We should never stop learning, for no one can have all the knowledge. From clean-fingernailed novices to grizzled spade-leaners, all growers should seek valuable and competent tips and advice from those who have walked the path before us. Detailed and gritty information is there for the taking these days, but it might be helpful to share some of the more general tips I’ve learned.
Never Give Up!
Think of failures as lessons; if you let them, every obstacle on the road can teach you something. It used to be yearly around midsummer when I wondered WTF I was doing. So many things went wrong, from terrible weather (I live in the North of England) or slugs that had eaten all my veg to an early crop-killing frost, a polytunnel picked up by the wind, and stolen strawberries. You get the idea.
This year, I have a resident mole, vole, and a rabbit that has taken care of most of my outdoor planted seedlings. Was I angry? Hell, yes. Will I give up? Not a bloody chance. Whenever I encounter an ‘oh-my-God-I-give-up’ moment, I breathe deeply (sometimes for a long while) and reconfigure it to a challenge. Gardening is a game; we can’t win every time, but we try new strategies and adapt. Once we can handle one scenario, a new lesson arrives. Rome wasn’t built in a day… or without a lot of swearing.
Be it your farm, grow room or house plants, work on a routine to help you manage it smoothly. Take house plants, for example. Depending on the volume of your indoor jungle, it may be hard to remember which plants need watering and when. I like to bring all my pots together on a slow Saturday morning and place them in a bath filled with a few inches of water plus a bit of feed or a nutrient enhancer. They slowly soak up what they need, and I can go about my morning. The plants return to their spot in the house once the pots feel heavy.
Similarly, if you’re managing a greenhouse or a growing space, it’s worth having a routine walk where you check all areas. Are the compost bays covered, and have the volunteers closed the taps? Are your timers and irrigation systems set correctly with no leaks? Checking those points becomes second nature in no time and helps you complete the new tasks that will undoubtedly arise.
This speaks to many aspects of life, largely thanks to social media. Unfortunately, a weird shame over our ordinariness and a desire to maintain a specific image has crept into the gardening world. So many of my clients will begin the garden tour with apologies for the weeds or overgrowth. Stop! Nobody should be judging your space; if they are, kick them out. We all have lives to maintain and other hobbies and chores on the to-do list. So get this perfect image of Monty Don’s garden out of your head unless you have an unlimited budget and an infinite army of volunteers.
More importantly, be grateful for the space you have, whether a 2m x 2m ‘yarden’ (as we call the Yorkshire-stone paved front yards of terraced houses of the North), access to a community garden, or the most beautiful and wildlife-filled fields and forests. It’s not a competition! Even one pot that brings one bee to its nectar or a smile to your face is a call for celebration.
Keep Learning Until You Drop Dead!
I am so happy that growing and gardening tasks are now considered cool! There are many incredible teachers out there with immense knowledge just waiting to be shared. From permaculture specialists, soil experts, and hot and cold climate gardeners to urban farmers and small space designers, there is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. The world of growing is constantly evolving, with new gardens being built and various methods trialed and tested on different soils. We live in an extraordinary time! I remember when I was closing Incredible Aquagarden’s Instagram as the project ended; there were no followers on the platform interested in plants or soil. Little did I know how the internet would change, and to this day, I take inspiration from many growers across the globe, listen to my favorite podcasts, and keep watching webinars that routinely blow my mind, even when I start to think I’ve seen it all.
This one doesn’t need explaining. Do you like lying in a hammock with weeds around you all day? Good, because weeds are better than bare ground. Do you work in the garden non-stop from sunrise to sunset? Good, you should own your energy. Whatever is fun for you, please do it. What is the point otherwise?