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Diggin' It

Readers share their biggest garden goofs

Garden mistakes can be instructive -- or hilarious.

By / April 17, 2009



When Craig Summers Black wrote about all the things he wished he done differently in the garden – from planting tree ferns upside down to growing an invasive variegated artemisia that had visions of taking over the world (starting with Craig's yard), he struck a chord with readers.

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Many sympathized by sharing their own stories. They told of deer and bunny encounters despite trying all the recommended ways to avoid losing plants to these furry predators.

Dave M. has experienced both. Here's his deer tale: "Our neighborhood is home to many wild deer and rabbits, which usually visit at night. One day, after losing one too many garden plants to these creatures, I decided to escalate. I bought a motion sensor light control and wired it into an extension cord. I ran the cord out to the garden, and plugged a 500 watt work light and a radio (under a 5 gallon bucket) into the cord. I tuned the radio to the local classic rock station and turned the volume all the way up. Thus when anything walked into the garden at night, they got blasted with light and sound. This worked like a charm! For two days, that is. The deer quickly learned that the sensor only works when it is dark, and began to visit the garden early in the morning after it began to get light. Aaargh!!

Natalie Husse's bunny story takes on new resonance in light of the increasing popularity of vegetable gardening: "In my first year of vegetable gardening, I took some really regrettable shortcuts," she says. "The most memorable (read: moronic) was how I built my first garden fence. Since I wasn't sure if I'd be good at gardening, or even like doing it for that matter, I did not want to spend a ton of money on my new hobby. So, instead of the $50 rabbit-proof metal fencing, I bought the $10 'wildlife-proof' plastic fencing, figuring there couldn’t possibly be that much of a difference, right?

"Every day that first April, I would see the neighborhood rabbits sitting around the fence yearning for the delicious contents of my garden. Daily, I would mock their desires with my superior fencing. I would laugh at their feeble attempts to confront my rock-solid fortifications. Ah yes, I was sure my efforts (and well-played frugality) had paid off.

"That is, until that fateful morning I went out into my garden to weed and water and discovered that every plant in my garden had been decimated. My lettuce had been chewed to nubs, the strawberry plants reduced to mere shreds, and the terrors they brought onto the spinach were just too gruesome to even mention.

"I ran along the edge of my fence to see where they could possibly have gotten in. I found one hole, and another, and another … six holes all where I had seen the rabbits sitting just days before! This whole time they had been plotting this raid, slowly chewing holes into my plastic fencing. That afternoon I begrudgingly went back to the hardware store and bought the $50 fencing."

Peter Gonczlik relates the common tale of planting too much and too closely together, but he isn't sure he's going to be able to break himself of the habit: "I don’t know if I’ll never do it again (it’s natural to be greedy during spring planting season after our long upstate New York winters)," he says, "but this year I’m going to try to give my plants more room and put fewer of them in."

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