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“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.”  James Oppenheimer

Let’s get started!

Whether you’re gardening in a large or a small space, here are four easy steps to help you create a garden that’s hassle-free and can fit with any lifestyle.

  1. START FROM THE GROUND UP

Seems self-serving given the website, no? But in fact, nothing is more vital to developing a low-maintenance garden than healthy, organic soil. If the mountain of evidence showing that bad soil is destroying public health hasn’t convinced you, the fact is that healthy soil means healthy plants. And healthy plants get fewer diseases, won’t attract as many insects and will need less water. That’s less work for you. There are three elements to be aware of:

  • pH levels: Why care if your soil is alkaline or acidic? Because this affects your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil. The good news is that most plants will tolerate a wide range in pH. Levels can be tested by a nursery or with a home kit. If the pH level is below 6, the soil is too acidic and you need to add ground limestone. If the measurement is above 7.5, the soil is too alkaline and you need to add soil sulfur.
  • Nutrients: This is where you want to be especially picky. Plants take nutrition from the soil, some more than others. Peas and beans need less than, say, kale. Add slow release organic fertilizers to your soil to supplement deficient nutrients. The up front investment pays off: synthetic fertilizers only provide a short fix and need to be regularly reapplied. That means more work, besides the fact that they destroy the planet.
  • Composition: Is your soil silty, clayey or sandy? Pick up a handful of moist soil and rub it between your fingers. Roll it into a cylinder about an inch in diameter. If it feels gritty and immediately falls apart, it’s sandy. If it holds loosely together but crumbles when you poke it, it’s silty. If it sticks together, it contains mostly clay particles.

 

  1. SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

Assuming you’re crunched for time – and who isn’t – a beautiful solution that can be used in a kitchen, on a patio or even in an enormous back yard, is to define boundaries. It’s the quickest route to a surefire organic garden. With beds or containers you can control your borders and even the size of your plants, while saving yourself from crouching on the ground later.

 

  1. IT’S NOT NICE TO FOOL MOTHER NATURE

Whether you want to grow veggies or flowers or houseplants, you’ll want to learn about the plants you intend to grow and determine what they need. If you try and grow things not meant for your climate, the plants (and you) will suffer (and attract pathogens). Also, different types of plants will do well in different types of soil. To a certain extent you can amend your soil, but it’s the same as above. Better to work with nature than against it.

 

  1. BE LOW MAINTENANCE

Make the backbone of your garden perennial flowers that can take care of themselves. Globe thistle, hostas, peonies and Russian sage look good all season and don’t need staking, pinching or deadheading. Then you can add something showy and different every year. Or not!