Woman gardening standing at a raised flower bed

Gardening Tips For Self-Care

Most gardeners start spring filled with the dreams that kept us going through the winter in one bucket and the reality of finances and soil in the other. The long and winding reconciliation process begins with a Moonshot phase, where the temptation to grow every beautiful thing for our hardiness zone is strong. Maybe this is the year for a Midwestern version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?

Less is good

The impulse to squeeze in just a few small things takes over as we fall back to earth. Eventually, we come to terms with our yard, sun exposure, and water bill. My yard isn’t the right place for an orchard of lime trees or a revival of my childhood strawberry patch. Beans, greens, herbs, onions, and a few potatoes grow well, without too much effort. Our annuals and flowering shrubs bring in the butterflies!

My household is bad at lawns!

Lawns are a big deal around here, but not to us. We don't do chemicals or heroic measures. This means several crops of dandelions, each a glorious sea of blazing yellow to feed bees, early butterflies, and just about anything else crawling through the turf. Despite what we're led to believe, dandelions aren't a crime. And our neighbors kindly overlook them as we make it up to them with our butterfly bushes, peonies, and sweet dispositions.

In my opinion, self-care and gardening are united by the quest for just enough, but not too much. Life has a way of building up momentum around work, social activities, holidays, diet and exercise, and other habits. It feels normal to live a certain way, even when it’s not great. Here are a few questions to consider.

Are you growing the right things in your life?

Some commitments carry on longer than their benefits. This includes certain types of jobs, volunteer activities, or relationships. Being used to something doesn’t mean it’s good for us.

Are you getting the right care and feeding?

Healthy gardens don’t just happen, somebody has to tend them. Over the years, we’ve moved away from planting in the ground in favor of containers and trellises. Keeping our plants up off the ground makes them easier to tend and harvest. This means more time to enjoy our time in the garden.

Do you have room for a few surprises?

Gardeners love “volunteer” plants, unless they’re weeds. Volunteers are mysterious FREE blessings growing up between sidewalk cracks, behind bushes, or in the middle of the lawn. Every year, squirrel and bird gardeners hide tomato plants and tulips for us. It’s fun to see what we’ll get.

It’s tempting to see successful self-care as part of a specific formula. It’s true that we all need appropriate amounts of food and hydration, activity, sleep and rest, and socialization, but magic is important too. After 3 long years of waiting, our lawn tulip flowered in 2021, before the landscaper mowed it down!

What do you have room for?

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