Many of us would love a beautiful Sunset magazine garden oasis overflowing
with brilliant flowers and gorgeous vegetables.
But, where do we find time for creating and maintaining a paradise?
Written by Jackye Meinecke
LACK OF THE TIME DOES mean we must settle for a concrete and rock garden. A weekend gardener can create a paradise by adopting some garden concepts to pare down the labor of creating an oasis around our courtyards and patios.
Working full time, left me with a few hours for gardening late in the day and Sunday afternoons. On a spring day, I might manage several hours of gardening—if I don’t tire too quickly. I love to garden, so I have flowerbeds, fruit trees, vegetable beds, and many garden projects. Over the years, I learned manage my efforts to get the most of my limited time. Here are my best tips for making your gardening more rewarding.
Seven Easy Steps to an Enviable Garden
Plan for your garden day
Pick a project or an area to complete and purchase the materials after work or on your lunch hour. With only a few hours to garden, you don’t want to spend time standing in line at a store.
Choose a project that can be completed in a short time
Limit yourself to a project that takes a few hours—or at least has a visible stopping point to hold until the next weekend or to complete in some evening. When planning a project in the garden, consider breaking it into steps that can be accomplished after work.
For example, I would plan to prepare a vegetable bed or new flowerbed on Sunday. During the week, I would pick up soil amendments, fertilizer, seed, seedlings, hoses and watering supplies, and other items needed for the project. On Sunday, I would till in the amendments and fertilizers. Then rake the beds smooth to plant. I’d install a watering system. If I had time or energy left, I would plant seedlings and seeds. If not, then I would plant in the evenings.
Tackle the heaviest gardening first
While you are still full of energy and enthusiasm. Save your favorite tasks for the end of the afternoon.
For example, I love to plant seeds and seedlings and snip at the plants. If I do these things first, the day disappears—quite happily—but beds aren’t prepared for planting or pruning isn’t done or weeds run rampant. If I tackle one of these tough jobs first, then I can find more energy at the end of the day to do the lighter tasks I enjoy doing. What a sense of accomplishment to get a tough job done and still find time for pleasure.
Raise vegetable and flower beds
Also use hardscapes, such as edging garden beds and paths, to make gardening easier.
Raised beds are easier to maintain. The rich soil created in raised beds holds moisture longer and provides nutrients so plants thrive. It also is easier to pull weeds and invasive plants, such as Bermuda grass, can be kept in check.
Edging flower beds with brick, flagstone, metal or other creative materials will provide a clear distinction for adding improvements, containing water, and keeping invasives in check.
Less is more and repeat, repeat, repeat
Rather than having one of each plant from the nursery, create a limited palette of plants that thrive in your garden and repeat them. Install a trio of large garden boxes rather than a half dozen small ones. Plant several dramatic, large containers rather than dozens of small ones. Make the patio or courtyard larger and paths wider, which will limit the size and number of flower and vegetable beds to tend.
Choose tough native or drought tolerant shrubs and perennials
Medium and small shrubs fill more space and require pruning once a year. Once established, they are more resistant to weather and drought, easing demands on the gardener. Similarly, perennials also develop larger root systems and become tougher each year. They require some deadheading for longer blooming, but once established, they demand little care. Save tender perennials, delicate annuals, and tropical plants for pots or flowerbeds near the patio — if you have time for something that requires regular attention.
Involve other family members in the garden
Children love to get in the dirt, play in and with water, and plant seeds. Hefting bags of soil and other materials is easier with wheels and with additional hands. Someone who can garden with you will speed things along. Plan a cookout after a day in the garden so the family has time to enjoy the rewards of their efforts.
In time, you will be rewarded with the beauty of an oasis you have created. You will have a space that is relaxing and brings you pleasure.