If you are struggling to fit gardening into a busy life, juggling family and work commitments around the needs of seedlings and pruning regimes, then this blogpost is for you.
People ask me how I manage such a (seemingly) labour intensive garden. Until this weekend I never could answer their question. But something happened that has raised the shades from my eyes. I now know and can share with you how I do it and I hope that this insight will help you to enjoy your vegplotting more and more.
The thinking about it takes longer than the doing
I used to feel guilty reading gardening books rather than getting on with it. But recently I've learned that gardening is a bit like carpentry, where they say, 'measure three times and cut once'. Now I treat my reading with the respect it deserves. You can never learn too much from a book.
Plants grow themselves
If you've ever had a month off with flu, or a broken leg, or even a long and glamorous holiday, you will know that plants don't stop growing when your back is turned. I picked spinach yesterday that I didn't know I had. The more established a garden becomes the more that weeds simply turn into seedlings from last year's crops. We Old Hands call them volunteers!
Thing go wrong; things go right
Don't stress about the failures. The difference between a good gardener and a bad one is more to do with attitude than anything else. Celebrate the successes and learn from the failures.
Enjoy being in the veg plot
Don't confine vegetable growing to a bleak corner miles from the house. You'll never get there. I'd advise mixing the decorative with the edible. Incorporate an arbour amongst the runner beans or start transform your shed into a summer house. That way, as you sit among the cabbages, you be able to watch your garden grow. Then it's a matter of seconds to snip off a broken twig, thin out a few plants or even broadcast a few seeds. Forget serried ranks of leeks (too easy for pests to take hold). Forget demarcation between flowers and fruits. Complementary planting in the name of the game today.
Go with the weather
This weekend the weather has been poor, but last weekend it was amazing in London. A couple of warm days of bounteous sunshine made me realise that it is sensible to wait for fine weather. I always used to slightly dread the 'spring offensive'. Perhaps even my choice of language indicates that I saw it as a bit of a battle. Honestly, I don't enjoy freezing my fingers off in the garden. But of course the plants and the soil don't like being disturbed when it's cold or very wet either. Simply bending the stem of a delicate plant in cold weather can damage it. And cultivating very cold or very wet soil will destroy the soil structure.
So don't feel guilty if you aren't feeling like venturing outside until the winds and the rain abate. Your plants won't want to stir themselves either until there is tangible evidence that Spring has sprung. We can't predict when these lovely sunny weekends will come our way. But my advice is that when they do, drop everything, get out into the garden and enjoy. That's what is meant by being at one with nature. That's what the Old Hands know.