Let’s face it: Failure is as much a part of gardening as it is in life. And, everyone from the most ancient sages to the “Wizard of Menlo Park (N.J.),” Thomas Edison, has said that failure is even more important than success.
“Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!” he is reported to have said to his close friend, Walter S. Mallory. For Edison, as for me, failures show me what doesn’t work so that I can finally narrow down what does work.
And Abraham Lincoln, held as one of the most successful kings of failure has gone on to great renown for the world-changing leadership of this country.
So that said, I don’t mind failures here and there, and I’d like to share both what didn’t work for me and what has. Now, I have been growing herbs and vegetables and a few flowers here in Florida for most of my adult life, with varying results. There was one year I planted a type of green that was supposed to be a cross between spinach and mustard – with the etymologically precise (if boring) name mustard spinach — and it was so successful I couldn’t eat it all. I couldn’t even kill it all – it overtook the north side of the house. For years, we ate the ensuing generations of the first 50-cent packet of seeds. By ‘we,’ I mean me. Only me. And I didn’t like it quite that much. Still, I call that a win.
What mustard spinach is supposed to look like in a garden:
What it looked like in mine:
Other years, I’ve planted all kind of things that are “proven winners” for St. Augustine, only to have them all die slow deaths, including native muscadine vines and carnivorous plants that are swamp natives (so besties with Florida, I thought) and only need water and bugs to survive.
Well, the dog always lets in flies when he walks in and out and my two elementary schoolers love to water things profusely. Sounded like a good life for Audreys I, II and III.
Sadly, no. They came from Ace Hardware to our house to die. All three. From left is a sundew, a pitcher plant and a Venus flytrap. Before:
This year, my new experiment was “cheddar cauliflower,” one example of a relatively new trend to get people to grow and buy vegetables in the wrong, er, different color. I love the idea – I’ve grown purple, red and pink carrots, purple potatoes, ‘black’ tomatoes, etc. with good success.
Plus, the name sounded more seductive for my children. This was not any old cauliflower, oh no. This was cheddar cauliflower. Think: gooey cheddar cheese! Heck, I could even serve it in melted cheddar and thus fulfill the advertised promise.
What it is supposed to look like:
This is what it looks like after I dispatched it.
In this case, the culprits were growing it too late in the season, too much water all at once and not enough sun on the north side of the house. Yes IFAS, I know: right plant, right place. Lesson learned
On a positive note: Look at these beautiful sugar plums! I do not think I’ve eaten them for probably 30 years. The last time was at my grandmother’s house in Albany, Georgia. These tasted good – sweet with that characteristic twinge of tart sourness.
P.S. No, I didn’t grow them. Moral of the story: You can always turn to Curries Market on U.S. 1 South when your harvest isn’t up to muster yet.
But I did grow these! They are “ornamental” Easter egg peppers and “ornamental” black pearl peppers. We were fooled! You can eat them! I plan to put them in Thai food. More on the peppers in another post.
And here’s a video what seems to be doing well in St. Augustine in June: Sweet Potatoes, Okra and tomatoes under partial shade. You can read the post with the varieties listed here. We’ll keep you posted on progress.
For a list of success and failures of years past, including some recommendations for what to grow in your own Northeast Florida garden, see my post here.
And if you have succeeded with any of the above varieties or coaxed life out of a hard-to-grow-in-North-Florid plant, by all means let me know how!