Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Are you already tired thinking about all the upcoming gardening chores?
Do you wonder how you'll get it all done? Then you're like many gardeners
whose gardens have gotten out of control and are running them. By
"smart gardening" you can work less and enjoy your garden more.
As the saying goes, "don't bite off more than you can chew." Only order seeds you can plant, or grow as many plants as you can plant and maintain. Remember they'll need weeding and watering. The same applies to buying plants, whether by mail or at stores. One trick I use is to limit my beds to only what I can maintain. Once full, that's it, unless I take something out or something dies.
Just as you are physically limited to what you can do, so are you limited in your knowledge and skills. None of us knows everything about gardening. Dr. Lois Berg Stack, University of Maine Extension specialist, suggests you take advantage of other people's knowledge, learn from their mistakes, and listen to their suggestions. When you are faced with a job that is too large, too dangerous or too complex to do yourself, hire a professional!
Dr. Stack also has other useful suggestions, such as some pertaining to watering. Invest in high-quality hoses, nozzles and other irrigation system components. Use low-volume delivery systems. Change gaskets to eliminate leaks. Replace plastic hoses with rubber hoses. Use timers cautiously. Avoid water-wasteful overhead sprinklers.
Invest in high-quality, low-impact tools, and make sure they're the right tools for the job. Replace old hand tools with ergonomically well-designed tools; it will lengthen your years of gardening. Purchase tools that will last for your gardening life. Wear gloves, good boots and a hat when gardening.
Use carts to move heavy objects, and match your choice of carts to your gardening activity. Purchase sturdy carts that fit your paths, and design new paths to fit your cart. No single cart is right for all gardening activities.
Inspect compost, soil and mulch … before you buy them. Weed seeds are often moved from one location to another in these products. Depending on the source, these materials may contain herbicide residues. Be aware that "loam" is a very broad term!
Garden in raised beds -- build one or two each year until you have as many as you need. Raised beds are warmer than flat ground. You can more easily improve the soil in a raised bed. Raised beds help you target applications of soil amendments like fertilizer and organic matter. Raised beds make weeding easier. Raised beds help define the space in a garden or landscape.
Weed, and then mulch. Removing the weeds is only the first step. You can go a long way toward preventing a second crop of weeds by applying mulch promptly after weeding. Continued and regular cultivation of new beds will keep bringing weed seeds to the surface where they see light, and so germinate.
I find gardening much easier if I avoid root and seed invasive plants-those that are quite aggressive and spread by either roots or seeds. Those spreading by roots include the Japanese bamboo, goutweed, mint, and the creeping loosestrifes (Lysimachia). Grasses to avoid in this group include the ribbon grass (Phalaris), blue lyme grass, and one species of maiden grass (Miscanthus sacchariflorus).
Plants that "self sow" in the garden, and perhaps beyond, include mallows, onion family relatives, and of course the notorious purple loosestrife (Lythrum). This is not related to the other loosestrifes. It should not be planted as it invades and destroys wetlands.
Choose the right plants, tools, and garden designs, and you'll be gardening smarter this year. This should give you less stress, and more time to enjoy your garden.