I enjoy gardening the most when it aligns with my broader philosophy of life, so I thought readers might like to see that philosophy and see how I apply it to gardening. These principles are in random order, just as they are applied in life. Sometimes my focus is on having fun, other times I'm focused on planning, still other times I just want to kick back and chat to my friends and neighbours.

Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule

In business and most aspects of life, I've been a big believer in the 80/20 rule or the pareto principle, which formally states:

for many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes

What does this mean when it comes to gardening? well it definitely means that 80% of the harvest comes from 20% of the effort and that's a very powerful lesson to learn. The most productive 20% of your crops (spinach, lettuce, kale) probably deliver 80% of harvest value and most likely 80% of the micro-nutrients (but not calories) too. Thoroughly clearing weeds and applying a thick weed free compost mulch - 20% effort - takes a few minutes at planting time, but gets you almost as good (80%) a harvest as manicuring your beds every week, which is the remaining 80% of effort, to get just 20% more harvest.

We are always on the lookout for the quick tasks, simple techniques, best varieties etc that give us the very best results for the least effort.

We apply the 80/20 rule in reverse when it comes to eating, i.e. 80% of what we eat is home grown or home made, healthy food and 20% is whatever's convenient or tasty, which for me often involves chocolate and it’s not always 85% cocoa!


I'm always on the lookout for areas where my life might be out of balance. At work I used to think of this as 'work life balance', but it's the same idea now that I've retired. I want a balanced set of indoor and outdoor hobbies, physical and mental, relaxing and challenging, social and solo, expensive and money saving, scheduled and unscheduled.

Gardening is mainly an outdoor, physical, relaxing, solo, money saving and scheduled hobby. So it's useful to balance it with, for example, reading, which is an indoor, relaxing, solo and unscheduled hobby. I also like hiking/cycling which are physical, challenging, social, expensive, scheduled hobbies and writing which is an indoor, relaxing, solo, unscheduled one.

There are of course a lot more dimensions of balance that might be important to you, but the concept is the same. A balanced life is much more resilient to injuries, bad weather, financial woes, disappointing failures, pandemics etc.

For a broader view of balance, think about getting the right mix of challenge, effort, purpose, enjoyment and satisfaction out of life.


Having a lot of joy and enjoyment in life is very important to me, in fact it's one of the most important reasons that I garden, make YouTube videos etc. It's fun to push myself physically, to enjoy the beauty of a garden in full production, to watch plants grow, to eat them, to chat to neighbours and share what we grow. It's interesting to note though that most of the fun is coupled with effort, that’s good for my dopamine loving brain.


Sometimes it's not quite as much fun as a good book or hiking in the Lake District, but it's ultimately more purposeful and purpose matters too. Gardening with kids is close to the pinnacle of fun for me!

Working for happiness

I'm a big believer in earning or working for your happiness in life, rather than trying to just buy it. For me there's no better feeling than a hard hike with friends or family, that ends in a great view and a picnic. I like luxury, but I don't want it to come too cheap or too easy.

As a nation we have become addicted to easy pleasures, unhealthy food, social media, endless streaming video. We don't have to work for pleasures anymore. I don't think that's good for us. I revel in the hard work of growing my own delicious food, of DIY, of writing my book.