When the spring season begins, even before the weather has warmed up, I'm all gungho about gardening. I eagerly map out a garden plan, order seeds, and start transplants. I nurse those early plants along through the pleasant months of spring, enjoy the spring harvest, then enthusiastically plunge into the summer season.
But then the weather becomes unpleasantly hot and humid. The weeds grow out of control. A pest I can’t identify ruins my sunflowers. Grass grows up over my compost pile, which incidentally, a snake now calls home (no joke). Nothing seems to go as planned. It is about this time I realize I am two weeks behind on my fall planting. I begin to wonder: Why on earth am I doing this? And why should I keep going?
Has anyone else arrived to this place in the season yet? If you haven’t, chances are you most likely will. An overwhelming late summer garden seems to be a fact of life for every gardener.
Here are 7 things I have learned that help keep me going when the going gets tough:
1. If you are working as hard as you can and still not getting it all done, you may be taking on too much.
It is okay to scale back a bit. Make a note of those crops you can’t care for, or those tasks you can't complete. Next year, plant fewer crops or fewer varieties if possible.
2. Work outside when the heat is less intense: early morning or late evening.
Morning, if you can swing it, is the best time especially for watering. Water on the leaves will have all day to dry, making your plants less susceptible to mildew and disease.
3. Set the timer and see how much you can get done in fifteen minutes.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish in a short amount of time. Often times that is all you need to get you going. Once the timer goes off, you might be motivated to keep going for another fifteen or so.
4. Pace yourself.
Choose one task per day, or break a large task down into smaller daily bites.
5. Take a break from garden chores and do something you really enjoy to help you remember why you fell in love with gardening in the first place.
Gather some annuals and bring them inside for a cut flower arrangement or use your basil to make some pesto.
6. Consider allowing some of your spring crops to self seed.
One year I inadvertently allowed some lettuce plants to go to seed. In the same bed, I later planted some okra. The lettuce sprouted again on its own, under the protective shade of the mature okra. The only work I had to do was to periodically thin it out. The lettuce didn't grow in tidy rows and was terribly ugly when it went to seed, but it was one less crop to plant and one less task I needed to think about.
7. Slow down a minute and take it all in.
Take a moment to stop and tell yourself: “I planted these tomatoes… I grew this squash…” Handle and admire the fruit of your labor and the reward of all your hard work.
How do you keep going when your garden feels like it is out of control?
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