Divide and Conquer

The way to grasp a seemingly overwhelming problem or piece of work is to write down all its component pieces and dependencies, then put them in some sort of priority order, with time-limited things towards the top.

The problem: “do the garden”.

Then start, decisively, methodically, authoritatively and also ideally with a cup of of tea.

Inspired by various people and posts I’ve seen on blogs and on Gardening Groups, and fed up with feeling “caught-out” every spring when the garden wakes up, I finally decided to get a organised with the help of one of the several notebooks I inexplicably seem to accumulate.

So that’s how I spent one sunny afternoon taking a chair, notebook and pencil with me around the garden, sitting in front of each border and area and I writing down the list of things that needed to be done for it that year. The aim was to get down a list of all the maintenance jobs for the garden that I needed to do (and when I needed to get them done by), so I could start new areas in the garden without neglecting the existing parts and having to play chronic catch-up.

Work on the Lower Terrace done, save planting and staining the bench

I ended up with almost fifteen pages of notes and scribblings and because I am supposed to be an IT professional, I copied it all over into a spreadsheet as it’s easier to move things around (priority ordering) and it’s a nice feeling to cross things off the list in the pad and to also get that feeling again crossing it off in the spreadsheet as well. As I looked through the “problem” of the Winter/Spring garden maintenance with all its component pieces, it’s clear the patio was taking the lion’s share of the work, which I shouldn’t be too surprised about given the cleaning, pots, plants, staging, greenhouse etc that are all linked to it.

Page 10, line 9: “Clear the paths around the shed”

The last three/four weeks had the UK basking in wall-to-wall sunshine (at least in my part of it). In these warm days I would be straight out to the garden in the morning, armed with my notepad and the things I wanted to get done highlighted (I would have planned that from the spreadsheet the night before). I’d scarf down a quick lunch in the afternoon and then it was back outside again until early evening. Then came the “review” at the end of the day, looking at what got done and what the plan for the next day should be.

The hedges are receiving some TLC this year.

This super-organised, super-intensive period over the last couple of weeks has seen me blitz through the spring garden maintenance like Taz. By crossing a couple of jobs off the list every day, the cumulative effect is that I am now happy starting new areas in the garden, because the remaining items in the notebook need to wait for a certain time of year, are optional or have no deadline.

Now as I’m sat here typing this, I have a wide grin on my face when I look outside and watch the rain come down. For me, rain stops play and my body could do with the “holiday”. I have various muscle aches and pains, the skin on my hands is terrible, my arms are covered in numerous cuts, scrapes and scratches, and I have several mosquito bites on my legs. I need some recovery time and the rain gives me the perfect excuse for it.

The Task-Master 5000

It’s also given me time to think about how I’m going to tackle the next area I want to work on when the weather does clear and warm up again.

10 Comments


  1. You could, of course, have bought a house with a smaller garden.,,, but where would be the fun in that?!!!

    Reply

    1. Hello Mrs Mac, I’m just wondering what’s going to happen when I “finish” the garden and there’s no more new borders to make, no new areas to clear and all the work is maintenance and perhaps moving/splitting a few plants here and there..?

      Reply

  2. Wish I had your energy to do that. My flower beds are choked with weeds.

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    1. Hello mother of Sally, mine aren’t looking great either, but at least the plants are growing over the top of them. I do have gaps though and that’s where the weed problem areas are. I’m planning to write more on that soon.

      Reply

  3. Well done. I tried going through the garden in a similar manner, but with a legal pad. However, I started to feel overwhelmed when I was less than halfway through.

    Reply

    1. That’s interesting, Jason. I feel overwhelmed when I can’t “see” the size of the problem and it whirls round and around in my head. By getting it all down on paper, I don’t need to try and remember everything and I can choose to just focus on the immediate and very-next items, ignoring the rest until the current stuff is done.

      Reply

  4. What an excellent approach! I love it! My new garden is smaller and i added a lot of shrubs. I like that I can spend more time just enjoying it and less time with maintenance. But because I do love the maintenance but needed less of it, I also have several areas packed with perennials.

    Reply

    1. Hello Tammy, it sounds like are gardens are similar in terms of shrubs, trees and plants. I know you have a production line for annuals that you grow from seed though, which is one thing I don’t do. The terracing at the back is epic too!

      Reply

  5. Ah, yes, there’s a way that spending a day making a list of things to do feels so satisfyingly productive — even as it gives you an excuse to put off actually doing any of the things on the list. 😉 My spring chores list is all organized in a spreadsheet by month, with a place to check off each as it is completed. Having the list is helping me to realize that part of the problem I have with spring chores is that our spring is normally too short to get them all completed! Having the snow melt two or three weeks earlier than normal this year means that I actually completed my April garden chores by the end of April.

    Reply

    1. Hello Jean, I must admit I was inspired by you to make this written maintenance list. You’ve just described exactly what I’m aiming for in terms of month-by-month jobs – though I think I will take longer to get there as I’m more disorganised. By knowing what jobs there are and what needs to be done by when, you can spread out the workload more evenly through the year. It should help me from going insane!

      Reply

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