Breaking the Rules: The Gentle Art of the To Do List

 January's To Do list from last year's calendar, which sparked off today's musing

I'm a firm believer in the To Do list - it's most satisfying to tick things off as the final nod to a job well done. It seems I'm not alone - monthly lists of gardening jobs are a regular feature in gardening magazines. Websites like the RHS feature them too - here's theirs for January.

Pick any one of these you have to hand and look at it carefully. Does it bear any resemblance to what actually needs doing in your garden? No, it's nothing like mine either. Here's what I need to do this month:

In the garden
  • Clear up December's fallen leaves and use them to mulch borders (remember Compost Direct?)
  • Cut back fallen stems which no longer have seed heads
  • Shred stems, plus the twigs etc brought down by December's storms
  • Weed garden path
  • See what I have on hand already for the GQT border (my new name for the front garden side border) - I'm thinking Alchemilla, ferns, a grass from a hanging basket (also need to look up whether spider plants are hardy or find out what the hanging basket plant is)
  • Have the snowdrops started flowering? Yes :)
  • RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on Jan 25-26 (includes regular topping up of the bird feeders)

On the allotment
  • Weed raised beds
  • Top up 1 raised bed with compost
  • Plant garlic
  • Gird self and check the compost bins for rats - hope it was a mouse I saw!

Now Harvesting
  • Regular sprouted seed growing
  • Some salad leaves each week

    • Sort out seed tin
    • Use up the started salad leaves & herbs packets I have for microgreens
    • Sow peas and beans for shoots
    • Air cold frames, cloches and fleece on the odd sunny day (both garden & allotment)
    • Pot up hyacinth bulbs
    • Hyacinths + alcohol experiment (see this from Cornell University re alcohol and paperwhites)
    • Find the harlequin potatoes I saved for seed which got tidied away for Christmas

    I think of the published lists as more of a reminder that I need to create my own rather than seeing a checklist I need to follow. I'll always have jobs left over from their 'proper' month and there'll always be items on the list which aren't applicable owing to the weather at the time, or because I can't grow acid loving plants, or because I planted out my bare rooted fruit bushes years ago, or whatever.

    I see them as more of a satisfying reminder of the season's rhythms, the detail of which needs to be bent to suit my needs.

    I realise that by writing this I've also published a list of garden jobs for this month. But that's OK, it's my way of making sure I set to and actually do them* - feel free to ignore my list, just like I do with the others ;)

    What are you planning To Do this month?

    * bearing in mind that "actions speak louder than words" is my motto for 2014


    1. I'm always bemused by these lists. Mine looks more like yours. Top of my to do list is to finish planting of my bulbs - hangs head in shame :( Sadly spider plants are not hardy. I've got some babies which I want to use in containers next year but they are wintering indoors.

      1. Do not hang your head, Anna - my first Breaking the Rules post was all about how late you can plant bulbs and get away with it. As long as they're still firm, you still have a chance. The trickier part is if we get enough cold weather, which they also need to perform well.

      2. The other advantage we have with our lists is they're responding to what's actually happened in the past few weeks, not what might happen or be needed.

    2. My list includes planting all the daffodils I didn't plant in the autumn and hope for the best. As I think thoxd already in the ground may be rotting rather than growing it may be that they have more of a chance of flowering than the ones which went in at the proper time.

    3. I have a new garden planner this year, a Christmas gift from my brother.
      It tells me that this week I should:
      Sow oregano, chive, and basil seeds indoors for potted plants
      Sow leek and onion seeds indoors for transplanting into the garden later
      Check stored fruits and vegetables and discard any that are going bad
      Turn the compost pile unless it is frozen
      Clean and repair garden tools if needed (there's a diagram showing the proper way to sharpen a hoe)

      So what's really going on in the garden?
      Extremely cold weather expected - I'm adding extra mulch (straw) to the flower beds.
      No vegetables (the lettuce froze), but theCarolina Jessamine Vine has tiny buds, and so do the Hellebores
      Indoors I have an Amaryllis putting up a bloom stalk, and a Poinsettia that is dying.
      Life and Death!

      Happy Gardening!

    4. Mmmmm. Lists. I always have good intentions to follow my own list, but always get side tracked. You know, you go to mulch a Canna, but spot that you have forgotten to tie up a rouge plant. On the way to get the string, you notice that a plant looks sick. On the way to get your book on plant health you notice - and on it goes.

      I have used spider plants in the summer and like Anna found they are not hardy. Shame really.

    5. I am planning on planting herbs and lettuces in my basement under grow lights as we are snowed in for the season until mid to late March...windchills -32F so there is no work outside.

    6. I like lists, just so that I have the satisfaction of crossing each item off! Spider plants are definitely house plants only in this country or you could plant them out when summer eventually comes.

    7. Brilliant comments everyone, thank you :)


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