In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2012
Regional Report

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Gazania and heuchera are just two plants that are colorful and easy to grow.

Gardening Made Easy

I love gardening. Almost no chore is too much trouble (with the exception of French intensive trenching) if I can make my little garden look better, be healthier, or produce more. I love to putter and pull weeds, deadhead, and prune. However, not all people share my passion. For some, my husband for example, gardening is pure torture. This column is dedicated to those people.

If you hate, loathe, and despise spending time in the garden, I want to share a few simple tips for making your misery more palatable. The necessity of mowing every Saturday can be daunting task to face. So if you can afford it, hire a mow and blow crew to take care of the lawn. Check with your neighbors to see who they recommend or try somebody from the Yellow Pages of the phone book. And don't accept the first price they give you. If your lawn is small, easily accessible and in fairly good condition, do a little bargaining. On the other hand, if your lawn is on a steep hillside, expect to pay a little more.

Next, install a good irrigation system. When established landscape plants have water applied correctly, they will thrive. There is no such thing as a "set it and forget it" irrigation clock, but the new controllers are smart. On installation they are initially configured to the type of soil and grade of your yard and then are continuously upgraded, via internal computer, for weather conditions for your specific location. These new controllers not only do a better job of applying water, they will save money on your water bill. All new landscape installations are required by local and state building codes to have smart controllers.

The third thing I recommend is to replace any "fussy" plants in your landscape. If you have roses and they always seem to look bad because of fungus disease or insect pests, yank them out and replace them with something colorful and hardy. To find out if a particular plant is successful in your location, check to see what CalTrans is using in the median strips and along the freeway. The state can't afford to spend a lot of time on maintenance or replacement, so they use landscape plants that are tried and true.

Here is a short list of "bulletproof" plants that work in almost all soil types; raphiolepis, agapanthus, lantana, pittosporum, plumbago, Salvia leucantha, nandina, and lonicera.

My last recommendation is to find someone to help with your dreaded garden chores. Any task will go by more quickly and be more pleasant if you have company. As the old saying goes, "Many hands make light work." And who knows, if your time spent in the garden is more pleasant, you make even begin to like it! Although I don't hold out much hope for my dear spouse....


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