Kari's thoughts on growing food, urban farming, permaculture, canning, food preservation and all things gardening.

How to Over-Complicate Gardening

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Have you ever gotten bogged down in details?  I do sometimes.  It literally just took me a month of effort to get up and running.  I was on the wrong platform (too complicated) and was consuming way too many how-to videos/podcasts until I had that Ah-Ha! moment and simplified. Why do I over-complicate things?  Because I want the stuff I do to be perfect.  Because I don’t want to miss anything.  Because I have a difficult time with small beginnings. Because I don’t want to fail.  As a result, over analyzing nearly ruined the original vision that I had for the website.

How does the same kind of analysis paralysis that almost derailed my website ruin gardening?  Here are a few common examples.

1.       Biting off more than one can chew.

When a person catches gardening fever, they often want to grow this and that and those other things, too.  Trying to cultivate too many varieties can steal the joy of growing just one or two things well.  If you are just starting out or have gotten overwhelmed, scale back your project to a couple of your favorite vegetables or fruits. Once you are skilled at cultivating those, add a couple more.  Or, if those don’t work, replace them with one or two other things until you achieve success. 

2.       Listening to too many experts.

Gardening experts have widely varying opinions and techniques.  Listening to too many of them can be confusing and overwhelming.  Choose a couple sources of gardening information that resonate with you, and start doing what you learn from them.  Ignore the rest, for the moment.  There is so much great content available on the web.  But when one spends too much time reading blogs, watching videos or browsing Pinterest, real learning never happens because it only comes by experience.  Study one thing, then do it. 

3.       Buying a lot of products.

Together with all the gardening content on the web comes the marketing.  We are constantly bombarded with ads for products that will make our gardens grow so much better.  For those who are old enough to remember The Six Million Dollar Man television show, opening narration went like this:

Steve Austin, astronaut. A man barely alive. We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster.

Actor Lee Majors will go down in history as the Bionic Man, a character who was fitted with expensive nuclear powered implants that brought him back to life and made him much more than the average man. 

FYI, there are no bionic parts for a dying garden, so don’t waste your money.  If your garden is failing, go back to the basics.  Many plant problems are really symptoms of soil problems, so focus on building healthy soil.  Then, check your watering and light conditions.  If these three things aren’t right, no product in the world will save your garden. On a positive note, the basics are inexpensive and simple to achieve, and they are the keys to a healthy and prolific garden.

4.       Weltschmertz.

You may be thinking, Is that a typo?  Actually, weltschmertz is a German word that literally means world pain. It conveys a sense of pessimism about how the world works and a negative perspective on experiences.  In relation to gardening, I commonly see weltshmertz rise up in beginners who are disappointed with their initial results.  I once had a student whose weltschmertz drove her to extreme.  Although she had spent a lot of money to have top-of-the-line soil delivered, after gardening for 3 months without success, she hired someone to remove it and start over with a new load.  Unfortunately, all her original problems resurfaced, and she was at risk of becoming disillusioned with growing food.  

She came to me for advice, hoping that I could recommend a specific product or technique that would cure her garden.  Instead, I suggested that she do two things.  The first was to take a deep breath and relax.  Dead plants aren’t the end of the world.  They are just the price of admission to becoming a good gardener.  The second was to focus on the basics, starting with soil building, which takes time and patience. Even the best, most expensive commercial soil and compost that one can buy require time to come to life.  Thus, one’s first garden will likely not be one’s best garden. 

If your garden is struggling, don’t throw in the trowel!  Relax.  Resist the urge to rush to snap decisions or complicated solutions, but don’t give up!  Take a deep breath, go back to basics, and enjoy the journey.