Increase Your Knowledge by Resisting an Urge All Gardeners Seem to Have

As you continue to make your plans for your garden and/or flower borders this season I hope you’ll try at least one new thing.

I try to keep my “experiments” free from the pressure of “expectations” by adapting and “ok – lets see what this will do” attitude.

Last year I ordered a package of brussels sprouts for the first time. With Bill being sick, my notes on various plantings were even more sporadic than usual. Thus, I don’t know what the variety was and am not sure when I started them.

Divided the seed between two grow-mix-filled jug-bottoms. Not very many germinated and some looked puny at best. I transplanted 3 of the best to larger pots. Ignored them until late spring. Only two remained. Was tempted to just toss them out, but didn’t.

Transplanted to the garden way too late to think about getting brussels sprouts. To make the experiment even “more telling” I chose two different beds for each plant. They stayed about 2 inches tall for what seemed like an eternity (sorta like my peppers usually do). Finally started looking pretty good, but still rather short.

Couldn’t help but wonder if they made it through the summer due the unusual amount of rain and moderate temperatures we had.

Fall came and went.

Cold weather came. At the last minute I decided to give them a minimum of protection with some row cover fabric.

Spring has arrived once more and one of the plants has put up a nice tall stalk as if it will produce brussel sprouts. And yes – I know — brussels sprouts are best when touched by frost in the fall. BUT — this is an experiment and I can hardly wait to see what happens!

The brussels sprout plant if behind these two Russian Kale plants. Picture was taken April 1.

The brussels sprout plant is behind these two Russian Kale plants. Picture was taken April 1.

My point is that we gardeners sometimes have “itchy fingers” and always want to pull up and toss plants if they’re not performing as we feel they should. By doing so, we lose all that valuable information that we’d have if we had just left them alone.

Jack, friend and reader, in New Jersey wrote to me a year or so ago when he was first trying his hand at growing onions from seed after reading one of my posts on that topic. He was very disgusted with those onions because they had not yet obtained the size that he felt they should. He was gonna pull them all up. I encouraged him to leave them and to wait and see. He did.

That crop of onions turned out to be gorgeous! He never would have realized that if he had given in to pulling them out.

I hope you’ll take this tip to heart and not be tempted to pull something up if it doesn’t do what you expect it to do. If you want to learn more, leave it alone and see what happens. It’d be a shame to waste all the time already invested and not get the most knowledge possible.

If your experiment involves an entire row and they’re taking up too much space that you need for other things — at least leave a few so you can benefit from the experience.

Wishing you the best garden yet!


  • Oh my goodness, this is the same “problem” I have had with starting onions from seed! They looked all floppy and puny in the plastic jugs and I so threw them out and bought sets. This year, I thought maybe I should give them more time and just set the jugs aside when I planted sets. The little plants decided to stand up and grow a little so eventually I set them out–and they are doing fine!

    Patience has also taught me that cowpeas will produce a second or continual crop if you don’t pull up the plants after the first crop.

    I get a kick out of the fact that after all of your years of experience, you are still “experimenting” too!

  • Theresa,
    I think doing these type of things as a gardener, has made you a very wise and savvy gardener. Keep up the experiments and I am encouraged from the story to do the same.


  • Theresa

    That serving or two from that one plant will be so good.

    My granddaughter makes them and they are so good. They are the only ones my wife will eat.

    She always says I want something green with dinner, even if I am fixing ham and bean soup. I tell her onions and carrots are not green. So one day I served her Brussel sprouts and told her they were green.

    I think Angel fries the sprouts with lots of good seasonings.


  • I’m trying many experiments this year…well, pretty much every year! I’m having a ton of fun getting the early spring crops in, putting this here and that there. It’ll be fun to see how my decisions turn out as the season goes. Hoping the low temps this week don’t kill what we’ve put in. Gotta get those seeds for the warm crops started soon!

  • Two new experiments this year on Le Farm…quinoa and hops! The quinoa grown from seed is looking great and I just received my organic hop rhizomes. A friend brews beer and I offered to supply local organic hops to try.

    Of course, if I am successful, the beer could be called, “Le Farm Bleu”… Le Farm hops and blueberries!

  • I tried something new this year, I left a few Kale and Collard greens plants in the garden with no protection. The Kale started new leaves at the top, and the Collard greens started leaves at the bottom of the stalk. It will be interesting to see how they pan out. I planted Ground Cherries three years ago and they keep reseeding in various places in the garden. They’re delicious or I would be pulling them out.

  • Betty, I’m so glad your onions from seed are doing fine! I think that’s one crop that gardeners give up on way too soon.
    I’ve lots of “tales” to tell about growing onions if I ever am able to finish the book I’m writing on them.
    If we live to be 200 years old we still couldn’t experiement with EVERYTHING there is to grow!

    Steve, glad you’re encouraged to keep experimenting. It’ll really increase your knowledge.

    Don, you’re making my mouth water for those brussels sprouts!

    Good going Farming Bear!

    Guinoa and hops! That’s great Suzanne. Please let me know how things work out!

    William, your story makes me want to try ground cherries again. About 16 years ago I planted some and lost them to severe drought the first year. But if they’re that delicious maybe I’d better try again.


  • Suzanne… I suggest you pot the hops in a huge bucket.
    They are an invasive species and toxic to dogs and certain other animals.
    They also sensitize some people and cause a burn like rash.
    Yes… I have learned to leave plants in.
    Brushing snow off kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli leaves for a winter harvest.
    Broccoli leaves make better cabbage rolls than cabbage.
    Even up here in canada, chard, beets, carrots, scarlet runners, kale, lettuce are all worth seeding in early fall for a spring crop.
    I plant next to the spring offerings and evict them as space is required by the new plants.
    It protects the new seedlings, provides shade and moisture.
    A lot of plants set their seed on the second year anyway.
    Broccoli, cabbage heads and root crops form after the length of days decrease. So there is no real rush to get them into the dirt.
    Fall planted garlic is the best.
    Although beans if planted early will throw 2 crops. The second one about 40% more than the first.
    One trick we have learned is to have a pile of 5 gallon buckets handy in the fall.
    Late bloomers can be dug up, the rootball dumped in a bucket and we have had celery as a house plant into February, same with cherry tomatoes and peppers.
    Sprinkle a few lettuce seeds on top with some multiplier onions.
    People laugh at my ‘pot collection’ lined up in front of the south facing patio door.
    Less so when I make a salad from my house plants.
    Last winter cauliflower was $7 a pound. Lettuce $5 a head.
    Do not use manure based soil. The flies will hatch with sun and moisture.
    Not the kind of pets you want.
    A lid with a hole in it also works if you don’t overwater. Pollinate with a cotton swab to keep it going.

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