Working in a garden can become a chore. Here are some quick and easy ways that gardeners can save time, effort and money while gardening.
First of all is to know your site. Is it sunny, shady, well drain or wet, have sandy, loam or clay soil? What is the level of nutrients in the soil? 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. Take a sample of soil to the county Extension office and they can send it to a lab that will tell you what nutrients are lacking.
Since Oklahoma soils are often shallow, gardeners may need to bring soil into the garden just to meet the basic needs of plants that are to be planted. Plants growing in shallow soils will need more frequent watering and feeding because they have limited soil reservoir.
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 as fast. Mulches can be decorated tree mulch or clippings from the grass. Rocks and stones have a tendency to heating up in the summer making it too hot for nearby plants to grow.
Avoid using high maintenance plants in the garden. These can be trees that shed bark, stems, seeds and other trashy parts that have to be cleaned up. Use plant types that are adapted to this area. Don’t plant trees or shrubs with known problems, whether these are insects, diseases or bad growth habits. Try using shrubs that do not have to be sheared once a month to look neat.
Use a ground cover to replace grass in problem spots such as in shady areas, on slopes and in long narrow areas like between houses. Bermuda grass does poorly in shaded areas and the cool-seasoned grass takes more maintenance. By using ground cover plants there is no mowing.
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.
Use edging of good quality between flower beds and lawn grasses especially Bermuda grass. 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.
Raking leaves in the fall can be a chore. Once they are raked in a pile, what to do with the raked leaves. A better solution for the gardener and for the soil is to use the lawn mower and grind them up and leave them on the grass.
Use the best quality tools for the job. Cheap tools are no bargain. Spend the few extra bucks and buy the right tool for the job. Also keep all tools in good working order and sharpened when needed. 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 plant gets the water they need and there is no excessive runoff. Plus, there is the bonus of not having to drag hoses from location to location. If that is not possible, at least buy the best sprinklers and hoses that can be afforded. They will do a better job and last longer.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton.