This article was first published in the sadly missed Ethical Living magazine back in the winter of 2010
If these two months are anything like they were last year then it will be impossible to attempt much gardening on your plot. The hard ground doesn’t just make hard work for you, but also for your tools. More importantly, you could be harming your soil more than helping it if you get digging now.
So why bother? Yes, there are a few jobs that you could be getting on without on the cold, cold wilds of your garden or allotment but can’t they wait for the bright sunny days? So put your feet up, throw another log on the fire (or put another jumper on) for now is the time that the only exercise muscle you should be exercising is to that gray matter. It is the time for reflecting on the year; the time for reading and planning for the next.
As with most, I am sure that some things worked last season for you and some things didn’t. (At least I hope some things worked for you, if not then I admire your perseverance)! Perhaps an army of slugs destroyed everything you planted or you had so many courgettes you’ve been eating frozen ones every day since the summer. Gardening is all about these successes and failures and good gardeners learn by their failures. Use the books that I have no doubt you got for Christmas or pop down the library and get ones out if you didn’t (I hear the Selfsufficientish Bible is a good option), browse the internet and talk to other gardeners. Learn what it was you did wrong and try not to re-create it next year and hopefully, your life should become much easier.
Something else that will improve your gardening is planning. Draw your allotment or vegetable patch. It need not be to scale just as long as you can work out where everything is when you look at it. Draw each bed and leave blank where you can grow your produce. Then put it on your fridge. Do nothing for about a month but keep looking at your picture and keep thinking about what you might want to grow, this should help you make some clear decisions about what to grow. Ask yourself how much time you can put into your plot. It is really easy to think you have more time than you do if you do have plenty of time then great but if not then make sure you don’t think you can take on more than you can; this is the biggest mistake most people will make in their first few years of gardening. Taking on twice as much often means you do half as much on a bigger scale and your plants suffer, you lose heart and quite often give up.
There are cheats to growing produce without having to take on any extra work and the tastiest is Soft fruit. Bushes should go in about now so if you can find a day when the ground is not solid put some in. Dig a hole that will fit the root ball put in your fruit bush and backfill with good compost. Make sure you heel in the bush (harden the ground around the bush with a heel). In fact, I would suggest fruit bushes for everyone!
As with university most people “drop out” of gardening in their second year. If this is yours then please try and hang on in there you never know you might get first class honours in potatoes, a HND in carrots or a masters in sweetcorn.