Your Worst (Best) Mistakes

We bought some land in the country in 1982 with the goal of “self sufficiency”.

We quickly planted 2 acre of blueberry and 2 acre of blackberry. My wife and I were both employed full time outside the farm and it took a while to understand how much farm work was going to be necessary.

I was a naive city boy with no farm experience at all. Fortunately, my wife had at least driven a tractor.


That’s pretty funny! I know the darn things. I have about 20, and I can’t put them in the ground, well maybe room for two! So all have to be in pots. I plan to get rid of about 10 of them. I have 5 already. So I was thinking along similar lines, how am I going manage these cuttings!?
I’m in suburbia, and a cold zone for figs, so everybody’s situation is different.
My biggest mistake was about 25 years ago when I left my cacti outside too long in the fall and lost about 7 giant cacti. I increased edibles about 5 years ago, have ton’s of experience, just not with fruit, so it went fairly smoothly. I lost a few trees, not from mistakes, just bad luck, winter kill of fall planted tree, bad canker infections, etc… Sure now I know more for sure. My first crop EVER of stone fruit was absolutely perfect.
Some at the time when I first started said I made bad choices for picking some Zaiger trees, but the ones I picked were the most hardiest, and that person who is a major experienced person here, was dead wrong. I still have them all 5 years later and they all fruited well.

My worst mistake starting out as a first time homeowner many years ago was the use of ammonium sulfate on my lawn, and Miracle-Gro on everything else. The use of water soluble nitrogen (even at recommended doses) is an invitation to every sucking and chomping insect and disease known to plantdom. The plants become crackheads for N, there is nothing added to build up/feed the soil bio-herds, and the cycle continues in a downward spiral.

Now my fertilizers consist of water insoluble N, with ample compost and mulch applied. Plants are slower growing, smaller and more compact, but disease and pest resistant. I use a mulching mower on the lawn and as a result use a lot less fertilizer and water than before. I’d say everything has been trouble free for the most part. Feed the soil that feeds the plants – is a model that really works.


The worst thing I did recently was when I moved some Nanking cherry bushes to my yard. Mom put some silver ribbon on them to mark them. Most had a little piece tied in upper branches. I planted them in a hedge down the north fence. Skip forward two years and as they start to leaf out two bushes stay dormant. I am a little confused, so I break a branch and it is still green inside. A week later and they still have not bloomed, I noticed a bulge in the trunk right at the mulch. They each still had a piece of shinny ribbon choking them right at the ground. I tried to cut it out but both died. Woops


I sometimes get frustrated with gardening and fruit growing, but never angry - except for once. I now don’t recall what made me mad. But I had a shovel in my hands and just chucked it across the yard. I watched in horror as hit the ground, vaulted through the air and headed straight for one of my young Asian pear trees. The shovel blade cleaved the pear tree right in half. Turns out an “open center” is a pretty good form for a pear tree! :slight_smile:


Mark, there could be a thread for Muddy’s most Notorious Mistakes, since I’ve probably made just about every common one, plus managed to create a few less common headaches.

Those in parts of the southeast will understand when I say that most growing things will either struggle to survive well here or have a tendency to grow uncontrollably rampant. Only a small minority will grow at an acceptable rate and produce reliably with minimal care.

Like many, I enjoy watching hummingbirds, and plant things to attract them. We have pine trees throughout the property. Bit by bit, as finances have allowed, I’ve had the most threatening ones removed. Some are very large. Within my view, there stands an annoying pine with a girth of about 3 feet.

Trumpet vine grows wild. Trumpet vine is a climber. Hummers flock to and feed on trumpet vine. Yes! I planted some at the base of that huge pine. Hummers were happy. I was happy - for about two years.

Trumpet vines produce, not only thick vines which attach strongly to the trees. The also push out myriad roots which spread, even through clay, at least as far away as the vine can grow tall. New vines spring up along the roots. They are a struggle to remove, and seemingly impossible to eliminate completely, each piece of remaining root determined to create more vines. The seed pods scatter, as well, although the young vines produced are easier to eliminate.

I planted those seventeen years ago. Fifteen years later, the vines are still persisting, although in recent years I seem to be finally making some headway. In a smaller yard, it may not have been so long term troublesome. But mine is large, a mix of wild and tame, a happy habitat for invasive vines.

I’ve had other spreading plants that have gotten out of hand, but none as pernicious as trumpet vine. Now that I’ve experienced the consequences, I’ll never again plant anything here that has a reputation for being invasive. There are too many wild ones that find their way here on their own.

That, I believe, qualifies as a major mistake.


Big mistake is planting without proper planning. Result: digging up and moving way too much and sometimes killing a perfect tree.

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My biggest mistake has been not seeking out a forum like ours sooner so I could learn how to grow an orchard properly. Now I’m trying to make up for lost time. Bill


My biggest mistake was that I used cheap soil for my two peacotums, one peach, a plum seedling, and my proprietary peach x apricot hybrid, and guess what? The soil was infected, as a result, all my trees died.

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I got a full pickup load of molded silage to put on my garden. I packed it until no more would fit. As I was unloading it with my trusty pitch fork I was just imagining all the tasty vegetables it would help grow. Packed silage is pretty dense so I would put my foot on the fork and drive it into the silage. I stomped my fork into the pile and it met a solid object. Ah, I forgot about my spare tire. It now had a nice row of holes down the sidewall. Always move your spare tire when hauling mulch or chips!


Derby, you made me laugh. That sounded like something that would happen at my place.

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The first Time I grafted 20 + years ago I used sowing thread wrapped around the scion and stock and candle wax. I thought it would work. I knew cherry scions needed cherry rootstocks but I used choke cherries because I figured they were close enough. I was so sure of my method I tried more than one year. So if that’s not bad enough I determined my grafts were not tight enough and that was the cause of failure. I was not going to let that happen again and upgraded to tape. Eventually after using duct tape and having a devil of a time removing it my pear grafts took on some experimental flowering pears. Once I did that I then read books on grafting and read forums online. I have not used duct tape in many years but I still have some really old pears I smile at when I walk by them. The thread inside the duct tape must be pried off one thread at a time. The sticky stays on the tree and if you remove it you will debark the tree. A razor blade and an hour or so with a steady hand will get most of it off.


I forgot I had one heck of a time getting rid of those chokecherries I dug up and brought home. They send suckers through the ground. The wild pears I did more research on by scouting the area to make sure they didn’t sucker before I dug those up. I know what you meant about the trumpet vine Muddy! Choke Cherry


Growing too much of one thing and then having that ripen all at once and no time, no desire, no motivation to deal with it. I once had so many tomatoes that all were cracking/over ripe that i dug a huge hole and just buried everything…probably several 5 gallon buckets…i just didn’t want to deal with them. Growing the right variety also plays in here because i think this was a really bland tomato that i grew way too much of. Every year when i start my seeds i always remember the giant hole of tomatoes.


I was grafting, top working an apple tree to spy. Then I noticed I grafted spy to a spy graft I did the year before. I guess the best part was if the new graft failed the branch was still be spy. Probably the biggest mistakes I made was watching Stephen Hayes cut the whole tree off except a nurse branch and bark graft the trunk. I then tried it and along with two really cold winters I killed my tree.

Lol. I could see me doing that.

My list of mistakes is Very Long. Most recent- a prize apple tree that I raised from my own benchgraft had outgrown its plastic spiral trunk guard so I figured its bark was tough enough to not need a larger hardware cloth cage that would require me to go the hardware store, make a cage, etc. Well this winter something girdled it. So now I am making hardware cloth cages for the remaining trees.

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Hambone, I would gather scionwood now and try bridge grafting. If it’s girdled all the way at the bottom you could try grafting rootstock to it.

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Thanks for your good suggestion but I decided I have too many apple trees and am converting that spot to pawpaw, much less headache.

Trying to pull down branches on a Karmijn during its dormancy. CRACK. Luckily it survived as a Dr. Suessian looking thing.

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