Garden Fails and Wins in 2021

by Becky

As we go into the season of rest, my mind is able to have time to reflect on this past year. We had both highs and lows for sure, and I’ll tell you I learned a TON this year. More is always learned and burned into memory when you try and fail. 

I don’t like to dwell on my mistakes but feel like it’s important to look back on them to see what can be learned and where improvements can be made.

We also had a few wins this year in the garden. Some are lucky and some come from hard work and learning from years past. I’m excited to share both the fails and wins with you, in hopes that it helps you too!

Fail #1 Going big too fast

I feel like I could write a novel on this topic of going too big too fast. All of our mistakes this year stem from this one. 

We jumped right from living on ⅔ of an acre to 52 acres. It was the biggest feeling of elation. For so long I had felt repressed and unable to do all the things I wanted to do as far as homesteading goes. 

The quarter acre garden at our old home.

When we got all the land I started to figure out how many plants I needed for a year’s supply of food. This included both vegetables and fruit. Once I figured that out I ordered everything I needed. 

Hundreds of raspberry plants, strawberry plants, many apple trees, pear trees, peach trees, a fig tree, and blueberries. I knew that many of the fruit plants would take years to mature so I wanted to make sure we got them planted the first year.

We also got the cows, pigs, and chickens we needed for meat, and then finally planted a massive vegetable garden to fit everything we would need to eat as far as vegetables for a year.

Our new garden, this Spring

When spring came, we were in the final stages of our home build with many, many decisions to make and I also had bare root fruit plants and chicks arriving daily. A little too late we realized we did way too much at one time.  

While technically between my family and I we were able to get things done, we didn’t have time to handle everything well. Berry beds were planted but soon were covered with weeds because we didn’t have time to mulch, the fencing around the orchard I planned for didn’t happen, and we got way behind on building chicken coops in time for the chickens to go in them. 

Blueberry Rows

I felt like so many things that we invested time and money in were failing. So I did learn my lesson and now I know to slow down and take it one step at a time. Next year, I don’t plan on expanding anything. 

My goal is to improve and tend what we already have. I want to get irrigation set up for the blueberries, raspberries, and vegetable garden. Having set irrigation will save me lots of time in watering over the summer. 

Fail #2 Not keeping up with weeds

Every year, I tell myself I will not let the weeds get away from me and every year they do! I had them all really well managed in the vegetable garden until about July. Once I started spending long days in the kitchen, it was all downhill from there.

I have a plan for this upcoming year though. I am going to get more serious about mulching with wood chips. They are so effective at weed prevention when applied properly. I ran into the problem of not having access to wood chips this year and the consequences were more than I could handle.

To improve for next year, we are buying a chipper/shredder attachment for our BCS Tractor and will be able to chip wood whenever we need it for the garden. We are on a waitlist but hopefully will get it soon enough to build up a big pile before spring.

I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I will add them to the actual garden beds because care is needed in preventing them from mixing in with the soil. However, we will definitely add them to the walking paths.

Fail #3 Neglecting the bugs and soil

I had some trouble with the bugs this year. They overtook so many plants. I planted cucumbers and only got enough for fresh eating. I also planted watermelon and they died from squash vine borers before I got a single one! The same story was true of my cantaloupes. 

Some bugs you really can’t do much about if you choose not to spray pesticides. I have a no spray policy for the vegetable garden and that includes organic sprays. 

The one bug I saw this year and wish I had researched is the harlequin bug. I saw them on my kale in July. There were tons all concentrated on the kale. I looked at them and didn’t see anything happening so I figured they were fine and I could leave them.

Harlequin Bugs on Turnips

Boy was I wrong! A few days later I checked again and the kale was dead and brown. The harlequin bugs weren’t there anymore. I saw a few on my arugula but by this point they had dispersed and moved throughout the garden. In the coming weeks they killed my freshly planted chinese cabbage, turnips, and radishes. It all could have been prevented if I had just gotten rid of them when I initially saw them. 

Next time I see a bug like that I will do my research right away to find out whether or not it is a good bug or bad bug. 

The second half of the problem comes from the soil needing more attention. I’m positive that because my soil is not as healthy as it could be, the plants are more susceptible to bugs.

I planted a lot of cover crops this year to improve the soil but it still needs more time and cover crops along with a lot of compost to get where it needs to be. 

My plan for next year is to do more cover cropping, add more compost to the soil, and work to improve the nutrients. 

Ok now for the wins!

Win #1 Growing Plenty of Food

This is our first year ever where we are headed into winter and I feel super confident we will make it all the way to the next growing season on our own vegetables. We truly have an abundance! I am thankful for it too, since now that we have more inviting accommodations (house with space for guests and lots of land to play on) we have had visitors or family here for a portion of every month.

We love to share the work of our hands with others and give them a taste of what real food is like. It’s nice to be able to share without worrying we’ll run out of food.

Win #2 Having Plenty of Vegetable Types to Choose from all Summer

We have been doing our goal of growing all our own vegetables for several years now. In years past, there were weeks and months in the summer where all there was to choose from for veggies was two or three different types. So for example, during the month of August, we would be eating cucumbers or tomatoes all month long. Sometimes I added potatoes or onions from the July harvest to the mix but it was very much the same, same, same.

Having only a few vegetables to choose from gets incredibly monotonous. But thankfully just before I felt like I couldn’t eat another tomato, something else would become ready for harvest.

This year I followed a friends advice for planning my garden and was pleasantly surprised by the results. I will share more about the garden planning in a future post because it’s a little too long winded to share here.

We had several vegetables available with around 5+ types to choose from at all times this summer. It was definitely an improvement on years past.

Win #3 Seeing a Huge Increase in Beneficial Insects

Our first year in our new garden spot, I grew only the essentials. It was just vegetables and nothing else. This year I knew I wanted to make it a point to grow lots of different varieties of flowers in addition to the vegetables to attract some beneficial insects.

We grew several types of zinnias, echinacea, marigolds, sweet alyssum, and poppies. I noted that our holy basil and buckwheat was a huge attractor of pollinators as well.

In THIS video you can see them all around as I am working in the garden.

When I was having all the issues with bad bugs this year, I saw how the beneficial bugs eventually came to balance them out. Having nature balance itself out is something that can take years and I was actually surprised to see it in the first season!


  • #1 Start with a garden space that is manageable for you! 
  • #2 Use mulch to prevent weeds and where you can’t, weed often
  • #3 Feed the soil first. Plants show what is happening below ground, whether it is good or bad.
  • #4 If you have the space, grow a little more than you think you need.
  • #5 Succession plant so you have plenty of variety of vegetables to choose from.
  • #6 Plant flowers and other plants to attract beneficial insects.

I hope sharing some of these things helps you with your own gardening. Can you relate? Have you experienced some of these things?

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Sarah December 11, 2021 - 2:37 pm

One thing I want to get better about next year in my own garden space is succession planting. I feel like this year I would get to a time of overwhelm and forget to plan ahead to a slower time in the garden and now I am wishing I had more varieties growing of things I could be harvesting now. There’s always next year right?

theseasonalhomestead December 11, 2021 - 4:15 pm

Definitely! Succession planting for fall is always the hardest for me too. It’s right when it’s scorching hot out, the other plants are producing like crazy, and it is so busy. It’s a difficult thing to master, you aren’t alone in that 🙂

Cheryl December 13, 2021 - 1:00 pm

Harlequin bugs are so awful! I think next year I am going to net my long term brassicas just because of them. They are SO tiny when they are young, and they fly and they just kill the plants or ruin the harvest.

theseasonalhomestead December 14, 2021 - 7:39 pm

Agreed, I’ll probably have to do something similar!

Katie February 19, 2024 - 3:46 pm

Hi Becky,

Did you ever write the blog post about garden planning to have a sufficient variety of vegetables throughout the year? I’ve tried looking for it, but I can’t find it. I’m looking to make the leap into growing all the vegetables we need for the year… I just want to make sure there’s enough variety every week like you mentioned above, and I was hoping your other blog post had tips on that. 🙂

Becky February 21, 2024 - 3:49 am

Hi Katie! That is a good idea, I haven’t written about that exactly. Having enough variety is all about succession planting on time and having a good planting calendar. Check back in a few weeks, I will think on it and write something up! 🙂

Katie February 27, 2024 - 8:52 pm

Yay! Thank you so much. I will definitely be checking back in for that. 🙂


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