Your garden can be your retreat from the chaos of everyday life. Whether yours is a well-tended collection of pots on a fire escape or a backyard measured in acres, the time, attention and care given to your garden is all part of what makes it a special place.
However, it’s easy for day-to-day business to get in the way of tending to your oasis, and the demands of outdoor spaces – even modest ones – can be significant. Here are five essential reminders that will help keep your plants in good shape when spare time is at a premium.
1. Build A Solid Foundation
Creating a green, growing space when you don’t have a lot of extra time starts with the soil. As the foundation of every garden, it’s important to know the composition of your dirt, whether sand, clay, or loam. Not only will certain plants thrive in each type of soil, but they need different additives and fertilizers for best results. Take a sample to the local nursery if you aren’t sure what your soil needs.
Likewise, take the extra time to set up stakes, cages, arbors and trellises when you are planting. It can be tempting to wait until you need them – especially with a busy schedule – but many plants grow very quickly during the summer months and tend to sprawl in directions you may not want. You may even lose plants to top-heavy blooms if they aren’t properly supported.
2. Be Smart About Watering
With the plants in all their proper places, your most ongoing concern is water. Too much water is every bit as problematic as too little, and most of us have made the mistake both ways. An ideal solution is installing a drip irrigation system that will give plants just enough water to thrive.
Properly running the irrigation system is also a challenge with busy lives and unpredictable schedules. Orbit’s B-hyve XD sprinkler timer attaches directly to the hose bibb and connects to local online weather data via WiFi to regulate watering days and times. You can also manually control the timer through B-hyve’s smartphone app, letting you manage your watering from anywhere.
3. Maintenance Matters
As a gardener, you know that every plant needs sunlight, but some can’t soak up enough sun while others wither at the slightest hint of too much. Understanding plant types and sun patterns is most important when you are planting, but it’s also critical to keep an eye on your gardens as the sun patterns change across the seasons. Don’t hesitate to move things around if any of your plants seem to be struggling.
It’s also important to remember your soil during the growing season. Between plants drawing nutrients and water washing them away, you need to replenish and fertilize your soil at least once per month. If you have container gardens or house plants, consider fertilizing more often.
4. Pick Your Favorites
The alchemy of gardening is simple: when you have built a solid foundation and taken care of water, sun, and nutrients, your plants will thrive. However, that also means your garden can become overcrowded when some plants shade out others and root systems compete for space and nutrients. Thinning plants when they start to choke each other out will give the remaining plants ample room.
At the same time, sometimes plants just don’t live up to expectations, in spite of your efforts. Give yourself permission to replace non-starter plants, especially when you have a limited schedule. Ask friends and neighbors if they want to plant your discards, when you can.
5. Keep It Good And Green
Pulling weeds is most people’s least favorite outdoor chore, but it’s an important part of keeping a tidy garden. Not only can weeds detract from your beautiful beds, but they typically spread aggressively, can push your plants aside, and steal nutrients from the soil. Regular weeding will keep the damage at a minimum.
Regular pruning and deadheading are also important, especially for flowering plants. As the blooms fade and die, the plants begin channeling energy into developing seeds. Pruning unproductive branches and nipping off dead flowers – deadheading – will encourage repeat bloom.
Your time may be limited, but remembering the basics by building a strong foundation and caring for your garden as your schedule allows will result in thriving plants, lower water use and a green paradise that will be the envy of your neighborhood.
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