A Distinctive Gardening Habit
This installment in an ongoing series about how I established a Gardening Habit, continues on the theme of self-knowledge. Knowing one's own strengths, weaknesses, preferences and aversions is crucial to creating any kind of successful habit that will stick. In the previous post I identified myself as a Questioner in Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies framework. In this post I'll look at some other ways that understanding my character influences how I get myself to garden.
Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before Habits Manifesto states 'We're not very different from other people, but those differences are very important'. Here are some of the ways I am different from (some) other people.
Are you a morning lark or a night owl? I do my best work and have the most energy in the morning (as long as I’ve slept well). As a lark I make sure my part-time job involves a late afternoon shift, so I can pursue personal projects in the mornings, my most productive time of day. Thus it was inevitable that I would schedule my regular gardening sessions for the morning. In the summer, I start very early before it gets hot, and in the winter I wait until the day has started to warm up, closer to mid-morning. Garden Habit Distinction: Morning gardening sessions.
Never Finished Gardening
Are you a starter or a finisher? I love to start projects but I also have a strong impulse to finish things- I will reliably squeeze the very last smear from the tube of toothpaste. My enthusiasm for finishing is what will motivate me through a dull middle. However, my Questioner tendency means I won’t finish just for the sake of finishing if I've lost sight of the purpose. I believe life is too short to continue reading a badly written novel.
The problem with gardening is that there is no finish. It was after I completed a number of substantial projects in the establishment phase that I lost my gardening mojo. In crafting my Gardening Habit I need to focus on the frequent, small scale finishes of individual gardening tasks. Planting, supporting, watering, feeding and mulching a single bed of pea seedlings is a finish. Setting the timer and working for a whole two hours is a finish. Some of the ways I make myself mindful of these small finishes are taking photographs, writing notes in my Garden Journal, emailing my garden accountability buddy to tell her about it or dragging my partner outside to show him. Garden Habit Distinction: Focus on frequent fine-grained finishes
As an underbuyer, I don’t tend to buy All The Things. I like to make do with what I already have, or can borrow, make or scavenge. I remember being perplexed when an overbuyer neighbour on a tight budget who wanted to start a garden spent lots of money buying potted-colour annual seedlings (I mostly grow perennials from seed), special plastic plant ties (I use old pantyhose) and a fancy miniature seed starting kit (I use old roasting pans draped with bubble wrap).
I was lucky to I start my garden here with a well-stocked tool shed to which I have judiciously added over the years, with only a few purchases I regret. There are a few garden things I still crave: new gardening gloves whenever the old ones start to wear out. A copper trowel because I've read that slugs and snails won't visit after copper tools have worked the soil. And what gardener can resist the lure of a seed catalogue?
Perhaps it's surprising for an underbuyer to prefer abundance to minimalism. In my garden this means a lush profusion of diverse plants, planted in lots of curves with little or no exposed soil. I have a high tolerance for weeds, especially those that I or my chickens like to eat. I like to see a chaos of colours and textures, knowing that diversity and interplanting makes for a resilient garden. Garden Habit Distinction: Grow abundantly and shop sparingly
Do you prefer to be prevention-focused or promotion-focused in your aims? I have been able to adopt a sugar-free diet (two years so far) because I laid a foundation that added lots of protein and healthy fats to my diet first, so I never felt deprived. My approach to gardening is to concentrate on producing food, attracting bees and building soil. I'm not very dedicated to eliminating weeds (even when they bother other people) or following other conventions. Garden Habit Distinction: Optimistically pursue my own my garden goals
A Marathon of Small Steps
Do you have more success making small incremental changes in your life, or making an ambitious transformation? Creating my abundant permaculture-inspired food-forest style garden out of a scruffy lawn was ambitious but I did it gradually over three years- and there's still a few projects to complete. I tried to start and finish establishing each element before beginning the next: fruit trees then chickens then more vegetable beds etc.
When it comes to work, are you a sprinter who chooses to wait for deadline pressure to do their best work, a marathoner with a slow and steady approach, or a procrastinator who is frustrated your own pace? I designed my garden in such a way that eventually it needed me to garden regularly for a couple of hours at least once a week, but not much more than that. Garden Habit Distinction: Regular bite-sized sessions
Do you prefer novelty or familiarity? I’m a home-body who is happy to potter around my home and garden for days on end without leaving the boundaries. I am very attached to my routines and habits, and get out of sorts when they are disrupted. Amateur gardening is a mixture of tasks repeated regularly (eg weeding or watering), annual events (eg seed starting or tree pruning) and instantaneous responses (eg pests). To help minimise the amount of willpower required to tackle any garden task I designed some opening and closing routines for my garden sessions, which I'll describe in the next post in this series. Garden Habit Distinction: Familiar routines