Time seems to stand still when the stressed voices repeat themselves in my head. But not in the garden, where an unplugged afternoon seems to melt away like a fading sun. Gardening is my escape from a hyper connected world of Facebook, inbox and scrolling Instagram posts. It becomes my inspiration when spending too much time writing behind the screen. A good garden is coffee time with your thoughts, watching a sunrise, the majesty of a butterfly or the buzzing of hummingbirds.
Gardener is a label proudly worn, but there are some unpleasant tasks, of course. Weeds are my nemesis, watering is a bane and chemicals must be avoided for a life lived well. “Simplify” is my motto in the garden. Do something right the first time, so you won’t have to repeat it. Quality over quantity is the goal posted above my monitor before writing any garden advice.
Below are personal garden tips that make local gardening easier. I know some of the tips are common sense, and some seem like more work in the short term, but together they make for more beauty with less work.
Feed the Soil
Start with great soil and you’ll grow great plants. Many gardeners only view mulch as decoration. Composted mulch does make a garden look more attractive, but it also keeps the soil and plant roots cool, retains moisture so you can water less often, prevents weeds from sprouting and feeds the soil. Right there, you’ve cut down on watering, weeding and fertilizer time.
Many of you are gardening in dead soil and don’t even realize it. The little top soil that was on your property was scraped away by the homebuilder to make room for footers, driveways and patios. No living organisms, worms or beneficial fungi remain. You will need to rebuild the soil.
Choose Lower Maintenance Perennials
Make perennial flowers the backbone of your garden, since they take care of themselves. Plants like Salvia, blue Russian sage, agave, yucca and sedums look good all season and don’t need deadheading, pinching or staking. For even more ideas, ask for my free list of low maintenance perennials.
Raised Beds, Containers
It’s much easier to control your garden with definite boundaries. You control the soil, water, exposure and even limit the growth of the plants in containers. Raised beds separate the garden beds from their surroundings. Ideally, lift the beds up by 12 inches or more. You’ll have the benefits of controlling your borders and you’ll be saving your back from some bending.
Insider Container Tip
Fill containers with Watters Potting Soil. This local soil recipe was created with mountain plants in mind. Plants love the flavor and root deep into the soil without becoming soggy.
Group Plants by Their Needs
You may have heard the saying, “Right plant for the right spot.” Put sun lovers in the sun and ground covers where they can roam. But consider how efficient it would be if you put all your water hogs together so you turn on the sprinklers in one area and are done. The same for plants that require a lot of deadheading or vegetables that need a daily harvest. You can still mix in different bloom times and variations in color, form and texture. But heavy maintenance chores should be consolidated.
Aqua Boost, Drip Irrigation
This is one of those suggestions that sounds like it’s going to cost a fortune and require a professional to install, but it doesn’t have to. Here at the garden center we reduced drip irrigation to a tinker toy level. There is an initial cost, although nowhere near what you might think, and you need some measurements. Drip irrigation is far more efficient than any other type of watering. It pushes water deep into the root level. Add an inexpensive timer and think of all the time you’ve saved yourself.
Aqua Boost Crystal cuts the number of times you need to water in half. These Watters-created crystals absorb 200 times their weight in water and hold moisture at the root level. Beneficial mycorrhizal fungi are used in this formula to revitalize garden soil and stimulate additional root formation. A must for raised beds and container gardening.
Watters All Purpose Food
Natural garden foods break down slowly and allow better uptake for young plants. Watters All Purpose Food 7-4-4 was created with mountain plants in mind. It feeds landscape plants better, and is less likely to pollute your well and the local water sources. Because of the slow breakdown of this food, plants have time to take up and use all the food, unlike synthetic fertilizers. Use three time a year: spring, summer and fall.
PreEmergants prevent seed from ever germinating, but timing is everything. I use Hi-Yield Weed & Grass Stopper twice a year and rarely have weed outbreaks. Apply as monsoon rains begin and again just after the New Year. This winter/summer application greatly reduces the work needed for weeding. One bag covers a very large garden plot.
Until next month, I’ll be helping locals make gardening easier here at Watters Garden Center. QCBN
By Ken Lain
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week
at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted through his website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.