Thanksgiving day I worked in the yard for about 2 hours. I got to thinking while I was out there how glad I am that I don’t have to do all the work that a lot of gardeners think they have to do.
When I was at the funeral home the day before Betsy’s funeral, I saw an acquaintance who passes our house everyday as she goes to work. She mentioned how beautiful my front yard is with all the flowers in bloom. “I know it takes lots of work and time to make it that way,” she said.
I never know what to say to someone like that because I know they have visions of my spending most of my time outside in the yard working on making it beautiful. I just said, “Not really” and let it go at that. She would never have believed me if I told her how little time I spend.
As a matter of fact, the previous day I had spent one hour doing a couple of things in the front yard borders. Before that I had not even been in the front yard for almost 4 months!
When I Work and How Long
I work in the yard mainly in cool weather. I dislike the hot humid weather so I don’t do anything in the summer but harvest. Well, actually I make myself spend 5 minutes pulling weeds I come across when I visit the garden to harvest. Harvesting takes 1 hour most of the time and two hours when blueberries and/or strawberries are in season.
My Secrets to Keeping a Lot with only a Little Work
If you’re a regular reader you know that we have a little over an acre with borders around the outside perimeter, borders in front of the house, wildflower islands in back, borders around the garden, and the enclosed garden area of about 65 feet x 40 feet. My secrets to keeping all this with very little work are very simple.
(# 1) Proper preparation when beginning and (# 2) mulching a lot at least once every year.
The more deeply you prepare the soil, the better your borders/gardens will be.
Removing the sod/weeds during preparation – Keeps future maintenance to a minimum.
Important: Part of soil preparation is removing the sod/weeds. With flower borders, even if your soil was not as deeply prepared as your garden beds, you must still remove all the sod/weeds from the soil. This will help insure your success in keeping future maintenance to a minimum.
What Happens Then
Since everything is cumulative (increases in quantity and degree) over time, your gardens, borders, etc. will improve and get easier to work with each consistent successive action on your part.
For example: When you first prepare soil you take all the grass and weeds out. For the first year or so you will have some reoccurring weeds and grass. You pull them out before they seed and continue to mulch. Eventually, even when wire grass creeps in from the edges — your soil will be so nice and so loose that it requires very little effort to take it out. Even ground ivy that can crawl in from hard to reach edges will be easy to remove. Weeds that crop up can be addressed as you walk your borders. With every year that passes, it will become easier and easier to keep the borders weed free.
I remember early one spring when we were having some horrific problems with a guy who lived on the property behind ours. For my safety, I was unable to spend any length of time in that area. The border needed weeding and naturally I was concerned about the weeds taking over. Since it was out of the question to spend the necessary time weeding, I decided to mulch heavily over the weeds and just hope that the borders would remain presentable while we waited for the situation to change. It took a year and a half for that to happen. In some places wire grass had crawled into the border about 1 1/2 feet on the inside edge. Amazingly, it came out easily. It was weed free with only a few hours of work after a year and a half of not being tended!
As a rule, I never have to make weeding a job or chore. I just do it here and there as I tour my borders or as I happen past.
My secrets for easy maintenance in any of your borders are basically only two “chores”.
- The first is the initial preparation of the soil which only has to be done once and never again.
- The second is mulching heavily which need only be done once a year.
These two chores make keeping your borders easy and save tons of time and effort in the long run. You and I will probably be the only ones that know you don’t spend all your time outdoors tending your yard.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier!
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