Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden) maintenance and weeding

Struggling with an Out of Control Area and Getting Back to Easy Maintenance

The norm should be (and easily can be) gardens and borders that only take a few minutes here and there to weed as you plant and harvest make gardening even more fun. Who wants to be bogged down with weeding all the time.

I’ve written several posts on how to make that your reality and I’ll give you the links at the end in case you want to review those posts.

Dealing with the Unexpected

All of us have to deal with unexpected circumstances from time to time that can throw a monkey wrench into our normal routine of “easy gardening”.

You know what I mean if you’ve had to give a loved one 24/7 care, been called away on business during the growing season, or just did something you didn’t realize was going to cause you a problem.

A Common Mistake

If you’ve used hay by mistake to mulch your garden and it reseeded the next year you know what a nightmare it can be. As mentioned in a recent post, this can sometimes happen with straw.

Several readers have written to me this year wanting to know what they can do to suppress the weeds. One reader says she’s spent more hours than she can count digging up and pulling out these unwanted plants. Just when it looks like the job is finished new starts come up making it seem like a never ending battle.

I know how she feels because it’s happened in my garden a couple of times over the years and I hated every minute of it.

Readers Ask – Will These Solutions Work?


Weeds are supressed by heavy mulch especially if it’s already down before they germinate. It can also kill weeds that are just getting started if it’s thick enough.

I’ve used heavy layers of straw about 4 times over my 40 years of gardening when I couldn’t do anything else. (It helps but doesn’t totally solve the problem.)


Rototilling the soil brings more seeds to the surface allowing them to germinate. (Not to mention it sets your soil structure back.)

Weed Cloth Barrier?

Any weed cloth barrier is more about selling a product that helping you in your garden. Eventually grass or weeds or whatever grows (and it will) will become part of that cloth and be a nightmare to get up.

Eventually you’ll find pieces of it everywhere. My neighbor put some down 15 years ago and I’m still picking up pieces of it in my yard and garden today.

Because of all the “brainwashing” (promotion) that goes on with products for gardeners — it’s easy to fall into the “quick and easy” trap.  The problem with that is, what’s suppose to be quick and easy doesn’t always turn out to be quick and easy.

Working Through the Problem – Effort vs Struggle

If you’re like me, dealing with an “out of control” garden that has happened due to something unexpected can cause you a lot of emotional distress. You don’t need an extra job that you don’t want to do to begin with and you just want to get rid of the problem quickly.

Everything we do in life takes effort. But effort entwined with emotional distress changes effort into struggle.

How to Get Rid of the Struggle

I. Acceptance of the situation

An example of what I mean:

When I first tried to walk last fall after my femur (thigh bone) healed I had more trouble than I anticipated. My thoughts immediately turned to what would await me outside by the time I was strong enough to get out there.

I knew from 20 years of keeping this acre of property (my borders and 2500 sq ft garden) what the various problems would be and how long it would take to get it back to being easy to maintain. I didn’t want to face it AND I DIDN”T WANT TO DO IT!

(As I mentioned in this post, “wanting to” is one of the requirements for getting through a difficulty.

As Bill (my husband) said many times, “it’s all in the attitude”. And mine was rotten.

After weeks of that, I started the return to reality with the thought of the one thing I knew I “had” to do if I wanted to eat. I had to grow food.

One thought and one small step at a time in the garden, I was able to get back to a thought process that would eventually get me past the obstacles I was facing. One that would help find opportunities to improve rather than getting bogged down in all the negatives.

In otherwords: a better attitude that allowed looking for what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do. AND going back to finding joy in day to day living no matter what the hurdles that need to be overcome.

II. Determine the Reality of Your Situation

This might be best explained by a few of the realities I had to face before I could determine what action I would take.

1. I knew my energy would be limited, especially in the beginning. I’ll have to increase it over the long-haul.

2. Even with increased energy only so much time can be given to outside work because of other responsibilities.

3. I have to be willing to give up some things in order to make my life better in the future. I must simplify whenever I can.

4. I estimate it’ll take me until the spring of 2021 to return things to easy maintenance and make the design adjustments necessary for ease in the future.

5. Nature insures survival and success slowly over time. Accepting that and following her example will allow us to do the same.

A case in point would be that most seeds don’t germinate all at one time. It’s an ongoing process over the growing season and sometimes into the next year. Once we face that reality it takes some of the emotion out of seeing new weeds pop up when we think we’re finished. It’s just “the way things are”; at least until we can do what needs to be done to change that.

III. Plan Your Strategy

This might take you a while and will develop more fully as you take steps to deal with the situation.

Here’s some of my strategy as an example:

I resolve to 1. do something everyday outside. If I don’t feel like working the allotted two hours, I will do at least one thing. (Usually when this happens I end up doing more.)

2. give high priority to planting and harvesting.

3. continually give high priority to making the effort to take up weeds that are seeding or about to seed and the invasive trees.

4. continually look for better and easier ways to do things and think outside the box.

5. Before I tackle any major task I’ll think it through and make sure it’s the best use of my limited time.

Final Thoughts

If you’re struggling with an out of control area and working your way back to easy maintenance, I hope this post will give you some ideas to make your job easier.

Acceptance of the situationdetermining the realities, and planning your strategy is something that we have to do with most any difficulty in life if we’re going to make it through.


Suggested Related Posts:

Secrets to Almost Effortless Maintenance of Borders and Gardens

3 Things of Primary Importance When Starting A Garden

Weeding- Never Make it a Job

Hay or Straw – Which to Use for Mulch

Ever Had What Looks Like Grass Sprouting in the Garden from Straw Mulch

5 Points to Keep in Mind for Success in Getting Through Your Most Challenging Obstacles


All content including photos is copyrighted by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.


  • Thanks Theresa, I needed some positive energy this morning. Been feeling a little down.

  • Over the years I have used the three basics of weeding, Hands, Knees, and Sweat.

    Also rely heavily on Plan your Work and Work your Plan….

    Glad to see you maintain and encourage a positive attitude. It works wonders….!

  • Theresa, I am so happy when I see a blog entry in my Inbox! Thanks for the encouragement. Sending it right back to you! I know you will get your garden back into your pre injury shape soon. Happy gardening! And hey, its fall gardening planning, planting time. Its now my favorite time to garden thanks to you.

  • Thanks Theresa. I am still spending countless hours weeding BUT I do believe I am getting ahead of it. I do have some mulch ready once it is better and will put that on in the fall (I think). Am going to read the articles you show at the end of your post too.
    You have been a blessing to me and so appreciate your guidance and time.
    God bless you girl

  • Many thanks Theresa for the excellent article. Been doing what you do for 20 years or so also on an acre or so that is totally planted with flowers, fruit trees & bushes as well as vegetables so everything you mentioned I said yep.
    What keeps me going is my passion for gardening also the love of being outdoors with nature getting exercise and fresh air. Not many would do what we do without passion. I probably average 4 hours in the “yarden” a day as Jerry Baker always called it. With many things we do in life it’s not all fun such as pulling weeds or trying to control the varmits. I appreciate you and your wealth of knowledge.
    If you are a gardener your work is never done. Thanks,

  • Danita, I’m glad the post gave you some positive energy! Sure hope your spirits will be lifted soon.
    I’ll be thinking of you. Thanks for taking time to let me know your thoughts.

    Always good to have you join the conversation Graham!

    Carol, really lifted my spirits hearing that TMG in your inbox makes you happy! You mentioned “blog entry” but hopefully you are including the private letters to subscribers. (The last one was lettuce reminders.)
    Thanks too for sending encouragement back to me. Made me feel good.
    Fall is such a great time for gardening! Glad it’s your favorite now too.

    Mary Jean, it was good to hear you are getting ahead of it! I know it hasn’t been easy!
    I’m so glad to have been of help, If you have questions after reading the other posts, just let me know.
    I’m always happy to help you.

    Jim, that’s the truth — there’s always something to do in the borders and garden!
    Thanks for letting me know you liked the post. I enjoyed hearing more about what you “tend”.
    Appreciate your taking the time to tell me.


  • I appreciate this post. I started out the season beautifully, but life circumstances stopped my efforts. I now have a completely overgrown, out-of-control garden. I was unable to tend or harvest. I’ve been so disappointed about it. Yesterday, however, I made my first step. I started several indoor containers for herbs. It was the first time since losing this season’s garden that I felt that hope and excitement you get as a gardener. I hope for a bounty of herbs to freshen my home and season my food.

  • The first step and others that follow — no matter how little — will eventually get you to the desired results Patricia.
    That bounty of herbs I feel sure will be yours.

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