Re-Post: Do You Suffer From G-SAD?


This post first appeared nearly a year ago, and since I am somewhere on a highway on my way to a vacation and faraway from any Internet service , I thought it was quite appropriate to revisit the anxiety that I feel when I have to leave my garden in someone else’s hands.  For longtime readers, I apologize for this repeat broadcast; for new readers, I hope you enjoy.

I have done what every therapist and doctor advises people not to do. I have self-diagnosed, but let me first explain.

It’s summertime, and Joe and I are going on vacation for a few days. It’s a chance to relax, to get away from everything, to reconnect, to breathe. In actuality, though, the days leading up to departure mean a growing sense of unease and worry. I become consumed with obsessive thoughts, anxiety, and stress — and none of it comes from the what-to-pack, what-not-to-pack scenario, nor from the airport pat-down, nor from who will mind the dog and the cat, nor from the last-second question, “Did I remember to take my trusted Swiss army knife out of my carry-on?” No. For me, the physical-emotional symptoms stem from leaving my garden and entrusting its care to someone other than myself. I am now calling these symptoms Garden Separation Anxiety Disorder, also known as G-SAD, as in, “Gee, That’s sad.”

The plant caretaker is Joe’s mother. It is for her that I write lists and lists and lists of instructions of what each of my plants need. “Keep an eye on the hydrangeas under the pine tree; that tree sucks up their water, and so you may have to give them a little extra.” “I moved all of the pots that need daily watering to one side, but you could probably skip a day or two for the geraniums.” “The sprinklers and hoses are all in position, and for some of the larger pots, you might be better off using a watering can.” And on and on and on I go.

Then I worry that she may not understand my handwritten notes, so I turn to the computer and type out my pages, complete with numbers and bullets. In essence, all of my notes can be summed up with one simple sentence: “Please, don’t forget to water.”

Once Joe and I are away, I continue to have plants on the brain. How are they holding up? Are they wilted? Do they need staking? I’m not sure how new parents are able to leave their infant with a babysitter for the first time. Hmmm. That reminds me — I wonder if I could get a plant cam. Maybe there’s even an app for that!

While we are away, Joe tries to distract me with a garden fix, visiting nurseries and public gardens. It helps. We get ideas for future projects and enjoy the creativity of fellow gardeners. But then I catch a glimpse of a pine tree with some shrubs under it, and I am reminded of the hydrangeas under our pine tree. I think to myself, “Did I tell Joe’s mother about the extra water. I’m sure I did. Maybe I should call her just to check — but that would be a bit much because I’ve already given her way too many notes.” Then, I begin to rationalize. “Maybe I should check the Weather Channel. Hopefully it’s raining heavily there, so Joe’s mother doesn’t have to be bogged down with watering. That way she can get out of the house and do her stuff.” As if heavy rain would be a godsend for her!

Of course, when we return, I see that the garden has survived. I am always amazed at how quickly things grow in my absence, and how much work needs to be done. The truth is, everything lives, although some are wilted and some are water-soaked. And as I putter about, I work hard to avoid depression as I realize that my plants really don’t need me. That, I tell myself,  would be far worse than G-SAD. I would have to call that one Depressive Anxiety Malaise Disorder or DAMD.

But now that I’m home, it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get the garden back in order — my order. And for those of you who may be wondering, that would be Overbearing Control Reactive Associative Psychoses. You know, O-CRAP.

32 thoughts on “Re-Post: Do You Suffer From G-SAD?

  1. You can get inexpensive wireless cameras that can be accessed with your iPhone or iPad through an App. The only challenge is what happens when that Hydrangea is wilting… we will have to write an app that could turn on a hose you have placed in front of the Hydrangea. I prefer the prophylactic massive overwatering I perform on my special plants as we go away for 10 days every August.

  2. Now I’m not sure if you’re here…or there. Have you been n’ gone or…are you on your way, or arrived already or on your way back. You think you have worrys!!!

    • Hi Jane. I was gone, and now I’m here or there — which is actually South Florida. It’s hot and green — a true outdoor greenhouse.

  3. Just reading Karel Capeks The Gardener’s Year, essay titled The Gardener’s August …you should read it if you haven’t already. He has similar worries.Written in 1929, still very true today. Also very funny. Some things never change!

    • Hi Mary. I will definitely look for it. I find it fascinating that as far as humans develop, there are many issues where we are timeless.

  4. This is such a good post and worth the repost! Your words were not wasted on me. Actually our vacation spot is only 30 minutes from our house because of this very thing. I am able to get away from the farm and relax, but in an emergency situation, I can be back at a moments notice.

    • It’s amazing the adaptations that we make for our gardens — especially during planting, growing, and harvesting. I imagine with a farm, though, that it’s a four season job. I like your solution!

  5. Love the acronyms. Oddly leaving the garden doesn’t bother me too much, well that’s if it’s not during apple season, or when the strawberries are ripe, or tomatoes, or….. oh forget it, I can’t leave my garden between the months of May to November. Looks like I’ve got a serious case of GSAD too.

  6. And wouldn’t ya know… My next vacation is scheduled for mid-October, so I won’t have to leave the plants (let alone the hoses) in anyone else’s hands. Hope you have a wonderful gettaway.

  7. I’m so glad to hear that you don’t suffer from any neuroses, Kevin! Nah! 🙂 I have a similar problem coming up…my dad isn’t well enough to take over the duties I give him every year…I don’t have my backup crew in place yet! I wish you well…and me, too! Debra

  8. That’s the reason we don’t take our holidays in high Summer. If had too many bad experiences of people promising the world but sadly but following through. I’ve come home to everything from dead plants in the polytunnel to a neglected injured goat.

    • That’s horrible — and a clear reminder of the responsibility that’s needed when anyone offers a helping hand. Maybe we could create some sort of garden sharing network. When northern hemisphere gardeners would like a summer vacation, southern hemisphere gardeners can travel north and care for the gardens and animals. Then the northern hemisphere gardeners can return the favor when the seasons switch.

    • Even a long weekend can throw me off balance, but it’s manageable. Right now, I’ll be away for at least two weeks — and each day I pray for daily rain at home.

  9. Kevin, I hadn’t seen this one before, so thanks for re-posting. I’m afraid I may suffer from all these psychiatric conditions. Although I keep G-SAD under control by only going on vacations before and after the gardening season. 😐

    • Hi Jean. It seems we are all slaves to our gardens. But as much as I would rather stay at home during the summer (it’s the only time to enjoy a Long Island garden), there is a method to my madness of a summer vacation, which I’ll post about. But, I’m happy to know that your G-SAD is under control. 🙂

  10. You are not alone, Kevin! I suffer from this “condition” as well. I am going on a work-related trip next week, and I’m sure I’ll drive my husband and son crazy regarding watering and feeding the birds! They’ve been through this before though …

  11. Enjoy the vacation! Your plants sound like they are in capable hands. I left my garden with a thirteen year old neighbor once…talk about anxiety!

  12. Kevin,
    I feel your angst. We are leaving in two days and I am compiling a list of watering suggestions/demands for Michael and Kelly to follow…need I say that they think I am nuts!!
    Hope you are enjoying your vacation!

    • Hi Maria. Nothing nuts about it — it’s simply what has to be done if you want to garden during the travel season and have a garden. It’s also good practice for them. 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

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