My husband and I are masters at what we call "invisible improvements." These are small changes that seem to disappear as soon as you make them but actually make a big difference in the garden. They're rewarding, even if they're not obvious. For example if you plant 100 tulip bulbs in fall, you essentially bury your work - but wait until spring, and the effect is no longer invisible. Planting young trees, refining the curve of a garden path, and top-dressing the flowerbeds with compost all are subtle but satisfying improvements. You may be the only one who notices - and that's all that matters.
Each year Lowe's challenges its regional garden experts to make significant improvements for $100 or less. I invested the money in some low-profile gardening tools. The picture above shows my purchases before I distributed them around the garden, where they promptly assumed their natural places and became invisible improvements.
Here is the rundown:
- After 20 years our old garden hose was shot. It was too short to begin with, it was stiff and awkward, and it had been repaired several times. For $45 I bought a new 100-ft, no-kink hose and hooked it up to the spigot in the front yard. The hose doesn't leak, it reaches all the way to the flowerbeds by the driveway, and it coils up like a dream. What took me so long?
- While I was at it I indulged in a spiffy new nozzle: I bought the most expensive one, and it cost only $12. My metal nozzle has eight spray patterns and a thumb-control shutoff valve; it's my favorite new gardening tool.
- Then I picked up a set of snap-on connectors ($7) to hook to the hose. At first I bought the wrong kind - you need one with a male end for the nozzle and a female end for the hose - but a quick trip and an exchange solved that problem.
- Every gardener needs a big work bucket. After years of use, the handles on my old bucket were broken and the plastic was cracked. For $7 I'm back in business with a sturdy, blue 20-gallon tub with twisted rope handles. I use the bucket to haul mulch from the compost heap to the flowerbeds. I can mix potting soil in it, or fill it partway with water and soak newly planted flower pots in it to make sure they're thoroughly watered. The bucket holds kindling and charcoal when I'm grilling, and a bag of ice and cold drinks for a garden party.
- My last purchases were for the hummingbirds. For $7 I bought two small feeders with stakes to poke into flowerpots. I wanted to mount one of the feeders on my kitchen window, so I also bought a hook that attaches to the window with suction cups ($5).
- Then I bought a flexible mister ($15), which connects to the hose. Hummingbirds love to fly in and out of the mist, and I admit I find it pretty refreshing too.
That's $98 worth of almost invisible improvements. It really is the little things that make a difference, don't you agree?
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