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Simplify Your (West Hartford) Garden, And Simplify Your Life

Encourage birds by not using pesticides. Stock image

If you think you ‘don’t have time to garden,’ learn how to change your mindset and become a ‘lazy gardener.’

By Karla Dalley, special to We-Ha.com

In the days when I worked in retail gardening, not only was I working at the garden center for 35 hours a week, but I had a solo law practice, and my own writing and speaking business as well.

Needless to say, I was busy! So I certainly sympathized with the customers who came in and said, “I don’t have time to garden!” I would commiserate with them – but because I was also there to sell plants, I needed to change that mindset. So I developed a positive attitude and a motto – I called myself the “lazy gardener,” and I told the customers “Oh yes, of course you have time to garden. It’s easy. Let me show you.”

I am no longer working in retail gardening – or as a lawyer – but I am still trying to be as “lazy” a gardener as possible. And with a little change in mindset, most gardeners can do the same thing.

My “lazy gardening” method uses current ecological, sustainable, and wildlife-friendly practices. And it makes gardening easier. There is a whole lot less to buy, and whole lot less to worry about.

What do I do differently? First, I use no pesticides. I haven’t since I discovered that pesticides are harmful to butterflies. When I “married” the property 24 years ago, there weren’t many butterflies, maybe one or two. After research, I discovered that butterflies were extremely susceptible to pesticides. So I stopped using them and the butterflies came back. We now have 28 different kinds. We have 75 different species of birds. And it is because of these birds that we have no insect problem.

You do not need to spray to get rid of bugs. You need to encourage birds, because they eat insects.

We also make use of our leaves – something many folks are reluctant to do. Every autumn, when leaves fall into our garden beds, they stay right there to become mulch for the gardens. We do remove them from grassy areas. In previous years, when spring came, I raked or turned them into the garden, but last spring, due to unforeseen circumstances, I wasn’t able to do that. My perennials grew in and covered over those leaves and they were barely visible. No more turning leaves in for me.

Another idea that I have been using for a few years now – and it is at the forefront of ecological (and “lazy”) gardening – is using “living” mulch (ground cover plants or moss) rather than endless bags of bark mulch. I have hated bark mulch for some time now and I stopped using it almost 10 years ago. Between my leaf mulch – and my plantings, which are mature enough to fill in – I find that I don’t need mulch.

How might this work in a new garden?

If planting a new garden, plant perennials or shrubs, and then fill in the gaps in the plantings with “living” mulch (in other words, ground cover plants, or if you are fortunate enough to have an abundance, as I do, moss). This requires you to know a little bit about plant habits, however. Some plants are natural spreaders (think about thyme, or catmint) and some plants are clump formers.

Don’t try to form a living mulch with clump forming plants unless you have a fortune to spend or you like frustration. Other sound ecological practices include the following ideas:

  • Don’t transform the soil but find plants that will grow in the soil that you have – in other words, garden in the garden you have; don’t try to make it something different;
  • Disturb the soil as little as possible because every time you do, you bring dormant weed seeds to life;
  • Don’t water once your plants are established (you will save yourself a lot of hardship and a large water bill with this one – but this also makes you choose the right plants for your landscape);
  • Use no pesticides (and that includes herbicides and fungicides);
  • Save your garden bed cleanup until spring (this category covers leaves and plants).

If you “clean up” in the fall, you are shredding or composting butterfly larvae and native bees, as well as other beneficial insects!). These simple things can make your garden ecologically friendly and sustainable, and will help you to become a “lazy gardener” in the process. Then you will have more time to spend enjoying the garden, not working hard in it!

As seen in West Hartford Magazine. Karla Dalley is a garden writer and speaker from West Hartford. She can be reached at: [email protected]. You can follow her blog at: gardendaze.wordpress.com

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