It was about half an hour into Christine Walkden’s talk at Seedy Sunday in Brighton last month when it dawned on me that I appeared to be one of the “bad gardeners” to which she was jovially referring.

I looked down at my notepad at the words I’d just copied down:

It is essential that you pH test your soil. Make sure you always follow the instructions on seed packets and plant seed in the right way, to the right depth.

I found myself sinking a bit lower into my chair.

As I’ve written before, my pH testing kit, bought many years ago, is still in its packaging; it has never been used. As for meticulously reading the instructions on seed packets – forget it. I don’t even use them a lot of the time, preferring to lazily shake my newly harvested home-saved seed into the ground where I’d like it to grow. When I do, it’s a case of glancing at the recommended date of sowing and that’s about it. Everything gets planted into leaf mould and is pretty much left to get on with it.

I started to mentally list all the other gardening activities that I avoid each year, and felt glad that I was hidden away at the back of the hall behind the enthusiastic audience of no doubt well-behaved gardeners in front of me. Was I really a very naughty gardener for not doing these things?

A robin in the garden
A robin in the garden.
Photograph: Kim Stoddart

When I got back home I decided to have a slow ponderous walk around my plot to consider how bad (or not) I may be. I’m not a meticulously tidy gardener; I prefer wild edges over pampered lawns. A this time of year, there are still the remains of seedheads left to provide winter feed for the birds. Then there are the stinging nettles at the back of the garden that I always leave to pop up each year – this may not bag me a gold gardening star but it does harbour a range of beneficial insects such as ladybirds to aid me in my gardening efforts each year.

My young cherry and peach trees could do with a bit of attention as they were looking very sorry for themselves last year. My hands-off approach in this regard should probably warrant a slap on the wrist. I was waiting to see if they’d sort themselves out as they grew bigger and adjusted to their environment; (which in my experience can happen), although sadly not in this case. These highly-sensitive trees obviously don’t like where they are, so I’m going to move them to a more protected spot. In the case of the cherry tree this means a chintzy Grecian urn-style pot I had kicking about which will hopefully fool the tree into thinking it’s in warmer climes.

Leek seedlings grown from home-saved seed

Leek seedlings grown from home-saved seed save time and money.
Photograph: Kim Stoddart

As I peer around the veg patch, I’m very pleased to find that there are a number of young leeks growing vigorously in one of the raised beds. These are the offspring from the “herd” of 20 leek plants that I left to flower and seed last year. Rather than collecting and packaging the tiny seed, I again just shook the heads to let the seed fall out. It may not be conventional but you can’t argue with the results.

Yes, I’m obviously a tad rebellious, which is why I’m gardening for free in the first place: if I don’t always agree with conventional advice, why not do what works for me? My soil’s healthy and the seeds I plant grow well, so it’s not as if I’m rebelling to the detriment of my gardening efforts. I just don’t see the point of getting bogged down in gardening red tape when I can avoid much of that by applying a bit of common sense.

I believe gardening is about finding what works best for you. I like give-it-a-go gardening that’s fun and full of adventure (as well as plenty of nice edibles). If that means I’m a bit of a bad gardener then so be it.

I’m sure I’m not the only naughty gardener out there – what traditionally-recommended activities do you think are a complete waste of time and worth actively avoiding each year?