Can we get real for a minute?
It's about my garden.
And who knows. Maybe everything else that matters.
You see, I went through a major deer-in-headlights phase with my vegetable garden this spring and I think I've come out on the other side. Not because I "won" but because I stopped striving for perfection. For "pretty". For as good as someone else's.
For a while every time I saw someone's picture-perfect garden I cringed.
They have rich, crumbly black earth; I have a worn-out, compacted pasture. They have a weedless wonderland where everyone behaves; I have green anarchy – bindweed, and thistle. They have long, orderly rows of vegetables; I have chaos. They have prayer flags dancing in the summer breeze, I have 'rustic' pea trellises that blew over in the first storm.
And while I know that no one's pictures tell the whole story of weedy corners and countless hours of hard work, I also know that what we see can sometimes make us feel like we're not enough. Me, you, everyone now and then. So I thought you might enjoy seeing a little failure and chaos and imperfection from my world along with a few sweet lessons picked up along the way.
How does that sound?
Great. Then here goes.
My garden is big. The biggest I've ever had. And in truth I was completely overwhelmed this spring by how much earth was turned and waiting for seeds, and by how many thousands (yes, thousands) of weeds were quickly choking the seeds I put in regardless of how many I pulled or how heavily I mulched.
Everything went in late on account of the weeds, and I never felt like I caught up.
And now it's July. And the harvest has begun. And I still haven't caught up.
But I'm over it.
I no longer care.
I care about my garden, yes. But not about doing it "just so".
As you can see, it's crazy over here. And at some point – after freaking out this spring – I just decided to go with the flow.
Because even a weed bed can grow a wicked row of green beans.
So yes, weeds outnumber veggies here 100-to-1, and there are whole rows I've given up on. Rows I look at, laugh out loud, and then dive in to see if there might be a straggling kohlrabi in there we could have with lunch.
I literally crawl under the weeds to harvest things sometimes.
It's ridiculous and embarrassing and hilarious all at once. But you know what? I'm done fretting about it.
I'm over trying for picture-perfect. Because nothing in my life stays picture-perfect for long. And if it does there are probably tears involved by one or more people and possibly myself along the way.
And I'm positive that that cost out-weights the reward.
It ain't worth it.
So my garden in July is just not on the list of things I need to make pretty anymore.
What a relief that is to realize.
And so my weedy strawberry patch became the perfect place to watch a mama swamp sparrow raise her babies in the tall grass this June. Had I weeded we would have missed the chance.
And my overgrown lettuce bed is home to a giant mullein plant that I'm harvesting flowers and leaves from for both an earache oil and a lung clearing tea for winter. I'll be so glad to have it when cold season hits.
Lambs-quarters, chickweed, mullein, nettle, catnip, pigweed, plantain, parsnip, elderberry, and more. All volunteers taking root in my garden.
If you can't beat em, eat em.
I'm learning to embrace it for what it is and not freak out too much about the state of things.
And I'm thankful for the happy surprises that are growing from this acre of neglect.
This garden is a life-lesson for me if there ever was.
Lessons like: don't compare.
Perfection is a myth.
And use what life gives you.
Is it pretty? By conventional standards, no.
But will it feed us? Oh, my, yes.
Will it ever.
And that – I think – is downright perfect.
19 thoughts on “Getting real about my garden (or: embracing the chaos)”
By late summer all the weeds burst out in beautiful blossoms anyway, you might as well enjoy 🙂
Oh, my goodness! That was TOTALLY my garden last year! Except that mine was also in the shade for the majority of the day so almost none of the vegetables grew. And it flooded early in June so I couldn’t even get into it. I got 2 tomatoes off of 10 plants. At least you’ve got some veggies–look at the bright side. Things could be worse. Thank you so much for sharing–I was feeling so alone and I still feel a pang of jealousy when I see a perfect looking garden.
Some years are just tough. I had two separate plantings (4 plants each) of jalepeno peppers chomped down by a creature of unknown origin. They were, of course, the expensive storebought seedlings since the inspiration for hot peppers hit too late to start my own. And an entire patch of prolific raspberries mowed down by… we suspect deer, since the 4 foot fence didn’t stop them. They didn’t touch the unfenced berry patch (different variety) that only grows three berries. (Feel better yet?) But even one of my CSAs bombed on strawberries this year (the other had a bumper crop) and I figure if the pros have bad years, who am I to complain!
It is 3:00 am and I got up to drink some water ( it is too hot in my house to sleep). Just happened to come across your blog and I loved, LOVED reading about your battle with weeds. I’m not a polished gardener by any means and often found myself frustrated, comparing my veggie beds with others as I drove by my small neighborhood in CO. No matter how much weeding took place, it was as if the little suckers kept taunting me with their rapid growth. At one point I also decided to see what would happen if I kept my toiling to a reasonable ( more like sane) rate. Surprisingly, my smaller plants are retaining a lot more moisture and the pesky bugs are not attacking them as much. I even had the opportunity to grow spinach this year! The grasshoppers could not get to them because they were growing under a mini blanket of weeds ( go figure). I am slowly embracing the thought that you do not have to have a perfect patch to grow awesome veggies. Nature’s got my back.. she knows I’m hungry.
Hi. I loved this post. I grapple with projects that i never start because i get overwhelmed trying to inform myself so that they are done “correctly”. i am learning/trying to just do it (thanks nike).
The following quote “I’m learning to embrace it for what it is and not freak out too much about the state of things.
And I’m thankful for the happy surprises that are growing from this acre of neglect.
This garden is a life-lesson for me if there ever was.
Lessons like: don’t compare.
Perfection is a myth.
And use what life gives you.”
is perfect. I would love to use it as part of my signature and other places. can you give me proper information so i can give you credit…..?
thanks a bunch
Our honeybees are loving my weed-patch. 🙂
Of course you can share. ~ “Rachel Wolf, Clean. http://www.lusaorganics.typepad.com” seems adequate. 🙂
My lower garden looks like this too! I just don’t have enough energy this year for daily upkeep. Last night I randomly watched the first part of Back to Eden. Have you seen this? He addresses this very issue with massive amounts of wood chips. My hubby had an issue with the religious tone of the film but I ignored all of that trying to absorb as many of his gardening tips as I could. His garden is about as weed free as it gets!
Oh yes…yes yes. I get it 🙂
I’m so glad you posted this! I was just sitting in my garden last night thinking how embarrassing it was (we have chain link fences, so all the neighbors can see my weeds growing up in between them). And around the whole garden, and that weed infested fence, we have “planting” beds which are also FULL of just weeds. These beds seem to highlight the weeds instead of them kind of blending in to a green mass, like yours do so nicely 🙂
Also, I do have a giant, easily 7 foot tall, mullein growing next to my house 🙂 it came up last year and looked so cool I left it alone to see what it would do. Wasn’t expecting a giant towering behemoth that it became this year! But the yellow flowers are pretty. Good to know its good for something too!
Please note, I’m pretty sure the neighbor’s perfect gardens are chemically enhanced. There is no way in heck I’m taking that route, so kid/pet-safe and weedy we will be!!
I love this. I mean, I really really LOVE this. Roses are my favorite flower, however I see myself much more as a weed. I wrote a poem about that last year, and I hope it’s okay if I share here!
“I often rather wonder
Whether I’d be a weed or flower
One will grow strong and tall, pruned
and proper, planted and fragrant;
The other will grow wherever ’tis does want,
Spreading and climbing, strangling and winding,
neither planted nor wanted yet wild and rampant.
One will be loved for their beauty, and their meaning may be known,
The other has their properties, important in their own.
The weeds are rarely studied, yet loved by many who,
understand their very nature and all that they can do.
I think I’d rather be the weed, that’s loved for what it is,
is wild in its nature and grows where it sees fit.”
We’ve discovered that our garden is never the same from year to year. Sometimes we have time to put down newspaper and put composted leaves and grass on top. And sometimes we forget that the reason we put down newspaper first is because you can grow an awesome crop of creeping charlie if you just use yard clippings right on the dirt. But when you look at your compacted pasture soil, remember that it takes time to build beautiful soil. You haven’t been on your homestead very long and you and your family have accomplished so much since you moved there. I do know what you mean about not wanting to compare your garden with a neighbors. Our neighbors have the most beautiful garden you ever want to see. But then my husband reminds me that they have 5 kids to help them and there are only 2 of us.
ya know, i noticed an interesting synchronicity with your writing lately, with my own thoughts..LOL. this is another little instance where i thought about it and then came over and you nailed it right on the head! i really enjoy the form your blog is taking…that positive manifesting is crystal clear, here.
thanks for another great post, Rachel! =)
Hey! Seems like you’re doing permaculture here! Unschooling, permaculture…. this is how we try to do things here, far away from you, in France. If I was writing a blog, I would certainly show you pictures of my crazy garden! Looks like yours, and like you, I can harvest invited and non-invited fruits and veggies!
Thanks for this post, and all the others Rachel! I know where to look and read when I feel a little down or frustrated or not enough….. as a mother, homeschooler/unschooler, wife, gardener, sewer, knitter, homemaker etc etc etc! Thanks again, truly!
Tears are usualy involved with perfection…YES! Mine or my childrens. You`re right..it`s not worth it. Now I just need to remind myself of this EVERY DAY!
Gosh, I love this. Lessons in the chaos? Certainly, please and thank-you. Funny how life biggest teachers and lessons are often right under our feet – literally. xx
Do some research on what weeds in your garden are saying about your soil and you will see that they weeds are doing a job too! So embrace the way that they are doing the work that your soil needs. Mine has a lot of weeds that dig deep into the ground, indicative that our ground is compacted. I know this and am happy the weeds are tunneling through it for me!
http://sharpercut.com/tag/soil-health (will get you started)