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Finding Joy in the Garden in Fall: Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm

Learn how to find joy in the garden in fall, despite struggling with frantic feelings of urgency to get everything done in the garden and often dealing with harvest overwhelm. This is part of my Seasonal Joy in the Garden Series.

Finding Joy in the Garden in Fall: Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm

Finding Joy in the Garden In Fall Season

Have you ever noticed that fall season in the garden, which is a beautiful time of transition, also has a sense of urgency to it? There is this odd push between enjoying the season and rushing to get things done before Winter or First Frost.

It’s not just with gardening, but with life in general in the fall. Fall can easily become an overwhelming season for people: there is a sense that more could be done, that more needs to be done as soon as possible.

And it’s definitely a feeling that pursues us to our gardens. Rush, rush, rush…this fall gardening sense of urgency has us thinking and feeling all sorts of things: the weather is cooling off (yay!…but also oh no! I must hurry to get everything done!), the pest problems are slowing down (yay!…but I must hurry to get those pest-invaded plants out of the garden and clear up everything for less future pests…), but at least there’s the best part, there’s tons produce to enjoy…(yay?).

Ever have it where you are both happy and stressed when you get a bumper crop of one (or more) of your vegetable crops?

I call it ‘harvest overwhelm,’ and it’s something that affects all gardeners at some point. There is an odd combination of being thrilled that you found the right plant and variety to produce like crazy, while also being stressed about what you are going to do with it all and how you are going to find time to harvest and preserve it all.

It is an odd combination of feelings! And it can stress you out. We all dream of having our gardens overflowing with produce for our homes. And yet, when it happens, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, panicking, and maybe a bit guilty if the produce gets rotten before you can use it all.

I’ve stood in the middle of my garden many times, staring at all the harvesting that I need to do, and it stresses me out so much, that I just sit on my bench and stare at it all, and I’ll have a mini panic attack.

Gardening shouldn’t be a stressful or negative thing for you. It’s important to remember that in everything in life, we make our own choices, and even in our gardens, we get to choose, personally, how to respond to harvest overwhelm.

So what can we do about eliminating garden harvest overwhelm? I’ve made a list of tips to help you figure out how to make a harvest something to enjoy.

  1. Visit Your Garden Daily
  2. Practice Time Management
  3. Appreciate the Value of Community
  4. Count Your Blessings

This is part of my Seasonal Joy in the Garden Series. Here’s my tips on Finding Joy in the Garden in Winter and also my tips on Finding Joy in the Garden in Summer. By the way, if you are having the opposite problem this fall in your garden (aka suffering from a bad garden harvesting year), check out my advice on How to Recover from a Poor Gardening Season.

And don’t forget to read my tips on how to care for your fall garden to get some guidance on what to plant, what to clean up, and tons more info on what needs to be done in your garden in the fall season.

Harvest Overwhelm: One day's worth of tomatoes
This was my tomato harvest in just one day…

Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm: Tip #1: Visit Your Garden Daily

This is the easiest way to not only reduce harvest overwhelm but also to consistently spend time in nature. 

You might want to argue that you just don’t have time to visit your garden daily, but you do. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, go to your garden every day.

Some days, I am so busy with work, hobbies, household chores, caring for livestock, etc., that I only walk through my garden at lunchtime. But I make sure to go to my garden every single day at lunchtime, even if it’s just a brief walk-through.

Even if you have a hectic work/kids/etc. schedule, you CAN go to your garden daily. You just have to figure out how to add a walk in you garden to your daily life. Are you a morning person? Grab your coffee or tea and go sit in your garden for 5 minutes every morning. Do you get home just as the sun is setting? Head straight to your garden and watch as the sun sets over your home and land. 

Main Point:  Even if you have only 5-10 minutes to spare, visit your garden daily. 

When you go to your garden everyday, split your time between harvesting produce and sitting and enjoying your garden.

You might think that it is counter-productive to only use some of your daily gardening time to harvest if you are dealing with harvest overwhelm, but I usually find that it is not. 

When you become more aware of your time, you often naturally use it more wisely. Also, gardening needs to be a joy in your life, not a stressful thing

Spending a few quiet and calm moments in your garden will help you de-stress, and when you are relaxed from those few moments, your energy will be refreshed and your garden harvesting will be more enjoyable and easier to handle.

Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm: Peaches
A HUGE box of peaches that made multiple batches of honey-sweetened peach butter and also canned peach slices. I intentionally took my time and canned them over many days for my sanity.

Harvest Overwhelm Tip #2: Practice Time Management

In my opinion, the easiest way to manage your time, both for gardening and life in general is to make to-do lists and stick to them. However, I realize that many people aren’t as into lists as me, so I’ve gathered up 4 ways to practice time management for your garden harvest overwhelm issue

1. Make Gardening To-Do Lists:

When you’re looking at problem with harvest overwhelm in your garden, one of the easiest ways to handle it is to make chore lists. You can do this in a few different ways, depending on the way you think and organize your days: daily chore list or weekly lists. You can also combine both list ideas if that is something that works best for you.

Option 1: Make daily chore lists. Every morning, when you wake up, think about what you want to accomplish in your garden for the day, write it down, and then make sure you do it all. Tip: make sure you don’t make your list too big to handle for one day, or you can make your harvest overwhelm issues worse.

Example: Do you have peppers that desperately need to be harvested before they get rotten on the vine? Maybe today you will focus only on pepper harvesting. Perhaps you have extra time today, so you’ll make it a ‘pepper day’ and not only harvest all the peppers, but you will also go in your kitchen and preserve them all as well.

Option 2: Make weekly chore lists. I personally prefer a weekly chore list, so that I can do a little bit different gardening chores each day. I find that a weekly chore list brings my stress levels down, because my gardening stress is often related to focusing on one part of my garden at a time. Tip: it might take some practice to make a practical weekly chore list that isn’t too long (and overwhelming) or too short (which might make you get even more behind in your garden harvest). Practice makes perfect.

Example: Do you have peppers that need to be harvested, as well as last tomatoes and beans? Put all three on your weekly chore list, and harvest a few peppers, tomatoes, and beans each day for the first 3-4 days of your week, and then spend the last few days of your week preserving them all in the kitchen.

2. Set a Timer:

Have you ever had it where you go to your garden ‘for a few minutes’ and suddenly a few hours have gone by and you feel like you’ve barely done anything in your garden?

This can be a charming aspect of your passion for gardening, but if you’re dealing with some serious stress from harvest overwhelm, this is not a very efficient time-management strategy.

Consider setting a timer to be as proficient as possible in the garden. Often, just setting a timer makes you more aware of how you are managing your time. Sometimes, when a timer goes off, you get a burst of energy and are motivated to reset the timer and do just a little bit more.

If you are a competitive person, you can even use a timer to challenge yourself in the garden. 

Example: See how many peppers you can harvest in 10 minutes. Try to beat that record tomorrow.

3. Pace Yourself:

This is similar to daily chore lists, but some people get stressed when looking at chore lists. Instead, of writing down what to do in the garden, simply go to your garden at your daily gardening time, see what needs to be done (ex: harvesting and preserving peppers, tomatoes, and beans), and simply pace yourself

Harvest a basketful of produce. Then sit down for a few minutes. When refreshed, tackle a bit more. Take your large gardening task and simply break it down into smaller daily tasks with plenty of breaks. 

Example: Perhaps you have random times during your day you can spend working in the garden to harvest and preserve produce. Do a little bit at a time, with moments of garden relaxation, and push on at your own pace. If you start getting frazzled, pause and enjoy the moment.

Tip: Pacing yourself is a strategy that works best for people who are already experienced at time management. This also works best for people who get stressed by lists but relaxes at a more freestyle approach to gardening and life itself.

Garden Produce 2019

Fall Harvest Overwhelm Tip #3: Appreciate Community

One sad thing that I have noticed about modern society is that we no longer appreciate the value of community. I’ve seen this lack of community in two ways: we are stubborn about asking our communities for help and we no longer are interested in gathering as a community for activities.

I think that if gardeners (and people in general) remembered the value of community, many stresses in the garden (and in life) would either disappear or lessen in strength.

Let’s take a closer look at some community aspects:

1. Ask Your Community for Help with the Harvest

Are your gardening chores and the garden harvest taking you away from friends and family? Do you ever feel like the pressure to gather up all of the harvest is keeping you from socializing? Invite your friends, family, neighbors, or community to help you in the harvest!

Have a ‘pepper picking party’ with your loved ones. Make it super cute with pepper-based foods (jalapeno poppers, anyone?). After gathering your produce, say thanks by giving them a portion of the harvest. That way, everyone wins!

There are so many people who love the idea of gardening, but for whatever reason, they do not. Sure, they might try to appreciate farmers by going to farmer’s markets for their produce, but why not give them the option to actually help you with the harvest? Pick-your-own farms are popular for a good reason!

Even people with brown-thumbs or a lack of interest in gardening often finds something charming/romantic about picking their own produce. Use their energy to get something done in your garden!

Got a teenager or older child who wants an income? Have them help you with your garden harvest! Got a younger child in your life (nephew/niece, neighboring child, or your own)? I have often found that children love to learn about gardening and help you out. Plus, you can help shape the lives of future gardeners! I personally know that my love for gardening started when my mom had me help her with her garden. 

Instead of being overwhelmed at the garden harvest, use it as a time for socializing. Our modern times make it seem like asking people for help is a sign of weakness or failure. Stop stubbornly refusing to ask your community for help.

No one can ‘do it all’ by themselves. Learn to ask your community, and your friends and family, for help with your garden harvest. It is a wonderful way to enjoy nature with people and make strong connections with both your community and the land.

2. Make Community Gatherings for Preserving the Harvest.

One of my least favorite things to do is stand in a kitchen all alone, canning my garden produce. It gets hot in the kitchen with the pots boiling; there is a sticky mess everywhere (especially with jams!); there are dirty dishes all over the place. You know how it goes: preserving the harvest can be quite stressful.

However. You know what makes preserving the harvest more fun? Making it a canning party! There is nothing more enjoyable for me than when I get together with my relatives to preserve an entire year’s supply of applesauce.

Once upon a time, people used to gather for quilting bees and to preserve the harvest. That’s because parties with your community can make something like ‘harvest overwhelm’ into something more manageable and also fun.

One of the BEST ways to conquer garden harvest-overwhelm is to make it a fun event. If you’re an introvert, invite your small group of friends or your relatives over for a canning party. If you’re more extroverted, consider opening this preserving party up to the neighborhood or the community. If you’re a teaching-minded person, make it a preserving class where you teach people how to can produce properly. 

One of the simple joys you can get from community preserving parties is that if you are all preserving different foods, you can trade a few jars of different foods with each other. Of course, the main joys include getting your garden harvest done as well as making new memories with people.

Count your blessings: Harvest Overwhelm

Harvest Overwhelm Tip #4: Count Your Blessings

Time. Everyone is obsessed with time, and this affects gardeners as well. We rush around to beat time, we complain that we don’t have enough time, we feel guilty when we think we are wasting time. And, of course, this obsession with time pressures gardeners into feeling garden harvest overwhelm in the first place.

I think one of the best ways to counter the stress of harvest overwhelm is to change our mindset on the idea of time. How can we do this in our gardens? A few ideas include: stop feeling guilty about taking moments of rest; learn how to make our gardening time enjoyable; and becoming more aware of our present surroundings.

1. Stop Feeling Guilty about Moments of Rest.

Taking breaks and resting is not something to feel guilty about. 

Life is about more than doing things in every possible moment of the day. This is a hard lesson for me, as I live life along a mantra of ‘Don’t waste even a precious moment in life.’ However, I realize now that this makes Rest seem like a bad thing.

While we shouldn’t Rest to the point of laziness, there is something worthwhile for taking breaks and Resting, and there is no better place to rest than in the garden.

When garden harvest overwhelm is making you over-stressed…when life in general is swirling around you in chaos, go to the garden, sit on your garden bench, and Rest

Sit, breathe, meditate or pray, sing, or sit quietly and listen to the sounds of nature. The is beauty in rest. Find balance in your life and in your garden between work and rest.

2. Make Gardening Time Enjoyable.

I really hate the word ‘chore’. It has a negative connotation to it. I have found that when I avoid the words ‘garden chores’ and I say ‘garden activities’ instead, it changes my mindset about gardening from work to an enjoyable lifestyle.

When garden harvest overwhelm sets in, it can be easy to lose focus. It can be easy to stress about time. Instead of dreading the things you need to accomplish in your fall garden, figure out ways to make it more enjoyable

Examples: Listen to a podcast or music while you garden; have the children play and learn in the garden with you, so you can smile as you hear their giggles and delight in their new knowledge; make the garden prettier for you and maybe even other animals by adding a bird bath or bird feeder or an insect hotel or a statue. Or plant some pretty annual flowers in your veggie patch just for fun. 

3. Become More Aware of Your Surroundings.

If you find yourself on the brink of a panic attack due to garden harvest overwhelm, stop, open your eyes and become more aware of your surroundings. Take even just 30 seconds to stop and notice the beauty of nature around you.

Take a deep breath of fresh air, listen to the birds and bugs as they flit about your garden.

Consider how the garden is growing all around you. You are surrounded by life and vitality! Enjoy the shapes, colors, textures, scents, etc. of the garden produce and your garden.

Something magical happens deep down inside of us when we stop and become actually aware of our surroundings. There is more gratitude, more appreciation, less stress, and so much more.

Learning to become aware of our surroundings takes consistent practice. However, making it a part of your daily habits will open your eyes to the beauty of nature in your garden. 

Fall in the Garden

No Matter the Season, Find Joy in the Garden

At the end of the day, when you are feeling garden harvest overwhelm, remember, at the core of your stress there is this: you had a bountiful harvest!

It can be easy to forget that gardening is more than just a hobby, livelihood, or path to self-sufficiency. Gardening tugs and pulls at our emotions. There is something incredibly beautiful and very emotional about a good gardening harvest. 

Make sure you take the time to actually become aware of your gardening emotions. By doing this, you can remember to count your blessings that come with a bountiful garden harvest.

So take the time, every day, to walk through your garden and appreciate it. Go up to your tomato vines, sagging with too many fruits, and tell yourself, ‘I planted these tomatoes and look how fruitful they are!’ Appreciate that success. 

After counting your blessings in the garden, go to your pantry or freezer. Look at all the garden produce that you have already preserved. Count your blessings by looking at each one with the emotional pride that comes from doing something fruitful with your own hands. 

Remember not to let harvest overwhelm get you down. Visit your garden daily, learn some new time management techniques, learn how to get help from your community, and remember once again to count your blessings.

More Seasonal Gardening Tips:

Finding Joy in the Garden in Fall Dealing with Harvest Overwhelm

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