Plant Your Own Fail Garden: Meet My Rabbit-Proof Test Plot

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I’ve spent most of my life trying not to make mistakes. Now that I’m in my thirty-sixth year, I realize that maybe that wasn’t the best approach. Being afraid to fail is no way to live life.

I’ve been intimidated by the idea of planting a garden. I decided to just go ahead and plant anything. I’m calling it my family’s “Test Plot.”


I let my son choose the plants and seeds. We built our test plot in April and we actually started planting then too. In our area that’s a huge gamble. Here’s a breakdown of the cost of a test plot:

  1. 4 pieces of reclaimed wood = Free
  2. 8-10 large bags of soil, $2.50 each = $20
  3. 4 metal stakes, $2.75 = $11*
  4. 2 rolls chicken wire, $2.50 = $5*
  5. Plants range from $3 to $5
  6. Seed packets range from $2 to $4
  7. Staple gun (to attach chicken wire to bottom and sides of wooden box)*

*only required if you have a rabbit problem, which we do!

The costs are not out of reach when you consider that once you set it up, you have the box itself for a long time. Also I should note that in general you should be careful with reclaimed wood because it might leech into your food.


So in April we went to Menards and bought whichever plants and seed packets my son wanted. If I was being a perfectionist, I would not have let him have such a big role. But this is our test plot so it doesn’t matter if it goes wrong.

He chose strawberries, brussel sprouts (he likes roasted brussel sprouts) , and cilantro. I picked out spinach, parsley, peppers, and tomatoes. We planted everything in April.

Are you laughing yet? I knew that our hard frost date is May 17. It was a huge risk. Luckily it did not drop below freezing from mid-April on. But it got awfully close. Ready to know what died first? The tomatoes were stone dead within two or three days. Then the peppers started to fade. As did the spinach.

But my son’s choices held steady. The brussel sprouts and the strawberries thrived. The spinach and the peppers hung in there.

Then we grew broccoli and carrots from seed in the little seed starters. I don’t even know if that was the right way to do it. Well, the broccoli immediately died. But the carrots are doing great.


I tried to label everything in the picture above. You can see that it’s sort of chaotic, but you know what? It’s okay. I’m just testing things out and next year we’ll construct a larger raised bed and plant our success stories. After the season is over I plan to experiment with other different plants next year in our test plot.

The most important thing is that we did SOMETHING, ANYTHING with dirt and trying to grow stuff. My son brought a little neighbor girl over to look in our test plot garden. He was so proud. Yep, my work is already done.

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4 thoughts on “Plant Your Own Fail Garden: Meet My Rabbit-Proof Test Plot”

  1. This is a beautiful garden. You planted something. You planted anything. That is all it takes.

    Know what? It is not too late to plant tomatoes again. Yes, this year! It is not too late to plant Brussel sprouts from bedding plants.

    When I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico from Central Wisconsin, I had a big fear of trying to garden in an airid region at 7,500 feet above sea level. I took a Master Gardener’s class in Santa Fe. The first question asked, by a woman from Vermont, was, “when is the best time to plant here?” The answer: “Anytime is a good time to plant.”

    You have a beautiful vegetable bed. Keep planting. It is not too late for radishes, lettuces, kales. Ask your friends or neighbors if they have some seeds. Seed saving people are always willing to share. It takes gardening to a new level.

  2. I moved to Australia 3 years ago (Tasmania to be exact) and have had to pretty much re-learn EVERYTHING I knew about gardening before. Which, to be honest, wasn’t much, but at least tomatoes and peppers thrived where I used to live!
    We have not only potential rabbit problems here, but most of my basil and cilantro was eaten by wallabies this year (I grew my herbs outside our enclosure, because last year the bugs in there were more of a problem than wallabies).
    Every year, we’ve learned , there is something new to learn about the plants and pests. Things never stay the same!

  3. I attended a gardening workshop earlier this spring, and the most inspiring piece of advice was “every year is an experiment.” And this from a gardener with decades of experience and certified as a master composter.

    Yes, you should buy some more tomato plants! There are cool-weather crops (greens, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts…) and warm-weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, squashes), so you should stagger your planting next year. Also, with the brussels sprouts, trim the leaves from the bottom up as the round sprouts emerge above each stem. Those are really fun to grow, and I love that your son enjoys them.

  4. I did the same this summer and have had failures & successes, new bugs & creatures alike. It’s fun and little scary (with these random creepy crawlies), frustrating and fulfilling.

    Now…I want to get gardening into our local schools, where the lunch menus are dismal and buying local is not even in the discussion. October is Farm to School month so it seems like a great time to approach the idea, but now it’s just in the how’s.

    Also, working on what to plant in my winter garden.

    I wish you continued luck and learning in your garden!


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