Let’s face it. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Family and work issues crop up. Turmoil happens. And when life gets in the way of your gardening you need to be prepared to deal with it.
The good news is, if your landscape was well-tended before that unexpected surgery, parental crisis, or another unplanned event, your garden would be just fine for a period of time. Mother Nature will cut you a break because you've been so conscientious about tending to your landscape. BUT….her patience will only last so long. She waits for no one, including you, and that means that plants will continue to grow and that means ALL of them - even the ones you don’t want. It’s called succession.
Regardless of what’s going on in your life, some minimal threshold of care has to be provided to your landscape on a regular basis. Look at it this way – good dental health requires daily tooth-brushing. You may be able to periodically skip more involved and lengthy professional dental care, so long as you floss and brush. But you have to at least brush! Landscape management and gardening is the same way. Minimal lawn care requires at least periodic lawn-mowing. You certainly don’t do it every day – you can go two weeks - maybe a little longer - without mowing and not have the neighbors notice. Weeding is kind of like that too. You don’t have to do it every day, but at least monthly monitoring and pulling of unwanted vegetation is needed to stay ahead of it. No matter what, your landscape has particular needs that, if neglected for too long, will only get worse.
Tip #1: Recognize when you need help
Identify what you can do and what you cannot do. Make a list of them. Put the What I Cannot Do list aside for someone else to take care of for you – perhaps a spouse, friend, helpful neighbor or a professional service provider. Now take the What I Can Do list and separate it into two sub-lists: “what I WILL do” and “what I WILL NOT do.” Take the “won’ts” and put them in the “can’t-do” pile. One way to choose is to put the things that you hate doing -- even if you really can do them -- and put them with the can’t-do things. If you love to do certain things, add them to the can-do pile because it will help your emotional health.
Then look at the pile of “what I will do” and schedule them so they get done. Anything that you cannot plan, put in the can't-do pile. This little exercise will help you to whittle the can-do pile down to just two or three items, max. Those items must be scheduled.
Of course, some of this can be avoided from the start if you’re lucky enough to know that your life throws curve balls at you on a regular basis. You can then plan a low-maintenance landscape from the get-go and have fewer issues to deal with when life's events get in the way.
Tip #2: Finding help
Okay, now that you have your What I Cannot Do list established, it’s time to find a little help. Determine what on the list has some urgency to it, like mowing the lawn. Don’t have access to a local kid willing to push a mower for a few bucks? Then find a service provider to take care of it, along with any other urgent items. Not up to weeding? Then find yourself a gardening champion. These are items that simply must get done. There is great value in having help. Think about it like this -- you are protecting an investment.
There are other benefits to embracing the idea of hiring someone -- this service provider now becomes a partner in helping you deal with your obligations as a landowner and provides you some peace-of-mind and maybe even some happiness during a rocky time in life. After all, coming home to a house or garden in disrepair can make a hard day worse, while a well-maintained property may just lift your spirits enough to enable you to handle the trials in life better.
Tip #3: Use Nature for perspective
We can all get overwhelmed at times. Fortunately, Nature's there to provide perspective. No matter what, seasons change, plants grow and die, landscapes evolve, and life goes on. Nature has the power to help you reframe your perspective if you let it. The constant flux, the ebb and flow, the resilience may just help you meet your life and events in a different light. Try to reshape your thinking about landscape work from being a drag, and obligation or setback, to instead being an opportunity and a gift to slow down and just BE for a moment in Nature. An opportunity to nurture plant life as a path to nurture your own life.
All things shall pass.
I am a landscape professional. I know how to do this stuff. But I have had to step back from my landscape company and my landscape several times this year. Recent life events I faced with my family seemed to blindside me, and I was unable to focus on the work I love.
To make matters worse, there is a pride aspect to having to ask for help that can be difficult to overcome - well, for me anyway! It’s been humbling for me to realize there are things I would and could do in the past that I struggle to do now.
I’m starting to understand that getting the help you truly need to handle all your commitments enables you to muscle your way back in many ways. Certainly with more grace than if you decided you had to do it all alone. The alternative to gaining the help you need is sadly, neglect of your land and YOU. I know that in the landscape, this neglect can trigger a rescue-event that can end up costing many times the expense of committing to proper maintenance practices in the first place. For a human being...neglect is worse...so take care of you!
Maybe that’s my last piece of advice here: know your limitations and be brave enough to ask for help. I did...and things are looking up!