I, like many other gardeners, love to talk about gardening.
I have been known to bore people almost to death about
roses, primroses and pulmonaria. Recently it has gotten
to the point where I know who the other gardeners are
at parties and social gatherings because they are the
ones who do not avoid me.
Even I have to admit that there are people who like
flowers but do not share my all-encompassing devotion
to weeding, planting and making compost. Others may
or may not have the time, but they are strapped for
cash. Fortunately, with a little ingenuity and planning
you can combine gardening with a full life, a finite
amount of money and a crowded schedule.
Time is of the essence for most of us, so tailor your
garden endeavors to the time you have. You may want
to do the whole yard, but if you have only have thirty
minutes a week to spend on it, take things in easy phases.
Start with a strip, a corner or a small bed. Spend your
first 30 minutes planning. You don’t have to do
full-scale drawings, just sketch out the shape of the
space to be planted, note whether the space is sunny
or shady, choose a color scheme, and write down the
names of the plants that you particularly like. Figure
out how some or all of those plants can fit into the
space that you have sketched out. The following week
spend 30 minutes either buying or ordering your plants.
If you go to the garden center, consolidate the trip
with other errands. I usually make a trip to the garden
center the “dessert” after I have done “meat
and potatoes” errands such as going to the dry
cleaners, pharmacist and grocery store. Bring your plants
home, along with a few bags of mulch, and put the plants
in the proposed planting area. Water them each day after
you get home from work.. If it’s too much time
and effort to walk to the proposed planting area each
day after (or before) work, put the pots as close to
the back door as you can get without risking tripping
over them. Then all you have to do is lean out the back
door to water them.
The following week, install your plants. Do not bother
digging planting holes with a trowel, even for small
plants. Use a spade or shovel, and, by all means, dig
one big trench for groups of small plants. “Water
in” your green babies by putting water in the planting
holes before you fill them. This will give the plants
a good start, and save you the task of watering for
the first few days. If you have time, mulch around them,
if not, wait for the following week. Remember to water
on the third day after you plant, and every day or two
thereafter to keep everything alive. The next week,
mulch if you haven’t already.
By following the preceding four-week regimen, you will
have a ready-made garden of a manageable size. If any
of the steps take more than the thirty minutes that
you have available, rethink the size of your garden.
Making something delightful and manageable is the goal,
not adding to your guilt load. If you have established
a garden that is geared to your individual circumstances,
maintenance should take no more than your allotted 30
minutes per week, sometimes less. Check once a week
to see whether weeds are coming up through your mulch,
and pluck them out. Water regularly, especially for
the first six weeks after planting, and use recycled
“gray” water if water emergency conditions
persist. If you can, look at your new bed every day.
It will give you encouragement and joy.
. With patience and a little advance planning you can
do all of the above and still stay within budgetary
constraints The most obvious step is to know what your
budget is, either for the gardening season as a whole
or for each week or month. If you can do it, grow at
least a few of your annuals from seed. Pick self-seeding
varieties such as annual poppies, larkspur, snapdragons
and marigolds. Start them ahead of time indoors or sow
them directly into prepared soil after April 15. You
can get a lot of color for very little money. If you
are going out to the garden center, make a list before
you go and stick to it. Know who has the best combination
of price and quality. Sometimes a mega merchant can
sell you a particularly cheap flat of impatiens, but
if those impatiens have been languishing unattended
in the store’s display area they may not be worth
the price. A plant that dies after three weeks is not
a good value, no matter how low the initial investment.
Many fine garden centers include coupons in local papers
and in the coupon mailers that we all receive periodically.
Judicious use of coupons will get you premium plants
in season for mega merchandiser prices.
If you are on a budget, the end of the growing season,
when plants are on sale for one half to one third off,
is probably the happiest time of year for you.. Don’t
be put off by the fact that a perennial or even an annual
has bloomed already. End-of-season annuals can be cut
back and will reward you with a dramatic flush of bloom.
Perennials will not do that, but will come up with a
vengeance next year. Spring is also a great time to
take advantage of pre-season catalog sales on spring
blooming bulbs such as daffodils and crocuses. The other
advantage to ordering now is that you can see what is
currently blooming in your garden and plan for the future.
The bulbs won’t be delivered until the fall planting
season, and you can smile to yourself as others pay
full price for the same merchandise.
For manyof us this year it will be necessary to save
time, money and water. We can still have great gardens–as
long as we do not cut back on common sense.