Early on Tuesday morning, I walked out to my garden and looked around. I was trying to work out where to plant the 6 broccoli and 6 cauliflower seedlings I’d picked up on Monday afternoon.
I stood there, looking at my beds, and I was just really overwhelmed. Every bed is a mess of things. Weeds are taking over. It just felt like so much. It’s not the first time autumn has presented me with this feeling. It happens almost every year.
When I thought about it, I wondered if this is a problem many home gardeners face: you look at your garden and see twenty things to do and none of them quite line up with your goals and you don’t even know where to start. So you don’t.
And those seedlings you purchased just wither away because you can’t find the energy, time, or motivation to put them in the ground.
It’s all just so much, right? But I really miss broccoli, and I can’t justify paying for it at $5 a head. So those suckers needed to go into the ground as soon as possible.
I’m not the kind of person who sits down to work out a ‘perfect’ garden rotation. My usual style of gardening is ‘bung it where it fits’. While I do tend to plan out where my garlic is going each year, everything else just kind of fills whatever gaps are around at the time.
On top of that, I have several crops that just ‘self-seed’ throughout the garden. So there are random clusters of lettuce, coriander, dill, and pak choi in various places.
I really wanted just one single bed for my brocs and caulis. This was so I could cover them in bug net to give them a chance against the white butterfly caterpillars while they’re little. I’d like for them to be slightly bigger (and for it to be later in the season for the butterflies) before I remove the protection.
So in my head, I couldn’t plant the beds that are due to take garlic in a few months. And because the bug net I planned to use was long and skinny, I needed an entire 4m long bed.
There were two beds I could make available: one was covered in self-seeded lettuces I didn’t really want to remove, and the other was just a big, overwhelming mess.
The lettuce bed would be an easier job, but the soil was dry. It needs more organic matter and many crops seem to struggle there.
The messy bed would be a lot of work to tidy, but it retains moisture better. I’ve been improving the soils here for longer. It’ll probably grow better broccoli.
I was going to have to clear this bed at some point, so it might as well be today. So I planned to focus on clearing the messy bed. Then it’d get a dose of blood and bone, gypsum and some worm castings before I put my seedlings into the ground.
But first I was going to start with breakfast.
The goal (planting my seedlings) was the first step. Making the decision (planting them in the messy bed) was step two. Step three is self-care. It’s not going to help the overwhelm if I’m uncomfortable and/or miserable.
So after some food, I grabbed a cold bottle of water; slapped on some sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses; and lined up a couple of my favourite podcasts. I like listening to podcasts while I’m gardening. In this case I popped Hi Jinkx!; Dear Hank and John; and Gastropod at the top of the playlist.
Then it was time to just do it: one goal, one bed to clear.
I gathered my tools, wheeled them over, and just… got stuck in. It took about 75 minutes of solid weeding.
Then I took a break – the self-care part is important. Look after yourself as you go. Drink water, take a breather. Then go back.
Get it done
Next I needed to do a little soil improvement. I found the blood and bone and gypsum. Then I went and dug out a wheelbarrow of wormcastings from the worm farm.
I worked out where my plants would go (keeping in mind the limitations of my 1.5m wide insect net), and dug 12 holes, mixing in a dose of my amendments as I went. Each plant was planted, and watered in.
Then there was another break before they were mulched, and each given a ring of slug and snail pellets.
Finally, the insect net went on and was secured. All up it took three and a half hours. By the end I was sweating and hot and looking for short cuts – but I did get to the end. I planted those seedlings.
Looking up again
At the end of all that, the rest of the garden still overwhelms me. I really did have to walk my way through every step. I know I’m going to have to do it again and again with different weeds, different crops, different beds. But I also know future-me will be very grateful for the effort I put into the garden that morning.
In a few months (probably when broccoli is a reasonable price again), we’ll have quite a lot of it. I’ll also get to make my Gran Shirley’s Cauliflower and Pineapple Pickle. So that’s something to look forward to.
Hopefully by the time we are harvesting broccoli and cauliflower, I’ll also have a bit more control over the other beds. It’ll feel less overwhelming (it usually does by then).
But just taking it step by step – wearing comfortable clothes, listening to an interesting podcast, and a focus on only achieving one thing today – can really make a difference to what you’re eating in a few short months.