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Johnson County

Research-based Information You Can Trust — Localized for your needs

Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday,
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

Map to our office

K-State Research and Extension is committed to making its services, activities and programs accessible to all participants. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting Johnson County Extension at (913)715-7000. Notify staff of accommodation needs as early as possible.

Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

K-State Research and Extension is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Trial and Error

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A famous saying goes, “A good gardener kills a few plants. A great gardener kills thousands.” When taken at face value, this is somewhat of a misnomer. Looking deeper, however, the saying is true. Trial and error in gardening can ultimately make a good gardener a great one.

Reflecting on my early days in horticulture, before the years of schooling or countless hours of hard work, one of my first attempts at growing anything came as a tomato garden in my parent’s backyard. Did my teenage self care much for tomatoes at the time? Absolutely not. But I was bound and determined to grow hundreds of them, if purely for the bragging rights.

So, in my efforts, I set forth hand tilling, weeding, planting, and watering a good 200sqft area, and before I knew it, the plants took off like weeds! And then the weeds also took off like weeds! And then, when the fruit eventually developed, I had hundreds of malformed, half-bleached, bug-ridden, bitter, and mushy tomatoes. My production goal was met! And much was left to be desired.

Facing the after-effects of that failure, I had to go back to the drawing board regarding my gardening efforts and note what went wrong and where. I had never tested my soil (I didn’t know of soil tests at the time), and my tomatoes severely lacked calcium –leading to Blossom End Rot forming on nearly all of them. I had never learned that weeds act as hotels, harboring insect pests and enabling feeding on my plants to be ten times worse than it would have been otherwise. I had never learned that heavy-clay soil retains water much longer than a loam, leading to uneven soil moisture issues that ultimately deform my fruits. Much was to be altered in my practices.

The steps to addressing your difficulties in your garden practices, be they vegetable or ornamental, are the same. What has the climate and weather been like in that specific spot? Was there recent construction nearby? Did a neighbor apply any chemicals recently? Did you acquire a new pet recently? Ultimately, to learn from trial and error, we must play detective and figure out why errors happen.

Remember, you are not alone in facing these challenges. You are part of a vast community of experienced gardeners, always ready to share their knowledge and insights. Moreover, you have access to reliable, research-based information from your local Extension office’s horticulture agents and Extension Master Gardeners. This support network is a constant presence in your gardening journey, offering guidance and valuable advice.