Here’s a New Year’s resolution you can keep: Garden smarter. Adopting smart practices won’t take all the effort out of gardening, but it can make your life a little easier—and your garden more healthy.
1. Welcome Pollinators
Cultivate pollinators, such as bumblebees, especially when growing edible crops. To maximize pollinators:
- Use pesticides wisely and sparingly.
- Grow nectar-rich plants such as bee balm (above), anise hyssop, Joe Pye weed and coneflower.
- Allow natural areas to provide habitat for pollinators.
2. Build Soil
Improve soil by adding organic matter. Annually I top-dress key planting areas with homegrown compost. Every two years I get a truckload of mushroom compost to cover all planting areas.
Why add organic matter? To improve the soil’s:
- ability to retain nutrients
3. Use Mulch
Mulching is a key way to garden smarter. In my vegetable garden I mulch with straw over newspaper.
Mulch is something worth using because it:
- slows water loss from soil
- prevents weeds
- maintains soil temperature
- builds soil, if you use an organic mulch
4. Curtail Seeding
Some plants, such as native Joe Pye weed, can self-sow aggressively.
Garden smarter by clipping seed heads before seeds disperse. To give birds a treat, remove seeds from seed heads and place them in a tray feeder or saucer.
5. Outsmart Deer (and Rabbits)
My local deer and rabbits don’t know they aren’t supposed to eat coralbells (Heuchera). Because coralbells emerge early in our Mid-Atlantic garden and linger later than other plants, they’re prime targets for wildlife. Protect plants with bird netting.
This fall I forgot to spread netting, and one plant (on the left) lost its leaves overnight. I’ve added a reminder to my calendar for September 2013: “Cover coralbells to beat deer.” That’s another way to garden smarter—put chore notes on your calendar.
How do you garden smarter? Please share your ideas below. I’m always eager to learn new garden tips.