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Another Week, Another Epiphany


I’ve just had a brilliant thought on how to manage the garden and how to gradually work through from beginning to “end” without getting too overwhelmed by everything that needs doing. It starts by putting every part of the garden into one of three categories:

  1. Wild
  2. In Progress
  3. Restored

A “wild” area is an area that hasn’t been touched, it’s either a discard pile, a patch of briars and other pernicious weeds or where I haven’t had the time to start working on it. Most of the garden comes under “wild”.

Wild Garden Patch

An area that is “in progress” is an area which is being reclaimed, it’s being weeded, turned into border or dug. Whatever is happening to it, it’s happening now and with my attention. The squash border and the areas marked out with black landscape fabric to be turned into new borders are all “in progress” areas.

New Border in Progress

A “restored” area is a part of the garden where I’ve whizzed through like the Taz-Manian Devil, blitzed the weeds, dug over and fortified the soil and planted up, completely transforming it. They are the parts of the new garden, according to how I want it to be. Restored areas are the side border and the front border that are now lovely to look at and don’t induce despair or cause me to automatically rattle off a list of things that need to be done to sort them out.

When gardening, I put the maintenance (watering, feeding and general care) of any potted plants, cuttings and seed trays right at the top. These can’t be neglected as they’re the new stock that will be used to fill out the new garden’s borders. Similarly, restored areas are the areas where I will spend time to dead head, weed, water and feed the plants to get them settled in. Keeping the restored areas maintained means they won’t start reverting back to “wild”, otherwise all the hard work done to bring these areas up to scratch would be for naught. Once an area is restored, it tends to require much less in the way of ongoing care as it becomes established, freeing up time to work on other areas.

Restored Border

Next are the “in progress areas”. The hard work is usually here. I do these in small parts to make sure I’m not too overloaded and that there are some signs of progress. The work could be systematically weeding a border from one end to the other or digging an entirely new one, fertilising the ground with manure and compost or the pruning and reclaiming of an overgrown patch. The trick is to make sure there isn’t too much “in progress” at any one time, otherwise there won’t be much progress made overall.

When all the “in progress” areas have been restored and planted up into new borders, it’s time to choose a “wild” area of the garden to reclaim and work on. If I keep following this plan, then in less than a decade I should be able to address all parts of the garden.

This plan has some advantages, it:

  1. Stops me from taking on too much work at any one time and becoming completely overwhelmed
  2. Keeps the nice areas looking nice
  3. Makes progress in the garden logical and systematic, appealing to my OCD

Now this may all seem as though it has previously been published by the Ministry of the Blindingly Obvious, but in a garden the size I have now, in the state it is in now, there’s a temptation to tackle everything head on and make a start everywhere – which is actually what I began doing – but I quickly realised it wasn’t a sustainable way to garden. If I stretched myself out too thinly over the whole garden, there wouldn’t be enough time to stop the weeds re-encroaching and before long, it’s back to square one.

So I’m happy to let the brambles slowly spread in the back, while I dead-head the roses at the front to keep them flowering. I know that each part of the garden will get it’s turn and at some point, it will be the turn for those brambles.

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author & gardener

Sunil Patel

I'm Sunil Patel, this is me. I created the Garden at 13 Broom Acres and I open it to visitors. I also bake and write blog posts giving a "behind the scenes" look into what it's like to maintain such a garden.

Visit the blog, then come and visit the garden. We can have a good sit-down, a jolly chinwag and a relaxing cup of tea with a sinfully generous slice of home made cake.

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casa mariposa 22/11/2014 - 9:06 pm

I love this approach! It’s organization is so appealing and makes the gardening/design process so much more manageable. Sometimes garden epiphanies are funny in how obvious they are. It’s like walking past an elephant and never seeing it. I suddenly realized last night that growing tomatoes isn’t worth it for me since I can buy them at the Farmers Market.

Sunil 25/11/2014 - 6:54 pm

Hi Tammy, I think it’s the only approach that’s going to keep me sane with such a large and long term project! It’s such an organised way of going about the problem that sometimes I think there should be a giant progress bar across the front drive!

gardeninacity 23/11/2014 - 6:49 pm

Very smart. I think it definitely pays to be systematic when you’ve got a big, long-term job. You may want to designate an out of the way corner as permanently wild, though, just to be friendly to the critters.

Sunil 25/11/2014 - 6:56 pm

Hello Jason, don’t worry, looking at some parts of the garden and the amount of work they’re going to take there’s going to be more than just the odd area that’s going to stay wild for a while. A permanent wild place under the trees at the back seems a good idea.

aberdeen gardening 25/11/2014 - 5:48 pm

Sunil, I think your system is spot on and I for one intend to keep coming back for more.

Sunil 25/11/2014 - 6:58 pm

Hello Alistair, looking at your immaculate and pristine garden, I can’t think of anyone else who is more thorough, methodical and has more attention to detail.

Alain 29/12/2014 - 5:56 pm

Hi Sunil, When you are finished with the Tasmanian devil, could you please send him over. I could use him for a few hours!
Happy gardening and all the best for 2015!

Sunil 01/01/2015 - 4:35 pm

Hello Alain, certainly! Happy New Year to you too! I have a sort of “Tasmanian Devil” as I was bought an electric tiller as a present last year and I’ve been using it to break up and condition the soil in the beds that I’m restoring. It’s so much easier than breaking your back digging by hand with a fork!


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