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The Blog: Let's Talk Gardening

Gardening Made Easier

Think you don’t have time to garden? Well, think again. Our experts have gathered their favorite timesaving garden tips to share with you. Try them—we think you’ll agree that these shortcuts help make you more efficient in the garden.

Mulch is the Answer - mulching is the answer to two time-consuming activities: watering and weeding. A thick mulch will suppress weeds, preventing them from even growing. It will also keep your soil moist and cool, eliminating heat stress on plants and reducing the need to water. No only does mulch look good, it also adds humus to your soil.

Weeding Without Weeding - what’s better than having the weeds all pulled? No weeds in the first place! That’s what pre-emergents are for. These miracle workers kill weed seeds before they can sprout—truly a gardener’s best friend. There are chemically derived pre-emergents and organic ones made from corn gluten. Using a pre-emergent at the beginning of every growing season will save you lots of time and your back, too. Be sure to apply before the weeds sprout.

Plant Like with Like - grouping plants according to their water needs seems logical, but we may not always take this into consideration when planting. Place plants with high water needs near the house and those with lower water requirements at the far ends of your gardens. Moderate water plants should be placed somewhere in between. Planting according to watering needs can save you tons of time (and a lot of failed plants), since you won’t need to hand-water individual plants according to varying needs. You’ll also be able to quickly water moisture lovers, since they’re near at hand. Your low-water plants will require less frequent visits out to the “back forty”.

Plant “Self Cleaners” - what’s a “self-cleaner”? Quite simply, it’s a plant that doesn’t need you to tidy it up. Put another way, one you don’t need to deadhead or remove the spent flowers. With roses and perennials, self-cleaners can save a lot of time. Most annuals have been selected and bred to require no deadheading, but not necessarily roses and perennials. So, before you buy, observe and don’t be afraid to ask, “Does this plant need to be deadheaded?”

Use Time-Release Food - time-release foods (Osmocote is the most well-known) are real time savers for containers of all kinds, especially hanging baskets. Plant foods are coated with a polymer that dissolves in water over time, releasing food gradually. This allows you to feed once every four months (depending on the fertilizer) at a time.

Plant Self-Sowers - a self-sower is a plant that re-seeds; depositing seeds after blooming that will sprout year after year and supply plenty of color for years to come. This can be a real time saver for busy gardeners. But you have to appreciate a casual, cottage garden look, since plants will appear where they want. Self-sowers give a garden a natural, lived-in look that is very appealing. The famous English gardener, Rosemary Verey, once said, “all good gardens are at least 20% self-sown.” Be sure not to cut off the flowers once they bloom or you’ll have no seeds at all.

Perennial Power - using more perennials in your garden will reduce your dependence on annuals for garden color. Perennials return year after year and often increase considerably in size over time. This means less time spent planting (and removing) seasonal plants. Of course, you’ll want to use low-care perennials. Ask a McDonald Garden Center expert to help you select what’s right for you.

Leaves are the New Flower - this is a very popular garden trend for time-starved gardeners. Let your plant’s leaves be your garden color. No need to replace if the plant goes out of bloom! With today’s fabulous foliage plants, gardening with leaf color is easier than you think. Plants with beautiful, colorful leaves include ipomoea, heuchera, coleus, ornamental grasses, canna, plectranthus, colocasia, Rex begonia, cordyline and more. With these, you’ll never lack for stunning color.

Think Small - plant breeders have done us a favor by introducing new versions of favorite plants that are tidy and compact. How does this save time? Little or no pruning! No need to keep plants within bounds below windows, under eaves or from blocking a great view.