Saturday, October 6, 2007

You can have a beautiful garden even with a busy lifestyle, just watch out for these things...

If you find that gardening is one long battle against the clock and calender, take a look at the way you have designed your garden, the plants you have chosen and how you organize your work. Consider the 12 top time-wasters on this post and decide how you could achieve the garden that you really want and also leave yourself time to enjoy it.

1. Training
Select climbers that need no tying to their supports. Avoid trained forms of plants that require pruning and tying in every year. Also avoid climbers that need regular pruning to keep them healthy, productive and under control.

2. Hedging
Instead of a formal hedge that needs trimming regularly, use an informal border of compact evergreen shrubs which don't need pruning. If you want a hedge, choose one that is not too vigorous for the chosen position and that is trouble free.

3. Equipment
Use the right tools, garden products and equipment to get the job done fast. If a task is easy to do, don't leave it to become a problem. For occasional big tasks, consider hiring specialist tools or employing a contractor to do the job for you.

4. Watering
To reduce watering time, grow drought-tolerant plants, apply a layer of mulch to prevent evaporation from the soil and water only those plants that really need it. Install an automatic watering system, especially where regular watering is needed for container plants and in the greenhouse.

5. Maintenance
Avoid the need for staking by growing compact versions of tall perennials or planting them close together so that they support each other. Select flowering plants with weather-resistant blooms which stand up to wind and rain and don't need regular deadheading for continuous flowering.

6. Edging
Keep edges to a minimum by making the lawn shape simple. Install a mowing strip along the edges of the lawn so that the lawnmower can trim right over the edge. Any akward tufts of grass and rough areas can be dealt with quickly using a line trimmer.

7. Mowing
Cut your mowing time in half by simplifying the design of your lawn. Avoid awkward corners and fussy shapes by converting them to sweeping curves that are easy to cut without stopping and starting. Also remove any obstacles such as overhanging shrubs and specimen trees that slow you down as you mow. If you have several specimens in a lawn, link them together in a single island bed.

8. Pruning
Choose plants that will perform reliably with minimal pruning. Keep any pruning you do as simple as possible. For instance, don't bother following traditional pruning methods for hybrid tea and floribunda roses, just cut all the stems down to 45cm high using shears, secateurs or even a hedge trimmer. Prepare prunings for the compost heap quickly by using a shredder, or spread them on the lawn and chop them up with a rotary mower with a grass catcher, or use a garden vacuum that mulches too.

9. Digging
Garden plots require no digging at all once you have adopted a no-dig bed system for growing vegetables. If you are preparing a vacant plot of planting shrubs or flowers, get rid of the weeds, dig in a thick layer of organic matter and from then on you need only mulch and let worms improve the soil.

10. Planting
Grow trouble-free and long-lived shrubs and perennials instead of annuals, to avoid replacing bedding plants every year. Choose low maintenance plants for your climatic zone. Prepare soil well so that new plants establish quickly and resist pests and diseases.

11. Spraying
Buy pest- and disease-resistant plants. If growing vegetables, choose modern, easy-to-grow varieties and protect them with insect-proof mesh. Encourage natural predators like birds by providing nesting, and growing plants that have berries and nectar rich flowers. Use biological controls in the garden, as these cause no damage to beneficial wildlife.

12. Weeding
Tackle weeds early so they don't have a chance to flower and spread seed. Then cover any bare soil with a layer of mulch or ground-cover plants to smother new weeds before they get established. Control problem weeds with weedkiller.

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