Plants die because gardening isn’t easy. If you feel like the world’s worst gardener, you need these gardening tips for people who can’t garden. You might just find you can get a harvest after all!
By Tiffany, Contributing Writer
My best friend grows zucchini that are bigger than my arm. My dad grows squash in a bed of sand. Me? I’m lucky if the plants don’t die.
If there was an award for the world’s worst gardener, I’m a legit contender. But it’s not from lack of trying!
I turned my do-it-yourself raised box garden bed (galvanized beds last longer than wood beds) into an urban square foot garden this year to maximize space, and we re-use water from the house to water the plants on a schedule. I collect scraps from the kitchen to fertilize the soil both in season and out. I’ve even found natural ways to keep garden pests out of the garden.
But my plants still die.
In fact, I pulled up the remains of three dead plants just last week… and the growing season has barely begun!
I used to think my plants died because I didn’t know how to garden, but after evaluating my first year of gardening, I’ve come to a different conclusion.
Plants die because gardening isn’t easy.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; in sorrow you will eat of it all the days of your life.” – Genesis 3:17
The fact that we have to work hard to grow our own food is by God’s design, so we shouldn’t feel bad that keeping plants alive to produce harvest is difficult.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up! As a fellow black-thumb gardener, I have a few tips I’ve learned along the way that will encourage you to keep trying, and just might help you get a decent harvest too!
Gardening Tips for People Who Can’t Garden
1. Ask a lot of questions.
No one got answers by not asking questions. Talk to friends, family, fellow gardeners, employees at nurseries, read a gardening book … anyone who is willing to listen and answer!
- What brand of dirt did you buy and why? Where did you get it from?
- Do you use fertilizer? What kind and why?
- How often do you water? Does the time of day matter?
There’s no such thing as a stupid question, but be specific so you walk away with concrete information you can actually use. People who garden know it’s not easy, and they’re usually willing to share and help – you just have to ask!
2. Copy what works.
My stepmom planted tomatoes for three years before she finally found a species that grew well in our windy, cool climate. She planted fish heads in the dirt, picked a spot in the yard with the least amount of wind and ended up with the best harvest on the block.
When it was my turn to plant tomatoes in my garden, I followed suit from the type of tomato to the type of fish! What’s the point of duplicating the failures when she figured out what works?
Remember that there’s no prize for reinventing the wheel. Copying other gardeners is working smarter, not harder!
3. Experiment with new ideas.
Did you know that plastic wrap can be used to block wind? Or that milk jugs can be mini-greenhouses?
Or that a 50/50 mixture of sugar and borax (leftover from our homemade laundry detergent) can be used as a barrier to keep unwanted ants out of the garden?
No one told me about these garden hacks – I learned them through experimenting in my own garden.
I also learned that many foods can regrow in water without dirt at all, and it’s now my favorite way to stretch my grocery budget by getting more out of the produce that comes in my CSA box each week!
It should go without saying that not every idea will work, but you’ll never know unless you try!
4. Do what works for YOU.
This is my second year at attempting to grow zucchini (supposedly the easiest vegetable to grow) and it’s not looking good so far. I’ve figured out how to get rid of earwigs (pincher bugs) from the garden and the ants are staying away (using the sugar and Borax trick from above), but the plants are barely growing. If they don’t produce much of a harvest this year, I don’t think I’ll try zucchini again next year… and that’s okay, because I’ve got the tomato thing figured out.
I’m only growing zucchini because everyone else said it was easy, and my family only likes zucchini in these muffins anyway.
Between homemade pizza, spaghetti sauce, soup, ketchup, caprese salad and various meals using diced tomatoes, there’s no way hundreds of pounds of tomatoes will go to waste in our house.
Give yourself permission to not “keep up with the Joneses” in gardening, and grow — or don’t grow — what works for you.
If you feel like you can’t garden, you’re not alone! My zucchini might die and my lettuce might grow in water, but it’s what works for me. Get help, try new things and do what works for you!
What about you? Does gardening come easy, or do you find it difficult? Do you have any tips to share with the readers?
Here are more gardening posts on The Humbled Homemaker:
- 5 Reasons to Grow Your Own Herbs
- Grow These 5 Expensive Foods to Save Money
- Simple Gardening on a Tight Budget
- Simple Tips for the Rookie Gardener
The Gardening Notebook by Angi Schneider is a custom printable e-book to help you keep track of everything that is important to you in your gardening. It also includes reference guides for growing various types of produce, and lots of resources for getting the most out of your garden!
My mom has the green thumb in the family. She has a big vegetable garden in her backyard that she spends hours in every morning.
I, on the other hand, am terrible in that category. If it’s something that needs to be watered, forget about it. It’s dead. I just can’t seem to remember to do it until it has already rained.
My dad planted a persimmon tree and spinach in my backyard. We will see if I can keep them alive.
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
I am not a good gardener either. I can barely keep an indoor ivy alive, much less pay attention to rows of plants. (Which is why fake plants from IKEA have been a lifesaver 😉 ).
For now, I leave the plant growing to my husband, but I’m sure the more and more we do it I will slowly pick things up. He has found a couple of specific resources helpful, which may be helpful to someone else. The website MotherEarthNews.com has a lot of good information about organic gardening, and the book The Backyard Homestead (http://www.amazon.com/Backyard-Homestead-Produce-food-quarter/dp/1603421386/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434459748&sr=8-1&keywords=backyard+homestead) also has a lot of great tips.
I am a first time, first year gardner and I dont have the space outside to plant a big garden. So I am planting indoors, I seem to be turning my bathroom and kitchen into “garden headquarters”. The only issue I find myself with is that I can get them to sproutlings stage but after that its all down hill. I have already killed catnip, lavender and parsley and I’ve only been at this a few months.. I thought oh ill regrow green onions and now they seem to be having problems. Oh well I will keep trying.
This is my first year too and I found a small grow light was the only difference between indoor success and failures.
I could probably join you in the competition of worlds worst gardener! This year I am trying the square foot method, and for the first time, having a little success! I am and and so happy..
I too have had a hard time with gardening. I finally realized I do better with container gardening. When I have the plants indoors I am more likely to take care of the plants. Green onions are my favorite thing to grow.
Check out the back to Eden gardening method, gardening isn’t supposed to be hard. It’s an old concept that’s growing in interest. So thankful Paul Gautschi is willing to share.
I have black hands, not just thumbs. My hubs swears I could kill a plastic plant. But despite this, he asked me to plant the garden this year. It’s been several years since we had one, mostly due to the fact that there seems to be a problem with bees in the Texas area. Lack of them makes squash and other gourd type plants impossible to grow because the bees and wasps pollinate them.
But with all the rain we’ve been having this summer so far, it looks great. Granted, everything is on the ground because it was raining so much during the time plants needed to be staked, that it did not get done. So, I just tread carefully around the plants to harvest. Do not want to see what it looks Like when God stops watering it and we have to use county water. But, I have been saving my kitchen water, per your suggestion, to water the herb garden at least.
The funniest plant growing is my butternut squash. I did not plant it…. It came up from the kitchen scraps I buried in the garden over the winter. It has taken about 64 square feet of my garden, buried pepper plants and grown over tomato plants, but it’s gorgeous! I’ve harvested 5 squash so far, and there are about 15 babies growing. That’s been my most productive plants this year…the ones that came up on their own. I have several tomatoes, 4 bell pepper plants, the butternut squash and a spaghetti squash plant. Who knows…I may not plant nest year, just carefully bury my compost.
Lazy Harp Seal
Gardening IS hard! I love it, and I’m actually doing very well, especially for my first year, but it IS hard! From all the exuberant garden-bloggers and persuasive catalog blurbs, I think there’s too much over-selling how EASY gardening is. Some things are easier to grow than others, and there are lots of ways (you just listed several) to make it easy-er, but just because something is easy to grow…. doesn’t mean it’s easy to grow WELL. Radishes sprout with little effort and are ready to harvest in a month, which is why they have a reputation as a low-difficulty vegetable. But if you want large, well-rounded radishes that aren’t mouth-numbing hot, they need extra loose soil, consistent moisture and weather that is warm but not hot.
You are wise to fore-go the zucchini. Unless you love zucchini (and I mean love love love), they are kind of a space-waster and eventually you’ll be up to your eyeballs in zucchini and your neighbors will start avoiding you every time they see you walking over with zucchini in hand!
I’m curious, and yet it may seem obvious, but where exactly do you sprinkle the borax and sugar for the ants? I have no idea how we were able to rid our garden of earwigs, but I am thankful because they are a pain! Now we have ants, slugs, and snails–OH MY! I’ve tried lavender three years in a row to no avail, but I want it as a border–tried from seed and from seedling…next I may just go and buy huge ones from someone else’s garden, so I can have it and just maintain it…I’m not willing to give up, lol. We have not only been gardening our back yard, but garden our front yard, too. Any frugal ideas on how to make a front yard garden look nice, but not break the bank?
I tried growing veggies this year but the gophers and birds,lizards ate them.Iwant to try next year but ddon’t know how to keep them away.
Lucy M. Clark
Gardening is not an easy thing, I remembered my initial days when I started gardening. For the first one month it was really hard and after, I developed interest in the gardening and now it is easy for me.