Don’t Agonize. Strategize.

Temperatures are rising, and motivation to cultivate the garden around us is dropping – even if such cultivation is as simple as waving a hose over a tasteful assortment of patio pots.



Verbascum thapsus colonizing the site of a crumbled bank barn.


You are no doubt seeing the beginnings of stress out there.  And not just your own. Dry soil, pest infestations, nutrient deficiencies and possibly a fungus or two may have cast a pall on plants that you thought were thriving in May.

Perhaps you decided to have an outside gathering this weekend only to discover that Japanese beetles had fashioned lacework where once there was tapestry. While perhaps fascinating to the entomology crowd, such intricate detailing rarely thrills a swarm of cocktailing revelers.

As summer draws on, these thorns will only prick harder, and the gardener must have strategies in place to deal with weather once dreamt of in January. Those strategies begin with the early morning…


  1. If you’re not a morning person, I really don’t have anything to give you besides a flashlight and my best wishes for a productive season. Working outside after 11.00am (sometimes earlier) will set you up to hate our Mid-Atlantic summer with a passion, and evenings are usually filled with dinner, kids, animals, last minute to-dos and trying to take a few minutes to sit down and collect your thoughts before it all happens again tomorrow. Temperatures are cooler in the morning. Why not experiment with an early half-hour in the garden?  Once you’re up and moving, you may find that it’s not only the most productive part of your day, it’s also the most satisfying (and least interrupted).


  1. Heat waves come and go throughout summer. If we’re in the grip of one, use your outside garden time just to monitor and water your plants, keeping them alive through the bad, so you can enjoy them when the good comes around again. If you see major problems, use your inside time to figure out how to solve them for the next day’s foray.


  1. If you’ve got a vegetable garden, keep baskets sitting around for easy access. It’s easy to put off the picking of beans for later because you didn’t have a container.  That way guilt lies, for as we all know, ‘later’ is a singularly vague term. If a basket is immediately at hand, the beans can be picked and no further guilt accrued.


  1. If you’ve got a little more time to use toward gardening endeavors, use it indoors. It’s time to plan for your fall bulb purchases and get seeds in order for late season planting.  No really, it is. If you’re wanting to add a little shade to your garden (this helps tremendously with Numbers 1, 2 and 3), knowing what you want, where you’re going to get it, and when you’re going to dig the hole is half the battle.



A colorful jumble of color, texture and pollinators at Casa Mariposa, (No. VA)


You don’t have to follow these strategies – I break all of them most of the time; but then I live and breathe this stuff (even at one o’clock in the afternoon).  I offer them instead to those sane individuals who see their gardens as part of their lives, not the point of their lives.

Resenting that gorgeous garden happens faster than you think, so do yourself a favor and take it easy as things heat up.  Don’t give up, it will be November before you know it.




By | 2018-02-20T20:40:47+00:00 July 7th, 2017|

About the Author:

Marianne is the mother of two, wife of one and the voice of The Small Town Gardener. She gardens and writes from her home in the scenic (and exceptionally convenient) heart of Virginia's wine country.


  1. thenorthernflower July 7, 2017 at 6:20 am - Reply

    I’ve just started reading your posts which I’m finding encouraging for my own newbie blog. Where are you based?

    • Marianne Willburn July 7, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

      I’m in Virginia, about 65 miles outside of Washington DC. US Zone 7a. Much luck on your new blog – love the banner image! Where in the UK are you located?

      • thenorthernflower July 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm - Reply

        Oh wonderful! I’m over in the UK, but thought you might be from that part of the world 🙂
        Trying to achieve my little piece of paradise so it is good to see what others are up to for inspiration. I’ll keep an eye out for your next post. My little one has just gone off for a nap, so I’m off for a peaceful couple of hours working in my small town garden

        • Marianne Willburn July 7, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

          I’m a dual national Louise, worked and attended university in UK, but my mother is Californian and that’s where I grew up. Been living on the East Coast for 16 years now. Looks like England with American petrol prices 🙂 🙂 Enjoy the garden while your little one naps. My new book ‘Big Dreams, Small Garden’ is available on and is very much about creating that little piece of paradise wherever you are.

  2. Dinesh Shinde July 7, 2017 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Lovely garden .. !

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