In a garden, there are a number of common gardening obstacles you may encounter. But these obstacles need not be a barrier to successfully growing your own. The key thing to remember is that whatever challenges you face, there are solutions to consider.
So, let’s explore this issue by taking a look at some common gardening obstacles, and how to overcome them. Solutions are definitely not ‘one-size-fits-all’. But by thinking about some of the potential solutions, you will often be able to come up with a scheme to grow your own food and other resources, no matter where you live.
Common Gardening Obstacles Number 1: Lack of Space
I would say that the most common issue of all for UK gardeners is a lack of space. Many gardeners, especially those living in urban areas, don’t have much outside space to call their own – if they have any outside space at all.
But it is important to remember that even the smallest of spaces can become hugely productive. You don’t even necessarily have to have a garden at all to start growing your own. Container gardening and vertical gardening techniques can help you make the most of every inch available.
Another thing to remember is that investing in a polytunnel means you will have an undercover growing area. And this can make it easier to grow your own – not just in spring and summer, but all year round.
Common Gardening Obstacles Number 2: Lack of Time
Another major obstacle that many of us experience is simply having a lack of time. If you are a busy person, with a full time job and other commitments, you may believe that it is impossible to find the time to grow your own.
But when you choose the right solutions, it is possible to create a beautiful and productive low maintenance garden. One which won’t take up much of your time at all once established. Choosing plenty of native perennial plants (forest gardens or perennial beds), and choosing the right plants for the right places will help you create a lower maintenance scheme that won’t take up as much of your time as an annual food producing garden.
Common Gardening Obstacles Number 3: A Very Limited Budget
Many new gardeners believe that a massive barrier to creating a new food producing garden is a shortage of money. But the truth is, a new garden can be created on even the most limited of budgets.
By making use of existing natural resources, and things that might otherwise have been thrown away, you can start a new garden with minimal financial outlay. You don’t need to be a moneybags to get growing.
From seed starting through to maintaining fertility, through to your harvests and beyond, thinking about making use of ‘waste materials’ can help you keep costs down.
No Access To The Soil (A Paved or Concrete Yard)
If you have an urban garden, a previous owner may have believed that paving over the space was the solution for low maintenance. You might not be able to remove all the paving or concrete on the site right away. But even on areas where there is no access to the soil, you can still potentially find ways to grow your own.
You can, of course, use containers to grow in. But you can also be more ambitious even in a fully paved or concreted space. You can create a series of raised beds or planters in the area to maximise the amount that you are able to grow.
Raised beds can be created by layering up brown and green natural organic materials to compost in place. These ‘lasagna’ raised beds can then just be topped off with a good quality compost. This method can help you build your own healthy ‘soil’ or growing medium over time, and create beds that can be just as productive as growing areas in the ground.
Where temperatures are high, and water is perhaps in short supply, you can also consider innovative solutions for growing in wicking beds, with reservoirs of water in the base. Or even consider hydroponic or aquaponic systems, and grow in water rather than in soil/ potting medium.
Poor or Problematic Soil
The above solutions can also work where the soil in a garden is particularly poor or problematic. However, in such cases, it is also possible to slowly build up and improve the soil in a garden over time.
Add nitrogen fixing plants to add fertility. Use deep rooted perennial plants to reduce compaction issues. Protect the soil surface with living mulches/ green manures/ cover crops. And add plenty of organic mulches over time to improve fertility and soil structure. Take a ‘no dig’ approach to protect the soil and gradually improve it over time.
And remember, it is always best to choose plants which are best suited to the particular soil conditions in your area. Think about soil type, how free-draining or moisture retentive it might be, ans soil pH when making your plant choices.
A Lack of Sunlight – Too Much Shade
Plant choices are also crucial if you are dealing with a garden that has quite a lot of shade. First of all, when making any choices for your garden, make sure you understand how much sunlight reaches each area. Think about how this changes throughout each day and throughout the year.
Embrace shady sights by choosing plants that are tolerant of the shade you experience. Make sure that you know whether there is deep shade, partial shade, or dappled shade, and whether the shade is damp or dry, when making plant choices. Get plant choices right and everything else can come together.
Water Problems – Flooding or Drought
Water is another important factor to think about in any garden. Think about natural rainfall levels, and about how water flows across and through a site. You should always take steps to catch and store rainwater where possible. And should also think about how water is caught and stored in the soil and plants you choose.
In areas which experience flooding or excessive rainfall, plant choices can help prevent waterlogging and flooding issues in a garden. But in certain cases, earthworks may also be needed. For example, you might use land drains to direct water, or catch water in a pond or other water feature. In certain instances, you might embrace excess water and make a bog garden…
In drier areas, xeriscaping is all about choosing drought tolerant plants. Again, the right plant choices are key to managing water effectively in your garden. You can also use drip irrigation and other water-wise methods to make sure you are conserving water and not wasting it as you grow your own.
Of course, you might also choose to use an undercover growing area, in which case, water management will be even more within your control.
Finally, one other common gardening obstacle is pests. Of course, to be an eco-friendly and sustainable gardener, you should always garden organically. Remember, organic gardening is not just about avoiding pesticides, herbicides. Synthetic fertilizers and other harmful chemical products. It is also about taking a holistic approach. It’s about working with nature rather than fighting it.
The first step in organic pest control is boosting biodiversity – both in plant life and in the wildlife that visits your garden. Biodiverse systems are more resilient. And with plenty of natural diversity, pest problems are far less likely to get out of control.
Physical barriers such as polytunnels or fruit cages can also make your life easier when managing pests in an organic garden.
There are, of course, other problems that you might encounter in your garden. But this should serve as an overview of some of the most common, and help you set out towards solving them wherever you live.
What common gardening obstacles have you experienced in your garden? Share your experiences, and how you overcame the problems you faced, in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.