Waste Not

attempting to waste less and live more deliberately

Gardening and Failure

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I have spent the majority of my life avoiding failure. Failure feels bad, can keep you from reaching certain goals, and serves as a reminder that you, in fact, are not perfect.

Until recently, this understanding summed up my entire experience with failure, often causing me to give up whatever I was attempting, because after all, why bother?

Through gardening, this understanding of failure has changed quickly and radically. I have learned not only to accept failure, but to embrace it.  

Imagenot exactly the crisp lettuce I was hoping for

Why has gardening taught me something about failure that other activities have not?

1. I am quite new to gardening; I believe this is why I am more comfortable failing at it. While it is disappointing to find my lettuce has gone limp, my newness allows me to be understanding of my limitations. 

2. The successes and failures of gardening are dependent on a number of defined conditions (sunlight, water, soil conditions, etc). Rather than ruminating on my shortcomings and feeling bad about myself, I can just go figure out where my misstep occurred and what I can do to fix it.

3. When gardening you are not creating something. You are providing conditions so that something can come into being. My lettuce did not fail because I created limp lettuce, it failed because I didn’t provide the ideal conditions. I believe this perspective allows one to view the situation more objectively.

My Garden Failures

Less Than Leafy Parsley



looking a bit sad

Failure: Parsley is not thriving.

Lesson: Parsley and other leafy crops need occasional nitrogen rich fertilizing.

Growth: Discovered DIY Nitrogen Rich Urine Fertilizer (check it out HERE)



Sun Starved Veggies and Herbs



very leggy!

Failure: Broccoli, Bok Choy and Chard are leggy.

Lesson: Part shade doesn’t mean full shade. Because we are surrounded by tall buildings and trees, we only get 2-3 hours of dappled sun. Unfortunately, not enough to grow even part shade veggies and herbs. This lack of sun has caused leggy growth as the plants are stretching in search of light resulting in thin, weak stems.

Growth: It is important to choose the right plant for the conditions you have to offer. While someday we hope to have full sun where we can grow tomatoes to our hearts’ content, that time is not now. Now, we get to explore the wonderful world of ferns and helleborus!


right plant, right place!


an eerily beautiful helleborus flower. beware, they are toxic so watch out pets!

Limp Lettuce


“I’m melting, melting! Oh! What a world, what a world…”

Failure: Our lettuce was right on track, beautiful, bright green, crisp. Then one morning I found our lettuce in a limp, melted, soupy mess! 

Lesson: The verdict is still out on this one. I suspect it has something to do with over watering, poor drainage, and inadequate spacing.

Growth: I am determined to grow great lettuce. Stay tuned!

Failure is a Great Teacher

1. Failure provides us the opportunity to learn new things. Had my parsley thrived right away I would have never learned that nitrogen promotes leaf and vegetation growth, or that urine makes a great fertilizer!

2. Failure teaches humility, allowing us to recognize that which is greater than ourselves. 

3. Failure means you tried, accepting vulnerability.  

4. Failure encourages us to seek help from those more knowledgeable, thus growing community. 

5. Failure opens the door to perseverance and growth.

Perhaps rather than exploiting the failures of those around us, its time we start celebrating failure as we do success. To fail is to be human and that is exactly who we are. 


and perhaps the best part of garden failures….




How have you experienced failure in your life, gardening and otherwise?




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