When it comes to food gardening, failure is an option, and usually not by choice but by lack of knowledge. What I mean by that is we gardeners, even the more experienced ones fail in the line of duty but it doesn't really matter because at least you are giving it a go! Let me explain my motivation behind this post.
Kim was approached by the Homeshop man who delivered some groceries to us yesterday to join the Sustainable Living Group, specifically to learn how to grow his own food. The reason he had not started as yet, because 'he was afraid of failure' (his words), and didn't what to stuff it up. I thought about this for a while and reflected on his reasoning. Then Kim beat me to it and handed him a membership form and schedule and told him to come to the first meeting! A step in the right direction, and the first step in his journey. He won't what hit him.
Fortunately most human learn by our mistakes, and because of western societies success in eliminating the extended family unit, we have to learn skills that were mostly passed down from generation to generation all over again from scratch. So failure, or trial and error as I prefer to call it is inevitable when you learn a new skill..
Gardening is no exception. When I first started out, I didn't really have anyone around me to learn the skills from directly who knew the local conditions, so I hit the library for suggestions. Books are good to get the basics of organic gardening, but you have to ensure that the planting timings and knowledge that they are imparting is right for your local area. So many organic gardening books hail from the UK and USA, which for our climate here in Australia is totally out of whack and no use to us at all. The best beginners advice I found were from books from the Diggers Club which are written for Australian conditions. But as I mentioned, books are only the begining of the journey. If books don't help, hit the blogsphere. Gardening bloggers love to help out with tricky problems.
At the start of every great journey is the first small step, which is often the hardest thing to do. The way I see it is that if you start off small, you don't loose much if it all goes pear shaped, and it is quite easy to start again. I suppose that is the way I did it when I first begun. By only have the advice from books, I planted small amounts of everything, and mainly from seedlings bought from a nursery. That way I knew that if something didn't grow like the book was telling me, I would have time to figure it out. Nature is very forgiving like that. Plants grow slowly over days, weeks and months. If you are observent, you always have time to correct mistakes in your vegie patch or fruit orchard.
During the first season, that worked for me. Because I had small amounts of lots of different types, we could figure out what vegetable we really liked to eat, which types would grow well given the conditions we had, and what techniques we could use in the next season to make things better. On the flip side, if I was planting for survival mode, then I would have planted a larger amount, especially if what you plant is all you have to eat. I hope that when TSHTF, you are well knowledgable by then! Better to be prepared and have the skills now, than to wait until prices go through the roof and scarcity hits hard.
Anyway, the morale of the post is that we all fail at times when food gardening, and it is a lifelong journey of discovery and adventure, which is why I love it so much. The joy of actually growing your own food and cooking with it can not be overstated. It is just an amazing feeling, and never gets tired with me.
So if you have still yet to start growing a small patch or balcony garden, remember that there will be failures, there will be tears, but heck, it is worth it in the long run. The sense of satisfaction is second to none!