The internet is full of do-it-yourself articles on gardening techniques that every gardener should know. Here are some techniques summarized that the gardener can save time, effort and money while gardening and landscaping.
First of all is to know your site. Where are the sunny areas, shady areas, is it well drained or wet? Is the soil sandy, loam, clay or a variety from fill dirt?
Sunny locations usually get 6 hours of sunlight or more, while shady is usually less than 6 hours of sunlight. After a rain, check your site to see if the water runs off or sets there and forms puddles.
Check the soil texture in various location to see if your site has soil brought in from another location. This can affect drainage.
Check the level of nutrients in the soil. Get a soil test to your county Extension office and they can tell you what nutrients are lacking.
Use mulches in all your flower beds and keep a mulch ring around trees and shrubs. Mulch keeps out the weeds and prevents soil erosion, allows roots to breath and keeps soil from drying out to fast. Mulches can be decorated tree mulch or clippings from the lawn. Rocks and stones as mulch have a tendency to heat up in the summer making it too hot for nearby plants to grow.
Plan for season long colors in the landscape. Before planting anything, make a “four-season” plan that will have something growing in its prime or have colors from, flowers, berries, bark or evergreen leaves. With a little planning a gardener can find trees, shrubs, perennial and annuals that will provide color in the spring, summer, fall and winter.
Avoid using high maintenance plants in the garden. Choose the plants that are naturally neat in appearance, doesn’t need clipping or shearing, resist insect and disease pests and tolerates a variety of environmental stresses. A tall order to fill, but the local nursery staff can help make the decision on which plants will work.
Use a groundcover like ivy, vinca major and liriope grass to replace grass in problem spots such as shady areas, on slopes and in long narrow areas like between houses. Bermudagrass does poorly in shaded areas, whereas, using groundcover plants means no mowing.
Anytime the lawn mower has to stop, turn or backup, mowing time is increased. Lay out the landscape design to avoid corners or obstacles where the mower has to be stopped then go in a different direction. Laying a garden hose as a guide then running the mower along the hose will create the curves and round corners to eliminate those corners and obstacles.
Use edging of good quality between flower beds and lawn grasses especially bermudagrass. Wood, metal, stone, concrete or strong rubber edging will work as long as it is deep enough to keep bermuda grass rhizomes from growing under it. Edging will also help to keep mulches in its place.
Use top quality tools. Cheap tools are no bargain. They are harder to use and they simply don’t last or do as good of job as the more expensive ones. Spend the extra money and buy the right tool for the job. Also keep all tools in good working order and sharpened. It is easier on the plants allowing them to heal faster.
Utilize the best irrigation system you can afford. When it is an automatic system, the gardener can set the timer and not worry about turning it on or off. The plants get the water they need and there is little excessive runoff. The good thing is you don’t have to drag hoses from location to location. If that is not possible, at least buy the best sprinklers, timer and hoses available. They will do a better job and last longer.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly gardening column.