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  • Writer's pictureIndi

Dealing with garden overwhelm!

The cold winter days have me dreaming about the coming spring and summer garden. It's the time of year for planning and wildly imagining just how productive your garden can be this coming season. These dreams can come with a cost however, and it's one I've paid a few times. Biting off more than you can chew in the garden happens to all of us. Sometimes it's because we've started too many new projects but equally it can happen when our life circumstances change, and the work in the garden needs to scale back.

A whole lot of chopped up chillis of red, orange and green.
Dreaming of that summer harvest.

Our time and energy for gardening can fluctuate throughout life for heaps of reasons. It could be because you've suddenly become a carer, run into a new injury or sickness, maybe you've had a baby or had to start working more. Maybe you're growing older, moving more slowly or just have other stuff going on. There's lots you can do in the home garden to adjust your workload so it fits with your life and to make sure the garden joy sticks around.

Here are some of the strategies we've used

  • Question your expectations! Managing a big productive garden takes a lot of energy and time. Sometimes it won’t look perfect or be as productive as you hoped. There’s always another season and another chance.

An excel spreadsheet with different coloured squares indicating which crops should be put in at which time of year.
A screen shot of the RIDICULOUSLY complicated crop plan I made for my garden at this time last year. It never got completed.

  • Ask for help! Have friends or family come over to help with big jobs. Ask someone to grow seedlings for you (maybe you can exchange something with them...), see if someone wants to help pick fruit or prune your tree in exchange for a basket of fruit.

A brown chicken scratching the ground near a healthy comfrey plant. A wheelbarrow wheel can be seen in the background.
You can ask chickens for help too
  • Buy/trade/share some stuff. It's OK to outsource production of compost or seedlings if you just can't quite get around to turning the compost pile or sowing and watering all those seeds.

A wheelbarrow full of compost with a spade sticking out of it.
Buying quality compost in bulk is the way to go. Then get friends to help spread it!
  • Put some beds to rest. Grow a cover crop or some flowers where you would normally grow lots of vegetables to give yourself a break from weeding and harvesting. Or offer those beds to a neighbour or friend.

A backyard garden with vegetable beds and pathways. Some lawn on the right hand side and a small building in the back corner.
This season I'm turning this all over to green manure to give myself a rest.
  • Put off any big projects for a while until you know you can manage what you already have. Sometimes that means letting go of the big worm farm bath tub or the new chickens for the time being. You can pick it up again later, or there might be a community worm farm you can contribute to.

3 large compost bays built out of pallet wood
Ask yourself - do my compost bays need to be this big?!
  • Turn annual vegetable bed areas over to perennial crops or self seeding flowers (those that continue to flower and fruit each season and don't need to be replanted each season).

A group of pinkish purple flowers with yellow centres growing in a garden
Cosmos self seeds easily - meaning you don't have to plant each season

The great thing about these ideas are that you can always scale back up and start sowing seeds and making your own compost again if you want to in the future!

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