5 Great Garden Lessons from an Unexpected Place

Working on a Garden is tough work. Come read 5 Great Tips that we got from an unexpected source. And see what we're doing to grow a flourishing vegetable garden!

Are you working on a garden?

Finding that your crops aren’t growing as well as you would like?

I’ve been mentioning in a few posts and on my Facebook page that we’ve been struggling this year.

Actually, we’ve been struggling for several years with our garden, but this year our garden has thrown us a few tons of curve balls.

In fact, the other week, my husband and oldest were away when the final curve ball hit and I started crying.

And almost swore I would never garden again.

But I can be stubborn about things — especially when it comes to saving money and “do it yourself” kind of stuff, so I did some research.

And some more.

And I had a few folks come alongside me as well. Some who know a TON more about gardening than I do. One of them I will be introducing to you in the near future.  You will surely want to subscribe to my blog for this one — believe me! Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned.

Our Garden Challenges

We’ve tried for about 3 years to have a flourishing garden, but the only thing that ever flourished for us was dying zucchini and tomato plants–and greens.

Kale and chard were staples in our house (hence my recipe for Kale Chips) and my husband would be almost giddy at the giant yield we got from the greens each year.

Until this year.

We thought we’d navigated all of the problems in our garden.

We had our soil tested, plotted the sun, calculated where the black walnuts wouldn’t get to our plants, built more raised beds and mulched with straw.

We even added llama poop to our garden. (yep — I said llama poop :)!)

But this year, almost everything has flopped.

Even the greens.

I went out to check on the garden 2 weeks ago when my husband and oldest were on a camping trip.

And I almost screamed. (Well, I did yell a little once I got inside my house :(.)

Some bugs had eaten almost all of our kale and chard. And all of the leaves looked pretty peaked.

We went out at night to try to see what creatures might be demolishing our plants.

But we found nothing.

And 4 of our beds of tomatoes were wilting suddenly.

Basically, we only have 2 raised beds that have promising plants.

Not encouraging — that’s an understatement considering how much time we’ve spent over the years on this.

I was tempted to give up.

And so was my husband — moreso.

But several readers and a few experts have given me things to think about.

And I’ve had an epiphany of sorts about the garden.

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know that I’ve been writing a lot about gut health.

Posts like:

– Candida – What it is and the Beginning of My Sugar-Free Life
5 Causes of Gut Dysbiosis
Busting a Common Gut Health Myth
Why I Don’t Have Fermented Foods on My Blog
The “Straight Poop” about Probiotics.

And there is more to come.

Well, as I’ve been learning about gardening, I’ve come to realize that our guts and our gardens have a lot in common. (Please note — links in this post might be affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking I might make a commission but your price stays the same. Here is my complete disclaimer.  I so appreciate your support of my blog :)!)

5 Gardening Lessons You Need

1.  Nourish it

We’ve talked about how your gut needs nourishing from good food.

Feed your body junk and eventually, things will fall apart. Same goes for your garden.

We did put down some better soil and some of our friend’s llama poop (yep, we have friends with an abundance of llama poop.  I like knowing folks with interesting lifestyles :)!)

Additionally, I got some tips from an expert to try:


But likely I am going to buy this worm factory and start putting worm castings in the garden. In fact, the gardening expert I spoke with recommended getting 2 so you have a backup.  Worms really gross me out, but I think this would be a great adventure for my boys!

Oh–and this same expert recommended urine!  I know…you might not be ready to do that, but it is cheapo and you know I’ve tried using urine for home remedies before.  Check out this post and this one :).

2.  Mix it up

Our gut needs a variety of foods in order for us to be healthy. Especially with today’s “nutrient depleted” foods. Our gardens are the same way.

a. Planting the same thing year after year depletes the soil.

We have tended to plant the same thing year after year — especially the greens since we were having success.

Well, I’ve since learned that this isn’t a good idea. For example, tomatoes use a ton of nitrogen so if you keep planting tomatoes over and over again, the soil gets depleted.

b.  Plant different things to avoid infestations

By changing what you plant you interrupt the insect reproduction cycles.

Also, it’s a good idea to plant several things in one area to confuse the insect. We tended to go for uniformity, but now I am going to throw some basil and parsley in with my zucchini and broccoli :)!

4.  Keep toxins out

It’s a good idea to keep preservatives and toxins (pesticides, etc.) out of your food and out of your mouth.

We buy organic whenever we can.

The same goes for your garden.

RoundUp has been linked to many many diseases. Don’t use the stuff — and tell your friends, neighbors, and relations to stop as well.

In our case, we grow using only organic methods, but we have these pesky Black Walnut trees that make our job tough. Black Walnuts emit juglone and it can wreak havoc on gardens.

We thought we had our tomato plants out far enough and that the raised beds were good enough, but we found out the beds might need to be taller.

Back to the drawing board.

We didn’t try hard enough to keep the toxins out.

4.  Don’t Give Up

We’ve been working on gut health for awhile now.

We’ve seen great progress (see Healing of Autism, Hypoglycemia, Varicose Veins, Eczema, and More), but there is still a lot to learn.

For a long time I thought I couldn’t tolerate fermented foods, which are supposed to be the backbone to good gut health.

I kept getting reactions, but I kept digging and digging. (remember — I can be stubborn about some things :)!)

Anyway, you can read Why I Don’t Have Fermented Foods on My Blog to read the whole story, but suffice it to say that I have made great strides in my and my family’s health because I didn’t. give. up.

We about gave up this time but so many encouraged us to view our failures not as the end, but as part of the learning process.

We’ve learned a TON in the past 2 weeks and we would have missed it if we crawled in a hole, cried and started heading to the local grocer for our produce

. And we are NOT giving up! This weekend — more llama poop, and planting lettuce, zucchini, broccoli and even some herbs :)!

5.  Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

My sons often complain saying “Why do other kids get to eat McDonald’s and junky cookies and candy — while we have to make all of our own food?”

It’s hard to hear that and yes — it’s hard work for me doing all of this cooking (though my son did make his own Chia Pudding this morning and yesterday).

I tell them that they can’t compare themselves to others.  We are doing the best we know how for our situation.

Likewise, we have a neighbor with Black Walnut trees in his backyard. And every year he has a bumper crop of tomatoes.

Why? I don’t know.

Maybe he uses chemicals.

Maybe the juglone from his trees isn’t that potent.

Maybe it’s just luck.

Whatever — I can only work with what I have.

And press on.

Here’s to better Garden — and Gut — Health!

And a bumper crop!

How is your garden growing? Got any favorite gardening tips to share?

Shared at Skip to My Lou, The Better Mom, Real Food Forager, Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free, Nap – Time Creations, Intentionally Domestic, Growing Home, Not Just a Housewife, Far Above Rubies, Chef in Training, Frugally Sustainable, We Are that Family, The Nourishing Gourmet, The Shabby Creek Cottage, and The Prairie Homestead.

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  1. Hi Wholenewmom,

    Thank you so much for your blog. I really appreciate your posts, especially those related to products and DIY.
    When it comes to bugs eating plants, my mother-in-law (who is far more green-thumbed than I) advised us to use vinegar (white) diluted with water, I believe it was 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water. Then spray this on our plants. I dont know if it is a feasible solution for a big crop, but is works wonders on our potted basil. The bugs had all but eaten our basil. I sprayed it down and within a week it had grown back. Repeat often for best results.

  2. Catherine says:

    Worm castings rock in the garden but they are so much more beneficial inside! We have a two story bin in our kitchen and my boys are head over heals each day to feed the worms scraps. We talk about the circle of life, what foods are good for the worms and if something isn’t good for them (chocolate cupcakes from the grocery store that always seem to grab their attention), is it good for us? They have something to care for and that makes them better people. We love our worms, all 3,000 of them!

  3. Hi,
    I noticed you shared a pic that I found on another site. You are welcome.

    From the sound of things, you are having a challenging several years in your garden. Please contact me and let’s see if we can figure this out. I’m NOT saying I am the “end all be all” when it comes to gardening, but I have been doing this for a few years, well okay, 40, satisfied? And I do run an organic fertilizer company and read white papers dealing with such interesting subjects as weeds and bugs and how to avoid both.

    I look forward to your reply. You can reach me through the FB page above.


  4. My gardening skills are horrible yet I too keep pressing on. I did not plant a garden of any type this year because we were doing some serious backyard renovations but my husband just put in a raised bed for me this week that I can use for next year. It is a small space, 3 feet deep by 12 feet long but I am excited to keep trying! Thanks for letting me know I am not the only garden impaired human out there.