by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
On the Go Answer – Readers Digest-type Condensed Version of this Article
- Feed your soil instead of the plants with 7-4-4 All Purpose Food
- Use low maintenance perennials like red salvia, Russian blue sages, agaves, yuccas, and sedums.
- Plant in Raised Bed Gardens that hold 12″ of Watters Potting Soil.
- Group together plants with similar needs.
- Aqua Boost Crystal cuts in half the number of times you need to water.
- Drip Irrigation pays for itself within 18 months.
- Weed Beater Complete prevents weed seed from ever germinating.
Time seems to grind to a halt when those stressed voices repeat themselves in my head, but not in the garden; an unplugged afternoon appears to melt away stress 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 this screen. A good garden is like coffee time with my thoughts, watching a sunrise, the majesty of a butterfly, or the hummingbirds’ whirring.
“Gardener” is a label proudly worn, but there are some unpleasant tasks we can be eliminated. Weeds are my nemesis, watering is a bane, and chemicals to be avoided for a life lived well. Simplify is my motto in the garden. Do something right the first time, so that repetition isn’t necessary. Quality over quantity is the motto above my monitor, and I read it 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 topsoil on your property was scraped away by the home builder to make room for footers, driveways, and patios. No living organisms, worms, or beneficial fungi remain in the soil! You will need to rebuild the soil.
Choose Lower Maintenance Perennials – Make perennial flowers the backbone of your garden; they take care of themselves. Plants like red salvia, Russian blue sages, agaves, yuccas, 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. In containers you control the soil, water, exposure, and even limit the plants’ growth. Raised beds separate the garden beds from their surroundings. Ideally, lift the beds by 12 inches or more. You’ll have the benefits of controlling your borders, and you’ll be saving your back from a lot of bending.
Indoor Container Tips – Fill containers with Watters Potting Soil. This local soil recipe is blended with mountain plants in mind. Plants love the flavor, and root deeply into the soil without becoming dangerously soggy or wet.
Group plants by their needs – I’m sure you’ve 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 the task is efficiently completed. 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. It’s just the heavy maintenance chores that 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 truly isn’t. Here at Watters 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 will need to take 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 Crystals –These Watters-created crystals absorb 200 times their weight in water. They hold moisture at the root level, and cut in half the number of times you need to water. 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 has mountain plants in mind. It feeds landscape plants better and is less likely to pollute wells and the local water sources. Because of this plant food’s slow breakdown, plants have time to take up and use all the food, unlike synthetic fertilizers. Use three times a year, spring, summer, and fall.
Prevent Weeds – Preemergents prevent weed seed from ever germinating, but timing is everything. I use Weed Beater Complete twice a year and rarely have weed outbreaks. Apply now as the monsoon rains begin and again just after the New Year. This winter/summer application dramatically reduces the work needed weeding. One 12# bag covers a large garden plot.
Until next week, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping locals make gardening easier.