Why name a page “The Frustrated Gardener”? Isn’t gardening supposed to induce calm and zen? Aren’t we close to the earth when we garden; one with nature?
Sure. Yet, we also might feel like we want to rip our hair out if we have to pull another dandelion or set another slug trap or deal with the neighbors cat one more time.
This page is about accepting the frustration, leaning into the work that is involved in keeping a garden, and trying to find a way to make things run a little more smoothly as you venture into your garden space.
So, what makes gardening so frustrating?
At the top of my list of gardening frustration is, by far, the weeding. Not all weeds are that difficult to deal with, but nearly every area has an invasive weed or plant that spreads by rhizome and is just about impossible to remove. In my case it is quack grass, and it has become an endless effort to keep removing these weeds from the garden. This can take a toll on your motivation to continue to be in the garden so it is important to find a way to keep things enjoyable. This page talks in depth about quack grass, my least favorite weed to encounter in the garden.
I manage this by setting a timer and working for the 5 to 30 minutes that I have set each day just for weeding. When that timer is done, I move on to a more enjoyable gardening task or sit back and enjoy the scene. Another tactic could be to listen to an audio book, some good music or a podcast to help pass the time.
The fact is, if you have a garden, you will have weeds and it is important to find a way to live with it. If you have the resources, you could consider hiring a company to do the weeding for you, but it is hard to ensure that a stranger knows exactly what is a weed and what is your new seedling.
Whether it is slugs, aphids, red lily beetles or any of the many other pests, if you have a garden, you will definitely have bugs to manage at some point or another.
Maybe you have been in the same situation as I was one Spring after I had carefully started my broccoli seedlings inside under grow lights, moved them outside slowly to harden them off and when I finally decided to put them outside a bug quickly chewed the stalk in half and the plant was dead by the next day. The definition of garden frustration!
Managing pests is best done before they even have a chance. Set slug traps, watch carefully for signs of lily beetles so you can remove them at the first change, and use row and plant covers to protect from certain insects and birds. Over winter, learn about what pests are common in your area and prepare for them before you even put anything in the ground. Check out my post on five common garden pests for more information.
Without fail, early summer will hit, you will be out in the morning admiring your garden and then that afternoon a storm brings heavy rain and hail and destroys your carefully grown tomatoes. The wind takes your sunflowers and gladiolus down, or the sun blasts for weeks on end with no sign of precipitation and you end up trying to manage drought.
We can’t do anything to change the weather, but we can prepare our garden for what weather we might expect in our area.
If you regularly get hail, you could try building a cover for soft plants. Stakes can help keep plants upright during a windstorm and if you know you are prone to drought, you can should be choosing plants that can withstand a dry, hot climate (keep in mind that most plants will need water in order to establish their roots the first season).
Maintaining a garden, whether it is a few pots on your patio or a large perennial and vegetable garden, requires more work than most new gardeners are prepared for. As a seasoned gardener, there are days where I still wonder why I am spending another 20 minutes on me knees pulling weeds.
I find that reminding myself of the seasons helps keep me in tune with my garden. Winter is a welcome break after a busy summer, Fall harvest and garden clean up. It provides the break we need to get excited to start again the following spring.
Keep a garden journal with what your goals are for the year, and refer to it often to help keep your motivation high. Remember that your garden will be fine if you let the weeds grow for a few days, a week or even this season if you are dealing with other things in your life. The nice things about gardening is that it is always there, ready for you to jump in and start over. The best way to deal with garden frustration is to keep things in perspective; you are growing beautiful things that you and your community can enjoy but your garden will continue to grow even if you need a break.