4 min read

Garden Fails 2023 - Sharing my mistakes so you don't make them

It's 2024 somehow, so I've been doing some reflecting on what was the past year in the garden. I had quite a few garden successes in 2023, but here I will share my gardening fails from the past year.

This isn't meant to be a glass half-empty, all negatives kind of post, but with this round up of what went wrong in the garden, I'll try and reflect on what happened in each case. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and not make them yourself.

Fail #1: Tiny Onions

Almost all the onions I grew this year ended up teeny-tiny. This was a result of trying to interplant them between other vegetables... other vegetables like squash and tomatoes, that quickly outgrew the onions and shaded them out.

Basically, I didn't give them enough space and my harvest was a bit sad. I picked a lot of onions and they were definitely edible, but small enough that it almost wasn't worth the effort of peeling them. I'm still learning what works well with interplanting vegetables, so this is another step along that journey.

Fail #2: Tiny Garlic

Like my onions, my garlic also turned out pretty small, but for a slightly different reason.

I had planted my garlic next to a patch of soapwort we inherited when we moved in. Soapwort is a nice looking flower, but it spreads easily, through roots underground and it started to creep into the garlic patch.

It's hard to weed the soapwort since it spreads underground, and if you don't remove the whole root, it regrows. Garlic is not a very good competitor and I think the pressure put on it by the soapwort stunted it and I ended up with fairly small bulbs at harvest time.

Hand holding a small bulb of garlic and a small onion, resting on a wooden table with three other onions.
Feeling embarrassed by my tiny onions and garlic.

Fail # 3: Dill Takeover

This winter, sometimes I walk outside in the snow and can still smell the dill from my garden.

I didn't even plant any this year - it was all self-seeded from last year's plants and I didn't keep up weeding it. Some free bonus dill is great, but we had way too much and it took over a few sections of garden beds, crowding out some lettuces and beans.

Since it self-seeds so easily, I'm sure I'll have lots of dill to pick this coming summer as well.

Fail #4: Stunted Pepper Transplants

This year my pepper seedlings never really took off and I didn't have great yields as a result. Some seedlings were better than others, but overall they were slow growing and not as vigorous as the ones I've started in other years.

This reason for this problem was hard to figure out for me but I think it comes down to using a different bagged potting mix instead of my usual homemade seed starting mix, overwatering and not being thorough cleaning my pots and seed trays.

I dealt with some damping-off disease, which is a fungal issue that becomes a problem with cool, wet soil. The disease killed some of my pepper seedlings for sure and the cool, damp conditions probably stunted the others.

For this spring, I'll be more thorough cleaning and try to let the seedlings dry out between watering. I'll also make use of a heat mat for getting the seeds going.

Fail #5: Growing New Things and Not Using Them

I tried growing ground cherries and artichokes for the first time this year. They were both slow growing and took up a lot of real estate in the garden, so I was excited when I actually got a harvest from them (not a fail!). Shortly after the harvest though, I realized I didn't know what to do with them.

Growing up in the prairies, I didn't often come across artichokes and I'd never tried ground cherries before I grew them this year.

For artichokes, I found the effort to grow and cook them to not be worth the 'reward' (a tiny artichoke heart that didn't taste too great). We cooked a couple, but felt disappointed by the results so the rest sat on the kitchen counter until they were no good anymore.

I decided I didn't like the taste of fresh ground cherries and even though I've heard you can make jam out of them, the flavor of the fresh fruits didn't make me too excited to do it, so those also sat on the counter until they went bad. It really felt like a big waste of garden space, time and effort!

Artichoke heart turning into a purple flower.
The artichoke I grew and then didn't know what to do with flowered after a while.

Am I wrong about artichokes and ground cherries? Am I ignorant and totally missing out? If you know a good way to use them, have any other advice to share or just want to make fun of my tiny onions, please get in touch.

If you liked this article, I'll soon be posting about some of the things that actually went well in my garden this last year, so be sure to check back or subscribe to get future articles delivered straight to your inbox.