Gardening Failures, Part 1

When it comes to gardening, I have failed a lot. Over time, I’ve come to accept that this is all part of learning how to garden in general, and in my garden in particular.

First, I should define failure. It’s different for everyone, but in my cases, it’s been one of the following:

  • Seeds never germinating
  • Seedlings never becoming full grown plants
  • Plants making it to ‘adulthood’ but not surviving as long as might be expected
  • Plants surviving and living out their expected lifespan, but not thriving.

I’ve had failures in each of the above categories.

My most recent failure was a bunch of lavender seedlings, which germinated on my windowsill and then flopped over within a few days of emerging from the soil. I have no idea what went wrong.

These lavender seedlings probably never stood a chance.

The saddest failures, for me, have been my clematis and pink coreopsis. The clematis did well for a few years, but it seems that last summer simply was too hot and dry for it. It also probably got a bit root bound in the container it was in. It was a gorgeous plant, though, and I suspect I will try again with the same or a different clematis variety eventually.

Coreopsis is a plant that loves hot summers, which my concrete oven definitely provides. Unfortunately, it seems to be winter that did my coreopsis in. We had an especially mild winter this year, so I suspect that it was the damp, rather than the cold, that was the problem.

Nasturtiums are a plant that is supposedly easy to grow from seed, but I found them difficult to get started. I managed on my third try, but I’m not really sure why it worked—just that it did. That said, I am sure I will eventually try again, especially now that I’ve stumbled across a few pink cultivars. (Plant and seed catalogs are dangerous.)

Nasturtium. This was my 3rd attempt, and the plants still don’t look so great.

Cosmos and cornflowers are also supposed to be nice, easy annuals. The ones I planted last year did all right, but the the plants just weren’t that nice looking. I’m trying the cosmos again this year, though. The seedlings are looking pretty good so far, but they’re only about two inches tall, so we’ll see.

A droopy cornflower plant with one flower.

I have also, believe it or not, had trouble with hyacinth bean vines in the past—at least until last year, when suddenly, I seemed to have gotten the hang of them. Suddenly, hyacinth bean vines became one of my best garden successes, and I happily gave seeds to almost every gardener I knew.

This was take 2 with the hyacinth beans. The patio chair was eventually rescued.

You may have noticed that I titled this post “Gardening Failures, Part 1.” I’m not sure when I’ll post Part 2, but I know I will eventually. I’m always tempted to try (and retry) things, and I’m sure I will have other failures. I just don’t know what they are yet.

Early Spring Garden Tour

The garden is a 9’x14’ patio on which live a 3’x3’ raised bed and many containers. The walls are cinder block, so it’s basically a concrete oven in the summer. I’ve finally learned to work with what I have, although I expect this year to be really bad. The cherry tree out front bloomed 3 weeks earlier than it did last year, and last year already felt early to me.

The perennial salvia, phlox, coneflowers, and asters have all coming back, as has the mint. The asters were mostly dead last year, and I may have to baby them a bit this year. (Also, Leo keeps chomping the leaves.) The coreopsis hasn’t come back yet.

From left to right: coneflowers, coreopsis, painted lady runner beans.
Left to Right: Perennia salvia, perennial phlox an empty container, and painted lady runner beans.

For annuals, I’ve scattered some alyssum and heart’s ease seeds in the 3×3 raised bed. I also have some annual salvia to start from seed, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Of course, we’re still getting bursts of cold, so that’s probably okay.

Left to right: Mint, a bag of compost, more beans, troughs of swiss chard, the corner of the 3xx bed, and empty containers and grow bags.

This year, after a long hiatus, I’m trying food things again. That’s not because of the virus. I ordered my seeds in early January. I’ll be trying painted lady runner beans, baby chard, basil, and alpine strawberries—all from seed. (I do realize that the birds will probably get the berries before I do.)

Left to right: troughs of swiss chard, the 3×3 bed, and a trough of alpine strawberry seeds.

I also have some lavender seeds, but i”m not sure if I want to try and experiment with it, as I’ve heard lavender is really hard to grow from seed. In addition, I have lots of old herb seeds from previous years, and I may see if they’re still viable. Ultimately, it might depend on when I run out of space, containers, or potting mix. I do have a bag of seed starting mix, a bunch of coconut coir, several quarts of perlite, and about 5 gallons of compost.

A corner of the 3×3 bed, the alpine strawberries, and 2 varieties of aster.

All of this year’s seeds came from Renee’s Garden, and I usually order my perennials from Bluestone Perennials. I have also ordered seeds and plants from Park Seed in the past and had good luck with them.

The all important patio table and chairs.