Take your worst garden disaster. It was disappointing. It may even have been heartbreaking or hilarious. But one thing is for certain – it was something you will avoid at all costs in the future.

Congratulations! It was one of your most important learning experiences. Fact is that we learn more from our mistakes and failures than we ever do from our triumphs. A summer of growing has taught us plenty, and the lessons we’ve experienced are worth sharing. Here are five important ones that spread the knowledge for everyone to benefit from.

No. 1: Keep an eye to the weather

Believe it or not, climate change is here and it is setting new records for heat and extreme weather. Who knows for certain if our summer of drought can be chalked up to climate change, but as future predictions call for more heat and maybe drought times, many of us are thinking about switching our plant palette to varieties that can stand up to those conditions.

Predictable or unpredictable weather conditions have us thinking about how, what and where we plant, and how we can improve our water use. We can see how grouping plantings of those varieties with similar water needs works, as does plant selection for those that need less water, taking care to position them to allow for good drainage.

No. 2: Grow food 

Changing preferences for more organic foods, supply limitations, concern over food safety and just plain-old convenience have many of us growing more food plants than ever before. It is astonishing how much food can be grown in a small space.

Folks are slipping fruit trees into landscapes to take the place of shade trees and are reaping the harvests. And they are inserting all manner of vegetables into ornamental gardens that eschew chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides for organic harvests year-round. And in the process, we’ve discovered that a crop of rainbow chard is just as colorful and pretty as any flowering plant around

No. 3: Grow for beauty and fragrance

Growing for the senses with gorgeous big tropical foliage or brilliant flowering plants is a balm to frazzled nerves with a calming effect. When we set the scene with vibrant, growing plants, we create an oasis of escape and wonder. We’ve learned that it only takes a few well-placed plants to orchestrate our retreat.

Adding fragrance to the mix enhances the experience. There are a number of flowering plants, even plants with fragrant foliage such as scented geraniums or lavender that can add pleasant scent to our little garden retreats.

No. 4: Consider the natives 

According to one online source: “The numbers will surprise you. On a per acre basis, American homeowners use 10 times more pesticides than what is used on U.S. farms. Every year, U.S. homeowners apply an estimated 80 million pounds of synthetic pesticides to their lawns.” We are witnessing an alarming decline in insect numbers and varieties. As insect numbers tumble, so too do those of native pollinators that are necessary.

Insects are a vital component of our environment. The majority of insects are either beneficial or benign. The decrease in insect numbers is more than just alarming. It is scary, considering how important insects are to all food production and the survival of birds and other wildlife. No bugs, no birds should be the mantra of every home gardener.

One of the best ways to support a healthy ecosystem is with native plants which do not need pesticides or herbicides to thrive, and in turn support healthy insect and pollinator populations. Bugs are one of the main reasons to grow native plants, which are the perfect food sources for native insects. We’ve finally learned to love the weeds!

No. 5: Keep a garden journal 

How can we learn if we don’t “take notes?” A garden journal helps us stay on track as we chronicle what and when works in our gardens. A garden journal can take many forms and need not be anything more than a notebook to record and save the details. Lynette Walther

It is helpful to be able to look back over the seasons to compare weather conditions, harvest and bloom times to give us a good idea of where we have been and guide our gardens for the future.

A journal can tell us which plants, which varieties failed and why, and which thrived and why. By pairing a journal’s entries to long-range weather predictions (Will it be a cold winter or a warm one, a dry or wet one, for example?) we can best make choices for the coming months.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing, a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm, the professional organization for garden writers. Her gardens are in Camden.