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Talkin' Dirt - April 2017

April 2017 article

by Ellen Caywood

As the years go by, many of us change in our ability to do things in our yards.  But we love to garden! So I have found several ways to make my gardening easier and enjoyable.  I want to share some of the things I have learned.


Prioritize your tasks.   If takes longer to do things now days, focus on the areas you see everyday.  Views from the house and areas you see coming and going in your yard. Break up your tasks into smaller pieces.  Don’t say you will go out and weed the back yard.  Focus instead on one bed.  When that is done move to the next.  Get weeds before they bloom to cut down on more in the future. 


Evaluate your maintenance.  Do your ground covers need trimming several times a year?  Maybe it is time to take them out and use something else.  Do you really need the fussy hybrid tea roses?  Try Flower Carpet or Knock-Out Roses.  Add more shrubs to your landscape. Many require little yearly maintenance.  Some have great blooms, some are fragrant. Others are evergreen, providing color and texture for the winter months. Do you battle weeds each year? Add mulch, ground covers, more plants.  Nature abhors vacant land, so fill it with things you want. Be realistic about what you can accomplish.  Again prioritize.  Some tasks can be done at a later time. Find a good yard guy.  Have them do the tasks you don’t want to do or can’t do.  Then you can take your time to do the tasks you enjoy more. 


Keep your tools handy.  Always put your tools in their place at the end of the day.  Then the next time your heading out you won’t have to waste time finding them.  Keep multiple tools around the yard.  A mailbox in the far part of your yard can hold trowels, twine, clippers and other often used items.  Then when you are out, even for a stroll, you can take care of a task without taking time to go to the garage. Load up a cart with all of the tools you will need for the task you will be working on. Take a few minutes to think about what you will need.  This will save numerous trips back for forgotten items. Get the right tools and invest in good quality ones.  For me a garden stool to sit on, electric shears, long handled tools, a garden cart and ergonomic clippers are a must.


Make watering easier. Group plants with like watering needs. If you have a plant that requires more water than other plants in the area, move the thirsty plant.  That will cut down on the need to water some areas. Keep lengths of hoses around the yard and use quick connectors.  “Y” fixtures allow for multiple hoses to be run from one spigot. Shorter lengths of hose in various areas reduces having to drag hoses all over the yard. Have shut off valves on the ends of your hoses.  You can add or subtract lengths of hose or change water wands without a trip back to the main spigot. Place jugs of water around the yard (I use juice bottles).  They can be hidden behind plants.  That way when you see a thirsty plant you can take care of it immediately.  Works very well for newly planted things.  Watering wands are great for your containers. Group the containers close to the water source.



Select the best plants. Plants in the wrong place often need more attention, either pruning to be contained, extra watering. Maybe they don’t really look good.  Think about taking them, finding a suitable replacement. Focus on plants that work for you, that do well in your yard and you like.  Maybe there is a plant that reminds you of your childhood.  Even if it requires special pampering it may well be worth it. Use plants that look good long term. Using perennials, shrubs and trees in containers provide year round interest if they are evergreen.  Others come up in early spring and provide interest. Think of your yard as a Hotel.  Some plant is always checking in while another is checking out.  Not everything can be at its peak every day. Enjoy what looks good at the moment.


Enjoy your yard.  Have several places to sit and enjoy different views. Add wind chimes and water features.  Bring in the birds.  Add feeders and birdbaths.  Not only will they help eat bugs, they add sound and movement to your yard. Accept imperfection.  You may see every thing that is not perfect.  But if a visitor tours your yard they will likely see the good parts. So play visitor.  Look at what is good.


Spend quiet times in your garden, enjoying your the little slice of personal paradise you have created.

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