20 Tips for Gardeners on the Go
There’s no getting around it—cultivating a beautiful landscape is a lot of work. But you can labor more efficiently (and joyously) when you master a few shortcuts. These time-saving tips cover everything from tilling and tending to plant choices and pruning, letting you make the most of your minutes in the garden.
Start with good soil
Work in compost, manure or dried peat moss for nutrient-rich planting beds. Amended soil is lighter, drains well, makes for easy weeding and allows roots to establish themselves more quickly.
Keep tools handy
Stash a spare set of hand tools and garden twine in a waterproof container in your garden. When you spot weeds, broken rose canes or a stem that needs tying up, you won’t have to run to the garage or potting shed for supplies. We’ve got even more great tips for gardening here.
Limit grassy areas to reduce time spent on lawn chores. Combine trees, shrubs, boulders and decorative mulches to fashion eye-catching, maintenance-free island beds in your front and back yards.
Play in the rain
There’s no better time to visit a garden center than during a cloudburst. Nurseries are less crowded, lines are shorter, and staff members are more available to answer your questions. Once the rain eases, go out and pull weeds—even clumps of crabgrass and deep-rooted dandelions pull easily out of wet soil.
Don’t wear yourself out planting in shaded sites with poor soil
When you can’t get anything to grow beneath trees or along fences, set up a multitiered container garden in the shady location. Plant shade-loving perennials and compact shrubs in appropriately sized containers; set the containers on stands in varying heights. Or use simple green pots that blend into the background, and won’t compete with the flowering show.
When walking or driving, take note of interesting plants and plant combinations. Write them down and take the list with you to the nursery—having an itemized list will speed up your shopping trips and reduce the urge to impulse-buy. Check out some incredible gift ideas for gardeners here.
Fertilize less often
Nourish gardens and containers with time-release fertilizers that continue feeding for long periods of time.
Wait to prune evergreens, such as yews and box-wood, until they’ve produced most of their new growth. As a result, you won’t have to prune them again until next year.
Take preventive measures
Add fresh mulch to your gardens every year. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch keeps weeds from sprouting and helps the soil retain water, so you’ll be weeding and watering less often.
Get an early start
Divide and transplant hosta as soon as you see leaf tips breaking through the ground—since the stems and leaves have yet to unfurl, it’ll be easy to cut the root-ball with a serrated knife. The planted divisions will leaf out beautifully in their new sites. You can divide and move fully leafed-out hosta, but you’re likely to break off leaves and stems in the process, which results in ragged-looking plants. These are the 10 gardening myths you need to stop believing ASAP.
Don’t waste a second searching for misplaced hand tools. Buy trowels, cultivators, forks and pruners with bright red or orange handles so you can quickly spot them amid the greenery.
Place them in sight
Plant vegetables and herbs in large containers placed near your back or front door. Since you’ll see them often, you’ll remember to keep them watered. And they’ll be nearby when you need dinner fixings!
Make sure your tools are clean and sharp— they’ll last longer and work better in the garden. Use ergonomically designed tools, knee pads, or kneeling mats to lessen stress on your joints—pain-free bodies also work more efficiently in the garden. Plus: Check out some other tips for avoiding knee pain while gardening.
Make a running list of newly added plants and their locations—this will help you remember what you planted where, which will prevent the inadvertent weeding (and replacing) of a “good plant.” Save perennial-plant tags and store them near your favorite how-to gardening book—you’ll have all your planting information in one spot.
Buy improved varieties of plants that are native to your region. They’ll thrive with very little care and are likely to be the best-looking plants in your garden.
At the beginning of the season, stock up on supplies like garden twine, twist ties, garden gloves, plant supports, plant markers and bags of compost to eliminate garden-center runs and the long lines on busy gardening days.
Let them do their thing
Choose plant varieties that readily self-seed, such as corydalis, larkspur and purple coneflower, or that quickly naturalize, such as daffodils and daylilies, to ll out borders inexpensively. Next, check out tips for the frugal gardener here.