Is Gardening Hard? Here Are the Facts (+5 Tips to Make It Easier)

Kendrick Hulse

Researchers are fascinated by the relationship between gardening and leading a happy life.

From longevity to mental health, spending time in the garden is proven to do a world of good.

So why does the prospect of dirt, sweat, and physical labor turn so many people away from this incredible pastime?

Yes, gardening is hard work. But that might explain why spending time in the garden is so good for the mind and body.

When it comes to gardening, hard work never goes unrewarded.

And with a little experience under your belt, you might be surprised by how effortless that hard work soon becomes.

Is Gardening Difficult?

Gardening is difficult. At least in the sense that it requires constant attention and physical labor

If you interviewed a group of gardeners, few (if any) would say they garden because it is easy.

After all, it would be much easier to just let your property grow wild. 

Gardening, despite the work involved, is incredibly rewarding.

And for avid gardeners, the rewards make every bit of physical and emotional labor worth it.

Is Gardening Physically Demanding?

Many parts of gardening are physically strenuous.

Some common examples include hauling mulch, digging, pulling large weeds, and raking. 

Other parts require very little physical work at all. These tasks include pruning, seeding, watering, and fertilizing.

If you’re interested in growing a garden yourself, don’t let the physical demands discourage you.

Many people with limited strength and mobility are successful gardeners. 

What’s the Hardest Part of Gardening?

For most gardeners, the hardest part is preparing and planting a new garden bed from scratch. 

No matter the garden’s size, this process requires heavy lifting, digging, bending, and other strenuous activities.

Do I Need Special Training for Gardening?

You do not need any special training to become a home gardener.

All you need is a garden bed (or container) and some plants!

Many beginner gardeners start out with very little knowledge and learn as they go.

Trial-and-error is one of the best ways to improve your gardening skills.

With that said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to expand your knowledge. 

You can find helpful gardening advice through a variety of sources, including:

  • Books
  • Online (blogs, forums, videos, etc.)
  • Community-ed classes
  • Friends and family
  • University extension programs

How Do I Become a Master Gardener?

Some gardeners choose to pursue the Master Gardener title.

Master Gardeners receive formal education and work to increase community involvement with plant care and the environment.

While becoming a Master Gardener is a great way to expand your gardening knowledge, the main purpose of the title is to serve the community as a volunteer

Master Gardeners are not paid for their work.

How Do I Become a Professional Gardener?

If you’d like to pursue a career in gardening, there are many potential routes to take. 

The most straightforward option is to get a degree in horticulture or a related subject.

Many professional gardeners start out working as entry-level laborers with nothing more than a high school education.

It’s not uncommon for these workers to eventually gain the experience needed to start their own gardening business.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Gardener?

Very few hobby gardeners would describe themselves as experts, even if they qualify as such! 

There is always more to learn when it comes to plants and their care, so becoming a skilled gardener can be a lifelong endeavor.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Master Gardener?

The initial training to become a Master Gardener involves several months of training, plus up to 50 hours of volunteer work.

Master Gardeners must continue to volunteer each year to maintain their title.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Gardening Degree?

Every student is different but most degrees take at least 2 years to complete. 

While some professional gardeners go on to earn a master’s or doctorate, most start their career with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The more advanced the degree the longer it will take to earn.

Those interested in pursuing a career in horticulture can also pursue special certifications.

These certifications often take several months to complete and can be earned alone or in addition to a degree.

8 Skills Every Gardener Should Have

1. Plant Identification

Identifying plant species isn’t just a fun party trick. It’s a fundamental skill for successful gardening.

And you don’t just need to identify beneficial plants. The ability to spot and identify weeds — especially invasive species — is an incredible asset. 

While you don’t need to understand plant biology to be a great gardener, it definitely comes in handy.

For example, knowing the difference between a monocot and a dicot could help you narrow down a mystery plant species very quickly.

The great thing about this skill is that anyone can learn to identify plants.

Books, television, and online media are all excellent ways to learn about plants you might not see every day.

2. Soil Analysis

Soil doesn’t just protect the roots and hold water. It also contains essential nutrients that plants need to survive.

Of course, not all soil is the same. This applies to potting soil you buy at the store, as well as the topsoil found in your garden.

Fertilizer is the easiest way to supplement your garden soil. But first, you need to know which nutrients your soil does (or does not) contain. 

Particularly skilled gardeners can identify nutrient deficiencies just by examining the soil and nearby plants. 

For the average gardener, though, learning how to use a soil testing kit is invaluable. 

3. Design & Planning

Some plants grow best in the shade. Others need full sun. 

Light exposure is just one of many factors that go into designing and planning a successful garden. 

It’s also important to understand concepts like companion planting, which pairs different species together to maximize efficiency.

A well-planned garden will not only look great but also encourage the growth of happy, healthy plants.

4. Pest Control

Whether you garden for food production or curb appeal, pests can ruin an entire season of hard work. 

Knowing how to stop pests before they wreak havoc is an important skill for all gardeners.

Several factors go into effective pest control, including:

  • Pest identification
  • Physical barriers
  • Responsible pesticide use
  • Companion planting

Remember that not all pests are insects.

Deer, rabbits, and birds are all common garden trespassers that must be deterred in different ways.

5. Fertilizing

Compost is one of the best sources of garden fertilizer.

It eliminates the need for chemical fertilizer while recycling organic household waste. 

While not all gardeners compost, it’s an excellent skill to learn!

Fertilizer can make mediocre soil great. But too much of a good thing is never beneficial.

It’s more important than ever for gardeners to understand the consequences of overfertilization.

Using too much or the wrong type of fertilizer increases the risk of harmful nutrient run-off.

6. Pruning

Pruning is not just about looks. The right pruning technique can actually change the way a plant grows. It also encourages flower and fruit production

Even small plants and annuals can benefit from pruning. 

For instance, deadheading is a common practice that removes old flowers from a plant.

This type of pruning cleans up the plant’s appearance and promotes the formation of new buds.

7. Disease Treatment

Home and professional gardeners should know the most common diseases in their area and how to effectively treat them. 

The faster you can identify an infection the better chance your plants have for survival.

8. Propagation

Buying seeds isn’t the only way to increase the number of plants in your garden.

Experienced gardeners often turn to DIY propagation (or plant reproduction) to stock their garden year after year.

The best form of propagation depends on the plant species.

Many plants reproduce best through seed. Others are easy to propagate using cuttings or offshoots.

While knowing a variety of propagation techniques is an excellent skill to have, what matters most is the type of plants you personally like to grow.

Is It a Lot of Work to Maintain a Garden?

The good news is that maintaining a garden is generally much easier than planting it in the first place!

Garden maintenance can be time-consuming but it’s not very physically demanding.

And the types of plants you grow have a big impact on how much upkeep your garden needs.

It’s a fact that some plants are fussier than others.

If you’re struggling to keep a particular species alive in your garden, it might not be entirely your fault. 

If a low-maintenance garden is on your must-have list, we recommend avoiding some of these difficult plant species:

What Are the Most Difficult Vegetables to Grow?

Celery

Celery needs a lot of water and nutrient-rich soil to achieve the right flavor and texture.

It attracts common garden pests like slugs and earwigs. Celery plants also take several months to mature (but you can harvest stalks at any time).

Artichoke

On top of taking up lots of space, artichoke plants do best in warm, semi-arid climates like the Mediterranean.

While some gardeners have success growing artichokes in other zones, the harvest often isn’t worth the effort.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is incredibly sensitive to temperature changes, making it a poor choice for most home gardens.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, cauliflower will grow incorrectly if the temperature exceeds around 60 degrees F (15°C).

This temperature control is nearly impossible to achieve unless you own a greenhouse.

Lettuce

Growing lettuce at home is relatively easy if you choose the right variety.

No matter what, though, lettuce prefers cool temperatures and needs constant watering to grow best.

Combined with its propensity to attract pests, most gardeners prefer to grow lettuce in containers rather than in the ground.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are very sensitive to frost, so gardeners in cool climates often struggle with these root vegetables.

They also take several months to mature, making it harder to avoid low soil temperatures in the spring and fall.

Which Are the Most Difficult Flowers to Grow?

Rose

Roses are infamous for being susceptible to pests and disease.

Many cultivars also require careful pruning and overwintering to thrive.

Beginner gardeners should start with hardy varieties like the Knock Out Rose before moving on to more delicate plants.

Dahlia

Dahlias are not that hard to keep alive. But growing these gorgeous cut flowers is extremely labor-intensive.

On top of staking, pinching, and cutting the mature plants, you must dig up and replant dahlia tubers each year.

Peony

You might be surprised to see peonies on this list. The truth is, peonies are quite hardy in colder climates.

If you live in a warm climate, however, your peonies will quickly die off without adequate shade. 

Hibiscus

While beautiful, hibiscus are hard for some gardeners to keep alive.

These plants need moist, well-draining soil and plenty of sun to thrive.

Try planting your hibiscus in a large container rather than the ground and stick with hardy cultivars.

Gardenia

Despite its reputation, the gardenia plant is quite hardy when treated right.

Gardenias don’t like to be disturbed once planted. Choose a spot with partial shade and minimal foot traffic for the best results. 

5 Tips to Make Gardening Easier

1. Plant Perennials

As we mentioned, the hardest part of gardening is planting the garden in the first place.

So the less planting you need to do, the easier keeping up with your garden will be.

Perennials — plants that survive winter and grow back each spring — are the best option for a low-maintenance garden.

Unlike annuals, which need to be planted every spring, perennials will return for several years after the initial planting.

Aside from fertilizing, pruning, and watering, you can let your hardy perennials grow with minimal upkeep.

2. Choose Native Species

When gardeners describe a plant as difficult to grow, it’s rarely because the plant is inherently weak.

Instead, it’s because the plant’s needs aren’t being met by the local climate.

By filling your garden with native species, you eliminate much of the work associated with keeping plants alive.

Native plants require less irrigation, fertilizer, pesticides, and overall maintenance than non-native ones.

If making gardening easier isn’t enough of a benefit, growing native species is also considered more sustainable!

3. Install Raised Beds

Kneeling and bending can take a toll on your joints, especially if you’re in the garden every day.

Raised beds are a great option for gardeners with limited mobility. 

You can easily customize your raised beds to fit your physical needs and space requirements.

While most gardeners use raised beds to limit the amount of bending over they need to do, others use these containers to avoid digging into their lawn.

4. Invest in the Right Tools

Having access to the proper tools can make gardening easier and compensate for limited strength and mobility. 

When purchasing garden tools, be sure they are comfortable to hold and use.

Women often prefer smaller tools because they fit better in their hands. 

It’s also important to care for your garden tools properly.

For example, sharp pruning shears are easier to use and do less damage to plant tissue when cutting. 

And, of course, well-maintained tools will last longer and save you a few bucks along the way.

5. Hire Help

Whether you lack the knowledge, tools, time, or physical ability to complete a specific project, there’s no shame in hiring outside help for your garden.

Many home gardeners hire help for big projects like installing new garden beds. 

You can also hire a professional gardener to visit on a set schedule for routine maintenance like pruning and fertilizing.

Conclusion

Yes, gardening is a lot of work. But one of the best things about gardening is that you get back what you put into it. 

No matter your skill level, you shouldn’t let the prospect of breaking a sweat deter you from gardening.

Spending time in the garden is a boon for mental and physical benefits, regardless of if you need to scale back your efforts to match your current skills or physical capabilities.

Even when it comes to injury or aging joints, abandoning the garden is rarely the answer.

In many cases, a few simple physical accommodations can make a world of difference for gardeners both young and old. 

By making gardening more accessible, and constantly encouraging new gardeners to jump into the hobby, we can ensure that this pastime has a cherished place in society for the foreseeable future!

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