Our Tips and Tricks for Staying Motivated and Organised This Winter
Often, getting things right in the garden can be largely down to trowel and error, but organising your time is key for getting the most out of your efforts.
We have spoken to four gardening influencers about their top tips for staying organised and motivated during the bitterly cold winter months. Here’s what they had to say:
“My name is Emma Bailey and I am a first time allotment holder in south London. I got into gardening just before we went into lockdown last year. I’d always wanted to give it a go, and the lockdown gave me the time I needed to really get stuck in and create my dream garden. I have found the whole process of planting, digging and creating my allotment plot incredibly therapeutic and it’s really helped to keep me sane during the last year! I’ve been so proud of the food and flowers I’ve been able to grow from seed and have learned so much from just getting stuck in and giving it a go!
I keep motivated in the winter months by:
- Taking on small jobs. I focus on planning for the next spring! I’ve learned that the more you plan things, the less stressed you will feel once the spring arrives and the more time you’ll have to enjoy your garden too! Just going for a walk to my allotment plot helps my mental health so much and I always feel really de-stressed when I get back home!
- Growing what I love. I think that’s the trick of a good allotment plot and garden, that you grow things that are going to make you happy. I don’t like onions much, so I don’t grow them! And my favourite flowers are sunflowers and zinnias, so I always plant lots of them. That way I know I am creating a space I am really going to enjoy and I am more motivated to put the work in!
- Getting online. The internet holds so much knowledge about seeds, tools and trends! I belong to a few brilliant Facebook groups and follow lots of Instagram pages about gardening too.The online gardening community is so incredibly friendly and helpful and I am always finding such amazing advice and knowledge this way!
My top tips for gardeners faring their first winter is to keep looking ahead to spring, because it comes around quicker than you think! Use winter to plan what you will grow, organise seeds and do maintenance jobs like fixing your wheelbarrow or cleaning pots. When planning ahead, remember to think about the plants that make you happy. Don’t worry so much about following trends, or planting things because everyone else is. Your garden or allotment plot is yours and is there for you to enjoy. So make sure you create a space you are going to really love.
This year I am most excited about growing sunflowers again. They are the most exciting flowers to plant and always remind me of summer. It never ceases to amaze me how a 6 foot flower can come from just one tiny seed and reminds me just how amazing nature is!”
Danni is a Sheffield based illustrator with a passion for gardening, going into the 4th year as an allotment holder this summer. Danni documents her gardening progress on her Instagram account, @plot.81, including her hand drawn plans for the year ahead.
Danni said: “I started gardening when I ran out of space for houseplants 7 or 8 years ago and spent my time pottering around my tiny container garden before getting the keys to my plot.
I keep motivated in the winter months by:
- Working on projects. Last winter was spent sorting the back of my plot, getting it ready for cultivating, and this winter’s project is restoring the beautiful Victorian brick potting shed I inherited. There’s always something to be getting on with when you have an allotment, whether it’s tidying the greenhouse, building raised beds or washing pots out ready for sowing in the spring.
- Tea! It can be a struggle sometimes when it’s cold but I find the key is little and often. If you take some gloves and a flask of tea then you’ll soon warm up once you get started!”
Mothin Ali, creator of the My Family Garden YouTube channel shares ideas of what to plant at different times of the year, and shares his growing story on Instagram and Youtube. This is what Mothin said about his gardening journey:
“We garden in our backyard, growing fruit, vegetables and raising chickens. We've been in this particular house for 10 years and grow using permaculture principles. Our top tips are:
- Viewing the gardening season differently. In my view, winter is really the start of the gardening season, it's the time to plan what you want from the next year, what you want to grow and where you want to grow it. It is a time to reflect over what worked well and what didn't, so you can make any changes.
- A change of scenery. I work at a desk all week, so it's only the weekend I get outside, especially during these short days. Getting outside is really important to me. We don't dig our soil, so that's a big job off our list and I make almost all of my own compost and that's a job I really love doing! It took me a long time to learn how to compost and it's something that really gets me excited.
- Growing what our family likes to eat, many of those are more tropical veg so they take a lot of effort to get them growing in the UK. We also try to grow child friendly veg; things with big seeds that they can easily handle, like peas, or veg that they'd like to eat, like sweetcorn.
- The jobs don’t stop! The growing beds need to be prepared for winter so they don't lose nutrients, plants need pruning... so there are still jobs to do. We try to practice a simple crop rotation, so we don't plant the same thing in the same place 2 years running.
Our top tip is to relax and plan, decide on what will work in the space you have. Most importantly enjoy what you're doing!”
“I’m currently living in Sheffield as a part-time allotmenteer and full-time plant science PhD researcher, though in lockdown that’s been more the other way around. Part of my job involves growing plants for my experiments and I quickly realised that this was the most exciting bit for me! Although I had grown herbs on my windowsill before, I decided I wanted to expand, so I applied to my local allotment waiting list in January 2019 - and the rest is history!
I definitely find it hard to get motivated when it’s cold outside. But, I keep motivated in the winter months by:
- Thinking about my long term goals, creating a beautiful space abundant in produce, and I find that keeps me at least a little bit on target, though you never want it to become a chore
- Doing my research - I find out about new seed varieties, gardening trends and tools via Instagram! I’ve tried mushroom growing kits and microgreens, tested all manner of tools and growing mediums and seen a whole host of growalongs with interesting seed varieties
- Creating a gardening plan - Before the growing season I make a big spreadsheet of all the seeds I have, noting down the sowing and harvest times so I know when I have gaps. Instagram is obviously also a massive source of inspiration to me as well, finding out new ways to grow vegetables which I had never considered.
- Pottering! Most of the time I just head out to the garden or allotment with the sole aim of having a little potter about, but always seem to find things to do. I’m also a big fan of lists and ticking things off one by one is massively satisfying!
- Crop rotations. I like to divide my crops into categories (Brassicas, Alliums, Legumes etc.) so that I can operate a crop rotation every year. Based on where I grew things one year, I’ll swap where I put them the next year in order to replenish nutrients and *hopefully* reduce pests/diseases. I plan out the plot on paper first, mixing and matching which plants work best as companions before I draw out my big plans on the computer.
- Take your time planning. If you haven’t got a shed or greenhouse and want to build one someday, think about where this would be (and don’t put your perennials in there). Think about your paths and make the most of your space and of course start a compost heap early!
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! I have sown seeds which never germinated, I have had broccoli completely demolished by the pigeons, aphids, slugs and caterpillars and I have had a mini greenhouse destroyed in the wind. Though these things can be frustrating at the time, you learn how and why you should be doing things a certain way, and if all else fails there are thousands of gardeners online who have probably done the same thing and have a multitude of solutions for you!
I can’t wait to get the growing season underway properly. I’ve started my first early sowings but I’m still very much in the planning stage for this year. I’m probably most excited about growing tomatoes because they are such a staple food in the summer months”.
We hope you’ve been inspired by some of the wonderful tips shared by our influencers. If you have any top tips for keeping motivated, we’d love to hear them! Send us a message on our social media, and we’ll share your tips!