Columns, In the Garden

Smart Gardening Means Not Procrastinating

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Pulling weeds when they are young makes the task less time consuming and labor intensive and will prevent them from overtaking a garden and crowding out other plants.

by Deborah J. Benoit, Extension Master Gardener, University of Vermont

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – Some people are always looking for shortcuts or ways to avoid boring or backache-inducing chores in the garden. Does that make them lazy gardeners? Or are they simply gardening smarter?

Perhaps the biggest and least-loved garden task is weeding. Don’t procrastinate! Get those weeds while they’re young.

Mature weeds can crowd out other plants and take over a garden bed, making their removal more time consuming and labor intensive. A layer of mulch can help prevent weed seeds from germinating. Those that do will be easier to remove.

Choosing the right tool such as a long-handled saddle hoe to weed pathways and between plants is relatively easy when they first appear. Better yet, stop the next generation before it begins by removing weeds before they flower and set seed. A single weed like garlic mustard can produce hundreds of seeds.

When planning a garden, be sure you have a water source close by to save time and footsteps. Installing soaker hoses will save time and also conserve water. Mulching beds helps retain moisture, so there will be less need for watering.

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Plants require regular watering to survive and thrive, so when planning a garden, be sure to have a water source close by to save time and footsteps.

Reducing the size of your lawn can eliminate time spent mowing, watering and fertilizing. Imagine what you could do with the time saved by replacing at least some of that grass with beds of perennial edibles such as rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum), asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) and various herbs.

If your soil is rocky or poor (or even if it’s not), consider using raised or elevated beds. Raised beds let you begin a new garden bed without all the digging and tilling you might otherwise be inclined to do. If you construct them higher (two to three feet high instead of one foot), “ground level” becomes much closer so there’s far lest bending.

Containers can be used in any location, even where there’s not enough room for a traditional garden bed, and can be moved as needed.

When choosing plants for the garden, think in terms of low maintenance. Choose perennial plants that will come back year after year rather than annuals that need to be purchased and replaced each growing season.

Flowers that don’t need to be deadheaded to continue blooming keep the garden looking good without a lot of effort. Shrubs and hedges that require little pruning will free up time for more pleasant endeavors.

While growing plants from seed in the spring is satisfying and less expensive, buying starter plants will save time and provide an excuse for a fun trip to the nursery at planting time.

In the fall, ignore the urge to clean up the garden by removing every trace of spent plants and fallen leaves. Let the seedheads from flowers remain. They’ll feed hungry birds in winter. Allow plants to die back and remain in place over winter. In the spring, tidy the yard and build a compost pile.

Having your own compost pile is an easy way to dispose of garden waste and avoid the trouble of bagging it for someone else to take away for composting. Toss kitchen scraps in there, too, but not dairy, fat or meat. When it’s done, there will be no more lugging bags of compost from the garden center to the car and from the car to the garden.

Even easier, try composting in place. Dig a trench in the garden, add kitchen waste, cover with soil and let nature take its course. For more information on composting, see

In the end, as the so-called lazy gardener sits back in the shade with a cool glass of iced tea, enjoying the view, perhaps lazy really isn’t the word for this gardener at all.

[Deborah J. Benoit is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from North Adams, Mass., who is part of the Bennington County Chapter.]

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