Too many plants? How can that be?
There’s always room for that new variety of an old favorite, a gift plant from a fellow gardener, and all those seeds that beg to touch soil. How can a gardener say no? Is there such a thing as too many plants?
Many gardening enthusiasts (myself included) seem to collect more and more plants until it starts getting difficult to find a place with enough sunlight and soil. But there is more to the idea of too many plants than simply real estate.
A matter of time
We may enjoy tending our plants, but there are only so many hours in a day. For people who work and have children, those hours are severely limited. Personally, I’m a housewife under quarantine. I have all the time in the world - you might think. But there are household chores, meals, dogs, chickens, converting this blog into a book, ZOOMing with chorus and friends, and playing video games online with my out of state son. All of these things take time. And this week, some of my plants paid the ultimate price for my limited attention.
Seedlings I had just put in the ground didn’t make it. It was one of those I-thought-he-watered, he-thought-I-watered situations. After just one day of scorching heat, there were casualties. That’s a shame, too, because of the time, soil, and water put into getting them started. Of course, by the time July rolls around, I’ll be so busy canning and freezing zucchinis and other summer squashes, tomatoes, beans, and apricots, that I probably won’t even notice the loss. But time lost is never regained and that’s the whole point of this post. Having too many plants, or the wrong sort of plants, can take its toll on gardeners of any skill level.
The wrong sort of plants
Just as the wrong sort of friends can lead you down paths you wished you hadn't taken, trying to grow the wrong sort of plants means wasted time, money, and water. How much time do you invest in battling invasive weeds? Do you regularly prune shrubs that you don’t even like? Do you find yourself nursing along plants that never seem to thrive? And what about plants that are not suited to where you live? My blueberries know they really belong in Maine someplace, not in an open expanse of California heat. And when summer heat hits, how much time do you have to spend watering to keep everything alive and healthy?
Water, a limited resource
The water may come out of your tap or spigot easily enough, but we all know that it’s a valuable resource and that there are limits to what we can responsibly use. This is especially true in drought-prone areas, such as California. Installing plants that use a lot of water means spending time watering those plants. Do you have an hour every morning in summer to water your garden?
Limited real estate
Whether your garden consists of a strip of balcony or acres of farmland, there is a limit to the number of plants your space can handle. Cramming too many plants too closely together is an invitation to pests and diseases that will mean more work for you.
Stop fighting the same battles
If you find yourself fighting the same battles on a regular basis, try a new attack. If fungal disease is a problem in your garden, space plants more widely and water at ground level. If you can’t say no to that new plant, put some serious thought into where it will go while it is still in quarantine [not yours]. If specific pests arrive every year, make a plan of attack before they arrive.
If you regularly forget to water something that really needs it, create a routine. In our house, we use a bucket to capture shower water as it heats up. In summer, that water always goes to the raspberries. Making it a habit makes it easier to remember.
If you have too many plants, especially the wrong sort of plants, you may find yourself wondering why in the world you ever started gardening in the first place. Do yourself and your garden a favor and aim for just the right number and type of plants for you, your soil, and your garden with these actions:
Rather than feeling overwhelmed and exhausted because of too many plants, put your time, effort, and water into plants worth having.
Kate Russell, writer, gardener, and so much more.