Gardening Guilt

Let go of your gardening guilt

Guilt plays a huge part in our lives today. We are encouraged more than ever by TV, social media, and images all around us to feel that what and who we are is less than we should be.

We feel guilty when we eat ‘bad’ food, we feel guilty that we aren’t living the perfect life, and we feel guilty if our gardens don’t look like the ones on Gardeners’ World.
It is worth remembering that gardening programs with beautiful perfect gardens are not real life. They are there to inspire, yes, but it isn’t real. Huge teams of people prepare for those programs, they are dedicated to it, and it’s their job. They don’t have another full time job to do at the same time.
Our lives are so busy, if gardening isn’t your hobby and you would rather spend time doing anything else, it can be tricky to make the time.
Gardening guilt sets in and can be paralysing. It increases an inability to make decisions, and a desire to run away. A downward spiral begins and before you know it the garden has become something you can’t enjoy anymore. Any pleasure you once had from the garden is diminished.
When I first meet clients in their gardens, so often their first words are ‘sorry for the mess’.  I’ve often been asked to help because they are too embarrassed by their gardens and they have become unable to find a way through. The garden is now a chore, a “should do”, rather than a joy to spend time in.
I urge you to let go of the guilt as spring advances and spend time in your garden just looking at nature, not with a list of jobs that must be done. Look at the details on a leaf, watch birds flitter about, study a bee on a flower, feel the warmth of the sun on your back. This is what gardens are for. Give yourself a fixed time to potter, maybe just 15 minutes and react to what you see. Pull up a small weed, or pinch off a dead flower, smell the air, tie back a stray bit of climber. This is your space.
As a lazy gardener myself, and one who has had to shrug off feelings of guilt on a number of occasions, I know how overwhelming a long list of jobs can be in the garden. If the list is too long it can be so insurmountable that it doesn’t even get started.

Make it your space

In helping clients create a garden that works for them, I find that I can release some of that guilt, partly because we take away some of the offending articles that cause problems, but also when the garden is truly yours, created for you and how you live your life, it becomes a place to spend more time in, relaxing, enjoying, and with that comes a desire to keep it looking tidy, liveable and a cause for pride (without the need for hours of work a week).
My tip is to set a time limit to your gardening, and find a task you think can be done in that time. Work at that task for the allotted time, and plan a reward for work well done at the end.
If you have 20 minutes, you are not going to achieve a complete garden make over, but you might be able to mow the lawn, or weed a small patch of border.
Mowing the lawn is a great job to start with, as it instantly makes the garden look better. If you have a very large lawn, consider leaving some of it wild and only keeping areas near the house and patio short.
If you only have 5 minutes, sweep the patio, or weed a planter.
Working on an area near the house is also a good starting point; you can see your results more easily and feel instant gratification.
Little and often is better than not at all and instant gratification and small rewards for a job well done, (even if it is just cup of tea) can lead to an incentive to do more. Admire your achievements, and find ways to make it fun; work with someone else in the garden, listen to a fun podcast while you work, or just listen to the sounds around you.
Rebel against gardeners guilt, we have enough guilt in our lives, enough responsibilities; gardens are not for guilt, they are for pleasure.

Leave a Reply