Simple Beds

By Diane Schlindwein

February 20, 2009 5 min read


People who are busy can still have a beautiful garden

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

Whether they have a lot of time on their hands or just a few extra minutes a day, millions of Americans list gardening as a hobby they enjoy. In fact, according to a recent national gardening survey by Harris Interactive, 71 percent of all U.S. households -- or an estimated 82 million people -- participate in one or more lawn and garden activities.

Although he personally believes "there is no such thing as too much time in the garden," Charlie Nardozzi, senior horticulturalist with the National Gardening Association, understands that not every gardener is willing or able to spend hours a day tending plants and vegetables.

"The best way to easily maintain your garden is to grow in small beds," said Nardozzi. "Small raised beds placed close to a house allow you to plant, water, weed and take care of the plants without using lots of time. A few hours a week is all that's needed once they are planted."

Containers offer similar advantages. "You can grow herbs, flowers, vegetables, fruits and even small shrubs and trees in containers," he said. "They do require more attention to watering and fertilizing than in the ground gardens, but you can start earlier, garden longer and take up less space with containers. It's easy to add more pots to a deck or patio and they don't require that much work, especially if you use self-watering containers that don't require daily care."

For people who have an existing garden and are ready to take the next step, Nardozzi suggested slowly adding new plants to garden beds. "Another option is to start a new bed, but again start small and then grow it as you are comfortable."

If you want a simpler garden and cutting down on planting time sounds good to you, consider putting in some perennials, said professional gardener, television personality and author P. Allen Smith. A perennial is a plant that will come back year after year if planted in the right environment. In contrast, an annual carries out its entire life cycle in a single season.

Keep in mind that perennials tend to bloom just a few weeks out of the spring and summer, while annuals often flower and provide nonstop color spring through autumn. If you are a beginning gardener, annuals are a great way to fill space while other plants mature, said Smith

Smith said planting herbs in a garden is a good idea because they are great "double duty plants -- beautiful in the garden and useful in the home." He also recommends using ornamental grasses, which are "very forgiving" about soil. "Once they get established, they are quite drought tolerant and most are cold tolerant as well," he said.

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with gardening, Nardozzi said to simply cut back on the numbers and size of your gardens. "Yes, it's OK to [turn] a garden back into lawn," he said. "Another option would be to plant shrubs and small trees in a garden and mulch it. That way it will require much less work."

No matter what type of garden you're hoping for -- or how much time you plan to spend on it -- it's important to be well informed. "The best way to learn about gardening is to take local classes, become a master gardener or buddy around with a friend," Nardozzi said. "Shadowing an experienced gardener is a good way to learn the tricks of the trade and get hands-on training.

"Doing classes with your kids is also a good way to instill a love of gardening at a young age. It is also a great way to spend some quality time with your kids." He suggests that parents and grandparents check out for children's gardening ideas.

Any amount of gardening is good for you and for the environment, Nardozzi said. "It's not so much about having the biggest garden or the best garden, but having a garden you're happy with so you'll be successful and spread the word about gardening."

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