Are you a single gardener? Do you have a spouse or partner, but they aren’t able to help with the gardening?
When summertime hits the pressure is on for the avid gardener. Plants begin to produce, and it can be challenging to keep up when you’re working alone.
At one point in time, I had as many as seven people working in our kitchen to help can and also to help in the garden at a time. That was years ago, before my mother-in-law passed, and before my husband’s job became more demanding.
These days, my kids are growing up and at home less frequently, my husband is gone more with work, and I find myself carrying the brunt of the work around our farm by myself. Which can be daunting, but I’ve learned a few tricks to help those of us who garden or homestead without much help.
Here’s how it’s feasible to garden and preserve your food, even though you are flying solo:
1. Get Organized
I’m a big believer in being organized. I also have confidence you can live life intentionally or merely let life happen to you. It’s your choice, and it all begins with how organized you are.
Most of us are busy people. In my case, I work from home, homeschool, raise kids, take care of a house, care for a farm, and raise three gardens to preserve food.
No need to bake me a cookie for my efforts, I’m simply a busy person and no different from many other busy people in this world.
However, I do know I have quite a few balls in the air at any moment. If I’m disorganized, my life will railroad me in one fail swoop.
Therefore, I’m an organized person. I take time to work during the day, I make meal plans to streamline cooking, I have days for laundry and cleaning, and I also keep a schedule for our farm and garden.
For instance, I know Wednesdays are the days my animals’ areas get cleaned. I clean the house on Fridays and do laundry on Monday and Thursdays.
Tuesdays are my days to weed our raised garden beds, and I break the rest of my gardening into rows where I distribute the work out evenly throughout the week.
I try not to spend more than three to four hours per day working outside maintaining our gardens and caring for our farm. My goal is to be inside to beat the heat whenever possible.
Your schedule may not look like mine. You may have more to add or less. Either way, it’s important to sit down, know what you need to get done in a week and create an hour by hour schedule to help plan how it can all get done.
2. Handle One Picking at a Time
One problem I’ve had this year is everything was ready to be harvested at the same time, and everything is producing abundantly. Wonderful on the one hand, but overwhelming on the other.
Because I planted many of our vegetables closer and mulched as well, weeding has become less time-consuming, even though the garden is larger. Now I have more time available for harvesting every day.
For a while, it felt right after I finished harvesting the green beans, I barely had time to get them canned before I had to pick more green beans. I’m not talking about collecting small amounts either.
For the last two weeks, I’ve harvested 100 gallons of green beans. This is a great deal of work to do when you’re doing it all with little help.
I’m fortunate my husband can help when he’s home on the weekends, and my kids are willing to help when they’re back too.
However, this still leaves me covered up in vegetables most days. The one thing I’ve learned is to handle one picking at a time.
Meaning, I don’t pick another batch of green beans until I have the first batch harvested and preserved. This process keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.
I will do the same thing as our tomatoes come in. The only exceptions to this rule are cucumbers, squash, and peppers. I pick those items daily because I can process them quickly.
Most days, I’ll quickly freeze the squash, cucumbers will be gathered until they’re ready to be turned into relish or pickles, and the peppers I save for pickling or eating as they come in.
Other vegetables, I hold off on harvesting until I’ve processed the last harvest.
3. The Early Bird Gets the Worm
If you garden or farm, you’ve probably noticed it’s best to work in the morning hours before the sun is blazing down on you.
Well, if you’re working solo, the best is to wake up early and get a jump on the day. Why? Because you have more to do with only your two hands.
Therefore, if you’re gardening solo this year, set your alarm and get moving with the sun. The earlier you get started, the greater chance you’ll be done before the hottest part of the day hits.
I try to get the bulk of my outdoor work done before lunchtime. From then I work indoors on the canning, housework, and my paid job during the hottest part of the day.
When the sun goes down, I go back outside and finish up anything I didn’t get done earlier in the day.
Waking up early is essential to caring for a garden by yourself because it helps you stay safe in the heat.
4. Take Me to the Limit
Did you know you have a limit? When I was younger, I wasn’t aware limitations existed for me. Well, the older I get, the more my body says otherwise.
This summer I’ve especially learned my limits. Within the first two weeks of summer, I realized I had to learn to listen to my body, or I was going to pay for it by the end of the summer.
Now, I get started early to work in the cooler part of the day, but I also know when to stop. There’s a certain point in my day where my body says, “Enough!”
When I get the message, I set the alarm on my phone for 20 minutes. I take a power nap, get up and fix a cup of coffee, and go again.
It’s amazing how the 20 minutes of rest during the middle of the day can make such a difference for me, but it does.
If you feel as though you’re pushing yourself too hard, don’t become discouraged. Instead, consider taking a power nap during the day to give your body a chance to rest before you move forward.
It’s important to learn your limits and know when to stop. This can help you to remain healthy even while you’re carrying a heavy load during the times of harvest.
5. No Room for Stress
When you’re doing a great deal of physical labor in the garden, harvesting, and preserving food, it’s easy to begin to feel stressed.
You might look at the garden and feel overwhelmed and as that you can’t possibly keep up. Changing your mindset is very important.
There’s no room for stress when you’re carrying such a load already. I’ve learned I get to the next harvest when I get to it.
If I lose some produce, it isn’t the end of the world. I see it as free chicken feed. I may not be storing the lost food as I’d hoped, but I’m saving money on purchasing more fodder for the animals during those times which is a help to me as well.
Look for the bright side and realize you can only do what you can do.
6. Take Care of You
If you want your body to hold up while caring for a garden, harvesting a garden (or gardens), and preserving food, you should be sure you’re fueling your body correctly.
What I mean is you can’t skip meals or eat junk attempting to be productive and expect your body to hold up.
You need to make time to drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods, and get the rest you need during the day but especially at night.
The better care you take of yourself, the better you’re going to feel, and the more energy you’ll have to exert towards the tasks at hand.
7. Be Realistic
Finally, it’s important to be realistic and set realistic expectations for yourself. When I start the gardening season, I’ll admit, I have unrealistic goals for myself.
This year, I thought I was going to have time to manage three gardens, preserve food, work, take care of our home, farm, and family, and have time to sew.
I’ve managed to do everything but work on my sewing. The truth is, you have to look at what you want to get done and realize when you’ve added a few too many items to your list.
When you recognize this problem, be prepared to remove some goals or items from your list of expectations.
Realize, you’re one person who is capable of doing many things, but you aren’t capable of doing everything all at once.
Well, I hope these tips will help you to become more organized and efficient when trying to carry the load of gardening or farming alone or without much help on most days.
It’s possible, but it can grow exhausting at times. Remember to rest and be kind to yourself. Though eating is important, taking care of yourself in the process should be your top priority.