Kari's thoughts on growing food, urban farming, permaculture, canning, food preservation and all things gardening.

Wilted Dreams: What a Dead Garden Taught Me About Growing Plants

Ever been in a hurry?  I kind of lost my head this spring and rushed into planting stuff at my new house.  We had arranged the patio and invited friends to come over to enjoy it with us.  Under the pressure of invited guests, I hurriedly planted about two dozen containers with flowers, a dwarf peach tree and a hibiscus bush.  It looked fabulous.  For about two weeks.  Then, sudden death.  What went wrong?

1.        Powers of observation were not applied.

Looking back, I realized that I had not taken my own gardening advice, which is first to spend time observing.  I had never experienced the new patio in the summertime.  Had I done so before planting, I would have realized that pavers and lack of shade would make it a heat-sink.  The temperature nearly reached 120 degrees F in my yard on several days.  No wonder the plants expired.  I would, too, if I was left out there with no protection.

2.       Automation was not installed at launch.

If I am going to garden in Phoenix, I should know from experience that I need to automate irrigation.  When temps are in the one-teens and a day of watering is missed, plants die. I often forget to water, so my typical practice is to install irrigation before I plant a garden.  This time, I cut corners and paid for it.

3.       Soil was not properly mixed.

I am very aware that container plants need special soil mixes.  I teach other people how to mix them.  But I was out of vermiculite, so I winged it with the materials that I had available.  Too late, I discovered that my soil mix was not holding moisture properly. 

A perfect storm of heat, poor soil and neglectful watering killed my plants. Their demise boils down to carelessness on my part.  Lesson learned. 

For the new gardeners reading this, don’t be discouraged.  Dead plants are sometimes the price of admission to becoming a garden meister.  Learn how to garden by reading, taking classes and consulting with experienced gardeners.  Then, take the advice to heart.  Don’t cut corners.  Start out right, and you will increase your chances of success exponentially.

For the experienced gardeners, don’t judge me too harshly (pretty please.) 

To make up for my poor example, download a free Container Soil Mix Guide, the one I should have followed.  These soil mix recipes are specifically for containers.  And they work beautifully when applied.