Garden Failures – What To Do

by Suzan Ferreira
Garden Failures - What To Do one single onion sprout in soil

Anyone who gardens or has tried to grow something knows that garden failures happen. Garden failures happen even to the most experienced of gardeners as well as beginners alike. It’s what we do with those failures that will determine the fate of your next gardening attempt.


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We hear it all the time. I would love to grow a garden but I have a “black thumb”! Or I just can’t seem to get anything to grow or keep it alive.

With a few good tips on approaching your next garden mindfully, growing something this year whether in a pot or on a larger scale is an achievable goal for anyone. Black thumb or no.

There is nothing any worse than putting in the time, the energy, and the resources needed to create a garden and have it grow beautifully and produce little to no fruit. Yup, speaking from experience here. It can be discouraging to say the least.

By taking proactive steps & learning from your mistakes will make all the difference in creating a garden you can be proud of.

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments.”

Janet kilburn


I read somewhere (if this was you that said this let me know, it’s brilliant), that failure is the key to success and it’s the mistakes that teaches us. How true! Every “failure” in the garden experienced over the years has taught valuable lessons. Lessons that create future successes.

I’m not a fussy gardener. I tend to have the gardening outlook, you live or die, attitude. Don’t get me wrong. I tend the garden, see to it’s watering needs, weed when I absolutely have to, and fertilize when I remember. Needless to say, there have been many disappointments in our garden over the years.

It’s these “failures” that have taught lessons. It may be the way I trellised our tomatoes one year (they literally fell over with the weight of them), or planting the wrong variety of carrots for long term storage (they weren’t so long term after all), or even adding compost at the wrong time and wondering why my plants weren’t flourishing the way they normally did in the past.

All these lessons didn’t go unnoticed. They were recorded, made note of, and many never repeated 🙂 Re-inforced posts were put into place the following year for the tomatoes, different varieties of carrots grown specifically for storage purposes were planted, and learning when to fertilize for the benefit of the plants made all the difference in the outcome of our garden.


Keep a gardening journal. This may be the best tip for any new gardener. Learn to track your garden. What was planted, where it was planted, how much was planted, and make note of any significant issues you faced during your growing season as well as what you would do differently.

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My favorite gardening journal? My own! This is where all the gardening successes (planted, #’s produced, stored & canned) is noted. It’s also where all our failures are noted for next year’s planting.

I’ve created these beautiful, easy to download, printables with gardener’s of all levels in mind. Simply print out the sheets as often as you need, and add to a binder or folder year-to-year.

Garden Management Planner image displaying all 25 beautifully curated pages available to download

Don’t be in the position of growing a garden, having it fail, and then trying to remember what went wrong and how it went wrong six months later. It’s never too late to begin journaling your growing season. Grab your set in our Etsy Shop and get started today!


When you experience garden failure look at the causes. Was it something out of your control? Droughts, natural disasters, increased pest infestations occur occassionally and are out of our control.

Should the cause of your garden failure be due to an “out of your control situation”, give your garden style & method another try. It may not be due to anything you did.

What exactly is garden style & method? “Vegetable Gardening Styles & Methods” goes into detail about how to determine your best approach to gardening. Simply put garden style is the hardscape of the garden. The physical makeup of the garden space. Gardening methods refer to how the garden is planted and maintained.

“gardening is a very humbling experience”

Martha stewart

If you are unsure whether the failures were due to circumstances out of your control or something you may have done (or not done), have a backup plan.

Garden Failures - What To Do image of allium seed heads in a productive garden setting

Planting a raised bed? Add a few pots of your favorites in addition to the raised bed. Planting a row garden? Add a few different varities or an extra row or two and approach the way you grow them a bit differently. Be sure to journal as you go on this one! You may think you will remember, but believe me, by the end of the growing season you won’t. Just sayin’…


When you experience garden failures, especially if this happens multiple times, it’s time to take an in-depth look at the why’s. Why is your garden failing? By determining the “why’s”, solutions can then be implemented.

This is where, again, that garden journal can come in handy. Review it. Study it. Determine best you can why it failed.

Maybe it was due to incorrect watering (not enough or maybe too much), or possibly the plants were not sown at the correct time (too short a growing season), or maybe you bit off more than you could chew (planting too large a garden with no time to tend it properly).

Garden Failures - What To Do display of sunflowers in vase showing gardening success
Garden Failures – What To Do Reap The Rewards Of Your Successes

Whatever, the reason, determine it and make the appropriate adjustments. Once you determine the “why” you are armed with the knowledge to create success the next round!

Note your successes as well! Typically, when a garden fails there will still be a win in there. So you didn’t get the bushels of tomatoes you had hoped to can for the winter. Were you able to enjoy eating a few fresh throughout the grow season? Pat yourself on the back & consider it a job well done no matter how small the wins 🙂


Now that you have determined the “why” of your failure, you can now research and institute appropriate gardening methods and styles.

You may need to incorporate a single method & style or it may take several approaches to get the end results you desire.

For instance, you may have little time to tend the garden weeding & watering. Consider mulching heavily to suppress the weeds and install a drip irrigation system on a timer. Voila! Problem solved.

Or perhaps you have poor, hard-packed soil making it almost impossible to plant anything. Raised beds to the rescue!

Where there is a will, there is a way. Especially when it comes to gardening.


By simply researching the plant or seed you are planting, it’s growth habit, watering requirements, and light needs you can reduce garden failures greatly.

For example, trying to grow carrots and not thinning them as you grow will set you up for big failure. Or at least tiny carrots 🙂 “Thinning Carrots The No Waste Way” gives some great info on how to do this with your crop.

You are already ahead of the curve when you know what you grow in your garden!


As the quote from Janet Kilburn states, “there are no gardening mistakes, only experiments”, view your garden as an experiment instead of a failure. Look at it as an opportunity to learn. To learn new methods & approaches, or possibly what new crops, herbs, or flowers to grow.


Here are a few of my “experiments” encountered over the years and what we’ve learned from them. Hopefully they can help you before beginning your grow season 🙂

  • Planting In An A Bad Spot – Read those seed packets or directions that come with the plant you’ve purchased from the nursery! Be attentive to light requirements, watering needs, and spacing requirements. Don’t be like us when planting our first year and wondering why our carrots were the size of my thumb due to lack of thinning!
  • Planting Too Early Or Too Late – Gardening in NE can be tricky at times with our weather. We have experienced years where we experience snow in April! Planting too early will only result in loss of time, seed/plants, & money if the weather turns and kills any hope of viability. On the other hand, planting too late may result in lack of production. No one wants a huge green tomato plant with no tomatoes!
  • Ignoring The Condition Of Your Soil – The end result of your gardening efforts begins and ends with the condition of your soil. Have your soil tested if it’s a new bed at your local states extension office to determine the condition of your soil. Amend accordingly. Plan on adding compost or leaf mold at the end of each growing season that can be easily turned under to prepare for the next grow season.
  • Planting Too Much – It’s easy to plant too much for your needs or gardening space. We can pack a lot into a small space, but realize the more you grow, the more care they need. It can easily be overwhelming. Grow a few of your favorite choices to begin and then increase your options as you grow in knowledge each year.
  • Testing Seed For Viability – As you can see from my picture below, guess what step was ignored with the onion seed? Nothing worse than planting and getting one single onion germinated 🙂
  • Ignoring Spacing Requirements – Planting too close together can often result in little to no crop or flowers/herbs. When first planting those small seedlings or plants, it’s easy to forget they grow. Some grow very large in height and width. Ignoring appropriate spacing requirements can end in disaster. Often in disease (no air-flow), stunted production (little to no fruit, flower or herb), and in worse case scenario, death.
  • Procrastinating Maintenance – Putting off general care & maintenance (weeding, watering, feeding) of your garden beds is not something recommended. Taking a “week” off from your gardening chores can and will (speaking from experience here) result in stressed plants often bolting or going to seed, overgrown weeds that can overtake & ultimately harm the plants you actually want to grow.
  • No Fencing/Protection – Wildlife love gardens. No matter where you live, some sort of wildlife issues will be present. We keep bees. The first years of keeping our hives, we chose to position them in an area with no fencing protection. Needless to say, 2 hives were decimated due to our oversight. We have bear to thank for that. Protecting your garden no matter how large or small from wildlife is key to enjoying any harvest.
  • Succession Planting – When we first began gardening we direct sowed (planting the seeds directly into the garden) all our lettuce and salad greens. Thinking we would be enjoying wonderful salad greens all summer long from this planting. Nope. Lettuce easily bolts & becomes bitter the older the plant. Succession planting resolves this issue by planting new seeds/plants every two weeks or so.
  • Mulching – Oh the time wasted for many years on weeding in between those well placed rows. Save time & your back and mulch. Mulch heavily. You’ll thank me in the long run.
Garden Failures - What To Do single onion plant germinating in soil


So you had large losses of your tomato plants last growing season from pests or disease. Researching remedies that are appropriate for your gardening area and approach to gardening early can mean saving or losing your crop.

Educating yourself through research, talking with other gardeners in your area, and learning from your gardening failures all result in one thing. A great garden. One that will produce large harvests & reap big rewards.

Garden Failures - What To Do pin created for Pinterest

Through a bit of determination, education, & perserverance, turning those garden failures into successes is possible! Hopefully this guidance can be used & implemented in your next gardening endeavor. May they all be bountiful and rewarding!

Still need further assistance? Consider joining our garden group for all levels of experience and ask away! It’s a free resource anyone can take advantage of! Click the image below to join today.

Organically Rooted Garden Group 728x90 banner image showing hand holding garlic with roots and name of facebook group

Do you have gardening failures or successes you want to share? Connect & join the conversation by commenting below!

Love, Light, & Laughter ~

Signature of Suzan from It's My Sustainable Life


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Kelly February 23, 2021 - 2:16 am

I definitely procrastinate maintenance! Thanks for sharing with us on the Homestead Blog Hop. And for putting together the printables. I’m really excited about the garden this year. Hoping to get into better habits.

Jo (A Rose Tinted World) February 22, 2021 - 10:24 am

Some great tips here. One of my favourites is the journal of what works and what doesn’t. My back yard has a northeast aspect, which means that it does not get a lot of afternoon light. I really need to remember that when choosing plants.

Beth A Shields June 8, 2020 - 12:44 pm

Great suggestions. Thanks. Love the garden journal – never thought of that.

Marilyn Lesniak April 2, 2020 - 12:36 am

Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Pleas stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

Cindy April 1, 2020 - 3:48 am

I great post! I’ve definitely had my share of garden failures and I’ve learned from all of them. I love the idea of keeping a garden journal. I have not done that.

Tamara Reid March 30, 2020 - 8:24 pm

Thanks for sharing this on the Farm Fresh Tuesday Blog Hop! I will be featuring it in my blog hop post tomorrow!! 🙂

Suzan Ferreira March 31, 2020 - 2:35 pm

Thank you so much, Tamara!

Melissa Jones March 28, 2020 - 5:24 am

Great tips! We used to have a small garden in our backyard, but have not had one in several years! Maybe this summer!!

Sarah @ The DIY Mommy March 27, 2020 - 8:19 pm

Lots of great considerations to make along the way. Great post to step back and adjust a few things before the planting season truly begins. Thanks for sharing!!

April Key C. Rode March 27, 2020 - 3:32 pm

Reading this blog it reminds me of my mother who is an agriculturist. We always traveled and meet farmers for them to teach them how to grow the seeds and take care of the crops properly so it can pass inspection.

Suzan Ferreira March 27, 2020 - 7:12 pm

What an interesting job! Thank you so much, April, for stopping by & taking the time to read!

Liz March 26, 2020 - 2:20 pm

The pictures are beautiful!!!

Noelle March 24, 2020 - 8:05 pm

It’s good to know that failures happen, and it’s not just a beginner’s experience.

Jason Gowin March 24, 2020 - 6:56 pm

I keep considering starting a garden and this post did give some great information especially about the journal keeping that I found to be encouraging enough that maybe this year I’ll finally pull the trigger

Kendra March 24, 2020 - 5:52 pm

Great post! My typical failures are 99% due to Procrastinating Maintenance. Last year, however, it was a result of a small hole in the fence that gave entry to our new foster dog that proceeded to eat ALL of the plants! Thankfully he didn’t get sick, but the garden got a very late start after having to start all over again after that. This year, our yard will be pet free, but we’ll have to keep an eye out for any squirrels, bunnies, or birds that decide to play.

Suzan Ferreira March 25, 2020 - 11:48 am

Animal life no matter the source can certainly wreck havoc! Good luck this year & happy planting!

jen March 24, 2020 - 4:07 pm

Ha! Sharing this with my mom who insists she has a black thumb!

Suzan Ferreira March 25, 2020 - 11:48 am

Thanks for the share Jen!

Jaci March 24, 2020 - 2:26 pm

Great info! Looking forward to starting a small garden when we move into a house!

Sydney Delong March 24, 2020 - 2:21 pm

I would have never thought of keeping a journal! Great advice!!

ANgela March 24, 2020 - 2:12 pm

I won’t share how many garden failures we have had – oh my!

Lina March 24, 2020 - 10:08 am

I do not have a green thumb but I am determined to have a garden this year. I yard is so shaded but we have cleared out some trees providing more sunlight. Hoping to get a veggie garden going.

Suzan Ferreira March 24, 2020 - 2:53 pm

How exciting, Lina! Let me know if you have any questions along the way. Happy growing!

Jennifer March 24, 2020 - 1:55 am

Thank you for the worthwhile post about garden failures. It’s a good learning curve.

Debbi H March 23, 2020 - 11:35 pm

This is such helpful information…especially for a ‘black thumb’ like me. 🙂 I will keep this in mind when we have room for a garden again. Thank you!

Sandi March 23, 2020 - 11:13 pm

Yes, mistakes are just learning opportunities,

Lisa March 23, 2020 - 11:04 pm

Thank. you for these tips! I have held off on gardening because I am so afraid I will not be able to maintain it, but this gives me more confidence.

Suzan Ferreira March 24, 2020 - 2:54 pm

Give it a go! You may surprise yourself!

Adrienne B Redeling March 23, 2020 - 10:53 pm

As with anything, it is best to learn from our mistakes instead of giving up! Great tips!

Tiffany March 23, 2020 - 7:56 pm

So many things that can go amiss and have to admit have experienced most of them (but no bear has stolen anything from my gardens!). Always trying to adapt to the next year and learn from the last!

Brianna Fitzgerald March 23, 2020 - 7:35 pm

This is so helpful! I think gardening can be sometimes humbling because we don’t have complete control of the results. Very informative post as always 🙂

Lisa March 23, 2020 - 6:59 pm

I love the quote “gardening is a humbling experience”

Debbie March 23, 2020 - 4:56 pm

Such good info. Tying to avoid garden failures this year. Or at least as many. haha

Suzan Ferreira March 24, 2020 - 2:55 pm

LOL! That is the goal!

Christina Siwik March 23, 2020 - 4:29 pm

My husband likes to garden. Some excellent information here.

Hillari March 23, 2020 - 3:22 pm

I really love this article! There are so many lessons to be learned here (in an outside of gardening). Thank you for your recommendations and suggestions – this is so great!

Suzan Ferreira March 24, 2020 - 2:57 pm

So glad you found it useful, Hillari! Thank you for reading.

Jill DeMasi March 23, 2020 - 3:14 pm

Thanks for the info, Suzan! I always learn so much from your posts. I definitely have a black thumb when it comes to all planting! You will be my first go-to when I decide to venture out and start my garden!

Beth Shields March 23, 2020 - 2:55 pm

Well I love this stuff. I am just not able to have a garden – all rock here in the dessert. And my containers get eaten up by rabbits and squirrels…like in seconds. But enjoy reading and seeing your success and lessons. My daughter and grandkids are starting seeds and transferring them to pots – they are in a cold area of the country and doing great with them. So fun to watch! Thanks.

Erica Pittenger March 23, 2020 - 2:30 pm

This is wonderful! Good ideas! I tell everyone, I kill grass! I’m horrible at growing things! My husband bought me a dwarf lemon tree for my birthday and my first thought was, great something else to keep alive! (We have three kids) I love the journal idea!! Definitely going to try it!

Diane Kurzava March 23, 2020 - 2:27 pm

My husband is very successful with growing herbs outside (as well as in our vegetable garden), and this year decided to set up a spot inside to grow them all year round. I bought him a journal to record it all! We love fresh herbs so hoping this goes well for him! Thanks for the tips 🙂

Lisa March 23, 2020 - 1:58 pm

I have experienced a lot of garden fails, these tips on what to do will help greatly. Thank you for sharing.

Cora March 23, 2020 - 12:56 pm

I love your suggestions to people to MULCH! We are planting a very large garden this year (have a road-side stand) and will be using a lot of mulch!! Otherwise we would not be able to keep up for sure. 🙂

Michele Morin March 23, 2020 - 12:12 pm

I’ve experienced a LOT of failures in my 30 years of gardening, but there’s never been a garden that was a complete loss, and all the mistakes are pretty cheap tuition.

Suzan Ferreira March 24, 2020 - 2:59 pm

I couldn’t agree more, Michele! Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Dee | Grammy's Grid March 23, 2020 - 2:55 am

Good to know and I’ve had failures as I do not have a green thumb. However, I do better with veggies than I do flowers 🙂 Thanks so much for linking up with me at my #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 10, open March 1 to 26. All entries shared on social media if share buttons installed. I’d like to invite you to check out my other current link parties!

Joanne March 22, 2020 - 1:08 pm

I have only tried container gardening and have had such an awful time with it… some years it was out of my control like when the tomatoes got blight or it rained every single day all day long for what felt like the whole summer and my lettuce drown (it looked and felt like seaweed!) but other times I honestly just didn’t know what I was doing and got big green flourishing plants that never produced vegetables. But I keep on trying because I do enjoy it… even if it often frustrates me.

Suzan Ferreira March 23, 2020 - 11:38 am

It certainly can be challenging, especially when Mother Nature has her own ideas. Good luck this year & happy planting!

Lori March 18, 2020 - 2:39 pm

I’ve had more gardening fails than I can count, but you are right – it’s all about learning lessons for the next planting season. Never give up! Now I am passing advice to my son, who is building his creating his first raised bed garden. We all have to remember that plants are living things and as such, can be unpredictable. Thanks for another thorough post!

Holly March 23, 2020 - 12:44 pm

Great tips and advice, sometimes we try things and when we fail we just give up, but gardening is so ” fruitful ” it’s worth learning from those failures!

Michelle March 18, 2020 - 2:34 pm

Great tips! I’ve had my fair share of garden failures, often the result of trying to do things in a hurry. I have gotten some of the best tips talking with other gardeners in my area. I will strike up a garden conversation anytime!


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