Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Imperfect Gardening 101: The Plant and Pray Method

Memorial day, has come and gone, and the moment I've awaited has come. It's Finally time to plant here in maine! WICKED good!

Here's the problem... there's no time... because I'm running on "toddler time," here. Meaning, everything that I do, is done super humanly quickly. Like, super-mom style. Okay, it's not that graceful... actually, I'm just sloppily juggling life's demands, and barely getting by.

Quick showers before Barney is over, and the boy figures out how to jump out of his bouncy seat.

Quickly folding the laundry before the whole basket of clean clothes is dumped on the un-vacuumed dog-fur-covered floor as he "helps."

Quickly scurrying to feed the goats as he naps in the car after dropping his sister off at preschool.

Quickly scarfing down any leftover food that he does not consume as I serve him and his big sisters.

You get the point. Toddler time.

It's a good thing he's cute

The biggest challenge that I've met thus far, is figuring out how to farm and garden while chasing around this growing, developing, exploring boy...especially while keeping him safe, and out of the road (and out of the neighbors' yards). We don't live on a big, open farm. The garden area is practically in the road.

A one-and-a-half year old needs to get out in the fresh air and do important things like practice walking up and down hills, and feeding sticks and rocks to goats (which they politely reject). So he's the priority. However, I will continually feel a tangled up ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, until those seeds are in the ground. These early spring jitters will not be quelled until beds are planted, and sprouts are appearing.

But there's no time!!!

And I'm sure many of you can relate. Moms, dads, people with big kids, small kids, or no kids. People with jobs in or out of the home, stay-at-home-moms, working moms, homesteaders, and non-homesteaders alike. We're all busy.

And that, my friends, is why I am presenting you with this fast and frugal method for imperfect gardeners everywhere who have no time, and/or limited space. I call it "The Plant-and-Pray Method."

Having a tendency towards perfectionism, I sometimes get so overwhelmed that I don't do things that I would have liked to do. I suspect that a lot of folks are like this, which is why I want to encourage people to Just do it anyway! Gardening doesn't have to be perfect. Seeds and soil microbes are waaaay smarter than we are. They already know what they're doing. the only important requirement, is to just toss 'em in the ground. Sure, you may not have the perfect rate of germination, or the perfect yield of veggies- but some is better than none, right?

The Plant-and-Pray Method

  • Acquire some seeds. Try to select ones for foods that you will actually eat. Don't be afraid to add some herbs and flowers. Many will become great companion plants, even if you don't know what you're doing. Last year, my Nasturtiums totally accidentally saved my Cabbage's life.

  • Do some light research on companion, planting, and scribble it down for reference. Or not. Remember, no one needs to be able to read/understand this other than you, so it need not be legible or fancy. If you have a 6 yr old daughter who happens to remember everything she reads, it will be useful to show her this information.

  • Plot out where you will be planting the seeds, so that you can remember where to place them, and what you want next to them. Or not.

  • Find a spot with soil. Clear out anything that's already there. If you have it, throw on some compost. I had lots of slow-release-fertilizer in the form of bunny and goat poop. If there are lots of weeds, throw down some cardboard or similar light blocking material to smother them until it's time to sow.
Am I the only one who sees potential here?

  • Divide out square foot sections using available materials. I use wooden lathes. And I don't measure. Or you could just skip this part, but I like the visual. 
Imperfections, weeds, and all

  • Use THIS guide to plant the correct number of seeds per square. OR just toss in some seeds, and thin them out as necessary.  Remember that big vegetables start out as tiny seeds, but will need more space. So think, 1 tomato plant per square, but up to 16 radishes or carrots. I tend to use the square foot gardening method as inspiration and a guideline, but really, I like to mix things up a bit more. I like the companions to hang out a little closer, and I totally guess on my numbers.  So herbs, flowers, and veggies alike are side by side. I've seriously considered just mixing up my seeds and throwing them all in together to see what happens. I just don't do rows- I don't have the space, and I like things a bit more... wild. You may be a bit more conservative, or organized.... But I tell you, letting go of perfection will still result in food. It may even result in better food.

  • Now you have seeds in the ground. Or, if you are like me, you only had time to sow some of them and you'll have to sow the rest later. That's fine. If you remember what you planted where, that's great! If not, I'm sure those sprouts will become recognizable eventually. You may or may not find out that you've actually been nurturing a weed for a few weeks, and that's okay. Just pull it up, and move on. 

  • Sow more seeds throughout the season, for successive planting that provides you with food all through the growing season. Relax, and watch them grow. But don't relax too much. And weed every chance you get, but don't weed if you don't feel like it. Because you can't control everything in the ground. Am I contradicting myself here? My point is, pay attention and observe. Meditate even. Use your intuition as you thin out your seedlings, and decide which stay and which go. You can eat those thinnings, you know! Let your garden become your pride and joy, and enjoy the fruits of your labor without the stress of perfectionism. If the weeds are stressing you out, just remember that dandelion leaves are healthy and edible too, so it's okay if they grow amongst your mesclun mix!
Pea shoot

 I hope I've inspired some of you busy perfectionists out there with my messy, ugly gardening style. I promise you, it WILL result in food that is edible. And nature is beautiful, regardless of how we try to control it, so once your imperfect garden recovers from the initial awkward stages, it will look pretty too. Relax, and enjoy (but pay attention)!


  1. AWESOME post.....imperfectly PERFECT!

  2. I've definitely used that method some years and for the most part, it works. :)

    1. Good to know! Worked for me last year :)

  3. Im going to agree with.... "Anonymous" above... *wink*...
    Totally awesome post my friend... and yes... imperfectly perfect *wink*...
    Pay attention, give thanks for what you are about to receive.... and be blessed!!
    loads of peace love and light to you beautiful soul xx

    1. I'm pretty sure that "Anonymous" is my mom- a wise lady indeed ;). Thanks Ange- peace, love, and light to you, lovely lady. Witnessing the blessing of nature's miracles unfolding is truly awe-inspiring. Even the "weeds!"