5 Tips From an Apathetic Gardener

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This is not my yard. It is my dream. Find other great yards at HGTV.

This week’s blog is from Laurie Loftin, who is cursed with a brown thumb (or a lazy bone)

I love flower gardens. I envision my yard to one day be an enchanted paradise that is the envy of all who drive by. Neighbor children will ask to wind along the algae free water feature I installed, enjoy inhaling deeply as they pass the fragrant lilac bushes, and daydream on the bench engulfed in flowers at the end of a flagstone pathway.

But, alas, this is never to be, for I am an apathetic gardener. I didn’t name myself this. The lady at Lowe’s bestowed this title on me. As I shared with her my plan for selecting plants – whatever is on clearance and tagged as one you don’t have to water – she suggested I write a book called, “The Apathetic Gardener.” I think by using the word “apathetic” to describe me, she should have known I would never go so far as to write a book. As I do with my gardening efforts, I am going to follow a path that leads down the easier way and simply write a blog under this title.

Here are a few tips from an apathetic gardener:

killing grass

Not my yard, either, but getting closer. I like the use of newspaper to smother grass, too.

#1. Kill Your Grass  

I am not entirely lazy when it comes to my yard. I have been making a concerted effort to kill my grass since moving in four years ago. I read blogs, such as “4 Ways to Kill Your Lawn” by Richard Restuccia, which offer expert advice on how to commit grass murder and get away with it. My motivation for turf massacre is twofold. First, I work for the water conservation office and, as a good example to the community, I limit my water use. Second, I REALLY want to reduce my lawn mowing time. For more motivation to get rid of your lawn, I recommend, once again, the video “Your Yard is Evil”.

My chosen way of sucking the life out of my grass is actually very green. I break down my cardboard boxes and carefully position/recycle them over a section of my grass. I then dump mulch, aka gift from the garden gods, on top of the broken down box and go back inside. How easy is that?!?

#2. Pick the Best Time To Plant

In a few weeks I get tired of looking at the mulch. I check the weather forecast to know when to expect a few rainy days in a row. For an apathetic gardener, this is the best time to put in plants. The rain makes the ground soft for digging – very important when you are lucky enough to have a yard full of rocks buried in the concrete-like Georgia clay. The rain also means you won’t have to immediately water your new installations. I look at this as Mother Nature’s way of helping me out with the water bill. Thanks, Mo-Na! Finally, when your neighbors drive by and see you working in your yard while it is raining, they are fooled into thinking you are actually a dedicated gardener and start to wonder if, perhaps, they have misjudged you.

#3. Proper Plant Selection

I start to the store without a clear idea of what plants to get. Instead I formulate my list along the way, taking note of what is growing well in other people’s yards. Daylilies, Hydrangea, and elephant ears become my targets upon arrival at the store. I quickly learn plants have selling seasons and the day lilies are now on the clearance shelf. What a find! When I saw these plants, I actually heard them. They sounded like Beyonce, boldly declaring themselves, “I’m a survivor!” No one selected them while in their prime, they appear a tad forgotten on the shelf, and yet they are still slightly green and fighting for another day. This is the type of plant that has the best chance with me as its caretaker. I now regularly peruse and purchase from the clearance rack.

20150601_172553

This is my yard. I know it is going to look great one day. These are irises given to me from a Good Gardener. She knew to thin them out. I am putting them here to see what happens. Notice the mulch.

#4. Check the Watering Needs  
Next, I check the informational spike in the plant for the specific watering needs. If it says water-guzzler, this isn’t going to fare well at my home. “Drought-tolerant” or a water need descriptor of “low, once established” are strong contenders. Native plants are also a good bet. I expertly pull out my cell phone to look specific plants up on the UGA Extension Office website. They conveniently maintain a list of native plants that I at first find helpful. But to the other apathetic gardeners, be forewarned. If you look too long at these lists, you can quickly be overwhelmed with so much information.  Go to the site, find the info you need, then close it down.

#5. Mulch Madness  

Good Gardeners say adding a soil conditioner to the clay is very helpful for the growth of new plants.  On good gardening days, I remember to include this step. The one I ALWAYS remember is to top off the fresh plantings with a layer of mulch. Why? Because the mulch helps to maintain water moisture in the soil. When mulch is combined with a properly executed Tip #2, you create a moment of watering-free nirvana. Another bonus: the mulch acts to suppress weed growth. As you can imagine, I don’t have much interest in weeding. I am prone to wait and see if the weed produces a pretty flower. If so, it isn’t a weed, but rather a gift to the garden.

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My mint after three years. I consider the fact there is any growing at all to be a success, as well as a testament to the mint’s will to live. The other herbs put in for my cocktail garden were quitters.

This apathetic gardeners wishes she could tell you she put together this “helpful” blog while sipping on a refreshing mint julep made with home grown mint from her cocktail garden. Unfortunately, this is not the case. My lack of gardening skills makes it difficult for me to even grow mint, which I am told is an invasive species best grown in a pot to contain its wildness.  The pitiful image to the right shows a pot is not necessary for my mint.  I think its failure to thrive is not due to the constitution of mint as an herb, but because this was one of those times I may have forgotten to mix in garden soil.

My final advice to you is to take my tips and be sure to mix them with advice from Good Gardeners.  Without too much effort, you will have the yard I dream of.

dry creek bed

I am attempting to put in a dry creek bed to break up the mulch look.

 

side yard

Score! A neighbor put a bench out for trash and it now sits proudly in my yard.

 

door yard

The “grass-like area” use to be all mulch, but rain runoff washed some away. This inspired my dry creek bed. That and the desire to get rid of my grass.

 

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