I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the garden. (Well, if we’re being completely honest here, that’s not the only place I’ve tripped up!) But as it happens, being afraid of mistakes wasn’t one of them. In this post, I’m going to share why that’s a good thing and why you don’t need to be afraid of making design mistakes in your garden.

Photo Credit: aimee rivers
Check out Aimee’s beautiful comment about mistakes!

To give you some context, I remember my Dad always planting a big vegetable garden when I was a kid. There was a beautiful Harrison’s Yellow Rose in one corner, a border of red raspberries on one side of the garden, and a grape arbor on the other. A little orchard of dwarf fruit trees covered the lawn adjacent to the veggie patch.

When I grew up, got married, had a child, had another on the way, and we bought our little white house, I knew just what I was going to grow: flowers out front and a kitchen garden in the sunny spot at the top of the driveway.

Specialty seed catalogs began arriving in the mail. I ordered ten yards of cow manure from a local farmer. (Yes, you read that right and those would be cubic yards, by the way.) Shod in Wellingtons and garden forks in hand, we got busy bringing my vision to life.

Reality Rears Its Ugly Head

What I didn’t count on in this idyllic vision of homesteading was the reality of myself.

My vegetable gardens always started off beautifully, but every year, my attention would start to wane. It seemed to me that while I turned my back for a moment, lettuce bolted, zucchini became club-sized, weeds proliferated wildly.

This sent my husband, who’s very practical and a bit of a neatnik, into a lather of frustration.

I tried different things. Maybe a different location for the vegetable garden would be the answer. Maybe a different method: lasagna gardening, intensive gardening? But the results were always the same because I was the same.

Eventually, it dawned on me that maybe I should try something other than traditional vegetable gardening. Something that could thrive in the care of a gardener who was not addicted to doing maintenance.


That’s when I decided to try a meadow garden, grown from purchased plugs (plugs are just small, young plants) rather than from seed. And that’s when I got this:

Yes, I had mistakes, disappointments, and a few arguments with my husband along the way. But the takeaway is this:

  • Mistakes and experiments led to clarity.
  • Skills were being developed and honed even while I was failing.
  • Clarity led to success.

Truly, you don’t need to be afraid of mistakes. Regardless, you’re bound to make a few; everyone does. As long as you look at them that way, they’re simply data points. They’re not a judgment on you.

Granted, a garden is a public space in some ways. If you make a mistake, people see it. And chances are, we’d all like our public image to be one of competence.

But on the other hand, if you let yourself be too afraid of failing, that fear will keep you from getting started at all.

So be courageous! Start small, but start – knowing you’re going to make some missteps along the way. Examine your mistakes. Think about them. Draw conclusions. Try again. Every time you do, you’re one step closer to success.

That’s been my experience, but I’d really like to hear about yours. If you’re willing to share:

Have you ever experienced mistakes as stepping-stones to success?
If so, can you see that experience translating into your garden?