There comes a point in late July when I begin to experience creeping overwhelm around my garden.
Overwhelmed by weeds crowding everything, the growing list of things to harvest and preserve, the Fall planting window about to close, spaces we worked so hard to clear the previous year becoming completely overgrown, crabgrass between patio stones, the overgrown lawn.
Good intentions turn to feelings of defeat and low level anxiety rises steadily and soon mounts into something unmanageable, just as the weeds creep up and explode! (Gardening is one of my self-care activities)
When isn’t the garden a perfect metaphor for life and the mind?
Oh this letting go thing is so hard.
Look for garden abundance
On the surface, this is what I see when I survey our gardens . . .
Our heat loving crops are so behind.
The raspberries have no support to contain their wildness.
Half of our highbush blueberries died.
The tomatoes are a jungle.
We still don’t have garden gates and the deer and racoons are walking right in.
The chickens are digging up our gardens.
But if I look past the wildness, I notice . . .
We have more perennial flowers than ever before
We will have enough garlic for the year.
We have twice the number of raised beds than last year.
The tomato plants are thriving despite zero maintenance.
We managed to succession plant beans, lettuce, beets, and radish.
Our fruit trees and perennial berries are yielding actual fruit!
We are growing our own cannabis and its doing really well!
This sounds like a productive, abundant, and biodiverse garden. It’s all about what you allow yourself to see.
The intangible yields of engaging with plants
The girls are engaging with plants on such a deep level this year. They are learning to see plants as medicine, nourishment, and a source of joy & energy.
Again, thankfully, I could go on.
Isn’t nature’s abundance incredible?
Many of those weeds are actually food. They are merely living out their purpose – nourishing the soil, preventing erosion, attracting pollinators, and plenty more. And keeping our hubris in check.
Every year I become more interested in perennials, foraging, and medicinal herbs and flowers. I become more inclined to eat seasonally year round and am drawn towards minimal and low-energy preserving, like drying herbs, fruit & mushrooms.
I return again and again to the 12 principles of permaculture – these are just a few of these principles that are especially relevant to this topic:
- Obtain a Yield – this could be a tangible yield, like vegetables, or intangible, like happiness, health, or mental wellness.
- Apply self-regulation and feedback – look at successes and setbacks to create lasting change
- Use Small, Slow Solutions – focus on making small, incremental changes to avoid becoming overwhelmed
I love annual vegetables and the satisfaction of a well-stocked pantry and freezer, but it is a lot of work and in ways makes me feel less food secure. If something goes wrong with the freezer, a shelf gives way and jars crash down, or my dried food grows mould – then what?
Fighting the weeds, preserving the seasons, tricking nature – it just doesn’t always feel sustainable. I don’t always have the energy.
Minimalism and gardening
The minimalist approach I take towards my whole life also applies to the garden – learn how you can bring minimalism into your gardening in this post.
It’s so important to remember the why of what we do as gardeners and homesteaders. And keep things in perspective.
This is a very busy season of my life – I am investing in so much now.
I’m growing a business.
I’m raising young children.
I’m re-parenting myself.
I’m investing in my marriage.
I’m engaging with my community and nourishing my friendships.
And, we’re six years into establishing our homestead.
Every year, things shift. Not everything can have our attention at once. Stepping back to rest and nourish ourselves is key to figuring out what is most important in this season.
What needs your attention right now and what can you let go?
I will get many do-overs with the garden, and every incremental step I take moves me forward. What we are doing is enough. I won’t get a do-over on this season in the life of my family.
And next Spring always gives us a chance to begin again, with new intention.
Your garden gratitude list
I challenge you to make your own garden gratitude list. Here are a few prompts to get your started:
- What have you enjoyed doing in your garden this year?
- Are you foraging more?
- Are you trying something new?
- What plants are doing well without you?
- What is thriving thanks to your past efforts?
- Do you feels great about supporting local farmers & food producers?
- Did you make a positive choice for you or your family than means gardening takes a back seat?