Best 5 Downsides to Gardening Techniques
Many of the blog posts I do promote growing and preparing your own food. I highlight many of the upsides of growing your own.
Today though, I thought I’d take a look at the other side of the coin, and explore the downsides of gardening and look at what it is that keeps the majority of people in both Canada and the United States from growing even a small portion of their own food.
There are many gardening books, articles, and blogs that will try to convince you that gardening is easy. Sorry, but that is mostly overly romanticized bushwa. Sure, there are many techniques that can make the job easier, and it’s not brain surgery, but gardening does take a certain level of know-how.
The level of difficulty of any particular gardening project can vary widely depending on its scope and goals. Growing a few herbs or a tomato plant or two can be done without much effort, but growing a substantial amount of almost anything takes work, know-how, discipline, attention to detail, land, and some good luck.
So, in the spirit of being honest and realistic, here are 5 downsides to gardening:
1. Nature just doesn’t give a fuck
Sooner or later if you get into gardening you will learn an essential and unavoidable lesson: Mother nature doesn’t give a fuck. You can work hard, get your timing right, and do everything right, and then boom! a hailstorm passes through your neighborhood and 80% of your work is destroyed. Drought, excessive rain, too much heat, too much cold, wind, storms, insects, animals, plant diseases, weeds, other humans, and pollution, all can work against you and your garden. As gardeners, we have no choice but to learn and accept that we are just one element in an ecosystem that has many players, some of which enjoy eating the same foods we do.
Most of the art of gardening is figuring out how to get your garden aligned as well as possible with nature’s forces and how to counteract the forces that move against you. The ebb and flow of these forces are strong enough to keep even the most advanced gardener humble.
The deeper you get into gardening, the more you realize that humans are still just scratching the surface of understanding the complex matrix of interrelations that govern the natural world. The honest truth is that nobody really understands how it all works.
2. It’s hard work
Weeds must be dealt with somehow. The whole idea of the ‘lazy gardener’ or any other kind of ‘plant and let it go’ kind of approach is an unrealistic pipe dream. Even the most well thought out permaculture system needs to be managed in some way.
Growing vegetables intensively in a small garden, even using the most organic, eco-friendly method you can think of, still means that you will have to physically disturb the soil to remove whatever nature wants to grow in your garden space. Moving soil around is hard work.
Some techniques for weed control involve disturbing the soil, others work by covering the unused ground with some sort of organic or synthetic ground cover or mulch so that weeds cannot grow. These methods all have their downsides and they all involve some level of physical labor.
On top of weeding, there are many other tasks, planting, watering, composting, trimming, pest control, preparing garden beds, harvesting, weeding, and processing all take time and physical and mental capacity for work.
The reality of many people’s work schedules can be a very real problem here. After a long day of stressful work and fighting snarled traffic, there is often just no gas left in the tank to work on a gardening project, or anything else, once the workday is done.
3. Most people don’t have the foggiest clue how to garden
There has been a recent encouraging upswing in the number of households that produce some of their own food. But the recent past, when home vegetable gardening was an uncommon pastime, still casts its shadow on the present in the form of the lack of basic gardening knowledge. There is quite a daunting body of techniques and information to assimilate if you have never put a seed in the ground before.
4. Failure is a Given
There will be bad years when many of your crops will have one problem or another. Everyone gets better with practice but there will still be times when your favorite crop just doesn’t work. This is the way gardening works. There will be other years when everything you touch turns to gold, but you have to weather the storm to see the rainbow. Newbie motivation can be easily killed by having a few bad years when you start.
5. You’ll be producing when veggies are at their cheapest
Just as your garden starts really producing is very likely when all of your area’s local production will be at its height, and prices will be at their lowest point. This has obvious implications in terms of gardening motivation.
So there it is, just trying to keep it real and look at the other side of the coin. The upsides of gardening outweigh the difficulties, but why not be honest and look at gardening projects with open eyes and realistic expectations.