Tuesday 18 October 2016

"Jobs to do for Autumn"

A Grumpy Old Man whinge today:- I get really annoyed by all the blogs that tell me what I should be doing in my garden - the "Ten jobs you should be doing right now" sort of thing. This is not the approach I take with my blog and my garden. I prefer to describe what I am doing, and let readers judge for themselves whether they should be doing the same. It seems arrogant and unreasonable to suppose that everyone should follow a set of rules that must somehow apply to everyone, whatever their circumstances!

Temperature in one of the mini-greenhouses - not October, but June!

I recognise of course that people all have their different ways of doing things. Maybe some people like to be told in exact detail what they ought to be doing. Perhaps the novice gardener needs step-by-step instructions, but I think a competent gardener knows more-or-less instinctively what needs doing. "Oh, it's October, so I had better harvest the pumpkins. And plant some bulbs. And start raking up leaves..." You know the sort of thing I mean?

This brings us back to the perennial question "Why do I write a blog?". I think perhaps some people don't see the difference between a website and a blog. In my opinion, a website is primarily a relatively static resource to be consulted (this is the place to look up what jobs you should be doing in October!), whereas a blog (let's give it its original full title - "web-log") is primarily a more dynamic arrangement for "logging" one's own activities - a bit like writing a diary that other people can see. Well, that's the way I see it anyway.

Lara admiring the chillis - June 2011

I know through interaction with many of my readers via Comments and emails that they read my blog daily, and follow what I've been getting up to, even though many of them are not gardeners themselves. Perhaps they like that daily reassurance that things are ticking over the same as always? For my part, the blog serves as a Garden Diary, enabling me to record in words and pictures what has happened (mostly in the garden, but to a lesser extent in the kitchen). This helps me to learn from my efforts, because I have a ready reference available for comparing things like sowing / planting / harvesting dates and year-on-year performance.

My first cold-frame (not on a par with the one that Jane recently won for me!

I have to say though that searching for something on the blog has recently become more difficult. Have you noticed how the Search facility in Blogger has changed? You used to be able to search all the text in an entire blog for the occurrence of a particular word or phrase. Now the search only looks at the post titles, which is of very little use at all! What this means is that now a reader who remembers that I wrote about something that they are currently interested in, or gave a tip that they want to re-visit, may not be able to find it. Very frustrating. It almost tempts me to move to website format , with categorised and indexed content. ("Almost", I said).

OK, I've had my say. What do YOU think? Do you want rules and instructions, or do you want the daily "story"?


  1. I for one am very glad you write a blog. You are very inspiring and there is always something interesting. So I guess I request the daily story. I will never lose the awe from growing food and of couse the difference from store bought.

  2. I agree with you. It is OK to browse web sites for some advice but, we know our garden the best. Not a single year in the garden is the same and that is the beauty of gardening. I love to learn from my own experience as well from the experience of others so, I like the 'daily story' more.

  3. Oh definitely the daily story ....I love to see what folk are doing in different parts of the country . I love those cold frames ...I could do with two or three of those ! :)

  4. I by far prefer the story and the personal experience. The one thing that most frustrates me about "story" blogs though is when authors don't tell you where they are gardening, then you are deprived of the context that makes it possible to learn something from their experience.

    I don't have the same problem with the search function on my blog, I just tested a search and had many pages pop up, only two of which had the search query in the title. Perhaps there's a setting that needs to be changed on your widget?

  5. The daily story for sure!!

    Like yours my blog is also my diary of our lives, what we plant, when we plant it, polytunnel progress, the DIY that has finally been done or its progress as we do it. I look back frequently over the seven years I have had the blog to find out when things happened or to compare weather at times of the year. I'm still amazed that so many folk from all over the world read it, but very happy that they do.

    I ended up putting a disclaimer at the bottom of my blog as people were mistaking it for a 'how to' blog and it's most definitely never meant to be that. I do things my way, the way that I know they work for me, it was never meant to be an instruction manual for living in the country.

    That said I don't mind answering the odd question if folk get stuck. The Search box still works fine for me bringing up posts with mentions of the words I enter, I wonder why yours has changed?

  6. There's a corollary to this and that is, why do I read blogs? Or what kind of blogs do I like to read?

    1. day-to-day experiences because these are balanced, not all good things, not all bad things
    2. absolutely no commercialism, no, I do not want to buy your latest book, or know what you think about some tool that has been given to you or your newspaper column; on the other hand, I do like unsolicited reviews
    3. good photography, photos large enough to see and not too many
    4. goes without saying blogs must be on topics I like, these blogs build community and offer comfort
    5. agree with Michelle, I want to know where you are and what the weather is like or the soil, etc.
    So, yes, Mark, I like the way you are doing it a dynamic, personal diary you are sharing with us. Thank you.

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  7. Oh, I MUCH prefer personal experience to "how-to" sites which sometimes seem as if they are written by people that have actually never done the task being written about!

    I enjoy reading (and learning from) others experiences in the garden. Gardens and gardeners are dynamic, always changing, learning, improving. I have plenty of "how-to" books but practical experience, successes, pitfalls, problems, etc., that is what makes a blog not only enjoyable and interesting, but also a valuable tool for learning.

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  9. I much prefer the diary format over others, it's how I approach mine after all ;-)

    I just don't do at as well, or as often as you :-/

    I've got one or two posts now I want to make stand out, I'm just rejigging my blog a little actually so I'm going to add a "Featured Posts" part so that they stand out a bit more. Maybe you could think about doing the same?

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  11. Hi Mark, I've found with my blog that the personal story, and my way of doing things - however amateur, eccentric and sometimes doomed to failure - seems to get the best response... which is engagement from the readers. There's nothing nicer than a comment appearing! They might be unaware, but it's a huge compliment that someone has read a post, and even more when they take their time to comment on it.

  12. In terms of the search box, I haven't noticed any difference because I'm not on Blogger. But it's useful to know that you can use Google to search a particular site. If someone wanted to search for pumpkins on this site, for example, they would need to put "site:marksvegplot.blogspot.co.uk pumpkin" into Google (without the quote marks). The spacing is important - no space after site, and then a space before the keyword(s) you want to search for. Endlessly useful for websites with rotten seach functions! :)

  13. My sidebar search gadget still works as it always has done and doesn't just read the title.

    I don't really want to read about things instruction either. There are many ways of doing the same thing and what you do and when depends very much on where you live your soil and allsorts of other variables. I must add met I am happy that not all the blogs that I visit post daily as I would find it incredibly difficult to keep up with everything that they were doing. My blog is linked to my website where there are more permanent static articles so I sort of combine the two ideas in one. From what I have been told, many people don't realise it's just two things stitched together and think it is all one blog or website.

    In many ways I write my blog for fun as I enjoy writing about what I have been doing and I also like to read comments about how different or the same gardening is for other people it's almost like just having a chat with a group of friends about something that interests you all. I agree that I want to know where people are gardening on my blog roll I put whenever I know the place that the blog is set.
    I also find that in writing the blog I learn something new as I tend to think about things more deeply orI'll do some research on the Internet.

    I do sometimes stray off the subject of gardening mainly into the realms of wildlife but I think many readers appreciate this as in this way they know that I am not JUST a gardener and nothing else interests me. After all if readers don't want to read about anything other than gardening they can always jump the non-gardening posts can't they?

  14. I think there is a big difference between bloggers who blog and bloggers who write to educate. I used to share the typical “what I am doing now” posts, but found that more people enjoyed the “how to” posts. I learned from the comments and emails I received that most of my readers wanted to be guided and want to be sure they are doing things correctly. I shifted my focus to more educational tutorial posts to encourage people to grow and preserve their own food. I hope to help them establish confidence by sharing what has worked for me and encourage them to explore and develop their own creative gardening ideas. I think there is plenty of room for both blogging approaches. It depends on the type of readers you have and how you wish to interact with them.


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