The Value of Mistakes

Last summer was not my most focused season. Having just lost my mom, while I appeared relatively in control, I made a lot of bone-headed mistakes. A couple involved the garden, when I seemed incapable of reading what was printed on a seed package.

It’s important to make mistakes, I know. We all learn from them. We won’t truly know the right way to do something until we know the wrong way to do something. Mistakes build character. Blah blah blah. But last summer I learned they’re not only character building, but can actually be beneficial.

Garden Mistake #1: The Aromatic Spinach

When the spring spinach ran its course, I planted a second, small bed within the new asparagus plants that were just taking off. Truthfully, I’d barely eaten any of the spinach from the first planting, but spinach is easy to grow and I swore we’d eat more the second time around. When it started growing, though, I noticed it was a different variety, and then I noticed this variety tasted like basil. Funny thing is, up until last summer, I’d bought basil plants and planted about two of them, four if I was feeling crazy. Last summer I’d lovingly grown basil plants indoors from seed and transplanted them after the last frost. It was all very fussy. But I learned basil, like most herbs, is at its core a weed and doesn’t require that kind of fuss or expense. Last summer, with no work, we had all the pesto, caprese salad, and lemon-basil martinis we wanted. We’re still eating from all the pesto I froze.

Lemon-basil martinis on the Fourth of July. Perhaps ill-advised around fireworks.

This year I’m just broadcasting basil, likely in an even bigger area, and we’ll drown in pesto. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

Garden Mistake #2: The Spicy Mesclan

So again on a successive planting, I reseeded a mesclan bed that had moved on. And when the salad plants started coming up, it wasn’t mixed as it should be — all the plants were homogenous — and every time I took a bit, the leaves tasted spicy. At some point it dawned on me I’d planted arugula, not mesclan. I think the arugula seeds came in a “Go Green” basket I’d purchased at the silent auction at Tommy’s school; I know I never intentionally bought arugula seeds.

Turns out Sylvia and I now love arugula, something I’d never thought to buy at the store, and never thought to plant. I’d plant it again in a heartbeat, although I won’t have to. Although arugula is an annual, it reseeds itself, so acts like a perennial. So we should have no-work arugula year after year now.

Gardening is such a renewing hobby because you can change what you do every year. If something didn’t work out, just do something different the next season. But this year, I’m going to repeat last year’s mistakes. Happily.

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2 thoughts on “The Value of Mistakes

  1. Your bunches of basil are beautiful. And I completely agree with you on the value of mistakes. I think mistakes in the garden are more likely to turn out right (or with unforeseen positive consequences) than mistakes in a lot of other areas, because in gardening we’re working with living things, which really WANT to grow and are able to find a way around our missteps. Thanks for the post!

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