I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my garden over the years, and probably will continue to stumble my way through more in the years to come. But every mistake is a chance to learn, and there are only some mistakes that I repeat (sins like plant crowding and unwittingly unleashing invasive spreaders such as this variegated artemesia).
This came to mind when I read an article by Joe Lamp’l, host of “Growing a Greener World” on PBS, on his latest garden mistake: He found that the manure he was getting had lingering herbicide (aminopyralid, clopyralid and picloram) that affected his perennials (but sadly not his weeds). So his lesson learned was never use manure in garden beds if you are not sure of the chemicals used in the field that fed the animals. You can read more about it here: www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/213304681.html
My worst mistake was a doozy, and I still can’t believe I got by with it. I came home one day to find the rabbits had mowed down most of my coral bells. So I grabbed the spray bottle to douse the few remaining leaves with a pepper-based product that’s harmless, but acts as a deterrent because it makes the leaves less tasty.
Or at least I thought I did.
Somehow or another the spray bottles on the shelf were shuffled around and I grabbed one I didn’t even realize we had: Round Up. I doused about 10 feet of garden before I realized my horrific mistake. Oh, that was a bad moment.
I frantically Googled what to do. Apparently just hosing down the plants was thought to be a bad idea, because that could spread it further. (And did I mention that this strip of garden was right next to my neighbor’s fence? I knew someone who had used way too much Round Up on the weeds on her lawn and had killed not only her weeds, but her grass and sent streaks of brown grass through her neighbor’s pristine suburban lawn that lasted all year. Yikes.) So I very carefully wiped off every plant leaf with a damp cloth multiple times and then rinsed them off. And waited, knowing that the results of herbicide can take a while to set in. The next morning, still no signs of plant trauma, although my trauma was still in full force. No signs that night either, or ever, as it turns out, and more importantly, no signs of problems with my neighbor’s lawn.
So other than a half hour of panic and frenzy, and several days of chagrin, there was no harm done. But that’s one lesson that will stick with me, and now wire cloches protect those same coral bells from the latest generations of rabbits.
So, what’s the worst garden mistake you ever made?
Luckily, whatever mistakes we make, our gardens are fairly forgiving.