Making gardening easier doesn't mean there won't always be something to do in the garden. Although most gardeners enjoy the time they spend working in their gardens, there comes a point when garden tasks can get ahead of you, making you can feel like you've bitten off more than you can chew. The following gardening and garden planning tips can put you a little ahead of the game.
Some of these tips are common sense and some may seem like more work in the short term, but they all really will make gardening easier for you. And that way you'll have time to create even more gardens!
- Feed the Soil You've heard it a thousand times, but do you do it? Start with great soil and you'll wind up with great plants. Healthy plants get less diseases, attract less insect pests and require less water. Plus you won't have to remember to fertilizer every other week.
Start with a good analysis of your existing soil. You can have all the essential nutrients tested or just the pH. Many nurseries provide this service as well as your local Cooperative Extension Service. If your soil is deficient in any minerals or nutrients, amend the soil according to recommendations. Then keep adding organic matter, like compost, regularly.
Slow release, organic fertilizers can help supplement deficient nutrients. But feeding plants with synthetic fertilizers can actually destroy the beneficial organisms and organic matter within soil and only provide a short fix. It's like turning your garden into a drug addict. It will need regular doses of fertilizer and more and more to get the same effect.
- Group Plants by Their Needs I'm sure you've heard the saying "Right plant for the right spot." That's the beginning of the equation. Of course you're going to want to put sun lovers in the sun and ground covers where they can roam. But consider how efficient it would be if you put all your water hogs together so you could just turn on the sprinklers or drag the hose to one area and be done. The same goes for plants that require a lot of deadheading or vegetables that need to be harvested daily or hourly, like zucchini. You can still mix in different bloom times and variations in color, form and texture. It's just the heavy maintenance chores that should be consolidated.
- Choose Lower Maintenance Perennials There will always be primadona plants you have to have (although probably less and less of them as you get older), but make the backbone of your garden perennial flowers that can take care of themselves. Plants like Astilbes and Sedums, that look good all season and don't need deadheading, pinching or staking. Here are even more low maintenance perennials.
- Raised Beds & Containers It's much easier to control your garden if it has definite boundaries. Containers provide the ultimate in control. You control the soil, water, exposure and even limit the growth of the plants in the container. Raised beds separate the garden beds from their surroundings. Ideally, lift the beds up by 6 inches or more. You'll have the benefits of controlling your borders and you'll be saving your back from some bending.
- Install Drip Irrigation This is one of those suggestions that sounds like it's going to cost a fortune and require a professional to install - and it can. But it doesn't have to. They've reduced drip irrigation to a tinker toy level. Believe me, if I can grasp it, so can you. There is an initial cost, although no where near what you might fear, and you will need to do some measuring. But unless you rely solely on rain to water your gardens, you will actually save money in the long run. Drip irrigation is far more efficient than any other type of watering. Plus it puts all the water right where your plants need it. Add an inexpensive timer and think of all the time you've saved yourself.