How to Deal with Garden Overwhelm

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your garden? Too much to do? Weeds out of control? Pests or diseases bringing devastation and disappointment? The growth has gotten away from you? An abundance of crops that need harvesting? Not sure where to start? Or perhaps you have a vision for what you want to create but it seems insurmountable. We all feel like giving up with garden overwhelm at times. But don’t despair!

How to Deal with Garden Overwhelm - Helpful Tips

Experiencing Garden Overwhelm

Sometimes a health issue takes hold or we may be away from home. It doesn’t take long for a garden to get out of control. Often we get behind over spring and summer. Hot, humid and wet days make it too uncomfortable or impractical to be outdoors. It’s incredibly draining to garden in heat and humidity. Often, we don’t feel like going outside. So our normal maintenance routine can quickly fall behind. Prolonged rain conditions can turn our tidy gardens into jungle nightmares.

Consequently, by the time we venture out to get some work done, weeds are rampant. Plants need pruning and grass is almost impossible to mow. In these weather conditions, every pest and disease known to mankind has the perfect conditions to thrive! Enter garden overwhelm.

Overgrown garden beds needing weeding pruning and maintenance

Overgrown garden beds needing weeding pruning and maintenance

Overgrown Gardens Bring Challenges

Last year, we spent months trying to keep our plants alive in drought. Daily watering was exhausting. Then drought turned to heatwaves, torrential rain and storms. Like many gardeners, we’ve had a LOT of rain recently. It’s been a blessing. The water tanks have filled again to overflowing. The water table rose and the soil moisture reservoir has been restored. As a result, I haven’t had to spend as much time or energy watering, especially in the heatwaves this summer. What a relief.

However, the heat and moisture has caused plant growth to accelerate literally overnight. Coupled with the new moon phase with high sap flow, the growth is phenomenal and very overwhelming. Waiting days to get outside when it’s been raining means that a well-tended accessible garden has suddenly become an untamed jungle.

Hedges suddenly need severe haircuts. Sweet potato vines and pumpkins have overtaken large areas they weren’t intended to grow. I cut the vines back for compost, bury them to build soil and give away armfuls of cuttings. I harsh prune them every other day. Despite these efforts, they just grow back again. Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said “I’ll be back!” and my pumpkins seem to be sending me the same message. It’s a battle trying to tame a beast that regrows overnight. At least we’ll have a decent harvest that will store well for months.

I'll Be Back! Overgrown pumpkins can cause garden overwhelm

5 Steps to Deal with Garden Overwhelm

So how do we cope when the garden feels depressingly wild, unmanageable and daunting? These are a few strategies to make progress and regain control.

Step 1: Take the pressure off

Firstly, make your peace with an imperfect garden. Depending on your time, energy and weather conditions, the garden’s condition will ebb and flow. Be OK with that! If some plants die back, compost them. After all, they will still be in your garden – just in another form. Feeding other plants by building healthy soil.

Turn garden overwhelm into an asset by collecting garden green waste in portable bags for composting

I collect garden green waste in portable bags for composting while there is an abundance of lush  growth

Step 2: Make a list of the tasks that NEED to get done and prioritise them

What jobs can’t wait? What is less urgent? Focus on completing one job at a time rather than trying to multi-task. Next,  you can make a plan to start on the most important jobs first. I’ve put together a free PDF Download to help you tackle garden tasks in small bites.

Tips to Tackle Garden Tasks in Small Bites Free PDF Download

Step 3: Break the inertia and get momentum again

Decide on a start date and time. Make an appointment with yourself if necessary! Choose the most critically urgent job and take action. One step at a time, even in a five or ten minute block. Go at a pace you can manage while regaining control and kicking your goals. Once you see progress, you will feel a sense of control and accomplishment.

For example, I transplanted a couple of passionfruit into a raised garden bed a fortnight ago. They didn’t like the heatwave. Neither did I. I managed to water them thoroughly several times to help prevent transplant shock so they could settle in. Now they’ve taken off and have climbed the first four wires in the trellis and are looking for where to go next. I didn’t think they’d have such prolific growth so fast. So, adding more wire strands and tensioning them are high priority this week along with tying the vines up. I’m shuffling the to do list.

How to Deal with Garden Overwhelm: 5 MINUTE GARDENING CHECK LIST Free PDF Download

Download my 5 Minute Gardening Check List for easy daily tasks. It’s another free PDF tool to help you deal with garden overwhelm. Enjoy!

Step 4: Get organised to maximise efficiency

If you have limited time and energy or breaks in the weather, you need to be ready for the job at hand. Spend a few minutes sorting your seeds. Have tools in one spot. A portable tub, garden apron or tool belt make it easy. I wear my harvesting apron with my gloves, secateurs, plant ties, crop protection bags, scissors, string, plant labels etc in the pockets. I pop it on and am ready for a variety of tasks.

Be organised with garden tools ready to use

Be organised with garden tools ready to use

Step 5: Celebrate every achievement

A big handful of weeds. Seeds sown. A plant potted. Turn frustration into a feeling of fulfillment as you successfully complete a task. Progress trumps perfection. Done is better than perfect!

Helpful Tips for Coping When Garden Tasks are a Burden

  • Tip 1. Change your Mindset on Weeds. An abundance of weeds isn’t all bad! Weeds do the pioneering work of drawing up minerals deep within the subsoil to remediate nutrient deficiencies. Yes, they have a beneficial role. They accumulate nutrients in their biomass and many weeds are edible. By utilising their ‘work’ you can add the leaves, stems and roots to water to make a liquid fertiliser. Strain and water back in where you removed them from the soil. This returns nutrients to the surface soil. The weeds won’t need to reappear as balance has been returned. There’s a silver lining in everything!

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Sustainable Gardening Tips for July

Welcome to the July newsletter. So much to dig into this month. Beneficial ways to use weeds + The Weed Forager’s Handbook; 8 tips for plastic-free gardening, potassium nutrient profile, cauliflower tips, what to plant this month + QLD Garden Expo details.

Sustainable Gardening Tips for July

Sustainable Gardening Tips for July

“A weed is a plant whose virtue is forgotten.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wonderful Weeds!

Firstly, I’m sharing ways we can garden sustainably by learning more about using edible and medicinal weeds.

Most agree that a ‘weed’ is any plant out of place, but WHY are they really there? What’s the real purpose of weeds? Weeds are pioneers! They are the first plants to inhabit nutrient-deficient, bare or disturbed soils. Their role is to repair, improve and remediate the soil. Weeds are also educators and a symptom something is out of balance! They provide us with clues as to why they are there and help us learn more about our soil. e.g. They may be telling us the soil is poorly drained or compacted, lacking specific minerals, has a pH imbalance or excess fertiliser.

For example, true Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) helps to bring calcium (Ca) back up to the soil surface in its biomass. Dandelion has a deep taproot (1m or 3-4 ft deep) that opens up the subsoil to improve drainage. It typically indicates heavy, compacted, acidic soil, but also grows in fertile well-drained areas. We can harvest the stem, leaves, roots and flowers for food and medicine; chop them as mulch; use as a compost activator to add Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc, Boron and Silica to the soil; or make a liquid fertiliser to feed other plants. Dandelion is extremely nutritious (more than many vegetables)! This herb is rich in “vitamins A, B, C & E and is widely used medicinally, including as a liver tonic, to alkalise and purify the blood, cleanse and regenerate cells, and absorb toxins from the bowel.” [How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life]. I add these nutritious leaves to salads almost daily.

True Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) herb and weed

True Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) herb and weed

“Our common weeds, possessing vigorous root systems, go down into the lower soils for a goodly portion of their mineral foods because the minerals which plants require are usually abundant down there. Being strong feeders, the weed roots take up great quantities of the minerals and then bring them up to be stored in the stems and leaves. So, when the weeds were burned on the garden, those minerals were deposited there in the ashes, ready to be taken up easily by the growing vegetables. In this manner – and in many other ways – weeds are Nature’s true guardians of the soil.” – ‘Weeds Guardians of the Soil’, Joseph A Cocannoue

July is a good time to start your weed control. Working with moon phases you can slow weed growth and maximise your efforts. The Last Quarter moon phase is ideal for weeding because seed germination tends to be lower at this time. So you are less likely to stimulate additional weed seed germination while weeding. The perpetual Moon Calendar is a handy tool with the best dates each month. Many weeds that germinate in cultivated soil are hosts to common vegetable pests and diseases. Remember to recycle the nutrients in your weeds to feed your garden via compost or as liquid fertilisers.


NEW! The Weed Forager’s Handbook

A colourful, illustrated field guide to the top 20 edible and medicinal weeds in Australia. For foragers and gardeners keen to learn about eating, identifying and using nutritious weeds. This compact book is ideal for popping in your pocket and taking outdoors on a walk to help identify plants. Discusses the role of weeds, getting rid of them and how to make ‘weed tea’ as a liquid fertiliser for your garden. Descriptions of common Australian weeds, advice on how to differentiate edible plants from similar-looking plants that aren’t edible, notes of caution, recipes and resources. Dig in!


Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July is a global movement helping people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. How can we have cleaner soils? By limiting our use of plastics like PVC in the garden we can reduce plastic waste and keep plastic chemicals from leaching into our precious soil. Whilst some plastic products like irrigation pipes may be necessary, there are plenty of creative ways to minimise plastic in the garden.

  1. Avoid weed mat. It kills soil life by limiting access to water, air and light. Consider a natural fibre option like breathable hessian or old cotton sheets. In some situations, cardboard or sheet mulching may work well.
  2. Raise your own seeds instead of buying seedlings in plastic punnets.
  3. Make biodegradable pots from natural materials like banana leaves or toilet rolls. Jiffy pots and coir-based seed raisers are other options.
  4. Avoid plastic stakes. Use sustainable options like bamboo, wood or upcycle pruned branches from your garden.
  5. Make your own plant labels. e.g. hand-painted rocks and wooden popsicle sticks.
  6. Choose bulk supplies like mulch or soil from a landscape yard rather than buying small quantities in plastic bags. At the very least repurpose the bags so they are not single-use.
  7. Buy bare-rooted trees and plants in winter when dormant. They come in sawdust or coconut coir rather than plastic.
  8. Grow plants from cuttings to avoid buying more mature plants in plastic pots.

Wooden popsicle stick plant labels with chinographic wax pencil plant names


What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD

Cool days and nights in July mean most pesky insects are overwintering – yay! It’s the ideal time to prune citrus, plant winter crops and bare-rooted fruits. Download your July Gardening Tips PDF for planting suggestions, tasks to do in the garden this month plus issues to watch out for. 

I always aim to time my planting in harmony with the moon phases to optimise seed germination, help cuttings take root, and encourage healthy plant growth and establishment. There are also times each month to optimise the quick uptake of liquid nutrients. This helps plants access nutrition and get off to a good start. Working with Nature’s timing and a Moon Calendar has distinct benefits. It helps me stay organised. I plan forward for the best times to take specific actions in my garden and reap the rewards. The natural cycles of energy and water that ebb and flow each month are there for us to tap into. Learn more here.

The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. It includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting. 

What to Plant Now in Other Locations

Click here for what to plant and when. Or visit Gardenate.com (USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa)


NUTRIENT PROFILE: Potassium

Potassium (K) is a vital water-soluble nutrient that leaches quickly from poorly structured soil. Potassium plays important roles in regulating plant growth; chlorophyll production and photosynthesis; opening and closing stomata (leaf pores that exchange oxygen and water); root, fruit and seed development; strengthening cell walls; improving the colour and flavour of flowers and fruits; and disease resistance.

Potassium-deficient plant symptoms appear on the older leaves first because this mobile nutrient is sent to the young newer leaves as a priority. Potassium deficiency can also make plants prone to frost damage and disease. Mineral balance is essential for healthy plant growth. Too much potassium can create an imbalance in soil pH, calcium and magnesium!

Rock minerals stock the soil pantry with all elements plants require. You can also add other organic materials to boost potassium levels. Bury banana peels around your plants or make a liquid fertiliser. Comfrey is rich in potassium. Chop leaves and stems as mulch or add to the hole when planting. Make comfrey or lucerne tea, add liquid seaweed or fish emulsion, seaweed meal or compost. Use wood ash or potash carefully as it can impact the soil pH level. Sulphate of potash or potassium sulphate is a safe water-soluble form that provides a quick source of potassium after applying it to the soil. Add organic matter to your soil, especially if it’s sandy or lacking clay.

Tomato leaf with potassium deficiency symptoms


Cauliflower Tips

  1. To form their ‘curd’ or edible flower head, cauliflowers need cool temperatures. They are best grown in autumn to winter in warm climates so they mature before warmer temperatures in spring. Choose cultivars that suit your climate including early and late varieties. Small head cauliflowers with short days to maturity are a good choice. Long days to maturity varieties extend the harvest.
  2. Keep moisture up to seedlings so they grow quickly and develop a large canopy of leaves as solar panels. The cooler weather triggers the flower bud to form. Cauliflower is a heavy feeder and benefits from liquid nutrients including seaweed, potassium, fish emulsion and vermicast tea (diluted worm leachate). Apply slow-release nutrients, compost and mulch during the growing season.
  3. To help a maturing cauliflower curd stay white, gather the outer leaves together around the head. Use a clothes peg at the leaf tips or tie strong twine in a bow. This also prevents grubs from attacking the head + frost, sun and rain damage. After harvesting, don’t remove the outer leaves. Keep them wrapped around the head while in the refrigerator to extend freshness. Nature’s wrapping is best!

Cauliflower head forming inside leaves - wrap to protect from grubs, frost, sun and rain damage

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