Don’t Make Your Garden Too Big!

6 Secrets for Planning a Garden Your Family Will Love! Part 2

An important question we have to answer when we are planning our garden is, “How big do I make it?” Often the question is answered for us based on the space we have available. But when we do have the space, it’s easy to plant a garden that is too big. Bigger is not always better, and biting off more than you can chew can quickly turn your spring gardening dreams into a summer nightmare of weeds and neglected plants.

One year I wanted to grow some corn. I wanted a lot of corn. So I took a field around an acre (we live in the hills so this is a large area of flat ground for us) and plowed it up and planted it with corn. Long story short I didn’t get any corn from that field. The weeds took over despite my best efforts with the limited equipment I had and the coons got any corn that did grow. Compare that with another patch of corn I planted that was much, much smaller, around 30 feet by 80 feet. I was able to generously fertilize the plot using chickens and then was easily able to weed it and even fence it. The corn was tall and beautiful and we had delicious sweet corn, plenty to freeze and sell! And it was a lot more fun to care for.

Planting a garden that is too big is a common mistake that can rob your family of the joy of gardening. More does not always mean more as illustrated by the story above. When planning your garden this season I would encourage you to consider the following advice:

Start with a garden smaller than you think you will require and you will harvest more and enjoy working in it!

Here are four reasons for this advice:

1. You can easily plant more than you can take care of!
A gardening mentor once asked me, “How much should you plant?” When I looked unsure how to reply he gave the answer in the form of another question: “How much can you weed?” Especially with power equipment it is much easier to prepare and plant way more than we can weed and care for. So I recommend taking a step of faith and humility and planting less than you think you can take care of, and only increase when you have proven that you have time left over to care for more. If you find your standards falling, decrease the size of your garden!

2. More care for less space produces more than less care for larger space.
The productivity of a garden is not dependent on its size, but on the care given it. You only have so many hours to work in your garden and the bigger it is the less care you can give to each square foot. If you plant a smaller garden than you think you can care for, then you will feel like you can be generous rather than stingy in your care for each plant. And my experience suggests that this produces way more joy and production! You can also concentrate resources like compost or mulch. I have heard of examples where the same amount of compost spread liberally on a smaller plot yielded more than the same amount spread over twice as much area.

3. Limitations produce creativity.
Some of the more creative and abundant gardens I have ever seen happen to be ones limited by space. But this limitation is what forces gardeners to be creative in the use of space and results in incredibly efficient and productive gardens. If your garden is too big it can keep you from feeling free to be creative because there’s so much work to do already. For example, in a smaller space you may build some innovative trellises for your tomatoes and utilize the space between them for herbs and onions. But if your garden is too large you are going to have trouble just getting tomatoes set out and keeping up with watering and weeding.

4. A well maintained garden brings joy, which motivates you to keep caring for it!
If you keep your garden small, then it is likely that you will be able to do all your work on time, to a high standard, and with minimal waste. And when you go into a garden that has been care for this way, with healthy plants, straight rows, tidy little paths, and no weeds, it brings joy! And joy produces the work ethic to continue caring for your garden. Nehemiah 8:10 indicates that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. For that reason it is important to notice when we begin to lose our joy. It is probably an indication that we are being greedy in our work, not resting content in being faithful with what we can handle using the time and resources God has given us.

When we get excited about something, it is easy to get ambitious, especially gardening. But don’t let your zeal be destroyed by acting unrealistically and investing in quantity verses quality in your garden. Be humble, start small, and increase your garden’s size only when you have maxed out its potential through creative, generous care. Wouldn’t it be great increase the production of your garden for years without ever making it bigger?