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The Struggle Garden is Real


Right now my garden feels like a bunch of high hopes and crushed realities. I’m a fairly experienced gardener and for the life of me I don’t know what’s going on with some of my plants. I even had my Mom do a walk-through of my garden with me to see if she could see any spots where I’ve gone wrong and even she can’t figure it out. Here’s my tale of gardening woes and the few little successes along the way AKA: May Garden Update.

A few disclaimers before we get going–I garden in zone 3b in Saskatchewan. We have had a cold spring then have suddenly switched to the depths of summer temps in one week. I also am trying to garden with a three month old. Hahahahahahah. . . yikes.

Selective Living

A common theme in my garden right now is plants from the same store in relatively the same spot living and not living. Why is this cosmo thriving while the others are dying?

I don’t know.

They’re from the same store, planted at the same time, given the exact same care. And yet.

And if you’re wondering, the soil is a mix of topsoil, peat moss, and compost.

Hardening off is HARD

These are my seedlings that I grew myself shortly before they left the safety of my home and ventured out into the harsh, cruel world. . .

Aren’t we all sweet and confident and unsuspecting of the horrors to come?

Here’s what these seedlings look like now:

Most of the tomatoes in the picture with me did not survive the hardening off process. Truth be told, they were probably started too early.

Most of the flowers will make it, but it has taken them a solid three weeks to be okay–and that’s with a solid week of taking them in and out and hardening them off.

Some of the flowers are barely hanging on. And the flowers I thought I wouldn’t be able to get at a greenhouse? I pretty much can. I might as well have saved my time and energy and just got it at the greenhouse instead.

I somehow thought that cut flower growing would be easier than growing vegetables, but I was wrong. So wrong.

Flower farming is not for the weak. Sure, it looks like all unicorns and rainbows over on IG, but it takes a lot of hard work and skill.

Birds Are My Enemy

I hate birds.

Yes, I know they are part of the eco system and totally necessary and blah, blah, blah, but right now they make gardening hard. My neighbourhood birds have an adventurous and wide palate of foods, including lettuce, beets, peas, cabbage, broccoli, zinnias (ZINNIAS?!?! REALLY!?!), swiss chard, spinach, and my soul.


So I’ve been covering everything my birds covet with white mesh fabric or the top 3/4 of a milk jug and it seems to be working, but the struggle is real.

My Backyard Might Be An Oven

Is there such a thing as too hot? Maybe?

My backyard is in the middle of the block in a well-established neighbourhood with lots of trees. Apparently there is enough wind to make it not good enough for hardening off plants, but too little to provide some sort of plant-reprieve for when it’s 31 degrees celsius. There’s one spot in my yard where, when you walk into it, it feels hotter than everywhere else in the yard–including other spots that get the same amount of sun.

Is that possible? Am I living in some weird time-space-continuum in my backyard? Who knows.

Experiments Gone Wrong//Stop Underwatering Everything

Take a good look at this picture. Do you have any idea what is going on?

It’s what happens when you try an early Spring radish experiment, never water it, give up, and then plant your garden later and start giving it a ton of water.

Radishes and beets roam freely with random bits of lettuce and the few struggle-beets that have managed to make a name for themselves.

In true form, the birds are eating the beets (that I want) and not the radishes (that I don’t want). I’m leaving them all and covering them with the aforementioned white fabric. Something will shake out.

Will This Columnar AppleTree Ever Bloom?

In short, no.

I’ve owned this apple tree for six years and still no dice. My neighbour has an apple tree, but apparently that’s not good enough?

So I’ll keep waiting.

Not Everything is Terrible

So despite my passive-aggressive complaining about my garden, not everything is actually terrible.

My peppers are a huge success!!

I started them from seed in February, pinched them at the 8 leaf stage, hardened them off for a week, and then surrounded them with cozy coats for two weeks. It’s definitely worked out.

And I finally have grown decent broccoli from seed!!

I’ve also moved the cozy coats over to the tomatoes until they get more established and it seems to be working out very well.

Speaking of tomatoes, these ones are randomly struggling and thriving. I don’t understand why the well-established tomato starts are struggling, while the brussel sprouts in the pink container that I’ve totally neglected are continuing to live.

The birds have almost decimated my cabbage that I didn’t protect, so I think I’ll rip it out and put those brussel sprouts in there instead.

In fact, I foresee a trip to the garden centre in my near future to replace all the random stuff that has died. . . like my hopes and dreams.

The Little Flowers That Could

My first white marigold is starting to bloom, but it looks decidedly. . .yellow.

I’m hoping that it will turn white once it flowers a little more.

These pots have also been struggling, but I think they are starting to get used to their new digs in the sky.

I’ve been waiting on both a new post and new YouTube video that hinges on these silly pots figuring themselves out and looking good. Maybe I won’t be waiting forever. . .

The One Garden Experiment that Might Actually Work

Despite all these frustrations, one of my visions seems to be bearing fruit. (Sorry not sorry for the terrible pun.)

The strawberry plants in the birdcage are thriving. And while they haven’t given me fruit yet, I’m hoping I’ve created a situation that is impossible for the birds to snack on my strawberries.

Only time will tell.

So. . .how’s your garden going?

Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!