Starting seeds is a low-cost, low-risk way to garden if you also happen to be neurodiverse.

ADHD Garden Hacks

Embracing Chaos and Thriving in Your Neurodiverse Garden

When I began gardening, I was all enthusiasm and ambition, starting a diverse range of plants and building robust raised beds. But when it came to arranging those plants in orderly squares, I hit a wall.

My energy was a rollercoaster. One week, I’d start a slew of seedlings; the next, I’d forget to water them altogether. It became clear that my gardening style wasn’t like most people’s. That prompted me to seek an ADHD diagnosis, suddenly putting my erratic but creative gardening approach into perspective. Read on for practical advice, systems, and ADHD garden hacks I’ve developed over the years.

A view of the raised bed one year later. Thriving nasturtium, grape tomatoes, and Malabar spinach in the late spring garden.
A view of one of our raised beds. I didn’t plan a thing – just overplanted and crossed my fingers. I have come to love the wild, wacky way the plants grow together.

But guess what? In the last few years I’ve learned my garden doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s, and that’s a good thing!

Whether it’s managing the cyclical ups and downs of your energy levels or finding creative ways to keep your plants watered when you inevitably forget — we’ve got you covered.

Embrace your style.

The first step to thriving as a neurodiverse gardener is fully embracing your style. Stop comparing yourself to the curated, often unattainable perfection you see in gardening magazines or on social media. Instead, find gardening influencers or resources that resonate with your own aesthetic and energy levels.

High energy? Seize the moment.

It all comes down to the old saying “out of sight, out of mind.” Invest in storage solutions and organizational systems that are visually appealing and functional. The idea is to make your gardening space so visible and stimulating that nothing is in your way when motivation strikes.

A photo album of seeds is neatly labelled and filled with purchased and saved seeds.
A photo album of seeds is neatly labeled and filled with purchased and saved seeds.
ADHD-friendly garden organization

ADHD gardening hacks extend to your garden supply organization as well. Utilizing pegboards for visible tool displays or transparent bins for easy supply access can turn a neurodiverse garden into a haven of efficiency. With all of these end goal is eliminating as many steps as possible between you and your gardening tasks.

ADHD-friendly seed organization

Regarding gardening hacks for seed organization, the focus is on making the process as ADHD-friendly as possible. Transparent containers and color-coded labels aren’t just helpful—they’re game-changers that reduce decision fatigue and make planting an inviting activity.

Stock up on supplies in advance.

Having a well-stocked supply cache means you can act on your impulses and energy spikes without the hurdle of needing to shop first.

This approach saves time and keeps the momentum going in your neurodiverse garden, making it easier to capitalize on your bursts of focus and creativity.

Give away the extras.

If you can’t bring yourself to plant, set up a quick plant stand and give extras away on Facebook or your local Buy Nothing group.

Donate seeds to a seed bank.

Many public libraries maintain seed collections that residents can add to.

Low energy? Automate.

Consider implementing systems that will sustain your garden even when you can’t give it your full attention. Automatic watering systems or plant feeders can be life savers in our Central Texas climate. Tailoring your gardening environment to align with your ADHD tendencies sets the stage for a fulfilling, stress-reduced experience.

A closeup view of drip irrigation integrated into a raised bed.
A closeup view of drip irrigation integrated into a raised bed. I can water my entire set of raised beds with one twist of the timer, and it has saved more plants than I care to admit.
Put in drip irrigation

Taking one of your high weeks and installing drip irrigation is easy and cheap, and from there, you only need to set a timer each watering day to keep your plants healthy and hydrated.

Invest in a timer

Go ahead and tell yourself you’ll come back out in 30 minutes, and remember to turn the water off. I dare you.

Smart outlets for fans and grow lights

Setting up routines on Alexa or Google Home means my plants get the appropriate light and ventilation throughout the day.

Self-watering seed starting trays

Self-watering trays take the guesswork and daily grind out of seedling care, offering a more forgiving environment, especially during energy downswings. With self-watering trays, your seedlings can stay hydrated and healthy, freeing you from needing to monitor and water them.

Install ollas

An olla is an ancient form of passive watering. Installing them is smart for any garden, but particularly if you experience fluctuating energy levels. These terra-cotta vessels provide a low-maintenance, automated watering system that keeps your plants hydrated without requiring daily attention.

Automated lights on a timer ensure your plants get all the light they need.

Minimize the losses

My journey as a neurodivergent gardener is still ongoing, but I have accepted that I will kill many plants. If I start a flat of seeds, I might get half of them potted up and half again actually into the ground. I have made peace with this, but that doesn’t mean I want to waste money in the process.

Starting from seeds costs a fraction of what starts would cost at the garden store. And if I forget to water, I can always start another one!
Start from seeds

One of the most cost-effective ADHD gardening hacks is to start your plants from seeds. This approach provides the freedom to experiment without the financial stress of potentially losing more expensive mature plants.

Grow native perennials

Choosing native perennials is a savvy move for building a sustainable, low-maintenance neurodiverse garden. These plants are already adapted to your local climate, making them less demanding of your time and attention—a perfect fit for ADHD gardening hacks. Perennials return year after year, providing a stable foundation for your garden that requires less ongoing intervention, which is especially helpful during periods of fluctuating focus and energy.

Take cuttings

Taking cuttings is an underrated ADHD gardening hack that lets you expand your neurodiverse garden with minimal time and effort. By using cuttings from plants that have already proven themselves in your garden, you’re essentially skipping ahead to the “thriving” part.

This approach not only saves time—a resource often in short supply for those of us with ADHD—but also increases the odds of your new plants surviving those periods when they might be, let’s say, “out of sight, out of mind.”

Embrace the chaos

Chaos gardening is a non-traditional approach to gardening that embraces spontaneity, unpredictability, and a certain level of disorganization. Unlike structured gardening methods that rely on careful planning, timing, and arrangement, chaos gardening is more about letting things unfold naturally. It’s about planting seeds or seedlings where you feel like it, without worrying too much about specific spacing or symmetry.

Densely planted beds that are often way to close together, but somehow it works. The basil and nasturtium shade the soil, and the tomatoes and peppers offer shade to the rest.

Here are some key elements of chaos gardening:

  1. Spontaneous Planting: There’s no meticulously planned layout. You plant where you feel inspired to plant.
  2. Mix and Match: Different types of plants are often intermingled, creating a diverse and dynamic ecosystem.
  3. Less Maintenance: The garden may require less structured care without strict rows or zones.
  4. Adaptability: This style is particularly well-suited to gardeners who may not have the time or inclination for a highly structured garden.

Chaos gardening can be especially liberating for people with ADHD, as it allows for a more flexible, adaptable style that can accommodate varying energy and attention levels.

Here are a few ways I lean into this idea:

Grow cover crops

Blank spots in the garden can be a visual and emotional downer, especially for those of us who thrive on constant stimulation. Cover crops grow quickly and fill those gaps, providing aesthetic satisfaction and soil health benefits.

Enlist a backup gardener

Enlisting a backup gardener is perhaps one of the most personal ADHD gardening hacks you can adopt, but also one of the most effective. Let’s face it, we all have moments where our focus wanes, or life gets in the way. A trusted person who can step in—whether to water the plants or do some planting—can be a lifeline for your neurodiverse garden.

It’s not just about sharing tasks; it’s about sharing the emotional investment in a space that brings you joy and peace.

Enjoy the rewards

Gardening with ADHD doesn’t have to be a series of frustrations or failures. With these gardening hacks tailored for a neurodiverse garden, you can turn your unique traits into strengths. Whether automating watering, embracing chaos gardening, or enlisting a backup gardener, there are countless ways to make your garden a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

Remember, the most important garden you grow is the one that brings you joy on your terms. Happy gardening!

The rewards of sticking with it are so so good!