"One crowded hour"

Much can be achieved in regular short stints in the garden.
Sunday, 27 September 2020     

Plants to be put in during a gardening session in my garden

In my younger days, I could garden basically from after breakfast until dinnertime, with a brief stop for lunch. Those times are now just a fond memory and my limit is probably about three hours now. Over the past seven months, I did spend up to three hours gardening for many days, but now that I am starting gradually to go out a bit more and resume some of my previous activities, gardening time has to be fitted in amongst other things. But I have found that if I am very organised, one hour of gardening can be incredibly productive!

I try to work to a plan of what to do in my precious hour each day. At the start of every season, I walk round my garden and make a list of all the jobs that need to be done, large and small, in the various borders, with one-offs and repeated tasks included. I actually type this up and print it out, and it is my reference for when I have an hour of gardening time. I simply choose a couple of items from my list and head outdoors with a firm intention of carrying them out! Even if I only have 10 spare minutes in a day, I can usually find a little job on my list to do. All my gardening paraphernalia is kept in a bag at the front door, so it is a matter of moments to grab everything I need. I try very hard not to get distracted by seeing other things that should be done, and try to remember to add them to my master list when I go back indoors (otherwise I will forget!). It is so very satisfying to be able to tick a few items off my list at the end of the hour.

At the moment, I am preoccupied with adding a soil-wetting agent to every border in my garden then covering the ground with a mixture of cow manure and the partly decomposed stuff from our mulching machine. This is a big job, but it is surprising how much can be achieved in an hour of focused work. And each hour adds up! Applying this to the beds will pay off (I hope!) over summer, with fewer weeds (eliminating an irksome task) and a greater retention of moisture in the hotter months. The mulch gradually breaks down to improve the soil.

When involved with these sorts of 'big' repetitive jobs such as mulching, pruning and fertilising, I sometimes use a rough map of my garden so I can tick off the areas as I do them, and thus chart my progress. Also when doing these sorts of jobs, I try to make sure I give myself a few fun little things to do just before the end of my hour as a reward, such as planting out a couple of new specimens, or carefully digging up self-seedlings of favourite plants to grow on, or dividing a clump of perennials and replanting some pieces in compost-enriched soil, potting the leftovers up for the sales table at the local garden club.

This sort of gardening is the polar opposite of 'pottering', which I love to do when I have the time, where I simply wander outside with no fixed plan at all, and meander from one part of the garden to another, seeing something that needs to be pruned, then pot up cuttings from the pruning, then spy a plant that could be moved, then try to work out where to move it to! Or I might wander around for half an hour trying to find a spot for a newly acquired plant. There is a place for both forms of gardening in our lives, I believe, depending on what else is happening at the time.

Try to find that hour for your garden each day, and prepare to be amazed at what you can get done!

 Reader Comments

1/14  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

I am in awe of your organisation in attending to your garden work. I would like to do the same, but find my plans go astray when I walk outside, and I flit from one job to another! I am a morning person and do my best work before lunchtime, and mostly do achieve what I set out to do. At the moment I am swarmed with all sorts of weeds, from nearby gardens and clearing these, this takes up much of my time. Once on top of this, I will follow an orderly regime. I am not always organised! It's certainly a challenge with the weeds right now! Deirdre

2/14  Susan - 2430 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

I'm 71 and in a rural area, and the houseguests have slowed down due to Covid, so gardening time is more available. But we have 2 acres so I do need to be organised. I have a kit in the garden shed, toolbelt, clogs, gaiters, kneepads, gloves and my special hat. I write a daily job list over breakfast and tick it off as I do things, so satisfying! TICK, done! There is also a long term list for the bigger jobs. I could easily digitise that one. Thanks for the ideas.

3/14  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Yes, I totally agree with your entire article! Particularly about planning activities and balancing the tedious garden jobs with the pleasurable. Otherwise I sometimes feel overwhelmed, and not sure 'where to start'. I also keep a record of when I attend to each area of the garden. Botanical diversity used to be one of the main features in my garden, but that has been trumped somewhat by ease of maintenance. And aesthetics of course. It is a good idea to keep record of when things are done in different areas. I do feel overwhelmed by my garden at times so that is when my lists and maps come in handy. I'm also looking at things with more of an eye to easy maintenance these days! Deirdre

4/14  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Well first off it's good to know I'm not the only one who used to garden from dawn to dusk & can now only manage 3 or 4 hours! I did do a full day about 6 weeks ago & was exhausted for days! I'm very impressed with your organisational skills Dierdre! I was 40 years younger when I could go all day! Even three hours has me pretty tired these days. Deirdre

5/14  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

I'm in good company here. Have a basket etc. at the laundry door and 'to do' lists on the kitchen bench. Long gone are the all day gardening but feel overwhelmed at the moment as have been out of action for a few weeks at this critical time of 'get things done' before the heat. Still the desire to get out there is strong and organisation in small chunks is the way forward. Thanks Deidre I feel encouraged. Thanks, Sue. I hope you can get through the jobs. I am continually surprised at home much can be achieved in a week in small bites if I focus. Deirdre

6/14  Ann - 2263 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 28 September 2020

I am able to work for 5 hours, but bent from the waist down. I do envy you kneeling. I have a little wheelie seat which makes gardening easier near the borders. I have a list, just like you and oh how satisfying, to tick off the completed tasks. At the moment I am removing excess Canna. Potting is seeing me with tiny Lavender seedlings which have proliferated in my gravel path. Happy gardening to all your followers. I used a little seat like that before I had the hip replacement, when I couldn't bend or kneel. I still like sitting on it at times. I love potting up those self-sown seedlings. Deirdre

7/14  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Its essential for me to be organised Deirdre & I work with multiple lists. I need a fertiliser tick sheet otherwise on 5 acres I forget where Ive gone. Apart from shopping, nursery/garden visits or medical appointments i garden from around 9 til dark most days with a break for a quick lunch and I am utterly exhausted when I come in. With garden opens I will often do 10 hr days.I wonder how I can keep this up! Lovely idea to do some fun stuff too every day I always need more time to get it done. I am in total awe, Pamela! Yes with your big garden, lists would be vital! Deirdre

8/14  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Adding to my earlier comment I am fortunate I have the time to spend SO much time in my garden but as the body ages the energy flags. Summer is a huge challenge for me as the heat is draining and I have to start very early but this is the price you pay for the incredible rewards we Gardeners enjoy.i simply couldnt imagine life without a garden, the joy and excitement it brings is worth the aches and pains. Yes, I agree - even when I ache all over after gardening, there is the satisfaction of having been engaged with my garden, and no, I can't imagine life without a garden! Deirdre

9/14  Gillian - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

I am so happy to read everyone is having the same problem. I literally crawled on all fours yesterday weeding because I did not have the energy to stand up but today is another day and I am ready to do it all again to summer proof my garden. Thank you for sharing your thoughts it makes me feel 'normal' - we all still love gardening but we can't do what we once did which is very disappointing. Looking forward to another day in my garden. Great article Deirdre so comforting we are all the same. Yes it is frustrating that we can't do as much as we used to but I think we know a lot more than in our younger days and so we are more effective gardeners with the time we are able to spend in the garden. When my hip was very bad I sometimes had to garden lying flat on the ground! Deirdre

10/14  Janice - 2069 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Thanks for the helpful hints from all you wonderful gardeners! Janice 2069 Thanks, Janice! Deirdre

11/14  Maureen - 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

A very encouraging article Deirdre especially for one who goes out with a definite intent in mind and ends up being sidetracked in another spot!! Must be more resolute from now on! I do both types of gardening, depending on how much time I have and the time of year. Now is very busy for me as fertilising and spreading mulch are huge jobs, but I am getting there! Deirdre

12/14  Barbara - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Thank you Deirdre for putting me back on track. We all seem to be a similar age and having two new knees, and no longer the ability to kneel is very frustrating. I have used a 'Things to do' printed form for years, but still get distracted. I too have the smaller gardening tools next to my back door and have the bags of mulch and water saving granola 'ready to go'. Always pull out few weeds very time I go out the door. Good to have everything at the ready. Also a great idea to pull up weeds whenever you see them. Deirdre

13/14  Janet - 2322 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 September 2020

Hi Deirdre, I downsized my garden a few years ago knowing that i would run out of puff one day. I will be 80 soon and sure enough can only manage a couple of hrs at a time now, I love my garden it keeps my head in a good place and shall continue to work in it until I fall off the twig. Happy gardening everyone. Janet, you are an inspiration!! I think so many of us have appreciated how much solace we get from our gardens, over the past seven months! Deirdre

14/14  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 29 September 2020

I do most of the above: the pottering, the focused task + reward and then the dreaming of what might be if the conditions are right. It is so good to hear about everyone's experiences in gardening. The dreams are very important! Deirdre

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