I’m all about being real with you all and today’s post is.. ahem. Embarrassing? Kind of. I’m going to tell you all about how I made two expensive mistakes in one project and the advice I got on how to feel better when we mess up.
I’ve been pinning raised garden bed ideas since we moved into this house in 2016 and this year is going to be the year I finally make it happen. I drew up preliminary plans, took measurements, and made a list of supplies we needed. With my list confidently tucked away in my phone, we piled into our Ford Transit and went to Home Depot to get our supplies.
I had done a lot of research on the subject of raised garden beds. I wanted beds that were two feet deep, three feet wide, and six feet long. A lot of people online said that if you suspect the soil under your beds is clay or rock (as we do very much suspect; we learned this when we built our fence), two feet is the way to go.
After acquiring the wood, we went to Costco to get our soil. I had been there a week or so prior and noticed they had big bags of organic garden soil available for $7-8 dollars/bag. What a dream! A great price!
I didn’t notice exactly how much soil was in the bag, but I assumed we’d need anywhere from 10-20 bags. They were big. I won’t lie — I hadn’t shopped around much, but I figured this was a decent price. I frequently buy similar soil for my indoor plants for more money. And — I’ll say it again — these bags were big!
“There they are!” I excitedly exclaimed over the incessant taptaptaptap of my broken Costco cartwheel after seeing they still had a few bags of the soil. I was unsure if they’d have any more since it’s almost planting season here in Tennessee. Jake, ever the planner, calculated how many bags we were going to need.
“Dude, that bag only has two square feet in it. We’re going to need like… fifty-four bags.”
So that was my first mistake. I didn’t even look up how much soil we would need, let alone the cost.
Needless to say my jaw dropped and I quickly started calculating this for myself (as one often does in a state of disbelief). Not only did they not have that many bags, but Jake was right. It was going to cost us almost four hundred dollars if we bought this soil.
I was feeling a lot like my broken Costco cart wheel as we walked out of the store. Jake didn’t even want a slice of Costco pizza. We were defeated. This project was proving to be more money than we anticipated.
I got to semi-sad and mostly-frantic googling for soil prices while Jake pumped Costco gas into the Ford. I was able to leave an inquiry with a local soil company before Jake could hang up the gas pump. Your girl works fast.
“I have another idea,” I said as Jake buckled in next to me, “let’s just halve the beds. Let’s make them one foot tall instead of two. Then we don’t have to pay for as much soil.”
Jake clicked the buckle and rolled his eyes at me. This is how he often communicates the feeling of “are you f*cking kidding me right now?”
“I bet I could sell it to someone. I have plenty of friends who were wanting raised beds too,” I added. I was mostly confident I would be able to re-sell the extra lumber, but I sold that idea to Jake like I already had a buyer lined up.
After another quick text, my friend Becca (who conveniently lives in the neighborhood) said she and her husband would be happy to buy our spare lumber from us. I sold it at a loss, but hey — less waste for us, and less soil to buy.
Perfect, one problem solved.
A few days pass and I honestly forgot that I had left that inquiry on the soil company’s voice mailbox. I got a phone call in the middle of the day on Wednesday from the most delightful woman, whom we will call Wanda.
“This call is for Abbey — you wanted to know about our soil prices.”
Lightbulb! I said yes, and suddenly my excitement about this project was back. Raised beds, here I come!
We calculated how many square yards of soil I would need for this project. It’s pretty affordable — about $275 after tax, including delivery. Definitely more affordable than the Costco soil. And they could deliver on a Saturday! It was perfect. I’m back, baby!
Saturday rolls around. The big day. I eat a smoothie that’s super healthy and full of nutrients to help keep me full all morning while I do what’s called “double digging” the beds — basically digging further into the ground to stop weed and grass growth and let the plants’ roots go down further. I dig and dig and dig while I wait for my delivery.
Becca posts a video of the dump truck from the soil company delivering soil because they decided to use them too. It’s a lot of soil! I’m so excited.
The dump truck arrives in front of our house about an hour later. I am just absolutely stalking this truck from inside my house while Jake is outside being helpful and guiding it down our driveway. I feel like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney.
We had built the beds at this point, and those beautiful little puppies were sitting in the backyard, waiting to be filled with this glorious soil.
Immediately after the truck driver pulls away, we begin our endeavor. We shovel soil into the wheelbarrow, and move the soil into the beds. Again, and again, and again. And then the beds were full. And then Jake and I look at each other and start scratching our heads.
“How do you calculate square yards again?” Jake asks me. I tell him, and he tells me I am doing it wrong. We go back and forth, fighting our respective cases. Eventually, Jake gives up and goes back to the soil pile with the wheelbarrow.
It hits me. I am doing this backwards! So I run to Jake and tell him he’s right. He sighs with relief that he is not crazy and he is just married to someone who is bad at math. And then I notice we have a ton of soil. About two-thirds is still there, to be exact.
This is where I realized oh no. This is wrong.
Jake looks at me, shovel in hand. He just smirks. I start laughing harder than I’ve laughed all day.
“But Wanda on the phone calculated the amount with me!” I say defensively, “I gave her the measurements and everything. Or maybe I was wrong?” I cannot figure out what happened.
Jake tells me that maybe she didn’t understand the way I was describing it to her. Sometimes I’m not amazing at describing things and this is probably one of those times.
I still have no idea how we arrived at this much soil. But I have a strong feeling that it wasn’t dear, sweet Wanda’s fault. It was almost certainly mine.
And so we ended up with six cubic yards of soil total when we needed two.
So maybe I’m not good at calculating soil or double checking my numbers or even having a real plan before I begin something. But I am really good at laughing at myself, especially when I mess up in a big and stupid way.
Still, Jake and I continue to laugh about this whole debacle for the rest of the night because… what else can you do?! We make a game plan for the rest of the soil (finally fill in all of the eroded areas around our patio and build some extra beds) and just talk it through.
“I make mistakes in my business all the time. Sometimes I accidentally buy the incorrect parts or whatever. Little mistakes here and there are totally fine,” Jake says to me, “I wouldn’t sweat about it.”
“Yeah, but this was a $140 mistake,” I say, “I’m just upset with myself. I hate that I did this.”
“If you do something right nine times and screw up one, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bad at what you’re doing.”
I smile. He’s right. We finish shoveling soil into our beds and happily order Dominos to cap off the night.
My advice: own the moments when you totally, unequivocally screw up. You can’t go back, so you may as well find a productive way to move forward.