The Essential Spring Gardening Checklist - Pro Tips For A Better Garden With Less Workby Alex West

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” - Margaret Atwood 


Spring is almost upon us, and that means it's time to begin planning your garden. Science has known for many years that the very act of gardening benefits your physical and psychological health. So it's only natural to add this activity to your daily life. However, for some people, it's not easy to fit it into their hectic schedule. No matter what your skill level, size of your yard or budget, there are simple ways to make gardening cost less time, money and energy. 


You can begin by learning what planting zone you are in, as this assists in selecting the proper flora, consider the size of the yard you'll have to work with, or if you'll require fencing. By implementing some of the time-saving tips below, I’m confident that you'll be well on your way to creating a lush, green haven for yourself as well as family and friends


The Perfect Plan


Making a sound and solid plan of action before you hit the greenhouse or garden center is the first step when it comes to creating your perfect garden without investing a ton of your time. To being with, consider your basic layout: What part of your garden will be for vegetables, which for flowers and what part you'll use as a play area for kids and pets. If you are new to gardening, then it's a good idea to keep your plan on the small side, so you don't get in over your head. 


If a garden design isn't your thing, yet you don't want to pay for a professional landscaper, I suggest you take a look at some of the free, open source garden design software available for download. These garden planners help you layout your garden and make plans from the comfort of your very own desktop. By doing so, you'll get a good idea of what part of your yard to devote to tomatoes, a kiddie pool, shade trees, flower gardens or a dog run. These garden planners not only save you time but money as well as you have less of a chance of buying plants and garden features you'll never use. Some of these garden planners include:


Smart Gardener

Better Homes and Gardens Planner



Keep it Under Control


So many of us desire to have one of those “House Beautiful” type gardens we see in magazines. Sadly, we often forget that gardens are composed of living greenery which continues to grow, spread and develop during the season. This, in turn, means you'll be spending your off hours' clipping, pruning, mowing, weeding and watering. 


So, if you want a lush, green paradise out back, but lack the time or inclination to care for one, consider a container garden. Container gardens are relatively inexpensive and very easy to care for, plus they are mobile, which means you can hang pots from fencing, place them on a patio, or rearrange them as often as you like. Examples of vegetables that grow well in containers include Tomatoes, green beans, peppers, and eggplant. As for shrubs you've got Rosa Munstead Wood, Luma apiculata, Rhododendron, and Pieris japonica, among others. 


Raised flower beds perform the same function with regards to control, as you are controlling the surface area and placement of your plants. If your landscaper is into creating hardscaping structures, you can request they create raised gardens made of brick and stone, which can also provide extra outdoor seating. Another benefit of raised plant beds is the lessening of wear and tear on your body. This is especially true if you have arthritis or back issues, as you can raise the flower beds to a decent height, which reduces bending and reaching. If you're looking for temporary raised gardening solutions, think hay bales. They are inexpensive, are only for one season and provide an excellent bed for your plants.  


Wheels?


Yes, wheels. Whether you use your child's toy wagon or an expensive garden caddy, wheeling your plants and garden supplies from place to place will save you time and energy. Here, you'll be able to place your potted plants in the wagon, as well as your gardening implements, and quickly move them to wherever you'd like. If you'd like something a bit more fitting to the situation, then check out the various wheeled caddy's available at your garden center. These caddies are used to haul everything from leaves to stone birdbaths. There are also wheeled scoots with swiveled seating. By using these scoots you can sit and prune, weed or plant in one spot, and when finished, scoot yourself to the next. 


Ergonomic Gardening Tools 


It's no secret that some gardeners experience back and joint aches from time to time. To help lessen this, simply purchase ergonomic gardening tools. These tools are specifically designed to ensure that the tools take on the brunt of the pressure off of your joints. Examples of these tools include ergonomic hedge pruners with rotating handles, garden kneelers, and bionic gardening gloves. If you have a hard time bending or reaching for items, consider purchasing long reach or telescoping gardening tool sets. 


Low Maintenance Plants 


Low maintenance plants are best for both the busy person or beginner gardener. Before you begin to select your plants, get to know your zone and the type of plants that grow well there. For instance, a citrus tree will flourish in Florida, but might not do so well up north, whereas an apple tree would do nicely up north. Perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees are an excellent choice for the beginner gardener. 


These plants spring up, year after year on their own, with little effort from you. Daylilies, vines, peonies, and daisies are prime examples of perennials you see every day. If you're into saving water or live in a hot, dry climate, then it pays to become familiar with Xeriscaping. Xeriscaping refers to landscaping which uses drought-resistant plants such as ornamental grasses, coneflowers, and daylilies. When at the garden center, look for plants that have the WaterWise symbol on their labels. WaterWise plants require less water, which means less work for you.


 Save Time Watering


There are a couple of ways to save time on watering your plants, but you need to determine how much water is needed and how often. Instead of wasting a lot of time (and potentially precious plant life) with trial and error, do your research on the optimal living conditions of your plants and get a Soil Moisture Meter. Then, you can purchase a sprinkler or two, and put it on a timer. This not only saves you time, but you can set your timer to water your plants in the early morning hours, which is considered by experts to be the best time to water your garden. Another watering method is to install a drip irrigation system. These systems connect to your garden hose and provide water at ground level. If you're on the thrifty side, then just get an inexpensive garden hose, poke holes in it and weave it through your garden. Cover it with mulch to keep it out of site and turn on the tap. 


Weed Barrier Paper 


Weeding your yard either means hours of backbreaking, sweaty work, or using dangerous herbicides. To avoid this, some people prevent weeds from cropping up by lining their flower beds with plastic before they laid the dirt, plants, and seed. Today, you can purchase weed barrier paper. Sold in large rolls, all you have to do is roll the paper down on the ground, make holes where you want your plants to go, and cover with dirt or mulch. This way, you'll eliminate the need to constantly weed, and helps to cut back on dangerous herbicide use. 


Conclusion


There you have it, a few basic steps you can take to have a lovely garden while cutting back on the work involved. Items such as ergonomic tools, weed barrier paper, using low maintenance plants all combine to ensure you obtain your very own, thick, green and exquisite garden with as little effort invested as possible. If space is limited, you can elect to look into container gardening or use one of the many free to download garden planners available online. Whichever method you choose, remember that keeping a garden whether to cultivate vegetables or just for beauty, adds to the overall quality of life.




Step-by-Step Guide To Save Gallons of Water in Your Garden

We all love to spend time digging around in the dirt. The garden offers us time with family, time in nature, not to mention plenty of healthy food to eat. But are you really being green in the garden? It seems like a weird question, true, but it’s a fact that home landscaping can cost you a lot in water. A 32 sq foot garden requires roughly 20 gallons of water per week to grow a decent vegetable patch. 


But you don’t have to spend too much on your water bill to have a garden the neighbors can be jealous of or keep your family in organic produce all year round. With some careful water management and planning ahead, you can learn the techniques to keep your water healthy, without wasting a drop. 

 

1. Upgrade to Water-Efficient Emitters

If you’ve got a sprinkler or another outdoor water emitter on a timer, make sure your fixtures are water-efficient. An irrigation system should also be regularly updated if you’ve got one. The technology is improving by leaps, so ask your local experts to check out your system, and keep you on top of any upgrades. 

 

2. Keep Your Outdoor Faucets Updated

The same goes for repairs in and out of the house. Outdoor faucets, leaking pipes, and damaged hoses can cause severe problems to the health of your family and your home. But they also cost gallons of water in the garden. 


During your regular spring cleaning, as you get ready to step out into the sunshine again, check any outdoor faucets and pipes, as well as your irrigation systems and sprinklers, for leaks and dents. Keep an eye on these throughout the season. 

 

3. Install a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel can help you conserve natural water, which means wasting less of the water in your home. It’s also free of many of the salts and chemicals present in most city water sources. Bonus, there are plenty of green-home initiatives in your community which you can take advantage of through installing a rain barrel and having an at-home compost, both of which help with your garden, and your water consumption. Good, nutrient-rich soil, like the kind that’s been fed with compost, tends to need less water. 

 

4. Apply Some Mulch

Mulch does a great job keeping nutrients and moisture in the soil for longer. It also helps keep the root zone cool. Organic mulches can include wood chips and shredded bark, as well as leaves. All that good stuff helps contribute to the nutrients in the soil and makes your garden healthier over time. Along with mulch, long grasses can help slow down moisture evaporation and attract dew. Grow your grass about two inches to help shade the soil. 

 

5. Get Yourself A Moisture Meter

Excessive watering is hands-down the most common of all reasons you’re losing water in your garden. Not only is it bad for water waste, but it can also cause root rot, encourage pests, and may contribute to other problems in your garden. A moisture meter can help you by providing the data you need about when is the best time to water your garden. So you won’t waste a drop, but your garden can stay healthy! 

 

6. Use Fish Tank Water 

Using household water to save water in your garden is a great idea. Fish tank water, in particular, is full of nutrients that will help the soil. It means you spend less money on plant food and non-organic fertilizer and it’s an excellent choice for your garden. Other great household water includes dishwater if you use organic dish soap, or even the coffee you’re not going to drink. Coffee grounds also make great fertilizer. 

 

7. Try Drip Irrigation

Drip Irrigation is one of the more efficient ways to water your plants. It can be complicated, but getting some advice from your local garden center or hardware store can help you build a DIY irrigation system of tubing, to help you water those hard-to-reach places, and keep the water exactly where you need it. No spraying, no waste. 

 

8. Get Some Drought-Friendly Plant Life

When all else fails, investing in some drought-friendly plant life goes a long way. It means you don’t have to worry about watering, and you won’t overwater. You don’t need to stick to cacti. There are plenty of beautiful plants that do well in drier climates.


Portulaca – An annual with beautiful flowers that grow in low clusters and thrives in warm places other flowers would wilt.


Coneflower - Self-sowing and known for their beautiful yellow flowers and drought-tolerant nature.


Catmint - Pretty and great for borders and rock gardens, these flowers are highly aromatic and draw plenty of bees and butterflies to your garden


Yucca - A tree or bush plant that thrives in arid temperatures.


Lavender - Lavender is the little flower that could. Not only is it beautiful and aromatic, but it’s also got lots of health benefits and can help with everything from relaxation to boosting your immunity. It’s also native to the Mediterranean, which means it’s suitable for warmer climates and doesn’t need a lot of watering.


If you’re growing vegetables and herbs, aim for those that grow in arid temperatures or can thrive in the shade, where there is bound to be moisture in the soil longer. 

 

In the garden, the right tools are everything, and that means going beyond sunlight, water, and love, sometimes. Watering your garden can take a lot, and if you’re genuinely committed to a greener future (not to mention lowering your water bill), you’ll find ways to cut down on water use in the garden. It’s possible, with the right tools, and the right know-how. Make your world greener without costing you a green yard. 




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