garden green beans

Fail better: how failure leads to growth in the garden

There comes a time in every cycle of doing - a season, a quarter, a year, a decade, even a single day - when you need to let the failures be, and celebrate the wins. Better yet, see failure in itself as beautiful.

backyard veggie garden harvest
harvesting at golden hour

I do best when my days are anchored by simple demands  - I "must" harvest the beans daily for a period of several weeks in August and September.

If I fail to harvest daily, beans become woody and don't produce as much. So, I usually lean in to this task. I harvest beans during the golden hour in the garden, feeling the warm mulch under my bare feet as I squat under the canopy of nearby sunflowers.

These are the kind of musts that anchor me without weighing me down. 

When I harvest two pounds of beans daily for two weeks, blanch and freeze them for the winter, I am so glad I ignored the weeds two months before to plant beans.

If I miss the harvesting window, I toss the woody beans to the chickens and let some dry on the vine for seed saving. These are also wins.

Some wins are a result of failures; and some failures are actually wins in disguise.

I love what Pema Chodron says in her new book, Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown:

"Mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things."

I have learned so many things in the garden by making mistakes. In fact, I think that is the only way to truly learn gardening, or anything in life, really.

The only reason I have such an endless supply of failures is because I always set out to achieve so much.

Let things go, observe the results of our choices, stay curious, and learn always - this is how I try to approach my relationship with failure and success. (Neither is really a complete something in itself, since life is always moving forward and everything is tangled up together.)

When Jackson Pollock painted from above, do you think all of the splatters made it to the canvas? With energy and intuition, he flung his brush, thinking less of the end result and more of the movement and feeling of it.

We don't celebrate the painted grass, splattered chair or destroyed brushed, or the many canvases we never saw - yet, these causalities are part of the masterpiece.

There are so many things unseen. The terrible days we experience as parents. The rotting cucumbers pilled up in the fridge. The messy corners at home where clutter piles. The words we wish we hadn't said. All of the unspoken feelings buried in the generational layers of family.

So many things unseen to others that make up every life.

These things define us only if we allow them to. Yet, to push them aside is to do a disservice to our whole being. When we stay curious about them, it can be so incredibly fruitful and healing.

True achievement is taking in the whole picture and accepting it all as one.

The things we do not choose define us as much as the choices we embrace.

heirloom lettuce gone to seed
heirloom lettuce gone to seed

It is all an expression of energy. Where do you choose to send your energy? There is not space for everything. We are finite, humans.  Every day presents choices.

And to think otherwise is to deny our fallible nature. 

No one (except maybe Martha Stewart) has a perfect garden.

When you feel overwhelmed, look for abundance

Letting lettuce go to seed, letting the tomatoes sprawl, not planting potatoes - these inactions are no less important than the very deliberate actions I took to succession plant beans and carrots.

Embrace Minimalist Gardening.

Let a few things in your life go to seed or become engulfed by weeds, and put your energy where it really needs to be.

All will be well. You will have a harvest. It might not be what you expected, but you will find abundance if you look for it.

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