Spring crawls in from a winter cold, followed by the summer abundance of juicy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. But before you know it, it gets hot. Really hot. And following that heat is a feeling of garden burnout.
So, how do we manage that almost inevitable feeling of exhaustion that plagues us every August and September? Here are a few tips.
It may seem obvious, but pacing yourself is one of the best ways to avoid garden burnout. Slow and steady wins the race, as the tortoise showed us. But being slow and steady is a skill that takes time to develop.
When spring and summer finally hit, it’s hard to slow down. With the excitement that built up all winter and the warm sunshine on our faces, it just makes sense to sow as many seeds as possible. But then we have to make time to plant them all!
Set yourself up for success by only seeding what you know you can plant. Starting too many seeds too fast is a sure way to burn yourself out. Try to stagger your planting every week or two. This pacing gives you small tasks to do frequently, rather than one giant task to tackle all at once.
Weed and Prune Regularly
This is one that I certainly struggle with myself. During a humid New Jersey heatwave, the last thing I want to do is weed the garden. But the overwhelming invasion of weeds in the late summer can be gut-wrenching.
A simple way to avoid this is to weed a little and often. If you set the goal of weeding the garden once a week, it is a sure way to prevent the feeling of helplessness. But it’s very important to set the intention of JUST weeding. That is to say, set aside a specific time slot in your week to scan and tackle weeds and nothing else. Try not to get distracted!
There have been too many times when I found myself in the garden at high noon under the baking sun. Each time I ask why I did this to myself. Getting your timing right takes a little intention and a lot of patience.
Plan your most laborious garden tasks for the early morning and evening. Weeding the landscape beds at 1 p.m. on a hot day feels very different than weeding them at 5 p.m. Try to set yourself up for success by being at the right place at the right time.
If you do have to go out during the hottest part of the day, dress for the occasion. There is a reason why people who work outside all day wear long sleeves, hats, and pants. It seems counterintuitive, but going out in direct sunlight wearing as little as possible is going to make you feel the heat a lot more than if you were properly dressed for it.
Make a Plan
At the beginning of each season, write a list of goals you want to accomplish. Perhaps you want to try new varieties of tomatoes. Or try growing potatoes in bags or buckets. Take the time to write out these intentions.
I forget about something that I wanted to do more often than I’d like to admit. It’s easy to find yourself mid-summer remembering how you wanted to plant more pickling cucumbers this year, only to realize it’s too late in the season.
Try to make a plan for spring, summer, and fall. And once you write it make sure to go back and look at it! At the end of each season, write notes on what worked and what didn’t. That way you can go into the following year with a headstart.
Avoiding burnout in the garden isn’t easy, and it won’t happen in a single season. Try to take things a little at a time, focusing on one part of the whole that you want to work on. Perhaps this is the year you weed regularly, or maybe you want to first try to work on your planning. And remember, pace yourself, weed regularly, work on your timing, and make a plan.