Twenty Minutes in the Garden

How to get things done in the garden…
Even if you don’t feel like it!

I’ve just had my coffee in the garden. It’s amazing out there today, lovely and warm with birds feeding and calling to each other and the incessant buzz of insects on the hunt for nectar and pollen. Sunlight shining through the leaves of the oak tree has turned them lime green. It feels like a summer day and spending just a few minutes outside in the sunshine makes me happy. There are signs of autumn too. In the hedgerow brambles are laden with plump blackberries and huge fat red hips are lined up along the whippy stems of wild roses.


Enjoying a few minutes outside just sitting, looking and listening is important to me and to my husband too. We’ve found that it’s easy to miss seasonal changes in the garden and surrounding fields unless we make a point of paying attention each day.

Today I was distracted by reading a list of Jobs for September on another gardening blog. I was so shocked that I think I actually stopped breathing for a moment or two. I almost had to reach for another piece of cake. Now I like a lovely garden and I enjoy putting the work in to bring the plan in my head to life but seriously… more than 60 tasks for September?

Dividing the long list into smaller chunks of four weeks over the month that’s still 15 tasks per week! I’d need a team of helpers to get me through that lot. I love our garden but I also love my life and I don’t want to be a slave to the garden. I know I’m lucky because my lovely husband mows and trims and keeps things tidy so that’s a big chunk of work taken care of for me. It’s my job to attend to the details such as planting and pruning. My preferred method of gardening is to choose just ten important tasks to focus on each month. That’s just two or three each week which is easily achievable.


Aside from having a short monthly TO DO LIST preparing in advance helps me a great deal is too. I find it’s good to have an overview of the best time to tackle specific gardening jobs then I can plan ahead. For example autumn is the time to plant spring bulbs, winter is the best time to improve your borders, spring is a great time to direct sow hardy annuals and summer is the time to sow biennial seeds. As long as I know what’s coming next I can prepare for it and order bulbs, compost and seeds so they’re already here for me when the time is right.

Best of all is spending just 20 minutes on each little task. From experience I’ve found that patio pots can be planted with bulbs in twenty minutes, a border can be weeded in twenty minutes, a batch of seeds can be sown in twenty minutes and a large shrub can be pruned in twenty minutes too. Sometimes my mind tricks me by making a big deal of a tiny gardening job which makes me feel reluctant to start. To galvanize myself into action I simply set a timer for twenty minutes. Knowing that when the bell rings it will all be done is all the incentive I need. It’s amazing what can be accomplished in that short time once I get cracking.

If you’d like to give it a go here is my tried and trusted five step method:

Getting things done in the garden.

  • Choose 10 tasks to accomplish in the garden this month.
  • Buy seeds and compost and gather tools together.
  • Break the list of 10 down into just two or three tasks per week.
  • Allocate twenty minutes to each task. Set a timer
  • Get cracking!

Love GillianDo you have a simple tip for getting things done in your garden that you could share?
I’m all in favour of saving time and effort so I would love to hear from you!

Hope you are enjoying the sunshine in your neck of the woods today.
Happy Gardening!   Gillian 🙂



15 thoughts on “Twenty Minutes in the Garden

  1. I saw a September list, also. I do all my tasks in little chunks of time. Thanks for reminding me how to eat that elephant (not the cake)…one mouth full at a time. Enjoy fall friend.

    1. Some of these TO DO lists make me feel so overwhelmed! Who can achieve long lists of jobs in their garden without a team… only Superwoman I think! Thanks very much for your comment. I shall carry on eating the Elephant with cake to keep me going this autumn.

  2. Oh my. I remember when I went to buy my first house the banker was mumbling something about how much WORK was involved in maintaining the grounds and did I feel I was really up to the task. It was like words were coming out of his face but i couldn’t for the life of me understand what they meant. I have never thought of garden time as work. It feels like an honour and a privilege to spend time with plants. I said to him: that is how I relax. And I could see the reverse experience — it was like words were coming out of my face but they had no meaning. hahaha

    1. Oh Debra I love this! It’s all about point of view isn’t it? I absolutely love gardening too but reading a long list of jobs to do saps my energy.

  3. What a great post! There are times when the jobs to be done seem overwhelming. Breaking it up as you have makes it seem more manageable.

    I also like the idea of planting bulbs in pots. I have never done this, because they just wouldn’t over-winter in our climate, but I just realized that I could plant them in pots in fall and sink them in the ground for the freezing winter months. I’ll dig them up in spring, and pop them on the deck or in those little bare spots in the perennial bed! A new thing for me to try this fall!

    One of my tips isn’t about time, really, but about the importance of getting up close and personal with my plants. I hand weed. I hand weed obsessively. Not only does it keep my garden from being over-run, but it gets me nice and close, so I notice the aphids before they take over, I notice dead wood in the shrubs that I mightn’t notice from further away. This practice helps me to stay on top of small details before they get out of hand and become big chores.

    1. Glad you like this post and thanks for your tip Leah. Hand weeding is brilliant and I agree it gives a nice close up view of the garden.

  4. Good advice Gillian. At this time of year I am actually fairly relaxed about it all, but at the end of October I panic, worried we might get an early snowfall, and I then have to get the important jobs done in a mad blitz!

    1. It’s quite different here as you know Cathy with long mild autumns sliding into a very short snap of real winter… but nothing so harsh as yours. We usually have plenty of time to get everything done whilst the weather is kind.

  5. I like to sit on our deck and just enjoy the garden every day. It is why we have it, right? I have become a lot more relaxed about chores in recent years. If it gets, done – great. If not, so what? ;D

    1. I’m all in favour of enjoying the garden. Even the hard physical work shouldn’t feel like chores… I choose to see it as good exercise rather than having to go to the gym. As for being relaxed about things, that’s quite true Eliza. There’s always tomorrow.

  6. What a wise post, it’s far too easy to spend so much time working on a garden that you miss the chance to revel in its beauty. That’s what’s so nice about garden visitors, bloggers included, they make you step back and enjoy it from time to time.

    1. Thanks Kate. I completely agree with you about taking the time to enjoy the garden but wouldn’t go as far as you do… to actually invite visitors! I think you are both very brave to welcome complete strangers into your beautiful garden.

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