Labor Saving Gardening Tips
simple strategies to make your garden care less labor intensive
by Ruth S. Foster

The Farmer's Almanac says, "Don't wear out your wife carrying water to newly planted shrubs. Let the hired hand do it." Hired hand... ha ! He went out with feeding grits to the chickens to make their shells strong. There always used to be a boy who needed some money, or even a square meal. Now try to find a boy. He's probably in training for the Olympics -- or at least a soccer scholarship. It used to be easy to find young men and women who wanted work. These days, we are our own handymen and hired hands as well. What we've gained in technology, we've lost in helpers. So in this, the "have-it-all- generation", we also have to "do- it-all" -- ourselves. What to do? Figure out ways to do it all with the least effort, in short, low maintenance.

Water A soft, well turned soil absorbs and holds water best. When it rains enough you don't have to lug hoses (or buckets) for a while. If you expect a dry summer, be ready with easy irrigation and lots of mulch for mulching helps conserve what water you apply. Consider trickle irrigation, with a small computerized on/off valve.

Everyone Has Weeds Pull them when they are young and to save doing it again, mulch, mulch, mulch. Or chop them with a hoe. On flower beds, a pre-emergent herbicide may be used after the beds are cleaned, but check which flowers are sensitive and which are not. Each herbicide has different sensitivity to different plants. Read the label carefully. Once weeds go to seed, they can't be put in the mulch pile, so try to get them early. By summer, it will be too late and they will have gone to seed. If weed seeds are put in the mulch pile, they will come back to haunt you. (To kill these requires compulsive composting and high temperatures in the mulch pile.)

Turning the Soil Some people do, some don't. A hired hand helps a lot in the decision! The secret to making the task easy is to do a little at a time. No need to finish at any particular time. Tools are important. Always use a long handled spade or fork. If you don't have one, buy one. It's the best insurance against backache. A rented mechanical rototiller is even easier than a long handle, but not easier than a hired hand. I enjoy turning the beds during the leisurely golden days of fall, when it's so beautiful outdoors. This prepares the beds for the next spring so planting can begin earlier because one can't work the soil until it dries out.