Even though I love nearly all aspects of gardening, I can find myself dreading it on any given day. When this happens, I try to think about exactly what is causing this. Fortunately, little things can make a big difference. Often, all it takes is a tweak in perspective or methods to bring me back to a more pleasant view of gardening and the possibility of enjoying myself. Here are some things I have identified that help me:
1. Plant right after a certain area has been weeded. I am never caught up on weeding. If I try to get the whole garden ready for planting, I will get discouraged. I will also likely get behind on planting the cool season crops. Areas for later plantings will probably get weedy again before I get to planting them, anyway. I’m not saying abandon whole sections of your garden for extended periods of time, but a bit or priority can relieve a lot of stress.
2. Don’t confine my thinking to large blocks of time. If all I have is half an hour, I can still make progress on a little area. It will add up and I will be encouraged if I concentrate on what I am getting done instead of what I’m not. Thinking about progress is more motivating than berating myself about what I need to do.
3. Label planted sections right away! There is a significant risk getting interrupted or forgetting. I use jumbo craft sticks from Walmart and Sharpie markers. General plant type, specific variety, and date planted are good details for this label. I have even been known to make little shape or dot diagrams on the stick to help me remember the exact boundaries of a planting.
4. Use convenient containers for intermediate weed collection. A container that is open enough at the top to easily toss weeds in, and is reasonably portable, makes weeding much nicer. There are some plastic totes with handles that work well for me when I’m pulling small to medium sized weeds. When my handy container is full, I dump it into whatever larger receptacle I have ( i.e., a large plastic yard bag or empty chicken feed bag). If I’m bagging big weeds, it is usually more convenient to throw them in a pile, then bag them all at once.
5. Use a kneeling pad when work needs to be done constantly close to the ground. Buy an inexpensive, waterproof foam pad or cover some packing foam with a plastic bag. If I use a kneeling pad judiciously, my back and my knees will be much more comfortable, both while I work and the next day.
6. Have a spot to keep re-wearable dirty garden clothes. Sometimes this needs to be in a way they can dry, too. I don’t want to let the thought of more laundry keep me stuck in the house. If I am only going out an hour or two a day, I could wear the same clothes at least a week.
7. Wear a hip bag. I like a medium sized one, with two main pockets and one smaller one that my iPod fits in. A hip bag is handy for a few supplies, like labeling sticks, reading glasses, and seed packets. It is more comfortable than bulging pockets in my clothing, and usually safer for the items, too. And they are less likely to accidentally go through the washing machine.
8. Have the right gloves for the right job. Don’t let fear of blisters, calluses, or dirty fingernails slow me down. There are thinner, flexible gloves for jobs where I need fuller use of my fingers. There are heavy leather gloves for activities such as shoveling. I wear yellow dishwashing gloves when I spray weeds. It also helps to have a simple organization system to keep track of gloves. I keep mine in a cardboard shoebox, pairs separated by cardboard dividers from boxes of canning jars.
9. Save empty seed packets for at least a year. I always end up wanting some of that information later in the season or the following year when choosing seeds. Such a saved seed packet is also a good resource to keep around when saving (non-hybrid/open pollinated) seeds.
10. Occupy the mind. Sometimes I like the quiet, but sometimes a bit of mental engagement makes repetitive tasks more enjoyable. Audiobooks and podcast are great for that. Another good habit is to keep a small pad and pen in the hip bag to make notes about things that come to mind.
Hopefully these ideas will help you work the kinks out of your gardening efforts and keep the kinks out of your muscles. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments!