Lessons to Live By as a Gardener

Hi again my friends! It has been a little while as we have been busy working on the farm and… preparing to welcome our first baby into the world!

gardening while pregnant
Baby “Sprout” will join us in November of 2020!

It has been a whirlwind last few months as we found out we were expecting a baby and preparing to plant our 6,000 sq. ft. garden all at the same time. This season of life has taught me how important perspective and expectations are when it comes to the life of a gardener. It can change our entire experience on what it means to grow food and how it touches our lives.

In light of this, I wanted to spend some time today sharing with you what I have been learning this year in the garden, lessons from a pregnant lady on gardening, shifting perspective, and adjusting expectations.

Celebrate the victories, even the small ones

Perspective is huge when it comes to gardening. Depending on how you look at things you can either have had an amazing garden season or a terrible one. Did your tomatoes produce like crazy, but everything else failed? That can still be viewed as a big success.

This year we have battled slugs like crazy, a late late spring with a lot of rain and a lot of cold weather, and a number of other garden pests, like the dreaded squash vine borer. BUT, we also had our first perennialized artichoke plant, lots of lovely garlic heads forming, and tomatoes growing like crazy!

garden lessons a perennial artichoke
We were surprised to find an artichoke plant returned for its second year

I have learned to just mentally let go of the losses and celebrate the successes. It makes all the difference!

Forget comparisons

Instagram, social media, and your friends’ garden pictures can be very tempting to compare to, but almost always it leads to trouble and disappointment. No one is gardening in your specific location, with your unique trials and challenges. Your garden is all that matters.

Yesterday I found myself jealous of someone’s carrot harvest, as I missed the planting window for early summer carrots this year. That jealousy was an absolute waste of my energy, instead I can focus on how lush my corn is for the first time ever! Find opportunities to see how far you have come, instead of looking for how far you want to go.

garden lessons, growing broccoli
Broccoli has always been a tricky crop for us, but this year we are finally having some success!

Shift expectations for yourself & the garden

This is twofold. First, being pregnant, my stamina and heat tolerance are at an all time low. For a while there daily naps were a complete necessity. If I napped I would think I wasted the day away, because I was expecting myself to perform at a level that wasn’t healthy for me in my current state.

I’ve had to learn to shift my expectations. Getting anything done in the garden, even a small task is a win! I do not have to trellis and prune every single tomato plant to see myself as successful for the day. Even one plant is sufficient!

This goes for the garden as well. A garden is stewarded by a gardener, it cannot thrive without the help of its steward. With my time and energy being invested in something else this season, aka growing a human, I had to learn that the garden was also going to look a little different.

garden lessons, strawberry patch
Despite being neglected, we still ended up with lots of little strawberries this year

Permaculture methods and mulch certainly help keep things tame and growing lush, but there may be days I completely miss a harvest, discover a tomato jungle in desperate need of pruning, or realize I completely missed a pest issue and it’s now too late for that plant.

Instead of keeping the same expectations for myself and the garden, I have learned to shift them based on my current circumstances, again it’s all in perspective!

Look behind you, not ahead

This sounds funny doesn’t it? Why would we want to look behind us when it comes to gardening? Think about the planting period, if you look ahead at all the plants that you need to put in the garden, you will be quickly overwhelmed. Instead, look behind, at all that you’ve already done. It is more motivating to both literally do this and figuratively when it comes to gardening.

As the season goes on, continue to look back at your accomplishments and victories, instead of looking forward at all of the work or tasks you still want to complete. This will motivate you to get more done, with the satisfaction of what has already been accomplished.

Any harvest, no matter how big, is a big deal

Of course we all dream of huge harvest baskets, counter tops full of fresh produce, etc., but sometimes those dreams get in the way of appreciating each harvest from the garden. The other day I picked 5 banana peppers, 2 small heads of broccoli, a handful of fava beans, a couple nasturtium flowers, and some garlic scapes. It was a modest harvest, not enough to feed us a full meal by any means, but it was still a big deal.

garden harvest basket
One of our first harvests of 2020. A Kohlrabi, Broccoli, and Banana Peppers

It was food we grew ourselves, that we did not rely on the grocery store for, that is always a BIG DEAL! So share your harvests proudly, no matter the size, and rejoice in that truth.

Give yourself a break

Finally, give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can! For me, especially being pregnant, I have had to continually remind myself, I am not just a gardener. I am also growing a human! On top of working full time, completing graduate studies, teaching a class, and taking care of our animals and farm.

You may not have such a crazy plate, but you definitely have more than one role you are playing in life. There are more important things in life than having a perfect garden, like relationships, faith, and taking care of yourself.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied, discouraged by the garden, read through these lessons again, and I hope they will help you readjust your perspective so you can get back to enjoying the art and process of growing food (& flowers too!).

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