“Thanks for allowing me to fail over and over”, followed by a peck on the cheek. That was my wife’s greeting to me this morning while eating breakfast. An idea she had for a dessert for the garden club didn’t turn out as planned the night before.
Why is it we fear failure, or worse, are ashamed of failure? Why do some of us fear it while others shrug it off without a second thought?
Fortunately gardening seems to be one activity at which we allow ourselves to fail. A plant or tree will die and we plant another. Then it dies and we often blindly plant yet another tree. Stubbornness can be a good thing. Throwing good money after bad? Not so good. At some point we need to try to figure out why a plant has failed in a particular spot.
Here are just a few reasons to consider or investigate when a plant doesn’t thrive or meets its demise.
- Cultural conditions don’t match the plant’s needs. Too little or too much sun? Too little or too much moisture?
- Improper planting – was too much root exposed or was soil piled over the top of the existing root ball? Either can cause a plant’s premature death.
- Was the plant infected with a disease or attacked by a harmful insect?
- Did the weather come into play with an exceptionally cold winter, or hot dry summer?
- Did you under- or over-water the plant?
Here’s one we often hear: We have five of the same shrubs seemingly planted in the same manner and cultural conditions, and cared for the same, and one dies. What gives? Often there may be a slight change in conditions that we don’t recognize. One end of a row of plants may be nearer to a tree, or close to a down spout. In the former the soil gets drier closer to the tree, while in the latter the soil may be staying wet longer near the downspout. Sometimes a plant might just be a little weaker than the other four. While the others survive, the conditions were just a little too tough for the weaker plant. Plants are like people, we are not all the same.
Back to accepting failures. In gardening it’s going to happen. No matter how careful we are or how much experience we have, Mother Nature throws curve balls. Don’t give up when things go wrong, but do try to figure out what went awry before replanting. And of course you can always ask us for help in determining what may have caused a plant to die.