Learning from mistakes in the garden

A little over a month ago I planted our plot in the community garden. An odd thing happened. The plants didn’t die, but they also haven’t really grown. Basically they look pretty much like they did when I planted them in early July. I’d thought I’d be sharing photos with you showing how much it’d grown. But no.

I thought maybe it was because I sometimes missed a day watering, so I got better about that. Maybe the soil didn’t have enough food; I got some Miracle Grow and fed it last week.
My dad is a Master Gardener and teaches classes in gardening and landscape design. So last night I called him and told him about the plants neither growing nor dying.

Dad: So did you harden them off?
Me: What’s that?
Dad: Uh oh.

Apparently, this creepy stasis is exactly what happens when plants aren’t hardened off. Hardening off is a process of gradually exposing plants to the elements of their new environment so they can adjust. In contrast, I just planted them in a windy bed with nearly full sun, gave them a good watering, and went about my day.

My dad told me a story of making the same mistake when he was about my age and we were living in Seward, Alaska. Though it’s frustrating to have spent time and money on plants that aren’t going to grow, this is one mistake I’ll never make again!

This has me thinking about how we learn. After so many years in school, my default approach to learning many things is to get a book and read it. After The Resident and I got engaged I bought A Practical Wedding and Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding and read them cover-to-cover. I’m getting better at ArcGIS by working through a book on that.

The problem is that there’s always more reading. I’m sure plenty of gardening books and websites warn people to harden things off. But I hadn’t read that yet, and we’re unlikely to research solutions to problems we don’t know exist. Plus I wanted to do something.

I once attended a workshop on how people learn where the facilitator remarked that people often learn the most by things going terribly wrong. That about sums it up.

One thought on “Learning from mistakes in the garden

  1. Pingback: Learning from successes in the garden | Russell Bither-Terry

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