Gardening Habit: Clarity

To paraphrase one of Gretchen Rubin's Secrets of Adulthood: What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

To paraphrase one of Gretchen Rubin's Secrets of Adulthood: What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

This is the second part in a series about how, after establishing my garden, I then established a Gardening Habit, using the strategies in Gretchen Rubin's book Better than Before. You might like to read Part 1 first to understand why I felt I needed to do this) .

One of the most important steps when trying to add a new habit to your life, or indeed to achieve any goal, is to get quite clear about the outcome you want and why you want it. Better than Before distinguishes between clarity of values and clarity of action.

Garden Vision

I live in the temperate, easy-growing, Waikato region of New Zealand, where I have a big suburban garden mostly devoted to growing food.  It is possible to grow hardy vegetables through the winter our mild climate and frosts are short lived, so gardening can easily be a year round activity.

When I moved here four years earlier, the property was mostly lawn, with a few overgrown shrubs, palms and yukkas. My vision for the garden was to supply most of my own fruit, vegetable and eggs year round, as well as all my own compost. I also wanted the garden to be attractive for me to look at from inside the house, and to inspire neighbours and visitors to grow their own food too. I never had any doubt that I would garden organically, and with a preference to use hand tools instead of power tools for most jobs- what Ark Redwood calls being an 'acoustic gardener'.

I designed my garden to be relatively low maintenance, by including permaculture features like drought-proof hugelkulture beds, perennial fruits and vegetables, and companion planting for resilience.  During the establishment phase I spent long days and entire weekends, month after month, digging up lawns, building healthy soil, laying paths and planting trees. As I laboured I used to promise myself that in a few years I would not need to spend more than a couple hours a week in order to reap the harvest.

Just enough

After the garden was established, and then neglected, I decided I wanted to establish a habit of working in my garden frequently enough, and for long enough that I could stay on top of garden tasks all year round without falling behind or feeling overwhelmed. But gardening needs to fit into the rest of my life, without displacing other pleasurable activities or necessary chores.  

My garden is important to me, especially as a food source, but it isn't my main interest. I want a Gardening Habit  that is just enough to keep my garden healthy, productive and aesthetically pleasing for most of the year, no more and no less.

So when it came to defining my Gardening Habit, I decided to test that promise my earlier-self made to my today-self. My Gardening Habit would be to spend at least two hours a week on gardening tasks, no matter the season or the weather. 

Next time, self-knowledge

In my next two Gardening Habit posts, I'll share how knowing my own tendencies, strengths and weaknesses helped me to design the elements of a habit that has stuck. If you are curious, you don't have to wait for the next post because guess what? There's an app for gaining the kind of self-knowledge that helps with habit formation! Better is my new favourite social site, with its focus on self-knowledge, happiness and habits.