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Back in the day
…I didn’t have a whole lot of luck with plants. In fact the only gardening I did, if you could call it that, was take care of the plants around the house when my parents weren’t around. It was of course my job to mow the lawn but I wasn’t too excited about that. Watering outdoor potted plants was also on the list but for some reason, no I wasn’t even good at that. Actually, I’m still not good at it. Anything indoors is out of luck too.
So now I have a huge vegetable garden, lots of nice things planted around the house, and some serious potential developing next door in the form of a community type garden. So what’s the trick? I’m not terribly sure, but I perhaps it’s this. I think it would be somewhat accurate to state that I’ve killed at least as many plants as I have kept alive. The survivors are what you see. If you want to learn from my failures here’s a few tips, that hopefully are transferable.
1) Know your limits
Once upon a time I tilled up my entire lawn and reseeded it. I heard from several people this was a bad idea, but I did it anyhow. Hundreds of dollars in tools, seed, water, and tears. It took a super long time and in the end it just wasn’t manageable. I had hoses all over the place. Sprinklers to move everywhere. Ugh. What a nightmare.
Figure out how long you want to spend on things. Then do that. Easy enough.
2) Plant perennials and annuals together.
There’s something wonderful about plants that you never have to plant again. But just because the bad news is that they grow bigger and bigger each year. There’s a drive to fill up all the space in your gardens with plants but if you do that with your precious perennials, you are going to get lots of smothered plants in a few years. I’ve had good luck with planting my perennials where I’d like them to be and then put annuals in the gaps. You’d be amazed at some of the cool stuff you can get that is nearly identical to the perennials. In year two, you can plant less or none of the annuals, depending on the growth of your perennials.
Another nice thing on this is that sometimes the perennials end up not living really well in that spot. So if they poop out on you, you still have the annuals. Last bit is that Perennials are expensive. And if you plant all the ones that you want, you might go broke! I started with some core plantings in year one, with some supplemental annuals. Then slowly added new perennials. Now years later, I only have 3 places where I put annuals. Easy 🙂
3) Breakups are ok
Lots of perennials do this lovely thing… they split. Or rather, they grow in such a way that you can dig them up, separate them, and pop them back in the ground. Usually it will take about 3 years or so but you’d be surprised how many plants you get if you separate things well. Also, you know it’s going to grow well because it was strong enough to grow big in the first place. If something sprawls out too much, or you decide you don’t like it, or whatever… it’s ok to just get rid of it. A handy tool for this is craigslist. Just post what plants you have and quite often people will come dig them right out for you.
4) Spend smart
Weeds and water are the make or break point in so many cases for my gardens. I’ve set up a rather modest set of soaker hoses and Y splits to water 3 areas of plantings around the house. All are hooked up to a spigot and can have a timer attached. Might seem like it’s a waste of money but just think of how many plants you won’t have to buy next year if you keep these healthy and growing.
If you’re on town water in an area that allows it, get an irrigation meter. These are meters that hook into an outside faucet. Water bills almost always use the water that goes into a house as the measure of what goes into the sewer. Typically this doubles your ‘cost’ of water. The meter ties in to an external spigot, then you can have whatever flows through it deducted from the sewer part of your bill. Often you have to pay a one time fee for the meter usually but it’s worth it quickly. Especially the month that you accidentally leave a hose running while you go out of town or something.
Weed control on the other hand I’ve found is better to go on the cheap. I’ve done the landscape fabric sometimes but it ends up just being a pain if you want to plant next year. Recently though I’ve have had good luck with cardboard. Newspaper is a common trick as well but the weight of cardboard does a good job at staying in place. It will last you about a year or two which can often be long enough to smother weeds or grass. It has a big step up over fabrics too in that weeds can’t root through it while it’s in tact. Often grass seed and weeds can push roots through the fabric but I’ve not had the same issue with cardboard. Pizza boxes are pretty great since you can’t recycle them (grease) but they break down just fine.
Anyhow, those are a few of my tricks. I suppose I should do complete posts for weeds and water. Maybe next week
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