There Are No Gardening Mistakes, Only Experiments

By Laura Miller | July 23, 2021
by Laura Miller
July 23, 2021

Did you ever wonder how many people fail at gardening? On one hand, we could say all gardeners have failed at some point. But I’ve become the eternal optimist. I don’t see gardening misadventures as failures. That’s why I live and garden by the quote, “There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”

A Quote To Live By

Like many new gardeners, I didn’t always feel this way. I saw every gardening blunder as an assault on my skills as a gardener. Paralyzed by fear of failing, I didn’t experiment with new gardening techniques or even try new varieties and species of plants. Because of this, I missed out on a lot of the excitement that gardening offers!

That’s why the quote, “There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments,” by Janet Kilburn Phillips, really resonates with me. After moving from England to the United States, Phillips discovered her English cottage gardening style failed to work on this side of the ocean. But instead of simply giving up, she experimented and found what would work.

I admire gardeners like Janet Kilburn Phillips, who see the beauty of experimenting in the garden. I only wish it hadn’t taken me decades to overcome my type A personality traits and really enjoy this aspect of gardening. But now that I have, here’s why I don’t view missteps as gardening mistakes, but as experiments:

  • Starting too big or planting too little. How many vegetables we need to feed our family or how much time we have to flower garden is an individual thing and the answers can’t be found in a book, online or from a gardening expert. More importantly, this won’t stay the same from year to year. Families grow and responsibilities change. As gardeners, we need to adapt to these differences through experimentation.
  • Planting incorrectly. From choosing the best spot for a garden to planting at a favorable time of year, the information on seed packets and plant tags are merely guidelines. The microclimates that exist in our gardens make trial and error methods inevitable. As gardeners, we shouldn’t automatically attribute less than satisfactory results to gardening mistakes.
  • Dissatisfaction with a plant. We’ve all brought plants home that didn’t perform like we hoped. But when I find myself paralyzed by fear of purchasing a plant because I might not like it, I consider my options. These include moving the plant to a different location in the yard, trading or giving away the plant, or simply discarding it.

Finally, I’ve learned not to give up too soon. When the deer demolished my veggie garden a few years back, I simply threw in the “trowel.” And I came to regret that decision. Not only did I miss the abundance of fresh veggies my garden produced that summer, but the issue of the deer still remained. 

Taking to heart that, “There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments,” I realized I had to find a way to thwart the deer if I ever wanted to have a successful veggie garden again. And as I experiment with new gardening techniques, I’ve come to realize that overcoming challenges is what makes us better gardeners!

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