Gardening Mistakes, Foolishness And Falling Over

The path of every gardener is strewn with mistake cowpats and beset by not-knowing-any-better-trip-wires.  Or at least mine is.  Here’s a handful which I’ve ‘enjoyed’ over the years.

Rushing about during a chaotic house move, I grabbed an old bucket of water to pour on a much-loved and very thirsty, container-grown bamboo.  It was only as the bucket emptied, that I realised it also held several inches of rock salt.  Impossible to get out of its metal container and with no time to properly flush away the saline, the bamboo died.  That was upsetting.

It wasn’t my biggest mistake but spilling an opened, full box of grass seed across a freshly planted border was foolish and in the days to come, I could rue my carelessness at leisure … whilst pulling up and smudging-out hundreds of tiny grass seedlings.  That was boring.

Transplanting several miscanthus into a mostly weed-free bed only to notice, much later, that I’d also transplanted pernicious couch grass wasn’t great either.  (Still battling that one).

Or how about planting horseradish into The Priory vegetable garden, despite knowing how very invasive it is?  I thought, very cleverly, that if I sunk them still in their plastic pots, very cleverly they wouldn’t get established and very cleverly I need simply lift out to harvest.  Sheer yet simple genius.  Except, it didn’t work out like that; and don’t try my very clever idea at home.  Horseradish roots burrow straight down through the holes of a plastic pot and aim for the warmth of Australia.  Rip the pots out by all means but you’ll leave behind impossible-to-dig-out-roots going deeper than is botanically possible; and from which new growth will spring back to taunt you.  In one of the six veg beds, horseradish is here for good and will probably outlive me.  And you.

I added a pretty olive tree to a small lawn and then stood by in callous ignorance as it faded unto death.  A few hundred yards away, in my own garden on top of the hill, a similar olive romped away beguilingly; and I had assumed that this one would too.  But down in The Priory’s fierce frost pocket, one winter I murdered that little tree.  Rather than moving it to safety, as it faltered and withered, I convinced myself that it would soon overcome its transplant sulk and romp away.  But it didn’t and I hung on to obstinate delusion until after the little thing was dead.  Willing something to live isn’t always enough.  (Six or seven years later, and after replacing the olive with a Dawyck Gold beech tree, I still call that patch of grass, ‘The Olive Lawn’  – much to the bewilderment of others).

Deer are a perennial foe but I was grateful at least that they weren’t tempted by eucalypts.  Encouraged by their indifference to three young E. gunnii, I planted another eucalyptus – a beautiful young snow gum – on The Priory drive.  But a deer’s taste is a fickle thing and one morning a year or so later, the small gum tree had been decisively destroyed.  I dug up the stump, put it an a pot to recover and a couple of years later it was big enough to plant within the slightly safer confines of the garden … where, after it had grown higher than my head, deer decisively destroyed it again.  Now, a few months later and still in situ, it has re-sprouted to a height of eight inches; and the deer are licking their lips.

Once, I was haring about the meadow on the ride-on mower and in a hurry, swung round at full pelt to cross the wooden bridge spanning a ditch.  I hit the bridge’s slight step stupidly fast and the mower bucked alarmingly.  As I fought to stay aboard, limbs windmilling, my mobile phone shot from a pocket, described a lovely arc and ker-plunked into three-foot of water – never to work again.  That was expensive.

Or there was the time I lit a smallish bonfire in my garden and, in no time, a fire engine pulled up outside the house, with flashing lights and everything, and a troop of firemen came running at me.  They were terrifically dashing and charming; and after satisfying themselves that the fire was tended by someone borderline competent, shot off again … leaving me a little breathless and wondering whether it all hadn’t been a rather delicious dream.

And years ago, I was browsing the reduced bargains in a plant nursery when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a particularly cheap black bamboo.  Swivelling around to grab it – before anyone else could – I smartly, and in a manner I couldn’t possibly now emulate, tangled up my feet and crashed to the ground.  To this day, when I tell Jim I’m off to inspect the sale items in a garden centre, he’ll softly call after me, “OK but do try not to fall over, dear.”

No major mistakes then, no life-changing circumstance, no death-defying tales but a brief litany of plans not going to plan or plain silly mishaps.

What mistakes have you made?  What buffoonery?  And we know you have, so please do share.  There are no prizes for the best, I’m afraid … only a pat on the shoulder and a consoling “There, there.

72 thoughts on “Gardening Mistakes, Foolishness And Falling Over

  1. Thank you for the giggles, now I dont feel so alone. I make mistakes every year in my garden and all you can do is really is laugh and try not to ever make those same mistakes again, last year I got the bright idea to put straw mulch around my ever-bearer strawberry plants… huge mistake, I had beautiful berries but every single one of them was an alien breeding pod for a baby snail. Not a good mulch choice for strawberries..and made me paranoid now to eat any berries straight from the vine lol oh well, . live and learn , thanks for your post, made me feel a bit better and made me laugh. blessings to ya !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – pleased you like the post (as do I your profile pic). I hate that whole alien breeding pod thing. Biting into an apple only to taste something which really oughtn’t to be there.

      I grew strawberries for the first time at work last year. Lots of fruit were developing nicely and I was getting ready to net them from birds. But before I could, mice and/or voles ate all of them – green. How I chuckled. Not really. D

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes you’re given so much wonderful inspiration these days it’s very easy to fall for individual ideas that are amazing by themselves or grouped with other liked minded ideas, but are a true disaster when great ideas are mixed together. I inherited a garden that was just a true mishmash of plants. You had one lavender plant surrounding by a large variety of solo shrubs and even grape vines! It was such a mix of styles to this day I still don’t understand what they were trying to achieve. However I did once for the beautiful and promise of the easy going grape hyacinth… years later and I’m still digging them out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grape vines in a border? Interesting, sort of. I’ve only ever planted grape hyacinths at the base of some trees in lawns. They can spread out as much as they like but if they do they simply get mowed. Thanks for commenting, Dave

      Like

    • I do hate a pestilent root. I’ve only just learnt how pestilent Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ roots are after a designer put them into a bed. The stems are beautiful now in Feb, but the roots are taking over, I tell you. Taking over. They’re all over the shop. Thank you very much for that final sentence 🙂

      Like

  3. This is brilliant and makes me feel not quite so alone in my gardening mishaps! Last year my Mum gave my little boy a packet of ‘swan gourd’ seeds. The instructions said to plant 60 cm apart in full sun, which I did, not taking into account the the instructions were clearly meant for the damp, grey UK Summers and not for the borderline mediterranean Summers where I live in France. We ended up being cut off from the entire bottom section of our garden, as the vines turned into a jungle. My husband was pretty furious! We are now still waiting for the wretched things to finish curing (28 in total) before my son can paint them (which was the original plan almost a year ago). They are hanging up under our over-hanging roof, moulding away, and making our house looks like something out of a horror movie…I am glad that they thrived, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They sound like a great barrier to burglars and brigands or even stampeding cattle. And a good element for a fairy-tale. You obviously have a knack for growing them. I usually find my gourds and pumpkins mouldering away too. I’m more interested in growing them than harvesting. Sorry your husband was furious, I think you did great. D

      Like

      • Thanks! They were fantastic! I think it was beginners luck more than anything else, although i confess I got a little obsessed and started up a daily “gourd watch” where I would wade in in my wellies to check them all. I completely agree that throwing them is definitely the fun part. They are still as hard as rock outside and feeling incredibly light, so I think that they are almost ready at last!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. When my grandmother was in her mid-80’s, she lived in a high-rise apartment building with ultra-sensitive smoke detectors. Firemen were always stopping by for alarms that mostly ended up being burned toast. I can still hear Grandma saying in utter disgust, “I stood on a ladder and held my toaster up right under the alarm, and I still couldn’t get mine to go off.” All to say, it can’t hurt to light another bonfire.

    My biggest gardening mistake (so far): thinking that Rhus trilobata (aka skunkbush sumac) didn’t smell all that bad and planting it near the living room windows. The odor that was kind of endearing when it was a baby is a little overpowering now that it’s a teenager. Pleasant summer breezes have become pungent ones, alas. Oof. xoStacy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful. I always thoroughly enjoy stories of other people’s pain, more so when they survive unscathed. I did get a nice laugh out of the bonfire incident. Too bad you weren’t able to turn on some music quickly and get a good bet going… either lots of fun then, or just another slightly more awkward moment.
    I have no terrible stories, but a poor memory helps. Maybe if pressed I could remember pruning one of my own fingers, or numerous head collisions with low-hanging boughs… but maybe the later has something to do with my memory lapses.
    Thanks for the laughs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Frank, I’m glad my misfortune has amused you 🙂 I’m with you on the head bumps – too many to count. One especially memorable one was a low wooden doorway into a polytunnel. I walked smack into it and went down like a felled ox. That hurt. I even saw stars – just like Bugs Bunny would have done.

      I’ve found wearing a hat helps when mowing under low branches. The hat tends to get hit before my skull. D

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I was hoping you might offer a suggestion to get rid of horseradish; I planted a very sweet little plant in my herb bed when I started the veg patch, not realising about the roots, the size of the plant etc. Really stupidly, I potted up a piece (having read the idea of planting into a dustbin for getting at the roots more easily) but left that pot on some paving slabs in the garden. Do I need to go on?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry, Caro and no, no need to go on. I suggest Jenny Ruth’s smothering will work but I haven’t tried it. I did try repeated pulling up of new growth in the hope of wearing down the plant but I gave up before it did. If you use weedkiller then I guess that would work too. Or you could just boast to every visitor how marvellous your horseradish is and what a roaring success it has been? D

      Like

  7. We are on acreage in SE Qld. A few years ago my husband was mowing very long grass down the cront of our land and the dry grass got around the exhaust and next thing, a substantial and spreading fire. 3 fire engines attended. I missed all this as I was staying overnight with our daughter in Brisbane. When my husband collected me from the train next morning I could smell smoke. He was wearing his work boots and part of the soles had melted. Then I heard the sad story. Big shock when I saw our paddock. On the upside, our land was cleared – we’d been trying to decide what scrub to clear.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Chris, scary tale but with an upward twist. I had a bonfire a couple of days ago in wet, muddy Sussex and thought then how different it would be lighting one somewhere hot and dry, like California or Greece. It must be a very present danger. I often leave bonfires still smouldering when I leave for the day, knowing that they have no-where to spread, D

      Like

  8. My hubby “helped” me making this mistake in our garden. We had allowed our pumpkin decorations to go moldy on our front porch and failed to compost them in the late fall. Early in the winter, I decided they needed to go in the trash (due to the mold). Hubby noticed it and pulled them out of the trash and set them on a pot in the garden telling me he would take them to the compost bin once the snow melted off a bit. I had my doubts about that idea, but went along with it. Well, Spring came along and now the pumpkins were a sloppy mess. Hubby did take the mess to the compost bin. Well, apparently, our bins didn’t heat up enough to stop the pumpkin seeds from germinating. We didn’t know this so, of course, we spread compost from that bin everywhere in our garden. That was the summer of the “accidental pumpkin patch” when pumpkin vines scrambled through gardens, climbed alongside the roses, and grew alongside our tomatoes. Frustrating for me as a gardener, but a lot of summertime fun for our granddaughter.
    I journaled about this experience on Facebook in 2013. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/cindie-winquist/the-accidental-pumpkin-patch/10151648625214716/

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I built myself a streamside deck with a small overhang out over the water. It’s rather rustic but i’m quite proud of it, being without so much as a GCSE in woodwork. However, when building it I had the posts and bearers in place and laid the long deck boards across them to plan how to position them. they jutted out a foot or so over the water, the plan being to fix them all and then cut a nice straight edge through them all. (I bet you know what’s coming!) I got up to get my tools or to look from a different angle, I can’t remember, and yes, trod on the overhanging ends. Consequently the boards, as they weren’t yet fixed, acted like a see saw, and whilst the other end went up in the air, the end I trod on fell down, along with me, into the stream, leaving me soaking wet and rather flustered, desperately trying to make sure that neither my glasses or mobile phone were washed away and down into the Taff!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • That funny tale rather reminds of Paddington sawing through wood and the job getting progressively harder. He was sawing through the kitchen table as well, of course. I always feel a little Paddington-like when I do any sort of carpentry. Welcome to the club. 🙂

      Like

  10. Glad you mentioned horseradish. I am going to plant that this year, but will now have to arrange for it to be lonely and on its own it seems or it will be horseradish with everything! I did the classic sowing the wildflower seed mix all in one go and not spreading out over the entire bed. After raking it about, it all ended up in lumpy patches rather than majestic swathes of colour. Bees I think were bumping into each other it was so crowded 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well, I don’t like using chemicals, but if asked, I will use lawn treatments. However, rather than using the applicators, which I find don’t work well, I like to hand-broadcast, so that I’ve got more control. Very clever. Except, last time I made the mistake of holding the box by one of the flaps, rather than supporting it underneath. The flap broke, the box fell, and despite my efforts to sweep it all up, on my next visit there was a dead patch on the lawn. Luckily my customer was very understanding!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Understanding customers, eh? Got to love them. What’s nice about prof gardening is that after a while you can drop the customers who are not understanding at all … and even unpleasant customers. Had a couple of the latter but not in a long time. D

      Like

  12. Besides the usual mistake of planting the right plant in the wrong place and vice-versa, I once, in a moment of absent-mindedness, managed to cut my finger whilst pruning. It wasn’t serious but still needed a couple of stitches. The moral is keep alert.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point re the olive, Christina. I didn’t think it was the wet because its site was well drained – compared to other parts of the garden. But you might be right. I know they are pretty hardy but not completely so in the UK. In my other work garden, icy winters have killed off branches on mature trees in the past and once reduced one to ground level. It has since come back. D

      Like

  13. It is comforting that “real” gardeners make mistakes too. Ten years ago I planted Vinca major as ground cover-such pretty flowers! I am still digging it out not only where it was planted but in places not even near where it was intended. Amelia

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dotting a few of those bright and cheery common or garden crocosmia about the place to add a spot of colour to a dull garden… before I knew how they rampage everywhere. Done the forsythia thing too. Not required the attention of the fire service so far but never say never. Ceri

    Liked by 1 person

    • Crocosmia folly, eh? Most of us have been there I think – though I still like it (in the right place). A friend of mine called the fire brigade years ago. He’d forgotten his keys and couldn’t get into his second storey flat. The firemen arrived and using their ladder lifted him up to an open window! After they’d gone he realised he couldn’t get out as the front door was chubbed. He dangled from the window and dropped to the ground. Surprised he didn’t break his neck. D

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Having only just taken on my allotment I haven’t yet had time to make mistakes – just to plant things which get eaten instantly by creatures and vanish. Perhaps the mistake there though is in thinking I could succeed with autumn planted veg. But I’m putting that down to learning rather than mistaking and don’t regret it because I enjoyed the hope while it lasted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I admit to given up on autumn veg the year that all mine got flattened by heavy snowfall – though it hasn’t snowed since so I ought to try again perhaps. And don’t worry, still plenty more time for mistakes – I certainly will make more. D

      Like

  16. Right, I made the horseradish mistake! I planted it just over I year ago in my “secret garden” and harvested some this fall. Holy horseradish! It had long roots! Google it, it cures everything! I made super yummy horseradish sauce, I’m thinking about selling it in my farmstand so I wish people would eat more of it! I’m scared now! It’s really great stuff though! I have been eating it in everything, I am trying to come up with a popsicle recipe that includes horseradish

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love horseradish – hence planting it! I remember my Mum grating fresh roots when I was a nipper, with tears streaming down her face from the scent. Marvellous stuff but a secret garden is the best place for growing it. I would now plant it out in a wild bit of the garden and dig up as and when. Horseradish popsicle, huh? I can’t conceive how that might be. Good luck, D

      Like

  17. Yes, we certainly all have our ‘list.’ My biggest regrets are planting an non-clumping ‘annual’ bamboo that was definitely perennial and Houttuynia cordata, both of which started out variegated, but soon reverted to blah green. They march on and I expect will take over the yard eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This made me laugh! I’ve been here at londoncottagegarden for 30 years but when I didn’t know much, I planted several common jasmine down a boundary border and now it has formed a horrid thicket of tangled stems, never flowers, smothers everything else in the border and is a big pain. I will never ever get it out so I have to live with my mistake. Grrrrrrrr

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel your pain. I struggled with one for several years at The Priory but it always looked horrible. In the end, I sawed it off at ground level and broke off any new growth for a couple of years after. It finally died but it sounds like yours is too mammoth to do the same. Grrr indeed. D

      Like

    • Indeed, and actually sometimes what seem like mistakes early on work out OK. On the rose tunnel, I used to regret not planting all the same variety. But now I’m pleased I didn’t and the variation of colour and form is lovely. D

      Like

  19. I’ve done many a silly thing in the garden. Your horseradish experience I did with mint- a classic mistake. Now, I know to put it in a nice big pot and elevate it off the ground on brick bats or pot feet with a good base of gravel to sit on. So far, the roots air prune themselves and the mint has not migrated.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I just wanted to thank you, feeling way better about myself, this is the most coordinated and collected I’ve felt in some time. 🙂
    I’m not really much of a gardener, so the only story that comes to mind, is when I was a kid, sent out to weed, I painstakingly weeded out every carrot seedling, from a bed of carrots. Didn’t realize they’d also interplanted radishes there, on purpose, and I thought it was a radish bed.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Oh, I did laugh at this. You probably can’t be called a gardener if these sort of things haven’t happened to you. My most expensive error was to not go down and clear the snow off the polytunnel. It buckled and caved in and I spent the next three years crawling into it on my hands and knees until I could afford another one!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s pretty awful, Joy and I don’t suppose I would have foreseen it either. Makes me a little grateful that we get next to no snow here in Sussex – but only a little grateful. I do miss snow … but then I have no polytunnel. Glad you liked the post and you eventually got a new tunnel, D

      Like

  22. I keep empty paraffin bottles full of water in the greenhouse over winter to act as a heat sink. I no longer light the stove, it wasnt worthwhile. Except the one I picked to water a desperately thirsty plant last spring still had paraffin in it…

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Off to readvertise for a gardener. Current applicants need not reapply! The trick with horseradish and other similarly rampant things is to double pot. A large pot with holes placed in a larger pot without holes. There’s a bit more to it but I’m sure you can work that out. Just a bit of lateral thinking (after a night at the pub this can be easier). Lighting a bonfire and then phoning the Fire Brigade to put it out was a bit cheeky (and hopeful). Charles has on his blog this week a nifty mobile phone holder which might help a boy racer like you.

    Like

    • Gosh but you’re a hard taskmaster, Johnny Kingdon. All that sadness above and the sack as well. Blimey.

      I’d fear that in a secondary pot with no holes, the horseradish might rot in all our rain – but tbh I would like it to rot. I should have just planted it in a shady corner in the ‘wilds’ somewhere of course. And perhaps my Fire Brigade adventure was cheeky but hey, it paid off. D

      Like

Any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.