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Friday, January 12, 2007

The 10-minute Gardener: Introduction

by Douglas E. Welch, agn@welchwrite.com
Reader/Listener Line - 206-338-5832


Originally uploaded by dewelch.

Welcome to the first installment of the 10-Minute Gardener. Born out of hours spent looking out into my garden while stuck here in front of my computer, the 10-Minute Gardener is my attempt to find a way to stop thinking about gardening and actually get my hands on shovel, rake and trowel again.

The 10-minute gardener is not some quick fix method of gardening where a few minutes of labor each day yield bushels of tomatoes and acres of peas. Instead, it is a way to reconnect to the joy of gardening that can sometimes get lost among the constant pressures of life. Books, magazine and newspapers constantly publish articles lauding the relaxation and peace to be found in our gardens, but sometimes our gardens turn into burdens to be faced instead of activities to be enjoyed. Sometimes, if I am any example, they taunt us out the window, wondering if we are ever coming back.

How do I know this? It is simple. I live it every single day. As the years pass and my business grows, along with other responsibilities, I find myself becoming more and more frustrated with the "feast and famine" nature of my gardening. Leaves pile up, along with other garden tasks left undone until I am forced to spend hours and even complete days catching up. Where there should be peace and enjoyment, I find sore muscles and a sense of futility. Is it any wonder that most of my neighbors give up completely and turn over the care of their property to "mow and blow" operations?

Over the last year, I have found myself thinking about how I can re-engage with my garden -- an extensive collection of perennials and trees inherited from the previous owners 10 years ago. How can I get on the other side of my office window and still find time for the other important parts of my life? It happened slowly. One day, I found that there was some small task in the garden that I could complete in about 10 minutes -- leaves could be raked, compost turned, birdfeeders filled, weeds pulled or hoe'd, something. I didn't have to dedicate hours on the weekend, if I could find some way of doing one small task every single day.

This requires a dramatic change of mind for myself and, I would guess, most other gardeners. We see everything left undone and want to complete the task at hand. We push ourselves to complete this pruning or that transplant. Unfortunately, though, this is where we go wrong. We try to do too much at one time and end up frustrated once again.

The 10-Minute Gardener isn't meant as some "wonder drug" to solve all your gardening ills. It isn't even something I would recommend you do forever. Rather, it is a tactic to help you reconnect with your joy of gardening whenever life threatens to push it aside. There will be days where you spend hours in your garden, puttering here and there, planting this, pruning that, but these days will be spent on your terms, not seen as an obligation or a requirement to keep your garden from turning into a jungle.

This is where the main difference lies. We should be spending time in our gardens because we want to spend time there, not because we feel it is required. Gardening isn't an obligation. It is a avocation. It is a way to find a different part of ourselves among nature that we might not get to see every day.

Over the next several months, I will be writing short segments here on A Gardener's Notebook that, I hope, will eventually turn into a print edition -- The 10-Minute Gardener. Please join me in this endeavor and offer up your comments, additions, and even your own stories of how you manage your own garden. Send me your questions. Ask for clarifications. Suggest additional ideas. All are welcome and greatly appreciated!

Until next time, keep digging! -- Douglas

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