulch. Who knew they would grow?
Same beans, three weeks later. Very happy beans.

What would happen if I planted these Armenian cucumber seeds?
Happy grandkids with two cucumbers.

What would happen if I placed an ad on CraigsList asking for someone to give me free manure?
Careful what you ask for. You may end up with a load of poop!

Grandkids make the best manure helpers.

What would happen if...?

My tomatoes in buckets were a great big success, for me. My wife didn't really like the tomatoes, too small, tougher skin than she likes, funny shapes and colors, whatever. But I proved to myself that I could do it. I learned about how to combat blossom end rot. I learned a great deal about amending growing media with garden lime. I learned that I can make a portable garden and have it actually produce. All that and I got to eat dozens and dozens of really great tasting tomatoes fresh from the plants. I got to share some of them with my coworkers in my office. And I had fun.

Did they all thrive? No way. Am I going to do it again? You better believe it. Was it more fun that it should have been? Absolutely. Many of them are just cruising through the hot months of July and August. Since I've placed them in the shade of some trees so they don't get fried by the merciless Southern Nevada sunshine, they've actually begun putting out new growth, very lush and very green. I'm hoping for a great fall crop when the heat breaks at the end of the month. That'll be fun, too.

I wonder if I can keep some of them producing until Thanksgiving. Hmmmm.

My family and I have been working on getting the beds ready for a great fall garden. We've been tilling in compost and manure and stuff. I've been working on the irrigation system. I've drafted a plan for planting and have purchased nearly all of the seeds. (I wonder where I'll be able to get 135 garlic bulbs. I'm gearing up for more than 2000 garlic plants, a real "farm crop" experiment.) And I keep getting more and more excited about the whole thing.

With all my failures (onions, birdhouse gourds, pumpkins, watermelons, beets, etc., etc., etc.) I could be pretty discouraged, but I'm not. I'm very optimistic. I can't wait to get back into the garden again this afternoon. I really spend too much time out there. It's cutting into my television viewing schedule. Fail!
Hope, springing forth.

As long as I keep plodding along, keep trying and don't give up, I figure I'll make it someday. Somebody will refer to me (in a favorable light, of course) as "that guy with the garden. Go ask him." That's what I'm looking forward to.

I'm even planning on coming up with a few entries for the County Fair next April. That ought to be a real hoot!


  1. There's a county fair in Vegas? I'm shocked. Also miffed that I never knew when it mattered.

  2. There really isn't one in Las Vegas. Our county fair is held at the County Fairgrounds in Logandale, about an hour north of Las Vegas. It's actually closer to the Arizona strip and St. George, Utah than it is to Las Vegas, both geographically and chronologically. You can read about it at It will be held next April from the 12th to the 15th. I'm going to try to have at least 6 entries. There are quite a few categories in which I could enter, but if I can't score a ribbon with 6, I would consider that a Fail! Which is what this blog posting is about anyway.

  3. Great post! I think that is why I love gardening too because you learn more from the failures than from the successes and there is always something new to learn or something new to try!

    By the is a great place to get garlic:

    That is where I am buying mine from.

    On a side know what I found in my garden the other day? A black widow spider. Eek!


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