Mindset turns garden work into enjoyment

Real gardeners know the work is hard, but they consider sweat equity a reasonable price to pay to be able to enjoy their landscapes.
Real gardeners know the work is hard, but they consider sweat equity a reasonable price to pay to be able to enjoy their landscapes. MSU Extension Service File

In early April, my wife and I had the honor of being part of the 2017 Garden Clubs of Mississippi Spring Pilgrimage, as our little urban farm was one of the tour’s stops. It was a treat to open our doors to allow more than 170 visitors to peek behind the curtain at how we garden.

The tour bus that brought everyone was a neighborhood first. Although we had committed to being a pilgrimage stop last fall, the majority of the work getting ready happened after the first of the year. On top of that, I had my knee replaced two weeks before the tour date, so my wife took over the final touches.

I was fortunate to be able to visit with folks on tour day. One woman commented that she liked our garden but really didn’t like gardening herself because of all the hard work involved.

I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since. And you know what? Gardening is hard work. As we move into the summer months, the weather is certainly going to take a toll on most gardeners. The heat and humidity can make even the most dedicated gardener decide to stay inside for the duration. But gardening is supposed to be fun and relaxing. And besides that, you can get tomatoes.

There’s a group of people, and you know who you are, who are always thinking that the lawn has to be cut, the garden beds have to be weeded, and the flowers have to be planted. Work, work, work. Yada, yada, yada. I call this group “yardeners,” because they see no joy in the garden.

I’ve decided to start championing the concept of changing the garden paradigm for those folks who think gardening is all work.

People I call gardeners understand that they want to enjoy their landscapes, but they know there will be work involved in making it happen. They consider the work sweat equity. To them, there is something satisfying about finishing a project and doing a good job. Gardeners also learn what works and what doesn’t, despite what so-and-so advised on television that morning.

And guess what? Despite how well you care for your plants, some are going to die on you. Yardeners get discouraged when this happens; gardeners say it’s just an opportunity to try another plant.

Even if you get gardening and discover it just might be fun, you might be physically sore at the end of the day or the next day. So, it’s important to adjust how you garden. With my bad back and new knees, I garden a lot using raised beds and big containers that prevent me from having to stoop over so much. I also bought a four-wheel garden scoot to help me get around to work in some of my in-ground flower beds.

Gardening and strenuous exercise have something in common, and it’s an area almost all yardeners and gardens neglect. Stretching before — and, more importantly, after — garden activities is vital.

Consider these tips, and you can make the transition from yardener to gardener. You, too, can then get out into the garden and landscape this summer, sweat a little (or a lot in my case), and enjoy your garden and landscape.

Gary Bachman is a professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.