I was just pondering ideas for farming and gardening in the Discord channel when I was talking about othergames.
Couple of ideas on farming in general. Perhaps for plant type farming introduce weeds or other intrusive plant types that may spawn and need to be removed. Those plants may actually be useful but not something that can be farmed, a random byproduct of the farming. The different plants may spawn more commonly with certain other farmed plants, they are attracted to certain crops. These plants would be detrimental to the farmed crop, maybe lower yield or longer time to grow and maybe in some cases kill the plants. Add watering as needed for different crops. Different soils affect the crops of course. Not every crop needs the same level of light…not just zero light or all daylight some need shade. Some crops need exposure to different minerals or maybe magic types. In the wild these crops would potentially spawn in areas that match some or all these conditions. Could make some crops different levels of rarity and different levels of care. Difference between a farmer and gardener is scale, some crops would be like jewels and need the extra environment and care to yield the right material and would be reserved for an herb garden or likewise a relatively small scale location. Like orchids and other more exotic flowers are often in reserved areas. Other plants can be planted in large scale areas and mass harvested. In a gaming sense you would want the plants in the gardens to have a rarer nature and usually have a stronger end result. Maybe for use in magic rituals/enchanting/alchemy. The idea is that as the plants are rarer and more valuable they are harder to grow take more effort, but to balance that they are more valuable because they have very valuable uses in other crafts or professions. A farmer could have fields of wheat and other more common crops and have a separate garden for rarer items and for those really specializing have dedicated spaces to grow the most valuable things. Maybe some plants are specialized enough that they only can grow on worlds with a certain environment. As the farmer levels they gain skills or discover new technology that helps automate their profession, encouraging people to specialize if they like doing it. Learning new magics or better control spells to adjust the plants and to eliminate the need for the more manual tasks. Some may want to harvest those weeds and the like because they may also be useful.
Another set of ideas related to this is another type of gardening. If you have magic or even some technology using crystals. In the real world crystals can be grown easiest from a solution with the raw material used in it and a seed crystal. Extending that idea to a more magical world, have a method of growing crystals used in technology or magic. Such as grinding down crystals to be used as powder for enchanting or filling in the glyphs used for magical constructs. Crystals to be used for storing power or magic. Growing the crystals would require a seed crystal to be “planted” in a correct environment and bathing it the raw material needed to make it and in some cases the type of power it would hold. Crystals could be of varying quality and levels of power, also rarity based on the materials it is made from. The quality could be determined by the seed crystal and the environment it was raised in, including the amount of energy provided. When harvesting it, the farmer can choose from the resulting crystals what is used as another seed crystal and keep the rest for sale or use.
A common point in both types of farming, the environment for crops/crystals and the source seeds for these can be increasingly dangerous to get or maintain. In the case of environments, the environments for these crops/crystals can be toxic and dangerous to the grower. If the environment requires exotic types such an elemental/radiation/non-oxygen/poisonous areas to grow, the farmer can only spend so much time tending the plants/crystals before being affected too much. In some cases I could see having to sequester the plants/crystals so they cannot be touched until harvesting. Some crops will not care about sunlight or outside influences but others will. In the case of crystals, you would probably need to keep replenishing at least some raw materials to keep the crystals growing.
The farmer may need to specialize between crystals or plants…maybe even some skills would need to specialize in harvesting for the more delicate plants. Technology or magic in the game could be used to mitigate much of the hurdles in the farming processes but probably not eliminate it altogether. The toxic environments could be made to be survivable for longer but not be eliminated altogether, no immunity from most things just higher resistances to make it more manageable.
In a way I am seeing farming or gardening as a viable path as a character, not just an add-on skill. One where someone can dabble in it and get the common things but would need more dedicated work to get more rewards and make it viable as a profession like other crafts…even with specializations for those that want to grow the rarest materials. They would generate a market for buying those crystal seeds and exotic seeds adventurous people find in their journeys.