8 Simple Rules

from Spring Planting Guide
If a backyard perennial garden is suffering from your lack of time to garden, use these eight simple gardening and landscaping ideas to simplify your growing season.

Does your time for gardening always seem too close to zero? Don’t despair. Armed with this plan of attack, you can maximize your garden’s appeal while minimizing the effort you put into it. Here are great tips from our own expert on how to get more out of your garden with less effort.

1. top-dress your soil
Every soil type — no matter how poor or rich — benefits from organic matter. I add a couple of inches of compost to the top of the soil each spring. It immediately cuts down on the number of early spring weeds that pop up. Even better, over the long haul — as it decomposes — compost increases the nutrient values of the soil and adds to the soil’s structure.

2. weed little, weed often
Waiting to pull weeds every couple of weeks or longer makes it a daunting chore. I make it easy by strolling through parts of my garden each day pulling weeds as I see them. Every day I pull a couple of weeds, so I catch them when they’re smaller and easier to yank out of the ground. This prevents them from going to seed and creating a whole new crop of weeds for me to tackle in the future.

3. pinch now, enjoy later
Many late-blooming perennials appreciate a springtime pinch. I nip the tops of mums, tall sedums, purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and other late bloomers to keep them compact and tidy. A springtime pinch also delays flowering, so you can extend the blooming season in your garden. Generally, it’s best to nip off just the top couple of inches of the new growth in midspring.

4. deadhead for tidiness
Deadhead annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs. This gives some plants, such as blanket flower and veronica, a longer bloom season, and keeps your garden looking tidy. It also prevents plants from going to seed — so they have more energy to bloom well next year.

5. mulch matters
Spread a few inches of mulch over your garden. Like compost, mulch offers many benefits. It cuts down on weeds, helps the soil conserve moisture by reducing evaporation, keeps the soil from getting too warm in summer, and — as mulch made from organic matter decomposes — adds to soil structure. I spread mulch in the spring, once all my plants come up, and reap the benefits for the rest of the season!

6. fill bare spots
It seems like every spring I discover something didn’t make it over the winter or didn’t spread the way I expected, and there’s a bare spot in the garden. Prevent this problem by tucking in a new plant in areas that are bare for a while but later fill in with other plants. I often insert cool-season annuals, such as pansies and snapdragons. By the time the original plants fill in the space, the pansies are winding down.

7. water wisely
The most efficient way to water your garden is with an inexpensive soaker hose. I bury mine underneath the mulch. It further prevents water evaporation losses, keeps me from having to drag a hose all over the yard, and puts an end to looking at a black rubber hose running through my garden all season long. Consider adding a timer to save trips outside turning the water on and off.

8. stake tall plants
Give tall plants good support by staking them. I stake my soon-to-be-tall plants fairly early in the season — that way I know they are safe and secure. I won’t have to worry about losing beautiful delphiniums, foxgloves, culver’s root, or lilies to harsh weather later in the season.

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