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snowyhouse4

Our house, about this time a few years ago: remember snow?

I have decided to make a New Year’s Resolution. It seems to be the traditional thing to do, so heck, why not.

Here it is:

I hereby resolve: not to make any more New Year’s resolutions.

Like everyone else I seem to break them by about January 5 (if I’m doing well) so there really isn’t any point. I am lucky enough to be able to eat chocolate, drink wine (and my favourite tipple, a good well-brewed lager), and stay up late without any unfortunate side-effects. Or nothing I can’t live with, anyway. So there’s no reason to give any of those up and so I don’t see why I should.

My exercise is built into the day job: if you’re a gardener you don’t need a gym. Nor do you need regular sessions with a psychotherapist, as you’re constantly being reminded a) how good life is, b) how miniscule and unimportant you are in the grand scheme of things which has a refreshingly humbling effect and c) how generally miraculous the natural world is, especially when it’s five millimetres from your nose. It’s kind of hard to be depressed when faced with so much that’s so damn beautiful all the time.

All this saves you a lot of money: when you don’t have to buy gym membership, psychotherapy sessions or comfort shopping you don’t generally speaking have to make résolutions to cut down on credit card bills either.

However: the other good thing about gardening is that it’s always setting you a challenge or two, thereby keeping you on your toes and making sure you don’t go to sleep.

So around this time of year, when you’re thinking about what lies ahead and what’s gone before rather more than is usual, my thoughts often tend towards how I’m going to improve things a little: avoid making the same mistakes, tweak the routine a little, try out a few new things. Call them résolutions if you like: but they’re really just ways of making me a slightly better gardener.

I shall sow my seeds on the first of each month, like I planned to do last year. I was great at it for the first three months, then (as always happens) got derailed in about June and only caught up again in September. It wasn’t the end of the world: but it was annoying and cost me my winter salads.

I shall buy more plants on impulse. I am an awful ditherer when it comes to buying plants. I see them and think, oooh, that looks interesting, maybe that would go here… but I’m not too sure… and then I wander on and forget, and then I get home and curse myself for not picking it up when I had the chance. This year I shall buy lots of plants just because I want to. Which brings me to…

I shall regularly empty the Corner of Shame. Like Dan Pearson, who confessed to such a corner in his lovely book Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City, I have a corner of my garden where plants languish. They arrive there for various reasons: plants I’ve raised from seed just to see if I could, plants people have given me, the surplus plants from an over-enthusiastically sown seed tray, plants I’ve bought on impulse yet don’t have a home to go to in the garden yet… I will empty this corner regularly if only to avoid the reproachful stares I imagine from its mournful inhabitants each time I walk past.

I shall take photos of my garden each month just to show myself how far I’ve come. It’s a habit I got into a few years ago and it pays dividends when I remember to do it. That moment of despair when you feel like you’re paddling away furiously yet nothing is really changing? Dig out the photos of your garden from two or three years ago and you’ll realise what a difference you’ve made.

I shall not beat myself up for all the things I haven’t done. This is my no. 1 priority for the year. No, my garden is not perfect; no, I didn’t get half the things done at the time when I should have done. But late-planted tulips will still bloom; late-sown beans will still fruit; and unfinished paths will just stay unfinished till I’ve got through other, more urgent jobs. Giving myself a hard time isn’t going to make it happen any sooner. So I will be kind to myself and remember that the garden hasn’t got a calendar and a few weeks here or there doesn’t – usually – make much of a difference.

May 2016 be full of sunshine, soft rain and lushly growing plants for you all. Happy New Year!

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