Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Manage your garden by organizing your mind

Hello gardener! It's barely March-a great time to start planting here in the Portland area. But before you rush to the nursery and allow yourself to become seduced by the smooth and glossy foliage of young plants take a few moments in your yard and think about what you would like to focus on for the year. Here are some general ideas that can help get you started.

Be realistic: How long do you think you'll be in your house? Do you rent or own? If you're thinking about moving next year then don't spend a lot of money in your garden. You can always plant in a container and then take that with you when you leave. You can always be growing something, somewhere. Even that dusty, dejected jade plant next to your X-box is a living, indoor garden. Don't cry because you can't afford a million dollar instant installation. Where's the fun in that anyway?

Prioritize: Spend a week or two thinking about the garden. You can actually do this at any time of year because you can get started at any time of year-however winter and early spring are ideal. Even fifteen minutes a day standing out in the yard will be a big help. But give yourself some time before you buy anything or call a professional because your ideas may change. Maybe when you wake up the next morning your three story chicken coop isn't such a great idea after all. Think about what you like and then figure out how to do this in a way that is realistic.

Start out small and be a cheapskate: Even the most experienced gardener can be overwhelmed by a new or neglected yard. Indoor starts from seed are cheap and fun. Even if you screw up you won't have lost that much money or time.

Use what is already going on in your garden. Focus on one area of the garden. Get it weeded properly and then amend the soil with planting compost. Then transplant that rhodie that is getting too much sun in its current location.

Trade plants with friends. (Just make sure you don't transplant nasty weeds into your garden. Shake out the roots and pull the suspects out. Don't be afraid. I think it's better if the transplants don't make the transistion than to allow a destructive invasive like blackberry, holly or bindweed into your garden). Work parties are fun and a great way to get your friends out of the bar and busy working in your yard!

Come up with a plan of attack: Decide what is important to you and what your style is. Are you more interested in aesthetics or are you more pragmatic? If you're more interested in having a garden that really looks good and suits your needs you'll need a more thoughtful plan than a gardener that is okay with a compost heap in front of their daisies and a giant pile of pulled weeds next to the stone squirrel menagerie.

Are you a do-it-yourselfer or do you need someone to do it for you? Again, be realistic. If you don't know what you're doing but you don't want to see piles of dirt and debris sitting around you may want to consider calling a designer or a consultant to at least get you going in the right direction. Spending a few hundred dollars for smart, site-specific advice and concepts can go a long way and save you hundreds more in the future. Plants aren't cheap-you want to keep them alive and thriving to get the most out of your investment. Books help, the internet helps, but nothing is going to be as helpful and talking with a real live person in your very own yard.

Chill out: Gardening isn't rocket science. Hopefully nothing is going to blow up if you screw up. Gardening is a process-nothing is static. You will learn as you go. Experiment and have fun.

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