Gardening – Mid-Summer Burn Out?

A gardening friend emailed me today and asked me – “Do you feel burned out on gardening this time of year?”

I had to give it some thought.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid real burnout because I have too much at stake to let that happen — and it can happen if you’re not paying attention.

Real burnout — rather than just being over stressed – makes you feel helpless and hopeless.  It causes you to loose motivation. It’s damaging emotionally and makes life seem not worth living. I’ve experienced it long years ago — so I try to avoid it.

A few years back I had 3 years of high stress. I was drowning in responsibilities and dead lines, but I had no choice but to push on and get through it. At some point in that period, I made up my mind that in order to survive (after I got through what was necessary) I was taking a year “to make me better”.  To regroup, recharge and do what I could to make sure that I would have the best possible chance of being able to handle the responsibilities of the future. I wanted to rethink everything in my life and make sure I loved every aspect of it as much as I thought I did.

During that year I started in spite of all the “internet gurus” telling me that I couldn’t be successful because Organic Gardening is too competitive on the internet.  That might be true. But I haven’t seen any other site with my approach.  And — organic gardening is what I know and could write about forever without getting bored.

So – to answer my friend’s question: No, I don’t feel burned out. BUT —- my feelings about gardening have covered the range of emotions that I think all gardeners probably feel.

On the negative side:

  • panic about the 100 degree heat and no rain;

( I always feel that I don’t want to garden when there’s a drought and severe heat. – I still do what I have to do — and the feeling passes when the weather cools and the rain comes.)

  • not liking to haul water to my plants in grow bags;
  • fear I’ll loose some things – and I did; (2 planting of squash, 1 plantings of cucumbers, a planting of beans; 5 eggplants; carrots)
  • disappointed and disgusted that only 2 beans germinated and I have to plant again;
  • fear I might have a blight on my tomatoes;
  • tired of dealing with squash bugs and harlequin bugs;
  • feeling sad and mad that a rabbit ate the tops of the few carrot I planted in the border
  • helplessness when these things go wrong

Let’s you know you are merely tending your garden, but nature does what she wants.

But then there’s the positive side that makes me know I couldn’t survive without a garden:

  • beautiful crop of potatoes and hardly any potato beetles –  I killed about 30.
  • dscovering Russian Kale, varieties of chard, and some new lettuce varieties
  • discovering Hakurei turnips
  • having Mizuna with or to fill in for lettuce
  • beets that look better than any I’ve ever grown.
  • tomatoes hanging on the vines in number
  • blueberries in the freezer for winter and still producing
  • Tristar everbearing strawberries giving me berries still — as a treat almost evertime I’m in the garden
  • figs producing the biggest and best figs ever because of some special custom pruning
  • asparagus beetles under control
  • Got rid of the ants in the 2 grow bags that were swarming all over my eggplants
  • fruit on the eggplants although they’re a bit behind schedule
  • Onion harvest coming nicely.  Hundreds in the porch.  Several hundred curing on the screens.  At least a hundred still in the garden.
  • still harvesting lettuce in spite of the heat
  • seeing good results from most of my experiments this year.
  • knowing that I don’t have to be bothered with weeding because of mulching
  • knowing that the way I harvest and preserve food is little by little rather than in great quanities
  • eating from the garden everyday and knowing I’ll have “good” food to help us get through the months to come.
  • knowing that things will be better next year because of some experiments I did this year
  • knowing that when the weather changes and the soil is wet again — my excitement for planting will be renewed.

Knowing that I helped my readers Sandra, Richard, Patricia, and Gayle to have their first great harvest of onions was very rewarding as well.  And Sandra just left a comment on a tomato post saying that she is delighted with her harvest of tomatoes and attributes that success to following my instructions. Makes me happy to be a part of the success of fellow gardeners who are reading TMG.

Final Thought

If you are overwhelmed with gardening chores and you feel that you’re close to burnout —- use it as an opportunity to back off a little and determine what you really want and what you’re realistically able to do.

That approach will keep you gardening and providing good food for your family for many years to come.


Organic Gardening it easy, efficient, effective and it’s a lot easier.


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  • Theresa, like any endeavor gardening can have its ups and downs. My burn-out period recently was discovering that just as my first tomatoes were nearly ripe (and before I could harvest them) the birds destroyed many of them. Most fruits just had a one or two pecks and were left on the ground. Then for the first time I came out to my garden early in the morning and discovered a deer still there. He/she removed even more tomatoes! And then there is the daily battle against cucumber beetles and stink bugs. So yeah, that was a low period. But the heat finally broke and now I am putting deer/bird netting around my tomato area. I had optimistically hoped I might be able to get away without doing the fence this year. In actuality I didn’t lose THAT many tomatoes though. So the fence is nearly finished and I’m feeling better about things now.


  • Thank you for sharing your insights. I’ve frequently experienced burnout over the years. I think it is caused by both stress and stagnation. For me, the best way to stay motivated is to try new things every year. As intelligent human beings, we always need new challenges. It’s also important to have fun with whatever you are doing.

    When I feel burned out, I reframe it in a positive light. I say to myself, “It’s just because I’m so intelligent and curious that I get bored easily.” If I can’t change what I’m doing, I change how I do it. This keeps me excited and engaged in the task. Studies show that learning or doing something new every day also prevents Alzheimer’s!

  • Steve, what you experienced would definitely be a downer for any gardener! So sorry you have to deal with birds out of hand and deer! Glad you were able to “recover” after the heat broke and are now able to put some proactive plans into action.

    Keep up the good work and the great attitude, Steve!
    Thanks for sharing what you’re going through!

  • Hi Sandra,
    I think it helps to know we’re not alone in our feelings. It also helps to know there’s a way out! Change of pace, fun, backing off a bit, and regrouping in general. You’ve worked hard these past 6 months! Congratulations are in order! You’ve done a great job in the garden, in the kitchen, with the kids! Think about what you have accomplished and back off a bit — enough to enjoy it and realize what you’ve done!

  • I just came in from the garden where I found 2 more cucumber plants eaten by the bunnies. I have 3 left. All the pumpkins and all except 1 butternut squash are gone too. Talk about feeling discouraged. I’m worried what I’ll find tomorrow. Maybe I should say what I won’t find in my garden tomorrow. My garden looks like a battlefield. Everything is now caged and draped in netting. Not sure what else I can do.

  • Sure sorry to hear the rabbits are eating your cuke plants! But — I sure relate. I transplanted 5 more squash yesterday and tonight I had only one left.
    Did the squash bugs or SVB get your squash??
    Hang in there Danita! Hope the cages and netting will do the job!

  • Danita, it sounds like you are feeling like I have! I first learned to love gardening as a boy growing up on a farm in Iowa. I only remember dealing with weeds (we didn’t mulch then) and a few insect issues. There were no problem with rabbits, deer, squirrels or birds and we lived in a remote area in the country! (Though one time our cows got out and trampled a few plants – didn’t eat them though.) Now I am seriously considering an 8 foot fence around my entire back yard (which is about a block from the Rockville, MD town center) plus additional fencing/bird block for the vegetable garden and berry beds. I don’t really understand why wild-life seems to have hyperadapted to eating food that humans raise in their backyards but that seems to be the reality. I don’t think it can be explained by us moving into their habitat as our area was developed in the early 1900’s and there were no deer around until recently.

  • Well, 2 more cucs gone. I don’t know if they went under the netting or thru it. The plants tips were just lying there. I took the netting down and put wire mesh. Now it really looks like a battlefield.
    I’ve caught 2 SVB’s trying to get to the zucchini plants and both wound up smushed. I got them both. So far I haven’t noticed any damage. I go out and check the leaves and have found the little gold eggs of the squash bugs. Gives me great pleasure to smush those too.
    Any ideas on what else could be getting those cucumbers? Mice?

  • Danita –
    Congratulations on catching 2 SVB moths! I never seem to be fast enough. 🙁
    About your cucs — If the tips were just lying there — sounds like a rabbit — but you said you had netting over them.
    I lost a planting of cucs (5 seedlings) and all that was left was the little stalk sticking up. It could have been a baby rabbit, but I’ve also heard a lot of folks talking about going out to the garden with a flashlight at night and finding earwigs or rolly polys eating their seedlings.

    The other day I put 5 more squash in and the very next day 3 were gone. All I saw was crickets.
    Bottom line — all 4 things are possibilities.
    Mice? — somehow I don’t think so.

    Keep on keeping on. That’s how we’ll do it! 🙂

  • Well 2 more gone. There are just the main stems left about 3 inches tall. I don’t know what to think. I sprinkled red pepper flakes around the last one. I guess I’ll have to hope someone I know has a bumper crop of cucumbers that I can trade tomatos for.
    Smushed another squash bug on the zucc. and found more little gold eggs. Trying to keep ahead of them.
    Sorry about your squash. I have one that is holding its own for now. the volunteer cantalope is actually looking the best.

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