Yesterday I clicked over on my Timehop app to see what I shared on social media in past years. I always love this trip down memory lane. Today, besides a cute video of my daughter when she was just baby, I found this:
Oh, how I remember that day. It’s like you wake up and you wonder if you married the right person. (Okay, maybe not that dramatic.) I had spent the past 3 years and poured countless hours into gardening. Now I questioned it all.
Thankfully, I trudged through the heat wave and got over my corn failure. I kept an open mind to what my gardening future would hold. But I’ll never forget the day in November when I found myself in the garden, feeling all of those puppy love feelings all over again. Yes, I still love gardening. Yes, I’ll garden again next year.
And instead of scaling back my garden, I actually added to it!
That said, it’s the end of July, and I’m overwhelmed once again. The weeds are out of control because my time is spent canning and freezing. (And weeding in 105+ heat indices isn’t my idea of fun). I’m disappointed that the squash vine borer has cut production of my beautiful zucchini, even though my efforts saved the plant. I’m worried that blight will overtake my tomatoes after all. And two pepper plants have mysteriously died on me.
But this year, I have perspective. And if you find yourself down and discouraged and thinking of giving up, here are a few encouraging words I want to share with you.
Realize that Feeling Overwhelmed is Normal
You wouldn’t tell a new parent to give up when the baby won’t quit crying. You’d tell them that this, too, will pass. Just work through the exhaustion. It WILL get better.
In the middle of July, the harvest has begun, which, often necessitates canning or freezing — both of which take time out of your day that you may have spent in the garden. You’ve also got weeds and grass, pests and spent plants, not to mention unbearable heat that prohibits you being outdoors for long.
To make it through, cut yourself some slack. Just like new moms are encouraged to let the house go for a time, it’s okay if every weed isn’t pulled and entire sections are overgrown. For the most necessary tasks – such as harvesting – earmark time early in the morning or late in the evening. Those are the most peaceful and comfortable times in a hot summer day.
Understand that Failures are the Best Learning Opportunities
I can’t describe the discouragement last year when most of my ears of corn had ripened past their usable state. I had cared for those plants from the time I selected the seeds and was looking forward to fresh corn on the cob, plus more for canning. But that very experience caused me to do more research this year and learn how to pick corn at the optimum ripeness. We’ve had fresh corn on the cob twice per week for the past few weeks and have had plenty to can and freeze to last us through the year.
Just like in life, your failures are often your best learning opportunities. Take your disappointments, do some research on those long, dark winter days coming up, and make plans to try again. Victory after defeat is much sweeter than unchallenged success.
Accept that Every Year Presents Unique Challenges
This is my fifth straight year of growing tomatoes, but it’s my first year of engaging in a constant battle with early blight. Gardening is unpredictable in many ways, and sometimes we just have to understand that this year won’t necessarily be like the last, and next year won’t be just like this one. But isn’t that what makes it fun? It’s important to keep in mind that it all won’t be perfect.
Remember Your Greatest Success
Even if your garden has met with profound disappointment, it’s likely you’ve also had some success. That moment when you picked your first zucchini and ate it that night? That’s success! When you harvested your first batch of tomatoes and had to scramble to find something to do with them because you didn’t expect such a bounty? That’s success! When that seed sprouted into a plant taller than you? That’s success!
Gardening is the most challenging and frustrating, yet most rewarding endeavor I’ve ever had. The challenges and frustrations makes the rewards that much more profound. I still, years later, find great joy in looking at my dinner plate, knowing all the vegetables on it came from my labor.
Turn Your Attention to Fall
You WILL get to rest. The weeds WILL die back. The pests WILL die (or hibernate). The temperatures WILL moderate, and you WILL want to get back in the garden again. In many ways, fall and winter are sweeter after a long spring and summer spent laboring in the garden.
Fall is also a great time to grow a small patch of cooler-weather crops. The pests won’t be as abundant and the work isn’t as taxing. Lettuce and snap peas are perfect fall crops, and last year I even planted zucchini in early August for my most productive harvest that year. Pickling cucumbers are great to plant in late summer as well, and carrots that are dug up after the ground has frozen are the sweetest. And don’t forget the garlic! Garlic needs to be planted a couple of weeks before your first frost for your early summer harvest. (Subscribers to my weekly gardening e-mail will receive more tips on fall gardening. Click here to subscribe.)
So, don’t quit! Don’t get discouraged! Enjoy the fruits of the labor, knowing that this exhausting and discouraging part of the season will pass. But the rewards of a home garden never go away.
What has been your most discouraging part of your garden this year or in years past?