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In the Garden: Changes leave more time to smell the roses

Sun., July 14, 2013, midnight

Mulching around plants with bark mulch or lawn clippings cuts down on weeding and helps the soil retain moisture. (Susan Mulvihill)
Mulching around plants with bark mulch or lawn clippings cuts down on weeding and helps the soil retain moisture. (Susan Mulvihill)

Do you have loads of time for gardening? Neither do I. It never hurts to rethink how we do things so we’ll have more time for the fun aspects of growing a garden like eating the produce or picking flowers.

Here are some ideas:

• If you’re new to gardening, start small. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and have difficulty keeping up with a large garden, so scale it down initially and see how it goes.

• Keep a journal to jot down what you’ve learned, how plants performed, mistakes you made and so on. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but it will save time in the long run because subsequent gardens will be easier to grow.

• Automate your watering chores. Even if you just use a hose and a sprinkler to water your garden, set it on a simple, inexpensive timer so it runs regularly.

It’s most efficient to water early in the morning. There will be less evaporation so you won’t have to water plants more than once a day.

• While you’re at it, use mulches to conserve the moisture in the soil. Cover the surfaces of your garden beds with shredded leaves, compost or grass clipping from an untreated lawn. The added benefit of mulching is that it impedes weed growth.

• Place landscape fabric, also known as weed-block, on pathways or bare ground where you aren’t growing anything to keep weeds from sprouting. Cover the fabric with a shallow layer of bark or another type of mulch; this will hold it down and you’ll keep your shoes clean while walking in the garden.

• Avoid frequent cultivating around your plants because that stirs up weed seeds which will be only too happy to sprout and add to your chores.

And while we’re on the subject of weeds, did you know that as your plants get larger, they will crowd out the weeds to get the most light and nutrients from the soil? So get your plants off to a good start and they’ll take it from there.

• Consider growing vegetables in raised beds. The soil warms up earlier in the spring so you can get an earlier start, they can be planted more intensively and you only have to weed the tops of the beds.

• If you enjoy growing annuals or veggies in containers or have limited space, use self-watering containers. These pots have water reservoirs beneath the plants’ roots. Regular containers have a tendency to dry out quickly, but these pots keep plants watered for days at a time, cutting down on the time you have to spend watering them.

• Be wary of invasive perennials like Lamium, Lady’s Mantle, mallows, members of the mint family, yarrow and buttercups. They can take over your garden and you’ll spend a lot of time trying to control them.

• Monitor your garden frequently to nip problems in the bud. This doesn’t involve a lot of time. Just pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and take a brief wander through the garden.

• Keep your hand tools together in a bucket or basket so you’re ready to do garden tasks at a moment’s notice.

• And last but not least, if you’re baffled by a garden problem or need information, contact the WSU/Spokane County Master Gardeners. You can reach them at (509) 477-2181, by email at mastergardener@ or by visiting the Spokane County Extension Education Center, 222 N. Havana St. This is a free service.

Do you have tips for saving time in the garden? Drop Susan Mulvihill an email at, and she’ll post them on her blog at

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