It would be totally awesome if gardening came easily to all of us. Unfortunately, having problems gardening is pretty common. Here are some frequent issues and what you can do to get past them.
How To Solve Your Problems Gardening
Lack of sun can really put a kink in your garden. If you dream of amazing tomatoes, perky basil, and giant pumpkins, not having any sun can be a huge issue.
Some ways you can get around that is by planting your garden in containers and even moving them to sunnier spots as needed.
You can also pick unconventional spots for gardening such as the front yard or driveway. And finally, if there just is no hope, try focusing your efforts on a shade garden instead.
Knowing What To Plant
Another common problem gardening is not knowing what to plant, or not knowing what will grow well in the your particular climate or garden. One great way to overcome this is to chat with neighbors who also garden and see what grows well for them.
If you don’t have friendly neighbors, there probably is a Facebook group for your area, or even an online forum such as Next Door that might include people more than willing to share advice.
If you have a locally owned nursery in your town, that’s another great place to go and ask questions. Many local owners are more than happy to get you started with plants that are easy to grow and help you start developing your own green thumb.
And finally, you can always do what I do, and that is plant a gazillion things and see what sticks. This method can be kind of pricey, but once you get something growing happily, it’s pretty indestructible!
Not Enough Time
We are all pretty busy, and sometimes it can seem that there are just no spare minutes to squish in time for yard care and gardening. I’ve totally been there, with long grass and weedy garden beds. But even when there are busy seasons of life, it’s still possible to structure your days in a way to make time for what’s really important to you.
You can grow sprouts or microgreens for yourself, that only take a few minutes of rinsing each day. You can put a small kitchen garden in a pot or a window that will only need periodical watering.
My favorite way of making time for more things is to make as much as I can do double duty. Instead of exercising at a gym, get down and do some weeding! Take a walk around the garden while on the phone and pick some ripe produce while you’re at it. More often than not, quality time with my husband means we’re tackling a project together.
Few things are as discouraging as a facing down a huge weeding problem. Weeds can choke out your vegetables, take over your garden beds, and be a huge pain in the neck.
The best way to deal with weeds is to prevent them from becoming an issue in the first place. Starting with a lasagna garden or raised bed can help discourage grass from taking over. Putting down a thick layer of mulch can help them from spreading too far and becoming a big problem with gardening .
Once they do get established, it can be a bear to get rid of them, especially if you’re trying to avoid herbicides. I’ve done plenty of hand weeding, which is effective, but time consuming. Flame weeders can go a bit faster, if they are safe for your particular area.
My go to method, especially when they really get the best of me is to use a weed whacker to chop them down and then to either dig into that space and plant something more desirable or to make sure it is well covered with cardboard and mulch.
Prepping New Beds
Any time you need to start a new garden bed there is a lot of work ahead of you. Depending on what style of garden you are creating, it may cost some money upfront as well.
If you are traditionally gardening, there will be plenty of rototilling, digging and weeding to do before you can even think about planting time.
Raised beds are good options in most places, but you will need to purchase supplies and maybe even soil. Even if you go with a lasagna style bed, you will need to go to the effort of layering your cardboard and other organic material.
This is one of those times when it’s best to start small and take your time. Fall is a great time to get new garden beds ready, and if you add one new one per year, you won’t have to stress about finishing a huge project all in one go.
Not Enough Space
I am very well acquainted with the problem of not having enough space. I first started gardening on a tiny apartment balcony. And while we quickly sized up to a small house on a 10th of an acre, it wasn’t long before that was bursting at the seams with plants.
When you have only a small space to garden, you will have to make some sacrifices. You may need to skip some of the larger plants like watermelons, or fruit trees.
You also will probably need to get creative and use every available space. This may mean using your flower beds for attractive veggies, or going up with vertical space.
Always to try to combine plants with different niches if possible. This would look like adding an edible ground cover and vines in addition to your traditional landscaping, or growing companion plants together such as the traditional beans, corn, and peas.
Super hot weather can wreck havoc on a garden. Even if you’re getting out all the time to water, some plants just can’t handle it. Plus it’s unpleasant for you to get out and take care of the garden.
In many hot places, you may also have the opportunity to grow year round. You may even want to consider skipping a summer garden completely, depending on how mild your winters are.
Here in San Antonio, all but the most heat loving plants do best when planted in the fall and grown throughout our mild winters. There is no way we could manage cool weather veggies such as lettuce, spinach, and broccoli if we were trying to grow them earlier in the year.
Other strategies for keeping your summer garden alive are to select local varieties that have evolved to handle your climate, or even adding in shade cloth and mulches to protect your vegetables and hold moisture into the soil.
Neighbor’s Herbicide and Pesticides
Your organically grown garden may be your pride and joy, but it’s a serious problem gardening when neighbors spray their yards and it drifts over into yours. If you are on good terms with your neighbors, maybe all it will take to solve the problem is a friendly visit and maybe a plate of cookies.
If you have larger property, you may want to consider hanging signs around it asking for road management and neighbors not to spray the fence line. It might help if you keep your fence line and surrounding areas near roads trim and tidy before anyone comes around to spray.
If possible, install a border along your property line to help physically prevent pesticide drift. This could be a sturdy hedgerow, or maybe a tight fitting fence. Site your edible veggies as far as away from your spraying neighbors as possibl.
And depending on which state you live in, you may be able to report the problem with your agricultural agency.
Pets Toileting In The Garden
If you have a cat or a dog, or if your neighbors have cats, you most likely have the issue of pets using your garden as a toilet. This is quite a gross problem gardening, but tricky to overcome.
Dogs are easier to prevent, as they can be trained to use other parts of your yard. Dogs can also easily be deterred with a low fence around the garden. If a fence isn’t your style, even something as low key as gravel and or mulch may be just unpleasant enough to walk on that your dog will go elsewhere.
Cats can be quite territorial and resistant to being trained. Your best bet with cats is to use some kind of physical barrier. You can lay chicken wire over your soil so they cannot dig into it to do their business. Also, like dogs, they are less likely to use areas with mulch or gravel.
If you have a cat that repeatedly goes back to the same place, place some kind of physical barrier there. Think pot, garden gnome, or even just some plastic forks sticking out the ground.
And a very effective way to deter both cats AND dogs would be to install a motion activated sprinkler! This is certainly a bigger time and money commitment, but if nothing else will do, this should do the trick.
Watering During A Drought
Gardens require water to grow, so it can be a serious problem with gardening when you’re under water restrictions due to a drought. There are a couple ways to tackle this. First, start off by choosing drought resistant plants whenever possible. If most of your landscaping can survive on very little water, that frees up more for your tender vegetables.
Next use plenty of mulch to prevent evaporation as much as possible. You can plant ground covers for a living mulch, or use leaves, straw, or wood chips and replace them as they break down.
And finally, start utilizing grey water and rainwater as much as possible. It is pretty easy to add a rain barrel to your home, especially if you already have gutters installed. If you can’t have a rain barrel where you live, try to store as much rainwater in the ground as possible using rain gardens and swales and berms.
A simple way to start using grey water is to place a bucket in your bath tub and catch the cold water as you wait for your shower to warm up. This is completely clean water and can be used on edible plants. If you need to water landscape plants, grass, or trees, you can easily and cheaply reroute your washing machine to drain into your yard.
Storing What You Harvest
Anyone with a happy zucchini plant knows that gardens can be feast or famine. Sometimes you get nothing at all, and other times you are overrun by tomatoes. This isn’t exactly a problem with gardening, but it does require learning some new skills!
So how to make the best use of those awesome harvests and spread them out for the rest of the year? Freezing and canning!
Canning takes more specialized equipment than freezing, but the benefits are that your food is shelf stable and will last a long time. Many people enjoy canning and store a lot of their garden harvest this way. If you’d like to get started, check out the National Center For Home Food Preservation for details on how to can safely.
Freezing can easily be done with simple kitchen tools and plastic freezer bags, but then you are limited by your freezer space. If you store most of your food in the freezer you will also want to have some kind of back up power system in case of outages. Most fruits can be frozen directly from the garden. Some vegetables will need to be peeled or blanched first.
Pests In The Garden
It can be super frustrating to spend tons of time, effort, and money to cultivate your garden, only to have bugs come in and eat all your precious vegetables. This is one the most common problems with gardening for people.
There are a few ways to handle this. First off, you could try pesticides. This will kill your bugs, but unfortunately, it will kill ALL your bugs, even the good ones.
I prefer to attract beneficial insects to my garden by providing habitat and attractive plants for them. These bugs will then take care of the obnoxious ones for me.
If your garden is small enough, you can hand pick bugs off your plants, or even dislodge pests with a sharp blast of water from the hose. Running your chickens or ducks through occasionally can also help keep the number of bad bugs down.
And finally, companion planting is a great way to discourage pests from finding your plants in the first place. Marigolds are particularly good at this, and many gardeners plant them liberally throughout their gardens. Plus they’re pretty!
Lack of Strength or Physical Limitations
Sometimes as much as we would love to get down in the dirt and get our hands dirty, our bodies just have some real limitations.
If you lack the strength to dig or maintain a large traditional garden, look into alternatives. Container gardening can be a low key way to start, especially if you put your containers up on tables.
You can also hire someone to build and start raised beds for you. Raised beds can easily be made taller to accommodate those who can’t bend or get down to the ground.
With 6 kids, there are more than a few times when I am not physically able to get out and garden. Try not to get too discouraged, and focus on what you CAN do. Maybe you have have a kitchen window herb garden, or you get started with sprouting!
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With creativity and the right knowledge, you can overcome these common problems gardening and learn how to grow your own tasty fruit and vegetables!
What has been your biggest problem and how have you overcome it? Share in the comments below!
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