garden-disasterFirst, there was the year the slugs ate everything.  And I mean everything.

Then there was the one where it was rainy and cold right through til the end of July (not terribly inspiring for anything but greens).  And who could forget 2012, when I didn’t even plant a garden because something else always got in the way on the weekends and next thing I knew it was November.

Anyone who has grown food in any capacity has at least one story about a disaster or many that has overtaken their attempts at self-reliance at one time or another.  Thankfully for most of us, we have alternatives when we can’t feed ourselves from our own gardens like we’d planned, but it wasn’t all that long ago that a bad harvest meant a very hungry winter.

So as those of us in the northern hemisphere start planning and planting for the coming growing season, I thought I’d share some of the responses we got on our Facebook page when we asked the question, “What was your biggest veggie gardening disaster?”  I think you’ll find the answers instructive – vegetable gardening tips from real gardeners!

Here’s what our Facebook friends say NOT to do when it comes to vegetable gardening:

  • “An escaped goat herd!!”
  • “Blossom end blight – didn’t get a single tomato or eggplant the whole season.”
  • “Last year I went in to the hospital the kids forgot to water my garden.”
  • “I didn’t think about the neighbors stealing everything.”
  • “Moles.”
  • “My dog developing a taste for fresh veggies!”
  • “The first batch of chickens I got.”
  • “Something tiny, and I’m still not sure what, pierced all (+/- 250) of my turnips below ground. Every one of them was a quarter to a third rotted at harvest. I think I set a record for heavy sighs that day.”
  • “Planting a 75 foot row of okra in a garden in central Virginia. No one can eat that much okra.”
  • “Dehydrated some garden beds by mulching with peat moss–needed to dig it in or cover it with soil. The drying stressed the plants… and then the bugs came. Live and learn!?”
  • “After getting a late spring frost I lost all my tomato and pepper plants, a Mennonite neighbor told me the plants would probably still come up from soil level. I ignored his advice and replanted everything in another part of the garden. He was right, I canned all I could and still ended up giving buckets of peppers and tomatoes away.”
  • “Cabbages, I had a ground hog eating a head a day. We didn’t get any.”
  • “Planted in a low spot and during spring rains 4 years ago, my garden got mold on squash and tomatoes!”
  • “Thinking I was planting watermelons and it was actually pumpkins. I ended up making a lot of pumpkin butter though so that was cool.”
  • “I had 75 broccoli plants, days away from being harvested when grounghogs came in and wiped them out in 24 hours. It hurt even more that I had started them from seeds!”
  • “I planted a few rows of corn near an irrigation ditch. Turn out the banks of the ditch were like a super highway for racoons. I didn’t have much corn that year.”
  • “My dad covered some berries with a net to keep the birds out until a bird got under the net and killed itself trying to get away and he decided the net wasn’t worth it.”
  • “The summer every single ear of corn was infested with earwigs! Eeeeeeewwwwwww!!”
  • “A couple years ago as an inexperienced gardener (still am) I decided to start a bunch of seeds in February in Pennsylvania! Most were just ruined from starting way to early and not being able to transplant.”
  • “A 4-hour hailstorm when we lived in Colorado. That was the end of my garden for the year.”
  • “Here’s a real dumb one. I thought since Round-up stopped photo synthesis, that I could shield the plants and spray the weeds between the plants. It rained a half hour later, soaked into the roots and killed half of my plants and stunted the rest. I had to replant everything.”
  • “When a bunny snuck in under the deer fence and chomped all my beanstalks when they were blossoming, lost just about the whole crop, too late to plant more that year.”
  • “Last year I grew corn for the first time. My daughter and I went to visit my sister for two weeks – when we got back the squirrels had destroyed most of it.”
  • “My cucumbers are beautiful, until I go to pick them, then they just go squish in my hands. I have tried for years, same problem every year. The vines are the same way.”
  • “Not doing a little research first.”
  • “Our tomatoes and peppers were on track to be a bumper crop, when quite suddenly one night a hoard of horn worms took the entire thing down to nothing but sticks. Talk about the very hungry caterpillar! I had no idea that they could eat so much.”
  • “Last summer’s tomato crop was doing great until early June when some kind of blight took out one plant after another until I was left with only one sickly plant that yielded 3 small tomatoes.”
  • “Planting my tomato plants too close together… made a tomato hedge, and made it very hard to pick them.”
  • “It was either my green peppers which got planted four different times and never grew or my tomatoes which got planted once and turned into such a jungle I lost more than half of the tomatoes I could have had…”
  • “I came home from the farmers market with unsold cucumbers and tossed them to the chickens. They loved them. They loved them so much that the next morning when I let them out of the coop they found their way to the garden. By the time I discovered their daily incursions they had eaten their way through three 50 foot rows of cucumbers. This year we fence!”
  • “A few years ago, we didn’t have our garden fenced and our chickens and turkeys raided the garden. They got almost every tomato and dug up the pumpkin seeds. And one year we grew WAY too many cherry tomato plants. We couldn’t eat them fast enough. My family came out to pick all they could and we still had tons. They are the best cherry tomatoes though (Peacevine cherry tomatoes).”
  • “Leek Moth. They are not supposed to come as far north (in the UK) as I live but they sure did last year. Yukky caterpillars munching their way through the whole plant, even below soil level. And there is nothing you can do except try to keep the adult moth out so she cant lay her eggs. I cant do that with my set up, so I wont be able to grow any more leeks. I also had tomato blight which took every plant I grew last year. It was a wet year, which really didnt help. Now I cant grow tomatoes or potatoes for about 3 years. Nice.”
  • “Put my zucchinis too close to everything else, nothing else made it.”
  • “Last year was the worst ever. Huge grasshoppers, hospitalized for a month, helpful neighbors watering too much (potatoes rotted in the ground, cucumbers size of baseball bats) and someone help their self to the harvested onions. And my husband threw out “bad okra seeds” in the garden–had a forest of okra! I still had enough tomatoes to feed an army. Life is good and a garden is life!”
  • “Having a friend over who’s kids had never seen vegetables growing, so they decided to have a vegetable fight without realizing that I was growing those red things to eat.”

So there you have it – wisdom right from the people who’ve done it!  I actually learned quite a bit from reading these – hopefully they’ll be helpful for you too.

Have you had a vegetable gardening disaster you’re willing to share?  If so, please do in the comments below!  The more we share the more we learn…

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