Dear Diary: The Summer My Gardens Failed

I enter every growing season with high hopes and visions of gorgeous gardens overflowing with colorful flowers and delicious fruit and vegetable harvests. I diligently research throughout the winter months and start my organic seeds indoors weeks before the last frost. So much time, effort, and love go into my gardens that it can be devastating when things don’t go as planned. Such was this case this past summer.

The Break-In

Between my greenhouse and outdoor gardens, I felt like nothing went my way this year. By the time mid-summer hit, it was clear that my visions for the growing season were going to be a total fail.

First, there was the devastating early morning break-in.

Garden failures

I awoke one day to my six-year-old son telling me how he got up to pee at around five in the morning, and through the bathroom window, watched a couple of deer jump my 8-foot tall fence and happily eat my tomato plants.

“Why didn’t you run out there and scare them away?” I asked him, completely horrified.

“I didn’t think you wanted me outside alone at that time,” he answered nervously.

Touché, Ryan. It wasn’t the first time that kid has outsmarted me, and it won’t be the last.

The Downward Spiral

I was so deflated after the deer got into my fenced-in garden that I ripped my tomato plants out of the ground. I had decided that if I couldn’t enjoy them, neither could they.

Not long after that, the resident groundhog got to my beans and zucchinis.

Would my suffering never end?

Wait, There’s More

After that, it was an uphill battle. In my container-grown plants, I had blossom end rot and blight. Extreme heat through much of the summer led to powdery mildew, bolted lettuce crops, and lower yields in carrots and snap peas.

Garden failures

Being nine months pregnant with my third child didn’t help matters. It was too hot to work out in the garden for me, and I gave up. Beyond the travesty that was my vegetable patch, weeds overcame my flower beds. This just wasn’t my year.

Words of Comfort

I was comforted by my interview with Liz Zorab, the author of Grounded: A Gardener’s Journey to Abundance and Self-Sufficiency.

Zorab has coped with and overcome several health issues by building and maintaining her gardens. But she accepts that she has limitations.

When I asked her if she had plans to expand her CSA program, she told me that her seasonal affective disorder took longer to lift than usual this year. Therefore, she put less pressure on herself and grew food only for her family and a handful of clients.

She explained that far from being a step backward, she saw it as an affirmation that she was learning to be responsive and care for herself in the long term.

Changing My Outlook

I realized that I had been looking at my failed growing season all wrong. Yes, it was a step backward in the sense that it certainly wasn’t as successful as other years.

But it wasn’t all bad; my cucumbers and garlic did well, and before the damn groundhog, I enjoyed plenty of green beans.

I needed to learn to give myself a break. This year, I could not keep up with my gardens. Between growing a baby, wanting to be with my two other kids, and the extreme heat, I couldn’t be bothered to control rude critters or fix the problems in my soil and environment that led to pests and diseases.

And that’s ok. I closed up my gardens this year with much less than I’d been hoping for, but I ended up supporting my local farmer’s market a lot more, and that’s a good thing.

I also had a really fun summer with my family, and in August, gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

So in the end, I won. And next summer will be better.

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1 Comment
  • Colleen says:

    It takes experience and knowledge to temporarily walk away, in order to devote oneself to prioritized, what’s most important.
    Well done Catherine!


Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.