Encouragement (for Life as well as the Garden) Garden How to Get Things Done

A Strategy to Get Work Done When You Don’t Want to Work

As you know from my last post, my garden duty each day is based around harvesting. At the same time, harvesting also takes care of checking the overall garden, pest control, and seeing what has to be done in the days ahead.

The next step is to complete at least one task that I’ve designated as a have-to-do-today task.

And finally, I work at least 30 minutes on a major job I’m trying to complete.

If it’s a day that I’m really having a lot of trouble making myself work, I’ll stick to harvesting as my starting point. But if it’s a day I’m itching to work, it’s no problem to mix up the order of things.

One of the benefits about these two steps of performing pre-planned tasks is that it keeps you from “being all over the place” as Toni mentioned in her comment at the end of the Checklist post.

You’ll ALWAYS have stuff that can be done in a garden. Without a plan it’s very easy to be all over the place. (Ask me how I know. 😉 )

You might find you save lots of time (and keep your sanity as well) by planning the previous night what you want to accomplish in the garden each day.

Quirk of Being Human

Most of the time the above plan works well for me.

Then there are those days that no matter what my feelings were when I planned my day, I just don’t want to work on the tasks that I’ve designated for the day.

I had one of those days Monday.

My assigned task was to dig out some invasive roots that come into the garden from trees on the neighboring property. My “gut” was so against the task that I had one heck of a time even getting myself outside.

Those trees were not there when we moved here 18 years ago. Conditions were just about perfect for the garden until they were allowed to grow uncontrolled.

I’ll write about it in detail sooner or later, but for now I’ll just say that it’s one of those things I can do nothing about in spite of the impact it has on my life. For more than 6 years I’ve been trying to move past the negativeness of it all and focus on what I CAN do.

Not a New Feeling

That “gut” feeling of mine that rebels against everything I’m “suppose” to be doing is not new to me. I’ve fought it all my life.

And in order to get around it, I have all kinds of strategies and mental tricks that allow work to get done in spite of myself.

One of My Favorite Strategies and Some of its Benefits

I call it grazing. It can be applied in so many situations.

Using it,

  • I get lots accomplished.
  • That horrible feeling goes away.
  • I enjoy my time outside.
  • I end up feeling good about myself for the day.
  • And the other task has just been postponed for what amounts to 24 or 48 hours.

If you’re like me and end up using this strategy, you’ll find that many times the same task that was not appealing on your have-to-do-today list can be very enjoyable when grazing.

An Example of what I mean in the paragraph above:

My back border has been neglected for the past two years so I’m trying to get it back in shape.  Early in the year I had that on my list several times as a designated 30 minute task for the day.

Didn’t want to do it.

But, whenever my grazing strategy took me back there, I really enjoyed it.

How the Grazing Strategy Works

First I make sure to go prepared to do whatever comes along that I might want to work on. Definitely don’t want to waste time going back to get a tool.

So my garden basket has my “digger”, my snips, my gloves, and whatever else I might need.

I start either by walking my borders or my garden.  (Which ever I feel drawn to.)

As I go along, I do whatever I feel like doing.

Examples of What I Might Do

I do whatever needs to be done BUT at the same time appeals to me.  That may be

  • digging out a poke weed that has sprouted up,
  • pulling out creeping charlie,
  • digging out a piece of Johnson Grass that has taken hold
  • edging the borders where they need it most as I go along
  • pulling out a morning glory vine
  • preparing a bed to be ready to receive my lettuce seedlings on Friday
  • moving a plant I’ve wanted to move
  • weed the front walk way
  • dead head roses for more bloom this fall
  • cut back helianthus that has finished blooming and has discolored with mildew
  • cut back a bush I want to take out
  • pull up some wild solidago (golden rod)  (Some is nice; too much is not.)

By the time I finish my “walk around” I’ve accomplished a lot!

After grazing yesterday, I ended up back at the garden.  Spent an hour digging roots I had previously not wanted to dig.  Harvested my tomatoes and peppers to last two days.  Covered my flats of lettuce seedlings to protect them from the rain that was expected.  Went in the house about 45 minutes after dark. Felt great!

Another Use for Grazing

Grazing is also great for big projects because it doesn’t seem like a “job”.

Example – If you have a big area that’s out of hand and you’re trying to get it in shape, try my grazing strategy.

Start your project by just moving through that area.  Remain only a few minutes in any one spot and work as you go over the entire area; or however much you feel like covering.

Repeat the process over time and you’ll have the spot in shape without realizing you’ve even done the job.

My back border was like that.  First “move throughs” involved taking out unwanted little trees that came up; removing poke weed and wild solidago.  All the tall stuff.

After numerous times, I started removing wire grass, etc. Straw goes on as ground is cleared.

Final Thoughts

Most, if not all of us, have days that we don’t want to do anything we’re suppose to do.

Why not give grazing a try.  It just might make your day more enjoyable and at the same time enable you to accomplish a lot that had to be done anyway.


Related Posts:

Focus on What You Can Do

Playing with the Hand You’ve Been Dealt – Even in the Garden

Garden Checklist


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  • Oh, Theresa! I am a grazer! Regardless of what needs to be done, I graze, even if I go up to the garden with a particular task in mind. There are always certain things that go on daily, and they are not on a list but in my habits: weeding and killing bugs. I will confess that there are many times the weeding and bug killing take all of my time for any one session. (I generally garden in one hour increments in the summer due to the heat.)

    I have to say, I gasped when I read that you are digging out tree roots! I wonder how I would tackle that in ten years. Maybe I need to start doing muscle strengthening exercises in earnest!?!

  • Brilliant, Theresa! This makes me feel so much more productive, since I am a grazer, and didn’t know it!

  • I LOVE this. It sounds like art. I imagine it to be a very creative and fluid state of mind to be in…while unknowingly tackling all those garden tasks. How satisfying! I definitely need more of this.

  • Hi Theresa, I read every one of your posts and get so much from them. This hits really close to home, I live in Albuquerque NM and too have a neighbor with a yard that makes a mess in mine. Especially with the tree of heaven ( I call them stinky trees), they are weeds and there is no controlling them,they are all over my yard. I’m on 1/2 acre and they cover most of that land. I just keep working my gardens and moving the raised garden bed around trying to find where things grow best. So much for that, I wanted to tell you something I do to help with getting things done. I make a list of what needs to be done so I can check them off when they are done. “But” I often find myself disappointed because I don’t get much of the list done. I now take that list and add to it the things I did get done (we all get side tracked or find things that can’t wait to be done) then I check them off the list. At the end of the day I can see just how many things a really did get done even if they were not on the original list. Now I can see just how much I actually accomplished for the day.

  • Pat, if I ever get to write in detail about these horrible invasive tree roots, you’ll really gasp! I don’t particular like the thoughts of having to dig them out every year and 20 years from now when I’m 93!!!

    Dianna – glad you’re already a grazer!

    Patricia, I like how you compared it to art. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so enjoyable — it’s like being in the “zone” when an artist is creating.

    Demore, the trees that I’m dealing with perform identical to your tree of heaven. “Stinky” is too nice a name for them. They are horrors that NO ONE can relate to unless they’ve experienced them. Folks tend to think in terms of normal roots and have no idea of the horror these trees cause.

    I’ll still keep gardening. As far as I’m concerned, I have no other choice. So I deal with it the best I can, but it’s a nightmare — very literally!

    The roots of these trees spread more than 200 feet from the trees. They put down huge roots at least 6 feet into the soil AND then they put roots throughout the soil above those roots — all the way to the top where they’ll try to start more trees. In addition to that every single foot of all those roots branch off and form a maze of new roots.

    They’ve ruined my asparagus and I’ve had to come up with different strategies for a lot of the garden.
    So I totally relate to what you are going through with the tree of heaven. (They should call it the tree from hell.)


  • We should start a gofundme page for you to hire someone to bring a huge trenching machine and cut a six foot deep trench at your property line to cut them all off. Then what is left could just rot and become organic material for your soil. If you get a quote I’ll set up the page and make the first donation.

  • Ty, you are so thoughtful. Thank you.
    I’ll have to think about this and it’ll take me a while.
    Just so you’ll know, cutting off the roots will not kill the roots (of these trees) that have been cut off from the main system.
    That’s another thing that makes them monsters. They have a life of their own and will continue to try to put up trees and grow.
    If they would just rot to become organic material for my soil that would be grand, but that’s not what happens.
    Cutting them off at the property line would only be a temporary help. Unfortunately it would have to be done every 2 or 3 years. And even then I’d still have to continue to dig roots out.
    As I’m sure you are starting to see, I have a major problem.
    Thanks Ty, for your thoughtfulness. Good to hear from you. I’ve been wondering how you’re doing with all those acres you have. And, how’s your granddaughter?

  • Hi Theresa,(you hit a nerve 🙂 )
    I feel your pain…I believe I may have mentioned previously that my immediate neighboring property against my garden has 75-year old growth in their entire yard (a jungle and perfect habitat for every critter looking for fresh vegetables) that I affectionately call The Green Monster!

    Not only do I not get any sun in my garden until high noon, all those roots naturally search out the best soil and over (or under) the property line they come! Year after year I dig out and cut out many roots that sap the life out of my plants. AND I am with you 100% that even though the root may be severed from the main source of life, this species stays alive. I have severed roots from this monster so many times and found partial roots still thriving months later and even generating their own finger roots off this severed section, rich and full of fresh growth.

    But there’s always another side to the story isn’t there….for example, just last night we had a bad storm in my area. So much so that the tops of the trees were nearly bending over from the force of the wind. I have many plants that I grow up on trellises vertically to reduce the amount of “floor space” required for squash, cucumber, pole beans, and such. I looked out several times last night worrying about my garden wondering what I might find this morning. To my surprise, aside from some blown off leaves & blossoms, most everything is just fine! In thinking further…I wonder if the (40-ft tall) Green Monster didn’t act as a nice wind-break and protect my garden area??

    Ps. Two years ago I installed a standard chain link fence around my garden with another much smaller (1″x1″) link fence attached and buried 10″ deep alongside to prevent critters from digging underneath. You can imagine the work required when I buried the fencing along the back where The Green Monster lives! With hatchet, ax, maul, saw, shovel, and whatever else I could use (not enough room for a gas-powered trencher here)…..I chopped and hacked every root there was large & small to bury this fence! That was two years ago and I would say I actually noticed a difference the first year, but this year it’s basically the same with the amount of root infestation…oh that Green Monster…what can I do 🙂

  • Oh no. That is terrible. It sounds like one area I have. I also have alot of locust trees that seem to pop up everywhere and grow quickly. They are covered in long thorns and a real pain. I guess we all have burdens to bear that test us. My granddaughter is doing great! She is loving kindergarten and I’m enjoying that time to work on the land. I’m hoping to get a tractor in the spring to make things easier. Until then I just “graze” around doing what I can.

  • Just curious if you know what variety of trees these are, if nothing else so the considerate people can avoid ever planting them!

  • Jim – you know I relate to every word!
    A wind-break is always good, but one that is not a monster!
    We’ll just keep playing the hand we’ve been dealt.

    Ty, I’ve experienced locust trees as well. They’re bad but not as bad as the trees I mentioned.
    Glad to get the “granddaughter and work” update. Keep it up!

    Don, always good to have your comments.

    Anna, I’ve been told a few names of what they could be. I’ve forgotten right this minute what a friend just recently mentioned that they were. I’ll come back and post the name when I can ask her again.

    In the meantime a tree that should never be planted is tree of heaven. And I’d think long and hard about planting a locust as well.


  • If you like the look of locusts, my parents have a sunburst honeylocust that has never given them any problems, they seem to be nice trees. Quaking aspens however are of the “send runners up everywhere” inclination as are sumac bushes.

  • Theresa,
    From what I understand about how they work a, go fund me, page would be awesome for you! Please think about it.
    Some burdens are so much easier when shared.

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