Embracing mistakes

How I am secretly a bad gardener, and that is allowed!

It would not be a major leap to say that the majority of people who garden do so to chill out. We live busy lives and I know I spend most of my time in front of various screens, so gardening for me is an escape.

Recently though, I’ve been comparing my gardening practice to others. Every time I see another gardener posting on social media about how well their season is going my brain goes into comparison mode, ‘My beans aren’t growing as fast as theirs’, ‘Their dahlias are producing more flowers’, ‘My cucumber seeds all died and theirs look amazing’, ‘Their grass is literally greener than mine’. Social media is doing its neat little trick again and creating unrealistic standards for gardens.

So, I’ve decided to show you my dirty laundry. I’m going to bear to you my top mistakes of this year: what plants I’ve ruined, what I did wrong, and how I could have prevented this issue. Consider this your permission to make mistakes as I take you through some of my top doozies this year.

My Poor Fig Tree

Plant: Fig tree 
Issue: The top is dead. 
Reason for Issue: I did not cover it in horticultural fleece through winter.

Okay, this one stings. My fig tree, taken from a cutting in Beechgrove garden, was one of my favourite plants in the container garden. It gave me two years of beautiful leaves and some very promising almost figs (that were greedily plucked off by squirrels before they had a chance to ripen), before I thoughtlessly ruined its growing habit.

As I did not protect it over a particularly chilly winter by putting it in the shed or giving it some horticultural fleece, the top few inches on the tree died. This means that now that it’s starting to grow again, it is popping out new growth in random directions! It doesn’t look too bad right now but it does mean that my wee twig in a pot is never going to grow vertically, instead it’s going to start branching out which does not make for a good container plant.  

Sidenote: Nobody grass me in to Beechgrove saying that I’ve ruined a perfectly good tree they gifted me, okay? 

Fig tree 2019
Fig tree 2021

All the Seeds I’ve Killed

Plant: Numerous
Issue: They are dead. 
Reason for Issue: I’m an idiot.

Sometimes life gets in the way of being a good seed mother. One day they are doing just fine, the next they are a bit crowded, and the next they have used up all their nutrients in their wee tray and they are dead.

I personally love sowing seeds! I sow everything and anything but pricking out, that’s another story! It seems that I always need to prick out my seeds out when I am at my busiest. When I can barely find a minute in the day to eat, let alone spend ages individually handling and lovingly potting on tiny little seedlings. 

One day I am going to have this down and there shall be no more seed casualties in the Bloom household but today is not that day. RIP to all those I have lost, I am sorry I killed you.

My Ridiculous Borlotti Tower

Plant: Borlotti beans
Issue: I didn’t give them the support they needed. 
Reason for Issue: I was too busy to go to the allotment. 

Even when I remember to prick out and look after my seeds, sometimes I fall at the last hurdle. These beans should have been planted out on my allotment with a tall and substantial support system but because I was swamped I just planted them haphazardly on the balcony, caned them and hoped for the best. 

How it looked when it was planted. 

Four weeks later, my bean tower is predictably ready to collapse. I have to pass by it to go through the door to the balcony garden and every time I do, its tendrils brush pass me, grabbing me, as if to say, ‘You could have saved us! We could have had a good life!’ Ah well, I guess I can still enjoy the three or four beans the tower eventually produces. 

Bean tower!

Bolting Pak Choi

Plant: Pak choi. 
Issue: They bolted.  
Reason for Issue: It was too hot and it was not picked quickly enough.

Sometimes I have a perfectly healthy plant, I turn around and, as if by magic, it’s bolted. This year, Scotland decided to have 3 – 4 sweltering days (a whole 3 – 4!) and I had a whole crop of pak choi decide to bolt very quickly. I decided though to keep them around for a bit and enjoy the gorgeous blooms. If anyone asks, I let them bolt on purpose! 

My bolted pak choi

My Un-pruned Lavender I Can’t Bear to Part With

Plant: Lavender
Issue: It’s scraggly. 
Reason for issue: I didn’t prune it.

We all have that one plant which we don’t want to get rid of but we don’t want to display. Mine is my lavender. If I hide it just right, it looks great! Snuggled in the corner of my container garden, mostly hidden, it adds a good deal of height and fullness to the space which makes my balcony look more like a garden paradise. 

How the lavender looks while hidden

If, however, I dare to move it from its covert position, it looks like a straggly mess. 

My scraggly lavender

This was one of my first plants on the balcony garden back in 2017, so we are forever attached and there is no chance this mess is going anywhere. 

Lucy Bloom is a container gardener living on the side of the Forth and Clyde canal. Lucy has been gardening for five years and has been on Beechgrove three times showing off her wee balcony in Maryhill. Her gardening philosophy is: buy local, recycle, keep it cheap, and balance beauty with practicality. 

You can follow Lucy on her YouTube channel to keep up with and all the news from her wonderful container garden and recently acquired allotment. 

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