Day 34: I am old enough to have attended school when grades were given with strict and seemingly arbitrary rule. And since up until grade thirteen when grades finally mattered, my mind was never on school for any moment of my attendance of it, I was habituated, if not used, to the heavily negative passenger called failure, which for me came with anything short of seventy-five percent, and was most of what I ever attained within curriculum content at school. From first to twelfth grade, I never got below a passing grade, but somehow in a family of intellects, fifty was not any measure of failure: that would have been a sign of brain damage. Ellagance 1 month

Ellagance Lavender one month in.

In researching how to start celery seed, I learn that a sixty percent germination rate is high success indeed. For some plant species, forty percent is success. And in my first attempts at raising seed to garden planting, my success rate was closer to fifteen percent, and that seemed a humiliating enough reason to give up trying. I have since learned not only much of what I was doing was thwarting success, but that failure in gardening is not just inevitable, but happens to world renowned gardeners, and that eighty percent is well-nigh perfect. Hidcote Munstead 1.2 months

Hidcote and Munstead Lavender one and a half months in.

What can go wrong? This year my Hidcote and Munstead lavender rides at about a fifteen percent germination rate, and no one seems to know how to improve this: cover with a humidity dome, keep wet, keep dry, leave off the lid? I get shrugs but no answers. Surely this should be an easy science by now. Then, some of my cell packs caved in the middle, where the light heated the plastic perhaps, or the weight of bottom water brought their retaining walls to recede, or a manufacturing error, I’m not sure what has caused this. But the result is that in the central quadrant of at least two large flats, nothing got watered, nothing germinated. I won’t buy more of this brand, and I likely won’t ever buy more 48 cell packs, but instead pack multiples of smaller components into one tray so that each can be removed as differing seedling growth rates determine differing transplant dates.

cell wall collapse

Cell pack wall collapse.

Last year, my city yard contained every possible garden pest and plague I’d both heard of and hadn’t. This, whether true or not, I deemed to be my fault. In lieu of having other ready material, I had used immature compost from my yard bins as mulch, but I will never know if this, or improperly sterilized tools, insufficient feeding, the general damp, or something else entirely caused so much disease, such as hollyhock rust.

hollyhock-rustI am highly grumpy and emotionally frail about garden failures yet, and this I attribute to never having been counselled while growing up, that failure is just one small component of all roads to success. Quite the opposite. I was not-so-subliminally deemed the “dummy” by my mother in a family of near geniuses. Which book I chose to read was inevitably a dim reflection of my worth; the music I listened to was ranked by my brothers; and whether I chose to be with friends or to be alone, was always the foolhardy decision according to my mother. Even much later in life, while having to suddenly earn a living at real estate, the overtly taught mantra of courting failure as route to success, seemed an atrocious con job perpetrated the slick and well-paid motivational speakers I suffered through. But none-the-less, at least on an intellectual level, the benefits and wisdom of learning good from failure are ever so slowly getting through to me, and its injurious nature becomes a little bit easier to bear. Still, at the age of nearly sixty-five years, I grit my teeth and feel shame.



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