photo by Amy Kiel
With the arrival of Spring, and the official start of gardening season, I thought I would welcome in the new season, by talking about something that I experience every year around this time. No matter how diligently I put my garden to bed in the Winter, I always walk out to a yard that overwhelms me in the Spring. There’s dead stuff that needs to be pulled out and chopped up for compost. Then there are the beds that are compacted from a Winter’s worth of rain that need to be forked up (and root systems removed), so the soil is loose again. What has become my most dreaded task though, is the truckload of compost that will need to be picked up, then shoveled out and turned in. The last step, to getting my beds ready for planting in the Spring, is fertilizing. Which isn’t so bad I guess, except that I have to get a 20lb. bag to be able to cover all my beds. By the time I get to scattering the fertilizer on top of the beds, my arms are so tired from shoveling, that 20 lbs. feels more like fifty and is awkward to hold on to.
It sounds like I am complaining and I guess I asked for this by turning my entire front yard into a garden. I have said before, that getting my beds ready for planting in the Spring is my least favorite task in the garden, but it is also the most important, so it is so worth it.
I have found some ways, to get over this feeling of being overwhelmed by the garden, that I find helpful. In fact, thinking this way can be helpful, in many areas of my life, any time I am feeling overwhelmed.
1. Just get started– I can be the queen of procrastination. Sometimes, I will do anything besides what I should be doing. I will clean the house instead of sitting down at my computer to edit photos or pay the bills. I often make excuses that I don’t have a large enough chunk of time to start something, so I figure why even start. I have learned from experience with gardening that it pays to be timely and plant things when they should be planted. I also have to take advantage of nice weather when it happens. So those two things are usually motivation enough to get me outside. Once I’m out there, I may stare at everything I have to do for awhile, but I find if I can just get started, tasks usually take less time than I thought they would. I am also usually surprised by how much I get done.
2. Take breaks– Steve Solomon talks about taking the time to “hoe lean” in his book, Growing Vegetable West of the Cascades and I utilize this tactic a lot. It’s nice to look out over your garden and assess what you have done and what to do next and can provide a much needed break.
3. Set a stop time– I have had days where I work in the garden from sun up until sun down (that may be how I got tendonitis), but I find I enjoy gardening a lot more if I set a stop time. It feels nice to know when I should call it quits, head inside, shower up and get ready for my evening. It’s more like a work day that way. I just get as much done as I can by my set end time and then whatever I don’t get to, I can do the next day. That way, if it’s 2:30pm and I planned on stopping at 3pm, I won’t start another big project that will take hours. Which ties in with my next tip…
4. Don’t try to do it all– I try to make smaller goals and do things in sections. This is especially helpful when it comes to weeding. For example, I will plan on weeding bed by bed, just the herb garden or just the backyard. If I get that done, I can move on to the next bed or area. If I don’t, it will get done later. There will always be more weeding to do!
5. Ask for help– Have a gardening party! I have been to plenty of garden work parties at friend’s houses or neighborhood gardens and it’s amazing to see how much more you can get done in a shorter amount of time with more hands. Make it fun, by feeding people and having some garden cocktails afterwards!
I hope this is helpful to anyone who may be looking out at their rain soaked, wreck of a garden and feeling overwhelmed by it. Do you have any tips for overcoming being overwhelmed by your garden? Or just tips on dealing with procrastination in general? I would love to hear them!