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Do less in the garden

If you wonder what should be
done in the garden during the month of August, Louisiana State University
horticulturist Dan Gill has a standard response: “As little as possible,” he
advises.

Instead, August is a good
month to take stock. Which plants are performing well, or even thriving, in the
heat? At season’s end, ambition is tempered by wisdom. Note to self: Plant
fewer zucchini next year. Stake the tomatoes earlier.

It’s also a perfect time to
take stock of how well you are surviving your gardening season. Is it still
fun? Or are you overwhelmed? Do your wrists and knees ache?

Before you plan next year’s
garden, consider this book of shortcuts by Sydney Eddison: Gardening for a
Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older (Timber Press, 2010).

“Sometimes the departure of
some things is to the benefit of others,” Eddison says. “Don’t be in a hurry to
replace something in the garden. Wait and see what happens.”

Eddison suggests these shortcuts.

  • Reject perfection. Leaves
    left under shrubs serve as great mulch for the soil.
  • Thin perennials. The greater
    number of varieties grown, the more your work will multiply.
  • Switch to shrubs. Look for
    ones that don’t require pruning.
  • Nurture shade gardens. Shade-tolerant
    plants are easier to care for. Weeds are more feeble in the shade and can be
    controlled by a generous layer of mulch.
  • Incorporate your
    surroundings. Extend your garden by edging woodland with a few shrubs.
    Naturalize daffodils for ground cover.
  • Miniaturize. Container
    gardening is a viable option and satisfying to the eye.

Nancy Pollard, University of
Illinois Extension horticulture educator, also promotes patio gardens. “A child’s
old wagon will grow lettuce nicely and can be moved to where the sun shines,”
she says. “Farming on your patio puts the harvest close by.”

Another tip is to consider
grouping your plants according to their light, water, and care needs. For
example, put thirsty plants together and plant vegetables that require daily
maintenance next to each other.

Vertical gardening is
another practical option. Raised beds minimize bending. Beds should be about waist
high and no wider than you can reach across – unless they’re accessible from
both sides.

Make sure you’re mulching.
It cuts down on watering, weeding, and fertilizing.

Plan ahead for 2012

Take a critical look at
other hazards posed by your gardening habits or landscaping style. Eliminate
trip hazards, including uneven paving stones or garden hoses. Put tools and
other supplies on wheels so you can avoid pushing or pulling.

Consider adding a new line
of ergonomic tools to your birthday or Christmas lists, including ratchet
pruners, bent rake, and cushion-handle trowels.

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