Planning to save the planet or yourself..

Planning to save the planet or yourself..

It’s never too late to review and plan. Even later on in the season you may need to review if there are unforeseen problems. While some gardeners will already be sowing indoors much can be left until the weather is warmer.

So this year I am using my review and plan slightly differently. Previously I have tried to grow as many veg as possible and taken cuttings and passed on plants to stick in somewhere. After three years of caring responsibilities the garden looks more like a jungle and despite my best intentions - see it - weed it, the weeds feel like they have taken over in some areas.

It feels overwhelming at the moment but then if I plan a little better then sitting in the garden will be less ’there’s another job to do’ and more being present and enjoying the wildlife and the flowers. So I am looking at the following areas:

  • Review including last year's weather and results
  • Failures, improvements and successes
  • Wants and needs; costs both time and money
  • Are there any issues with site, soil etc giving wrong plant in wrong place?

Here in North Wales, last year was drier earlier in the year and wetter through much of the summer and into winter. Some watering was needed. My items in recycled recycling bins did reasonably well except the parsnips which I’d interplanted with salad turnips as an experiment. The potatoes despite the previous years ravages by badgers did reasonably in the ground and also in my tubs on a shelf out of harms way.

Too much was transplanted or sown too late - brassicas but this did not affect the runner, climbing and french beans. Time last year was limited for gardening and I’ve also been having some ongoing health issues so time when it wasn’t raining became an issue.

As a result I am starting to plan to renovate what I have over the next 5 years. I would like it to be quicker but I am trying to be realistic rather than overwhelmed.

The next questions I’ve been asking myself are in the following areas:

What’s my budget? 

Am I strapped for cash or could I afford plug plants and some hard landscaping? Do I need to cut costs by recycling or sharing packs of seeds with a friend? 

What time am I likely to be able to give each week over the next year or three?

Do I need to focus on general maintenance or could I manage a small project such as renovating a border? Do I need to pay for or enlist help for some jobs?

What is my ability and interest in having a garden?

I think this is a hard one. Feeding a family was once the focus, having home grown fruits and unusual vegetables - maybe. This is one worth thinking about especially as life changes. I would’t be without a growing space but the question is why and how large does it need to be?

What are my values? 

Self sufficient? Tasty gourmet and unusual fruits and vegetables? Pollinators and wildlife? Climate change? Resource preservation and recycling? Good physical and mental health? Beauty and scent?

Why do I garden? 

Food, satisfaction, fresh air, physical and mental well being or enjoyment?

What else is going on in my life?

Gardening is not something most of us do in isolation. Many of us work, study, have caring responsibilities, health issues,unexpected challenges, households to run, and other interests. Be realistic as to where you get your energy. It’s okay to be at a stage where basic maintenance is our focus.

The formulating of answers to the above have started to inform the next questions I’ve been asking myself:

What style of garden do I want or need? 

Each style of garden will have strengths and challenges for both time, skill and experience and finance and ongoing maintenance. Gardening transitions from season to season but also as needs and health change. I no longer need space for football and games - until the grandchildren come to stay. Do I need space for guests and being hospitable or is my garden a garden of hidden mysteries?

What can I achieve with the sites, soils and drainage I have? 

I’m on clay which is often waterlogged over the winter - yet that is often the sunnier part of the garden. I have some dry borders both in shade and partial sun at the front and can do hot and dry by the front door in pots.

Put a flexible plan in place

We are more likely to achieve what we want if we have it in the plan than a nebulous dream - and may even achieve more than we hoped for.

First put the big things in place and plan where investment should go in the next few years. Then as a result of that try to break jobs down to how much, what and the best months of the year to achieve your goals.

I am trying to make sure that my plans are specific, realistic, achievable and in a time frame. I’m aiming to grow fewer more time and space consuming vegetables and concentrating on varieties that are not as available in the shops.

Talking of realistic - I wonder how many out there are gardeners like me who over the years have aimed for self sufficiency in vegetables to find that the chefs in the family don’t like them - I am often challenged when I want to do ‘extraneous veg’ with a meal that already has veg in! Or have the image in my head, ideals from what I saw growing up, but not the time required to achieve that image at present?

I also have the ideal of a cottage/forest garden with fruit trees in and an array of summer flowers an idealised chocolate box picture of something that I am unlikely to achieve anytime soon. When it comes to it that is someone elses ideal that I don’t need to live by. Your garden is your expression of the values and priorities you have, your likes and creativity, your values regarding ethics, climate change, recycling and family priorities. There is no right answer and the gardening programs are there to inspire us rather than to have a standard to pertain to which may not fit.

In essence your plans need to allow for sowing and harvesting times, times of high maintenance when  hardening off and watering, crop rotation, not planting some items in the same place twice as far as possible particularly brassicas, onion family and roses due to pests and diseases and identifying times of stress from family events such as weddings and holidays!

Once planned - use it to inspire you, focus your mind on the relevant jobs and then review. You may need to make some hard decisions. At the weekend I was looking at my seed stash as part of this planning process. Even having selected the seeds which are likely choices I still have far too many than I can manage or have space for to start off early. 

Some things may need adapting, others may need dropping or the hope is you will find yourself enjoying that extra half an hour in your favourite spot with a coffee and a view.

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