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Failing Forward


Last night we went out to the garden to putter around after having been gone for about two weeks, and I have to confess it was very discouraging. The pioneer plants, aka weeds, were doing their job with remarkable enthusiasm, there were slugs everywhere, and many of the onions had rotted at the base. The problem: we did a lot this year to minimize how much water the garden needed. We dug ditches for planting, used lots of mulch, etc. Unfortunately, we didn't combine that with actually decreasing the amount of water the garden gets. It still gets sprinkled every week for four hours (the lawn gets eight and needs every minute of that to stay green). The consequence: happy weeds, slugs and rotted onions.

I guess the good news is that our efforts to minimize water needs are working. It can just be discouraging to learn things via failure. The reality is, though, that failure is the path forward most of the time. In reality, failure is only failure when you fail and then remain where you are, or fail and run for the safety of what you already know. When you allow failure to be a diagnostic tool to inform change and improvement, it becomes a powerful weapon for change and progression. So I guess the answer is to fail, fail, and fail some more and then evaluate, change, and move forward. We all need to be in the business of actively failing forward.

So, in the spirit of productive failure, we're brainstorming ways to change the watering protocol for next year (maybe drip lines, or maybe we'll be ultra courageous and provide no supplemental water), outwit the pioneer plants (start the garden growing 2 months earlier under cover after burning off the weed seeds), and still salvage something this season (experimenting with fall planting of radishes and beets and swish chard). No worries, it'll all work out, just a little differently than we'd planned.

On a happy note, our experiment with growing our melons and cucumbers up an angled trellis seems to be working very well with minimal critical failure or adjustment. We've already figured out about 3 or 4 changes we want to make to the system for next year, but on the whole it seems to be working. Wahooo! Or maybe that's a bad thing since we're not learning quite as much as we could. Hmmmm! I guess we'll just have to manage some success too.

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