Facebook memories have a tendency to give you perspective. Where you’ve been. How far you’ve come. This one in particular caught my eye:
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 three years and poured countless hours into gardening. Then, in the middle of harvest season, I questioned it all.
A fellow gardener calls this the “gardening blues,” and it usually visits in July or August. The weeds grow out of control, pests seem uncontrollable, and diseases like blight make you question everything.
Thankfully, each season I’ve managed to trudge through the discouragement. I got over my devastating corn failure. I learned which pests and diseases I needed to study more. I kept an open mind to what my gardening future would hold. And each year as the disappointments have lessened I’ve found the strength to keep going.
When the gardening blues hit you and if you find yourself down, 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 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 the next year and learn how to pick corn at the optimum ripeness. The years that followed yielded a harvest or fresh corn on the cob for weeks in mid-summer plus enough to preserve for the off season.
I’m so glad I didn’t give up!
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
In my fifth straight year of growing tomatoes, I engaged in a constant battle with early blight, although in the years prior I didn’t have major issues. It does seem like each year presents a new challenge! 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 I even plant zucchini in early August for my most productive harvest all season. 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.
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?
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