When the best laid planters go wrong – a lesson in prepping and patience.

I am not an artist. I draw stick people. 

That lack of artistic skill doesn’t stop me from sketching my ideas or vision of the finished project.

I have sketches of interior projects and exterior plans. It is uncanny how they have come to fruition. Some of these plans were of long term visions of how I wanted my home and yard to look one day. 

Like everyone else, I work with a budget. It has come to represent both the blessing and the curse of limitations raining down on my creative parade.

It is a curse because it delays the joy of seeing the project finished. It is also a blessing for the same reason. There is also joy in the slow unfolding of a vision brought to reality.

And reality is what I bumped into in the last few days with an exterior project that began last year.

Last year the white vinyl raised bed planters I had ordered were delayed. It was understandable given the situation with Covid-19. 

Back then, you couldn’t find a bag of flour, yeast, cleaners or toilet paper. For people who hadn’t prepared, it was like striking gold if they were in the right store at the right time and found any of those items. Limit 2.

The planter situation required a rapid adjustment. Enter my husband. He means well, but when he gets involved everything becomes complicated. He didn’t have a project at the time, and was bored, so he decided to help me. 

I like to work independently. This is the point where he and I become two children squabbling over the tools. To keep the peace, he got to build the interim wood planters and enclosure to the raised beds while I laid baseboards and did sheet rock in the house.

The finished garden area was okay, but not what I wanted or even close to the sketch I had made. Like the original planters on order that didn’t arrive in time, you can’t always get what you want.

The square foot gardening technique I tried was not something I would do again. I found it too crowded even though I sowed the seed exactly as specified. The enclosure around the perimeter of the raised bed he built was a source of frustration and pain. The panels attached to the raised beds became hair-triggered doors that swung back on their zip tied hinges with just enough velocity to be a nuisance. 

The frame that they were attached to was just low enough to smack my head into when I worked in the garden. Every. Single. Time. The wire I wanted for those panels was nowhere to be found, so I settled for chicken wire. When those door panels smacked me, I had to watch that I wasn’t also attached to a stray end of chicken wire. Luckily, my tetanus shot is up to date.

Even my vegetables weren’t what I expected. There was a late cold snap, so I re-seeded and hoped for the best.

The Swiss chard, kale, peas and tomatoes turned out well. But the radishes and beets were a disappointment. They were “all hat, and no horse,” with stunted root development and massive greens on top. The Vidalia onions that I was looking forward to were sad little globes not much larger than what I planted at harvest. From what I could troubleshoot, I had too much nitrogen in the planting mix I made, but I am still not certain.

That was last year. This year I was prepared. Or so I thought.

Over the winter, I bought my husband a router and other tools to keep him busy on his projects and out of mine when Spring arrived.

I drafted new sketches of the planters that I wanted to position at various points around the perimeter of my property for privacy, security and extra food production.

Originally, I wanted white vinyl planters and trellis for appearance and ease of maintenance. The cost to do everything was prohibitive if I wanted to get all of it done this year. So I decided to use lumber and build them.

Everything was organized. Then I called for lumber prices and it all went off the rails. Maintenance free cedar was out of the question, coming in at more than $100.00 CAD for just one of the boards I needed, which left the option of treated wood and painting it white with food safe paint.

I checked into our treated lumber and it is not considered safe for vegetable production. The food safe paint reviews were depressing. I am not repainting every year. My design philosophy for everything in and around the home is to build in long term durability and ease of maintenance plus value added.

So, I approached the problem the same way I do other issues in prepping. I figure out what is most important or necessary to acquire first. Then cost is examined and how to slot the item(s) into my budget is determined. If I want the item faster, then the cost of that item must be reduced or triage of other items changed.

That was when I realized this experience was a good example of how you can’t always get what you want all at once. It takes time to prepare. It takes time to create something worthwhile. Sometimes, a compromise must be made in order to get what you want and how and when you acquire it.

The white vinyl raised beds delivered late last year that became a fixture in my den are as of yesterday arranged in two neat 4’x16′ rows.

I tore the chicken wire enclosure off the other two wood raised beds from last year and have positioned them behind the white vinyl planters. These four planters will become my main vegetable area.

At the very back will be my assortment of beneficial flowers and wildflowers, sown without the limitation of a planter bed. 

I ordered 7 white vinyl planters 15″ deep x 3′ wide x 4′ high (with trellis) for the one side of my front yard. They will provide the barrier and privacy I need to establish and come summer filled with flowers and edibles that don’t look like vegetables as part of another prepping experiment.

It only covers the one side, but in time the rest of it will come together, this year or the next. 

Preparation prevents panic. I had to remember that motto when my best laid plans went wrong. I don’t prepare and panic. I prepare to avoid panic. 

When something goes wrong with our best laid plans (or planters), that’s the time to stop and find another way to achieve our prepping goals. 

In this forum, I have read some excellent examples of how people began to prep using items on hand and then, as they were able to, began to change out those items for other items.

There are other people here who also experiment and use prepping as a type of ongoing classroom. I really enjoy the learning aspect of prepping.

Other people have bartered for what they wanted to get.

We all research, plan and prepare according to our best laid plans. Our plans may not come to fruition the way we expected. There may be problems along the way, but those experiences help us to learn how to adjust our plans and find another way. In doing that, it is possible to end up with a much better result and a level of preparedness that we hadn’t expected.       


  • Comments (8)

    • 4

      Good morning Ubique,

      Just drop down “best” to “adequate plus” for plans and much more will be positive – to include positive thoughts.

      Perfection is subjective. If my objective is accomplished, it is positive and successful.

      Consider holding off on the “tore off” the chicken wire attached to wood.  Let the shot/jab vaccine start working w/o additional fatigue.

      • 6

        Good Afternoon Bob,

        You are right. As I told Redneck below (I am working my way up the reply list), I wish I were more like you and him. You are very balanced people.

        I have read and read and still can’t stop driving myself toward getting things just right. I can tell other people not to do it, but it is a challenge I have to work on (and get right).

        The river rock around my house is actually my supply of worry stones 🙂

        Thank you for the reminder on the vaccine. I know you mentioned it before in another thread and I actually forgot. I will pace accordingly.

      • 2


        Good afternoon Ubique,

        You’ve completely mastered the unconscious understanding that life is uncertain. Is not perfection (-ism) a defense mechanism to place oneself in control of some substitute matter ? … like stockpiling gear, writing many articles for publishing, re-doing the resume, gardening, … ?

        I personally go through life, and in particular, prepping, like I’m in WWII living in the forest or jungle and aware that might have to evacuate the place. This means, concurrently with working the forest or jungle habitat,  getting ready to vacate and having the energy, sleep, nurishment and some “free time” as part of this aspect of the survival situation.

      • 3

        Good evening, Bob

        That article definitely ticked a few boxes and I have book marked it. Thank you for the link to it.

        Tool #2 exposure practice examples ticked every box. Those are going to take some work.

        Control and prepping go hand in glove for me. Early environment (both parents PTSD/family) and life events plus a series of stressful jobs, one in particular that had no room for error.

        Prepping is a way to insulate against the reality of what the world can dish out. Some people go through life unaware and skim the surface. They will never be the “stranger in a strange land” as Heinlein wrote.

        “…energy, sleep, nourishment and some “free time.” I have to work on that.

        Thank you, Bob. 

    • 6

      Has anyone told you you worry too much?  🙂

      I’m the opposite of you.  I get an idea, think about it some.  Jump in.  Redo, after learning from my mistake… and get on with enjoying nature.  I have no expectation of getting it right initially, as plans change & ideas bloom.

      • 3

        Yes, I’ve been told. If worrying was an Olympic sport, I’d get the gold medal.

        I wish I was more like you and Bob. You guys are so balanced. Ever since I was a kid, if I didn’t get it right the first time, I didn’t rest until it was perfect.

        I seriously have got to learn to enjoy the journey. Thank you for reminding me of that 🙂

    • 7

      Why are you saying treated lumber isn’t safe?  If you Google that question, the vast majority of sites say it is fine.  No doubt you can find someone with an opinion that it is dangerous, but that is typical today.  You constantly are exposed to toxins, in the food you eat & the chemicals you clean your house.  I don’t doubt the chemicals in cedar wood are toxic also, at least in someone’s opinion.

      • 7

        Hi Redneck,

        I am sorry. I just realized I need to clarify something. It isn’t safe for me. 

        I have chemical and environmental sensitivities and allergies and anomalies in my immune sysem, including m-protein positive myeloma, so after reading about the subject, I have elected to work with the food safe vinyl.

        Apologies again for the confusion. I plead “garden brain” 🙂