If you want a garden that is less work and uses less water next summer, October is when you need to make some solid investments.
Saving water and time is a lot like saving money – it’s the little things you do over the long run that make for a responsible and more independent future.
Times are tough, but your biggest investments in life are still your health and your home – and the more you garden, the more you improve both.
Here are 10 tips for tough times:
1. Don’t gamble with your investments. Put the right plant in the right place. The more you know, the more you can grow. Woodland plants such as hydrangeas, rhodies and azaleas in the shade, sun lovers against the hot west or south sides of the house.
2. Put a quick end to bad investments. Ugly plants deserve a death with dignity before they soak up any more of your time or water. Don’t be an enabler if you have a plant with a drinking problem, one with a case of the uglies, a plant that demands shear determination to keep it in check. Move it or lose it.
3. Conserve liquid assets – but expect rain this winter. Make sure all your pots have drainage holes and are slightly raised for better drainage. Learn about how to build a rain garden that will direct the flow of water during winter downpours. Check for overflowing gutters that drown plants.
4. Invest in natural resources. Use beautiful native sword ferns under the super dry soil of firs and cedars. Native Oregon grape and huckleberry are two more native plants that stay evergreen and never have drinking problems.
5. No needless spending. You don’t need to treat for crane fly now. Don’t fertilize roses or any other trees, shrubs or annuals in the fall.
6. Invest in a grass roots policy. Fertilize every fall with a slow-release fall and winter lawn food. Aerate, add lime every year, top dress with an inch or two of topsoil and then reseed right on top of your old lawn with the new more drought-resistant lawn seeds.
7. When times get tough, the tough keep growing. Notice that the old fashioned shrubs such as lilac, spiraea, weigela and classic perennials like peony survive with no care in abandoned landscapes. Use more shrubs to add carefree color.
8. Get a blanket insurance policy – mulch. Plan now for another hot, dry summer by spreading compost or bark chips on top of your soil. A mulch will smother weeds, seal in moisture and keep the winter freeze from uprooting plants. Adding a mulch in the fall means it will break down over winter and be able to hold water in the soil next summer.
9. Be sure to diversify your stock. The more different types of plants in your garden the better it is for our dwindling bees, birds and butterflies. Keep trying new plants. Novelty keeps you young, and if they die – well, you always need more filler for the compost pile.
10. Make rock solid investments. Nobody ever killed a good rock. Use gravel to mulch around plants, plant boulders instead of bushes and add a dry stream bed as part of your rain control garden. The economy may hit rock bottom, but your garden will always be growing.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. For gardening questions, write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Send a SASE for a personal reply. She also can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.
Take a class
Marianne Binetti will teach a one-day gardening class at Grand Rapids Community College, Enumclaw campus, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 15. “Fall into the Autumn Garden” will cover lawn renovation, landscaping and tips for fall maintenance. Register at 253-288-3400.