… everything is wonderful. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and my garden will be fabulous this year.
That is how it feels every year at this time when I go to plan my garden. A new start. A fresh beginning. The world is my stage. I can do anything.
Why does it then not always turn out that way? What are the things that will sabotage this new beginning, this new plan? Here are a few that I have done in the past that lead to more trouble than they were worth.
- Forgetting what stage of life you are in – you can’t do everything all time time. If you are like me, though, you may think this doesn’t necessarily apply to you. But it does. Just remember, it will be okay. There will always be next year or next month or the next produce crop. If you are not able to put out a garden this year due to illness, a new baby, a death in the family, a move, or other time obligations, it will be okay. The world will keep on going and perhaps next year you will be able to put out that perfect garden. Or maybe it just means it will be on a small scale or a fall garden instead. Take a deep breath and try to look at the positives. What can you do with what you have been given?
- Remembering that there will come a time where you have to maintain – my favorite time in gardening is in the spring when I am putting new seeds in the ground. My least favorite? When it is July, hot, nothing is producing yet, and I have to weed and weed and weed. (Well, I used to have to weed, but that has lessened with a square foot garden. Now I rarely have to week, and even then it is usually just a handful of them.) There are still things that need to be done to maintain the garden, such as watering, removing plants that have disease, pinching off excess limbs on my tomato plants or fighting a pest. Does this time happen to fall in the middle of something else going on? Is it reasonable to assume that you will be able to maintain what you started months before? How long will this task take and how often?
- Forgetting to continue through the finish line – so often I find myself starting but not finishing a project. That could mean starting my seeds but not following through on putting them where they will get enough sun once they reach almost transplant size. I need to stay focused on what needs to be done next. Which leads to the next point.
- Becoming a SHE – a Sidetracked Home Executive. “I’ll go water the garden now before I have to go run this other errand. Oh, but I also need to take out the trash. Wow, the can sure could use a cleaning. I’ll just do that really quick outside. Hmmm, the garden hose has a hole in it. Now where is that duct tape? If this shelf was neater I could find the tape better. I’ll just do that real quick. Now how did that get here? It is supposed to go in the house. I should take it there before I forget.” After which you completely forget about the watering till you are laying in bed and it is 10 PM, so you just pray for rain. Sound familiar?
- Loosing track of your priorities – gardening is not more important than feeding your family (see #7), though in some cases it may be important so that your family can eat. In that case, you will need to find a balance.
- Trying to do too many new things at once – I know there are those of you who can do this, but not me. Moving to a new zone (I have done this two or three times), trying a new style of gardening, and starting a new job all at the same time quickly became a recipe for disaster.
- Not being realistic about your time – there was one year where we had moved to a new area. My yard was small, but there was room enough if I had been honest with myself. Instead I took the opportunity to have a plot in a community garden – 20 minutes from my house in a direction I never went. How much time really does it take to have a small garden? Turns out the plot was huge and had not been worked for a year or two. This meant the weeds were prolific and the soil hard. To make it even better, we were in the middle of a drought. So, after work a few evenings a week I would go to the garden. However, not only was there a 40 round trip drive involved, but I also had to actually do something there. That “quick trip to the garden” easily turned into 2 hours there plus driving. By the time I got home I was exhausted, supper had not been made, and my husband was feeling neglected. This also meant that my grocery shopping had to be done over my lunch hour instead of after work. If I had taken a step back and added up the time, I would have quickly seen that this endeavor was going to take a lot of time and effort for little return. There were a few good things come from this experience. That year was the first time I had grown watermelons, among corn no less. Otherwise known as “the part of the garden I didn’t know what to do with but wanted to keep down weeds”. The watermelons turned out. The corn didn’t.
- Not looking beyond your perceptions – yes, it would be great to eat only items you have grown and put up. The reality, for me, is that I don’t really like my canned pickles. It is just not something I seem to be good at. Yet. We do not eat many pickles, honestly, so spending the time and effort to put up a lot is a waste. It is better for me to buy the 1 or 2 jars a year from the store. Now, we do love raw cucumbers, so I do make sure to have several plants around the garden.
- Garden? What garden? – this tends to happen to me when the garden has not required a lot of my time so I have not been as attentive to it as I should be. Suddenly, a crop comes on or weather changes and watering needs to be done. Often I don’t remember to go check on it till my friend mentions her garden and reminds me that I need to actually visit mine in the backyard.
- Not stopping to do your research – if moving from Zone 6 to Zone 9, do follow what the extension service says is the planting time. They really do know what they are talking about. Just because you planted tomatoes in April in the other zone, does not mean that it is a typo when they say to plant tomatoes in February. There is a reason. Think July and August. Plants do not produce a lot when they are being fried to a crisp.
Every year brings new adventures, new opportunities, and new ways to view the garden. I am sure that at some point I will repeat one, if not all, of the previously mentioned actions to some degree. Part of it is my personality, part of it is that life happens and we can’t always plan for it. However, if I was not optimistic about gardening I do not think I would have the courage to do it year after year. With that in mind ….
… this year WILL be different. My garden will be fabulous, the birds will continue to sing, and I will have more produce than I know what to do with.
How about you? Any grand hopes for your garden this year? Do you ever find yourself doing the things mentioned above, whether in your garden or in life in general? Are there any things you do to avoid these pitfalls?