Pea plant | Little Red Farmstead

Garden Failures: How I Broke the Cycle

Pea plant | Little Red Farmstead

I’ve said this time and time again, but when it comes to homestead skills, gardening is one area where I am sorely lacking. Year after year, I have good intentions to grow a garden and each year I fail, oftentimes giving up before I really get started.

I get easily discouraged and overwhelmed with gardening. I never feel like I start my plants at the right time; either I’m too early and they freeze, or I’m too late and we hit the end of the growing season before the plants can produce anything.

My sister-in-law (who is a wonderful gardener) was kind enough to buy me a copy of The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast. It’s broken up into month-by-month sections that explain what you should be doing that month for seed-starting, planting, and harvesting. This simple monthly breakdown helped so much to alleviate the stress I’ve felt in the past with having to do ALL THE THINGS all at once in the garden. It allowed me to focus on just a few things at a time so I didn’t get overwhelmed. I highly recommend picking up a copy for your growing region. (Here are versions for the midwest, the southeast, the pacific northwest, the southwest, the mountain states, and even specifically for southern California!)

(Messily) tied up tomatoes | Little Red Farmstead

Less-Than-Perfect is OK.

2018 marks the very first year I managed to get a garden dug up in our yard and get actual living plants growing in it. It is FAR from perfect; I had to finally accept that less-than-perfect was better than nothing-at-all. Once I accepted that everything changed. Normally I don’t even attempt things if I know I won’t excel at them–but backyard gardening isn’t a competition. It should be fun. I don’t know why it was so hard to get that through my head!

One or two things being planted was better than not even getting started.  A weedy garden was better than no garden at all. In past years, I’d pour over seed catalogs, place orders, and then it all fell apart when I didn’t have enough time or the right tools to make a “perfect” weed-free, totally organic, Back-to-Eden style no-till garden. Excuses, excuses.

This year, I decided to follow the Justin Rhodes mantra and Just Plant. I am so glad I did.

Happy little Roma tomatoes | Little Red Farmstead

Keep it simple, stupid.

The other key for me has been the ye olde K.I.S.S. principle: keep it simple, stupid!

This year, I went simple: tomatoes, beans, peas. In the fall, I may put in some garlic. That’s it. Part of me feels a little disappointed because there are so many other things I wanted to plant–squash, cucumbers, peppers, etc. But if I had tried to plant everything, very likely I would have planted nothing. For me, it has been better to start simple with three plants, and then build on successes.

The little successes have made me want to go out to my garden more often to check on things. It makes me want to spend more time weeding. It makes me want to plant more. I feel increasingly addicted to working in my garden. (I think my little brain-trick is working, guys!)

Bean plant sprouting | Little Red Farmstead

Though it’s tempting to want to try and create an enormous, magical garden like Jess over at Roots and Refuge Farm (she’s my gardening hero – check her out!), I know that going that gung-ho would be setting myself up for failure. Baby steps. There’s always the farmers’ market to supply all the other fruits and veggies I was hoping to enjoy and preserve this year, and there’s always the 2019 garden to daydream about…

Amanda lives with her family on a little red farmstead in northwestern Pennsylvania. By day she's a web developer specializing in WordPress and in her off time she enjoys working with goats and other livestock on the farm, canning, knitting, and crocheting.