Do you ever feel like you’re in way over your head? As I once read in the NZ Gardener magazine, large gardens are lovely but they are a lot of work. Planning what you’re going to grow, ordering/purchasing gardening supplies, sowing seeds, raising seedlings, preparing the soil, planting, spraying, weeding, liquid feeding, harvesting and utilising produce all entail a great deal of work. When problems such as diseases and pests arise, even more time is required to conduct research and find a solution. I have a love/hate relationship with the garden and there are times when I really wish I had never dug up our front lawn. For now, I can manage. I am doing what I love and I love what I do. However, I’m very aware that circumstances can change. At the moment, our goal is to be self-sufficient, hence having created an urban homestead. But this might not always be the goal. If my health deteriorates, I may not be able to maintain such a big, productive garden. Getting help, either paid or voluntary through a scheme such as Wwoof may be an option, but in this post I’m going to explore strategies for coping on your own. Because there is a lot to cover, I’m going to divide this topic into two posts.
Before you do anything drastic like putting your garden all back into lawn, consider whether you simply need a break. I don’t mean a trip to Rarotonga, but rather a gardening holiday. A few years ago, a lovely lady called Louise Knight who I became acquainted with through veggie gardening groups on Facebook paid me a visit. Louise lives on a 10 acre block in Fielding and did exactly that one summer. She grew only very simple veggies, such as spinach. Louise got the idea from Rob Hammington, another seasoned gardener and friend of ours who lives in the Waikato. Both have been gardening for over 20 years and felt they needed time out to focus on other things. When they returned the following season, they had renewed their passion, energy and vision for the garden. At the time Louise dropped by, I wasn’t really at the same stage as her and Rob. Over the years, I got more and more hooked on gardening and the garden kept expanding. I know it’s sensible to not take on more than you can manage, but as I’ve said before, it’s very easy to get carried away when you become so passionate about something. In recent months, I’ve felt close to breaking point. I’m a perfectionist and have really high standards. But gardening (at least on a home scale rather than commercial operation) should be enjoyable, not something that makes you irritable or eventually pushes you over the edge. I’ve had a very productive winter garden, followed by a very busy spring caring for the existing garden (which keeps on producing) and preparing for the summer. To be honest, I feel quite burnt out and don’t want every year to be like this one. That’s why I have been giving this issue serious consideration.
Sometimes a gardening holiday isn’t enough. If you really feel that you can’t cope anymore or would simply like more free time, you might need a permanent change. Here are three options for downsizing your garden:
In tomorrow’s post, I will explore some concrete ways that you can simplify your garden, even if you still want a big one.
Today’s photo is of our rockmelon patch. Over the past few days, I have started planting seedlings, making holes for each plant in the black plastic I laid down to keep the soil nice and warm. Collette, I didn’t measure the area but estimate it is around 4 x 2 m. I’ll probably be able to fit around 70 melons in this space as I tend to put plants quite close to each other. I’ve still got two rows left, which I hope to get around to completing some time during the week. I’ll also keep an eye out for any weak or dead plants and replace them with stronger ones from my nursery. For this reason, it’s never a good idea to put all your plants out at once!