Living Homegrown

- The Podcast -

Live farm fresh

without the farm®

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

LH 51: 5 Steps to Avoiding Garden Overwhelm

How to avoid food gardening overwhelm.

Listen…we all do it.

After months of drooling over seed catalogs and Pintrest garden boards, spring arrives and we go nuts!

We start planting with abandon and put a huge amount of unnecessary pressure on ourselves as gardeners.

And before we know it…

Summer arrives and our gardens turn into jungles.

We feel guilt or even shame that we have {gasp} weeds or that our gardens are not “perfect”.

This episode is about stopping that overwhelm head on!

You learn:

  • The 3 reality checks all gardeners need to know
  • The biggest mistake newbie gardeners make – in fact, we all make it
  • My secret weapon to fighting weeds organically
  • A simple trick for people who don’t like to keep garden journals
  • What daily practice will serve you in more ways than you can imagine

It’s all about making small shifts that will reap huge benefits going forward!

3 Reality Checks:

Before diving into the 5 tips of this podcast episode, I want to first address something we all have a tendency to do.

We all look at all the magazines, books and even garden TV shows and we compare our own gardens to what we see. And we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves.

And where this can be most devistating is for newbie gardeners – who will feel like failures if their gardens don’t look like what they see in the magazines.

So there are three reality checks we all need to keep in mind when we garden.

1) Your garden should never look perfect:

This is especially true if you grow organically. It should look good – but never perfect.

Instead, your garden should look alive!  It should have a few bug bites occassionally. The soil should have bits and sticks and crawly things. It should never look sterile or perfect.

In order to be perfect looking, you might be tempted to reach for chemicals or sprays which would defeat the purpose of being organic. So be okay with imperfection. Go for flavor instead.

2) Those magazines only show the “best” parts:

The goal of a photo shoot or a TV shoot is to showcase the garden in the best light. It is supposed to be inspiration.

So they don’t show you the imperfect sections of the garden or the plant that may be not looking so hot at the moment. So you can’t compare to that.

3) You have a life outside of gardening:

So, don’t feel guilty when life gets in the way of that garden!

Be happy that you have such a full life.

Yes, this is a shift in thinking. But it is an important one. Enjoy your life and don’t let a few weeds get you down! In the big scheme of life…those weeds don’t matter anyway.

5 Tips to Prevent Overwhelm:

1) Start Small:

This is especially important for beginning gardeners. You don’t have to have a huge garden to reap huge rewards.

A small garden plot or even a few planted containers can bring you a lot of enjoyment.

Avoid the temptation to grow a massive garden. Instead, start small and expand each year as you gain experience.

2) Plant Seeds:

When in doubt about what to plant, try seeds. It is a small investment and you won’t feel guilty if it doesn’t work out.

Better to play with seeds than to invest in plants that you won’t enjoy. And they are easy to thin out to a more managable amount if you are over zealous with planting.

3) Cardboard Mulch:

All mulch is great for the garden because it helps smother weeds. But cardboard mulch takes weed prevention to a whole new level.

I’ve written all about cardboard mulching here.

4) Keep a Journal:

I know that sounds silly – but trust me on this one.

Keep a journal will help you prevent overwhelm in the future. You can refer back to see what worked and what didn’t. And you can save yourself tons of time trying to research things you already had figured out…but forgot.

You can keep a paper journal, a digital journal on your computer or a non-journal.

What is a non-journal?

It’s when you simply keep a folder where your drop in reciepts, the empty seed packets that you planted and notes you write to yourself about what you did. Nothing fancy. Just a place to hold a year’s worth of info in a really simple way.

5) The Power of Observation:

I believe that observation is one of the most important skills a gardener can have.

It only takes a few minutes to stroll through the garden. And you can do this (in the morning or at the end of the day) – whenever you can take 5 minutes to give it a once over. Daily is ideal, but even every other day works wonders!

And in those precious few minutes, you will:

  • Catch issues before they happen
  • Notice weeds before they go to seed (so you can yank them easily)
  • See when plant is stressed (so you don’t lose it)
  • Connect with the garden in a deeper way

That last one is super important.

By walking through your garden on a regular basis, you get to enjoy your garden beyond working in the garden. You get to soak up the nature that is there…and that is golden!


A garden should compliment your life and add to it in positive ways.

And this is true for ANY garden – not just a food garden.

So don’t let the pressure of creating an unattainable goal get in your way. If you get a harvest from that garden…even a small one…then you and your garden are winners.

Resources & Links Mentioned:

Podcast Episode 42 – Growing Food in Cottage Garden Style

Evernote – I use this for organizing all my notes & business info, but it can also be used as a journal

Penzu – online journaling app

Day One – online journaling app

 Botanical Interests Seeds

Renee’s Garden Seeds



Click here for the full transcript for Episode #51 

Enjoy this podcast?

Sign up for updates & receive my free Canning Resource Guide

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.