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Gardening Mistakes and Disasters

Diana was a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. She & her family all love gardening. She enjoys photographing & painting plants too.

I've Made So Many Mistakes With My Garden

After gardening for fifty years I still have numerous gardening disasters and mistakes. They range from insufficient water, insufficient sunshine, too much sun, not fertilizing sufficiently, earth as hard as iron, heavy clay which is typical London soil, planting shade-loving plants in the sun and sun-loving plants in the shade, waterlogged seed trays, seedlings dying through lack of watering when I was on holiday, squirrels and birds searching for food, and the all-pervasive slugs which devour everything.

Then there are the plants I buy enthusiastically but don't have time to plant, or don't have time to prepare the ground properly, plants which are overgrown or strangled by stronger plants competing for the same space, trampled plants, balls regularly flying over the fence from my next-door neighbours' children on both sides, plants being trampled upon by amateur paid gardeners with boats for feet and two left hands, and over-zealous weeding by a visiting friend.

My Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Doesn't Work

So I can't feed the birds

The Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder simply isn't squirrel proof . Look at the pictures below of a squirrel stealing up to my squirrel proof bird feeder to see what I mean.

These two unrepeatable photographs are not brilliant because it all happened so quickly, as I was looking out of the window - as soon as I saw the squirrel I grabbed my camera from the next room, but didn't have time to adjust the settings, or even dash outside - I shot them through my window


Here's The Squirrel Finding The Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder And Then Pulling Off The Lid

The lid on this squirrel proof bird feeder was secured so tightly that even I could not get it off, but little squirrel did,


I had tied it down with wire which I then twisted, and left it on the bench to see whether it was possible to make it squirrel proof.

I still don't know how he got that lid loose, as I tested it before putting it there.

Squirrel Raiding A Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder--A Proper Photo

He's got his head well into the trough - hope he gets stuck

He's got his head well into the trough - hope he gets stuck

And Here's Another Squirrel

Feeding from a Different Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder

Photograph by Les Howard, who reckons that, at least in his garden, squirrels are becoming genetically modified by having longer thinner heads to fit into bird feeders!

Is It A Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Or Is It A Bird-Proof Squirrel Feeder?


Below Is One Rose Bush Which Doesn't Flourish And One Bush With Abundant Flowers But So Weak That It Has To Be Supported

A rose bush which doesn't flower is a disappointing rose bush

I have a rose bush which never bears more than two roses at a time. This is a constant disappointment to me as it is adjacent to my front garden path and stands there as a constant reminder.

It was a fairly new breed when I bought it and looked reasonably healthy and vigorous.

I planted it in a fairly sunny border in clay soil. Roses quite like clay.

I fed it occasionally. But it never did well, despite rose food, harsh cutting back and vigorous weeding round the roots. I suspect it is too close to the other rose bush which has an abundant supply of flowers but has such weak straggly branches that it flops all over the place and has to be supported with ties.

This Rose Is Pretty But Not Prolific

This Rose Is Pretty But Not Prolific

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This Rose is Prolific, but so Weak that it has to be Supported

This Rose is Prolific, but so Weak that it has to be Supported

My Bulbs Are Frequently Dug Up And Eaten By Squirrels, Slugs And Snails - They Have No Respect

I have even tried protecting my tulips with cloches fashioned from plastic water bottles cut in half, but whilst it might delay the predators, it certainly does not deter them completely, and the bottles look hideous, making the area look like a junk yard, which somewhat defeats the object of having beautiful tulips.

Plastic Bottles Used As Cloches On Tulips

I Grew Two Seed Trays Of Cabbage And Brussels Sprouts, Because I Love Them -

I gave lots away, but most of the ones which I planted for myself fell by the wayside, eaten by I-know-not- what

Which one did the most damage, slugs, snails, birds, squirrels or white cabbage caterpillars, I know not.

Eventually I managed to have about 6 plants actually growing. I was able to pull a few leaves off them whenever I needed a small amount of greens for a meal, but they never developed into real, hearty cabbages. They looked depressed, and even when I covered them with netting, it was impossible to stop all the predators.

I took to going out with a torch in the middle of the night before I went to bed or at 4.00 am just before dawn, gathering slugs and snails and, yes, I admit it, destroying them. I really do feel bad about killing things, but, when it is a competition for life, I don't see why it should be the slugs and snails that have the benefit of the doubt rather than their victims, the cabbages.

A Sad-Looking Cabbage - It Made Me Sad Too!

Here Is A Poem I Wrote On The Subject Of Slugs:

(I went inside and wrote this poem after I had just had a particularly successful slug hunt)

Cats Love Little Earthy Patches In The Garden - They Make Good Toilets

Why can't they go far away - in other people's gardens, or even use their own dirt-box?

No, they have to use your newly-planted seed tray, or the garden seed-bed.

But I have devised a cunning trick -

Cats like bare earth, so that they can turn it over after they've done the bizzo; so wherever I have planted seeds in my vegetable patch, I put in loads of pointed sticks, including broken twigs and anything that looks like a sharp tooth-pick, to deter them.

It really works.

Here Is A Picture Of My Cat, Pussums, About To Avail Herself Of The Facilities In My Flower Bed

Unfortunately, Birds Do Not Stop At Eating Seeds On The Open Ground

They peck the tops off my newly sprouting vegetables and flowers, and something - I won't name names, suffice to say it could be birds, slugs, snails, squirrels or even dormice - ate all my strawberries except one, and every single cherry without exception on my cherry tree. It was only the first year it had borne fruit, so there's a lesson to be learned there, I suppose.

Gardening books recommend that you throw nets over fruit trees, but I do not feel competent to perform this operation in my old age on a tree that is ten feet tall. However, what I did do was get the cherry tree cut back to a few lateral branches, and this year I shall train them horizontally against the perimeter fence, where I will be able to reach them and cover them with netting........more news later this year!

News Update written in Late Summer:

No cherries to eat in June or July yet again, so at the end of summer we cut down our cherry tree, comforting ourselves with the thought that at least the plants under the tree would grow more vigorously and be productive. It's sad to think there will be no more cherry blossom in Spring, but life moves on (said she with a wry smile).

Here's A Bird, A Starling I Think, Eating Seeds In The Garden. The Bird Feeder, Of Course, Was Empty Because The Squirrels Got There First

I Grew About Four Courgette Plants From A Somewhat Larger Number Of Seedlings, Most Of Which Didn't Thrive

Two got eaten by slugs almost immediately, one was eaten by slugs after developing flowers, and the one in the picture below suffered from stem rot which got worse and worse, resulting in the flowers dying off without fully developing, and eventually the whole plant just died on me.

And I can tell you, that was no laughing matter, as I had to water them with a hose every day - they are very thirsty plants.

What did I do wrong? I don't know. If anyone else knows, please put your advice in my Guestbook at the bottom of this page

My Rather Poorly Courgette With A Brown Bud - This Was The Courgette At Its Healthiest -- It Steadily Deteriorated And Only Bore One Courgette Worth Eating

My Spinach And My Three Cabbages Planted In November Bolted

What is "Bolting"? Well may you ask

As far as I can tell, "bolting" means shooting up too fast and growing silly little leaves, seed heads and flowers instead of luscious large leaves that I can pick and eat for my dinner. So I got rid of them in Spring and planted new ones, which were very prolific.

Here Is A Photograph Of My Spinach And Cabbage Bolting

You can just see the cabbage lying on the ground

You can just see the cabbage lying on the ground

I Inherited The Pointed Spade Shown Below

I was really pleased with it, but regrettably it wasn't very strong - in fact that's an over-statement - it bent like tin.

Here's a picture of it after I used it for digging.......well, I thought you were supposed to use the spade for digging, but obviously not - it must have been an ornamental spade.

However, a word of advice: pointed spades are very useful for digging up small things, and I might well replace it.

Spade Bent By Digging Too Hard, Would You Believe?

Here's A Link To A Related Gardening Article

Take This Poll About Snakes

Have you ever found a snake in your garden - a wriggling, hissing, menacing snake. Or a slithery snake silently watching you? Or going about its snaky, nefarious business?

Coast Garter Snake

Coast Garter Snake

Have you got any comments for my guestbook? - Have you had your own garden disasters? Have you got any handy hints? All feedback welcome!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 13, 2016:

Fortunately I haven't met any good or bad snakes in my English garden and I only one saw a dead snake in our garden when I lived in Africa - someone else must have dealt with it before I came along!

Priscilla King from Gate City, Virginia on August 04, 2016:

I said I'd look for an implement to pin the snake because the poll offered options only for dealing with *bad* snakes. Actually I've not had the problem. In the U.S. the bad snakes are bad enough to force us to befriend good ones. I've met only one bad snake--someone had dumped it in the yard, chilled, on quite a warm night--and although I killed it first, my resident snake Gulegi still welcomed it. For breakfast!

Bill Kasman on August 03, 2016:

Can't say I'm much of a gardener but I recognise many of your mistakes as ones I have also made! Love the slug poem.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 27, 2014:

I've somewhat given up on feeding anything, as the squirrels have done so much damage - even trying to tear off the wood on my shed door to get in and eat the seeds.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 27, 2014:

Yes - but I just wish I could have taken better photos - it all happened so quickly, and my camera doesn't click away as fast as I'd like

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on October 25, 2014:

Have to say I enjoyed your misfortunes! It's always good to know we're not the only ones having problems. We actually feed our squirrels now (usually corn in a squirrel feeder), since they eat all the bird seed we put out. I laugh when I see birds eating the squirrels' food!

GrammieOlivia on October 24, 2014:

Nice hub, I love the squirrel getting his head right into the action......

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on April 10, 2014:

Great page...I too struggle with the antics of the squirrels raiding my birdfeeders. I do have to say they are entertainment :)

David Stone from New York City on April 10, 2014:

This page is delightful. There is never enough lighthearted humor, making this even more appreciated.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 10, 2014:

@TanoCalvenoa: There really is plenty of advice on the internet, that is, if are interested. If you aren't, it will just seem boring.!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 10, 2014:

@TonyPayne: I reckon they can even gnaw through metal!

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on April 10, 2014:

Squirrels are sneaky aren't they. If they can't get into a feeder and it's hung up with string, I have known them gnaw through it so it crashes on the floor.

TanoCalvenoa on April 09, 2014:

Your introductory paragraph is exactly why I avoid gardening. I just do not know which plants require what kind of care, and I let me wife do it all while I am the animal expert and care for our pets. I've tried gardening before, and so far have had disasters of various sorts 100% of the time.

Maggie42 on April 01, 2014:

Thanks goodness we don't have squirrels - we do have possums but thankfully they have never caused me any dramas. I think there must be enough for them to eat elsewhere I've heard stories of them even eating chillis! Thanks for this it was good to see that others have disasters as well.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 26, 2012:

@AlleyCatLane: I have found that fertilizer and compost help a lot - my garden has been much improved over the last 2 years since I was given that advice

AlleyCatLane on October 26, 2012:

We must be kin. This sound so much like my luck. I have always admired lovely English gardens full of flowers, but I can hardly get anyhting to grow.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 26, 2012:

@poutine: it's hard to tell whether it's not enough sun, too much rain, not enough fertilizer, disease, bad pruning, or just sheer bloody-mindedness

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 26, 2012:

@Scarlettohairy: They've just burrowed a hole under my garden shed door, and got into the shed to steal the birdseed and generally chuck things around - will it never end?

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 26, 2012:

@Linda BookLady: I hope it works - I have tried copper bands round pots of hostas, and they still got eaten

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 26, 2012:

This reminds me of my garden! I've had plenty of mistakes and challenges over the years. Next spring I'll be surrounding my raised beds with copper pipe to keep the snail out. They're the worst!

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on October 26, 2012:

Love to read about other people's boo boos. We all have fails (I have craft fails). Your squirrel feeder photos are hilarious!

poutine on October 26, 2012:

I also have problems with a rose bush that I bought about 3 years ago.

I'm lucky if I have 4 roses coming all summer.

jeffreytambor on January 01, 2012:

Beautiful, informative and great lens.I saw a snake in my backyard a few days ago, have been thinking of ways on how to get rid of them... somebody told my that aerating the garden will help, now looking for a tool rental to rent an aerator.

hysongdesigns on November 17, 2011:

I don't often have slugs; only if they come in on something from the nursery, but have grasshoppers, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pack rats, wild pigs and other assorted wildlife!

BlueStarling on June 29, 2011:

Very humorous! I thought I was the only one with garden problems, which I find really embarrassing since I actually work as a gardener . . .

Rita-K on May 28, 2011:

Oh, can I ever relate to you! Every spring I have this desire to plant, plant, plant....but by the end of June every plant is on its own....survive or perish time!

Chazz from New York on May 12, 2011:

Wire mesh placed over tulip bulbs will deter squirrels. When tulips start to sprout in the spring, remove the mesh. I use mesh with approximately 1 inch squares. It is available at home depot and similar places in the garden center.

MacPharlain on April 22, 2011:

Leave out a little bowl of beer (about an inch will do) underneath your plants at night for your slug friends. They'll flock to it and drown.

sorana lm on April 08, 2011:

Beautiful, informative and great lens. I actually saw a snake in my backyard a few years ago. It wasn't a pleasant moment but I just left it alone.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on April 06, 2011:

@Grasmere Sue: Well, you might have the last laugh, because daffodils are toxic, so they might get tummy ache!

See my page "Poisonous Garden Plants: Daffodils, Lantana and Euphorbia "

Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on April 05, 2011:

Where to begin? Mice ate my sweet peas before they could grow, sheep have just taken the tops off my daffodils in the wild garden in spite of the farmer telling me they don't eat daffodils, and the deer will eat almost anything! I wonder why I bother smoetimes!

CruiseReady from East Central Florida on April 03, 2011:

Very nice lens. Too ba about those cabbages...

lasertek lm on March 23, 2011:

So many helpful tips. When it comes to gardening, one must be ready to come across mistakes & disasters because it is one way of learning how to bloom beautiful plants.

lemonsqueezy lm on March 23, 2011:

Nice lens. I am a bird lover. The brome squirrel buster feeder really works to keep the squirrels out. I love it so much that I created a whole lens on it. Thanks for all of your gardening tips.

anonymous on March 23, 2011:

very interesting lens :) I think I'm guilty "NOT to read up on plant requirements before I plant anything out" *lol*

PrettyWorld on March 11, 2011:

I love it. :) My husband's from England and his family have been market gardeners for as many generations as they can trace. He was born with a green thumb.

In 10 years in the US, he has been able to grow exactly two (2) servings of broccoli. And exactly zero cauliflowers. We can still grow most of our own food - but some types of plants seem determined to be garden disasters year after year. I guess cold winters, hot summers, and Spring and Autumn seasons that each last about 20 minutes if we are lucky don't help cool season vegetables thrive.

And that's why we're eating chickweed this week! :)

Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on February 28, 2011:

Don't despair, I believe we learn more from our mistakes and disasters than from our successes! I know what you mean about slugs and snails. My pet hate is the bright red lily beetle. I love lilies but this beetle destroys them. I'd go out several times a day and pick them off my lilies by hand and kill them but they got the better of me in the end. They were breeding faster than I was killing them. Loved this page which made me laugh, blessed.

Jeanette from Australia on April 05, 2010:

Hehehe. What an entertaining lens :-) I can relate to many of your disasters, but not the squirrels. That may have something to do with the fact that we don't get squirrels here in Australia.

GramaBarb from Vancouver on April 04, 2010:

Love your lens! My littlest granddaughter successfully grew a container cucumber until it had little cucumbers and then the neighborhood raccoon ate them all. The 'cute' raccoon was not so cute after that... :)

justholidays on April 04, 2010:

Gardening isn't an easy task and we often have to face many problems. But isn't it the beauty of growing our own plants, flowers and vegetables? In the end, we won the disaster war ;)


pkmcr from Cheshire UK on April 04, 2010:

Really nicely put together lens with lots of interesting insights - well done!

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