My three top garden tips from 2013

December 10th, 2013 Posted In: Uncategorized

I have learned almost all my gardening from friends. Nothing is nicer than pootling round the garden, mugs of tea in hand, asking people what they think. Some are professional gardeners, others are enthusiastic amateurs like me, but advice over a cup of tea is usually based on practical experience, so it usually works. Now’s the time of the year to look back at the most valuable things I learned in 2013.

1. You can do almost anything in fifteen minutes

This came from a book called The Fifteen Minute Rule by Caroline Buchanan. If you have a horrible job, do it in bits: set your alarm and do precisely 15 minutes without stopping. Then take a break, and do another 15 minutes, when you can fit it in. This is brilliant for heart-sink jobs like tidying my desk, but it works especially well in middle-sized gardens – if you set yourself 15 minutes gardening a day, especially if your garden isn’t vast, it adds up to about two hours a week. It’s enough to make a big difference, especially to boring jobs like weeding the front path (see picture!).



2. Hand-weeding is more effective than chemicals

I try to garden without chemicals, or only to use safe, bio-degradable ones. But glyphosate wasn’t making much difference to our paths and terrace, so I tried something a bit fiercer. That only half-worked, so I dropped into our local nursery, Tasteful Plants, to ask our friend, Will Denne, whether there was a really effective way of clearing paths and terraces of weeds. ‘There’s no substitute for a sharp implement,’ he said. So I ‘re-purposed’ an old kitchen knife, set my alarm for successive 15 minutes (over 3 weekends) and tackled the front path. I continued to spray the back terrace. Three months later the front path remained clear, but the back terrace was still weedy (see the photo below for the ‘weedy’ back terrace). It’s the same for two gravel paths – the hand-weeded one is clearer than the one I’ve sprayed. Although hand-weeding takes longer at the time, it seems to last for longer, so it’s not as time-consuming as I thought it would be.

The back terrace - spray-weeding didn't work

The back terrace – spray-weeding didn’t work


3. You can ‘mock up’ where you should put trees, statues and other large things etc, before you buy or move them

We have a heavy statue of Artemis that wasn’t in quite the right place. There was no way we could try her out in different spots – she’s far too heavy to move. Garden designer Graham Lloyd-Brunt ( suggested that he and I stand in for her in her prospective new locations. ‘On our garden design course, we all take turns to stand in for a tree or a statue in various parts of the garden to see what the effect will be. Then take a photograph and consider it carefully over time.’ In fact, I remember we did this inside when planning a bathroom once – one friend was the bath, another the basin and I was the loo. It’s very effective and you can see Artemis in her new spot in the photo here.

Artemis in her new spot
What are your top tips for 2013?

Do leave a comment here or contact me by email – I’ll be doing more top tips over the dreary months of winter and would love to include yours.

4 comments on "My three top garden tips from 2013"

  1. emma says:

    Such great, useful advice –
    I’ll be trying out the idea for testing the position of a statue –
    thanks for passing on the idea –
    looking forward to more sound advice from your blog!

    1. Thank you, and glad you like Leonitis Leonorum, too – I really don’t know why it’s not more popular

  2. Miranda alexander says:

    Your new blog could not be more timely! Having just acquired a new ‘middle sized garden’ in Dorset, tips on how to manage and develop a garden bigger than my current town garden (with which, I’m afraid, after a 28 year relationship, I am a little tired) will be most welcome. I love the idea of 15 minutes bursts of gardening although I fear that, like those books promising ‘a new body in 15 days’, it may not be QUITE enough. Please post a picture of you posing as Artemis in various locations, or did you use Mr Middle as model?
    I received a good tip from a friend for bulbs in pots. Plant several layers, with the latest flowering ones at the bottom. Then you will have a succession of flowers over many months. Only works if you remember to order the bulbs in August though!
    Have you ever thought of leaving areas of long grass, and making mown paths through it? I saw that done in Cornwall and it looked enchanting. Saves all that boring mowing.
    Looking forward to future posts, with lots of photos!

    1. We did try leaving long grass and mowing paths through it one year, and got a vast number of very un-charming dandelions and other undesirable weeds. I think the long-grass strategy is a bit like the no-dig strategy – there’s a bit more to it than just leaving the grass to grow. But will investigate, because it looks lovely.

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