Gardening is hard. Really hard.
You get the weeds under control one week and then next week they’ve taken over again. It can feel like way too much work just to harvest fresh food from your garden. You spend hours choosing seeds, sowing your crops, watering, growing, tending to the weeds and then you finally get to harvest only to find out how long it takes to clean the bugs and the dirt before you can even prepare it.
Many people start to feel like harvesting fresh food just isn’t enough to warrant the time and energy into gardening.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
Between having 3 kids and a baby on the way, working from home, homeschooling and keeping up with daily life, I’ve definitely felt like taking the time to grow food is too exhausting. Add harvesting and washing off the dirt when you’ve got hungry kids and you’re running late on making dinner and it’s enough to make anyone want to give up.
10 mins a day versus catching up
The hardest thing about being an adult is our daily chores on top of a busy life. Add gardening into the mix, well you’re really just adding another thing to do. Just like any chore in our adult lives like laundry, doing the dishes or paying the bills, I like to remind myself that:
a little a day goes a long way instead of having to play catch up
This is just as true with gardening as anything else, if you can do just a little weeding 10 mins a day instead of one big go at the end of the week your garden will be less of a chore. However, it’s super easy to let things go or be too busy to do this. If your garden has become something too large to keep up with, perhaps ask a friend to trade weeding for fresh veggies or something else.
the pests have taken over
Have you had a bad season with bugs, weather or plant disease?
Is it making your heart want to break seeing your beautiful plants demolished? Are some of them stunted and not even growing anymore?
Pull them up. Don’t stare at the despair and watch them get destroyed further.
If you have time in the season you can figure out why your crops are failing and sow something new. If you have pests don’t let the bugs keep taking over, it’s better to kill those crops so they have nothing else to feed on. (here are some tips for organic pest control). If the weather is terrible and you keep getting weeks of rain or too much sun I highly recommend hoop tunnels.
Sickness, family & other issues not in our control
Despite our best efforts, life throws things at us even when we’re not ready or able to cope with them. Whether it’s sickness, a family member needing help, work stress or other complicated human things, gardening can feel like the last thing we need. This is a time that letting your garden go for a season is ok.
Some people actually feel more grounded working in the garden and find it’s a source of therapy, others need to be away from tasks such as gardening to re-coup. Whatever happens in your life just remember that your garden is important, but so is your emotional wellbeing and that’s the main thing to focus on. If you’re really sick and can’t tend to your garden but really care about it, see if there’s a friend, family member or neighbour that would be willing to help for awhile until you get better.
If you can’t garden this year try to sow some perennial flowers. They’ll be there for you next season.
Washing vegetables takes up too much time
This is one very overlooked aspect of growing your own food: the time it takes to harvest and wash your produce.
Some crops are easy to harvest and prepare right away like tomatoes, zucchini or cucumbers. Other like potatoes, baby greens, kale or broccoli that’s got aphids or cabbage moth caterpillars? Dirt that sticks on like the clay soil we’re growing in? Peas that take hours to shell?
Washing your crops can definitely make you want to give up on gardening!
Here are some tips for cleaning homegrown crops:
- Harvest in the morning if you can to prevent wilting (here’s how to rehydrate them if that does happen).
- Fill up the sink with warm water and add salt and or a little dish soap if you have aphids and caterpillars in your crops. After a few mins many will float to the top and die, repeat once or twice. This saves inspecting every single leaf.
- Fill up the sink or a large bowl with cold water for baby greens. A lot of the dirt or debris will fall to the bottom and weeds and yellow looking leaves will be easier to sort through with the greens suspended in the water. Drain tilted sideways so the dirt flows out, repeat again.
- If you have clay soil or very dirty crops like root veggies wash them outside, don’t bring the dirt inside to add to your kitchen clean up!
The weeds have taken over my garden
I’ve written a whole blog post on this because it’s happened to me SO many times!! You can read it here.
Gardening is a lot harder than people realize. It’s not just glorified fresh harvest and beautiful tidy rows. You reap what you sow only because of all the work that has to go into it. If you’re new to gardening make sure you start small so you’re not overwhelmed.
If you truly feel like you want to (or need to) give up this season go ahead.
But I’m here to say fresh homegrown food does taste better so please try again next season if you can. 🙂
My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.