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Double the Benefit of Every Gardening Task

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by Melinda Myers

You can double the benefit of every gardening task while keeping your garden looking its best. You’ll reduce your workload, help your landscape flourish, and have more time to enjoy its beauty.

Don’t spend time and energy bagging and hauling landscape trimmings to the recycling center. Put it to work in your garden.  Use shredded leaves, evergreen needles, herbicide-free grass clippings, or other pest- and weed-free organic material as mulch.  Spread a one-to-two-inch layer of these materials over the soil around annual and perennial flowers and vegetables.

Spreading organic mulch over the soil surface helps conserve moisture, suppress weeds, moderate soil temperatures, protect the soil during heavy rains, and improve the soil as it breaks down. In addition to all these benefits, you’ll burn calories and strengthen your muscles.

Convert larger tree and shrub trimmings into wattle fences, arbors, or plant supports. Or chip them into mulch to spread around trees and shrubs or as pathways throughout the landscape. You don’t need to buy a chipper but may want to team up with your neighbors to rent one. Maintain a two-to-three-inch layer of mulch around these plants.  Keep the mulch away from the tree trunks and crowns of the plants.

Still more landscape trimmings? Start a compost pile if your municipality allows it. Transform plant-based kitchen scraps and landscape trimmings into a valuable soil amendment. Do not add meat, fat, or bones that can attract rodents. Avoid adding weeds gone to seed, perennial weeds like quackgrass and bindweed, and plants infected with disease or insects. Most gardeners do not compost at high enough temperatures to kill these organisms, so they get added back to the garden with the compost.

Compost is good for the environment and helps build healthy soil more equipped to retain moisture, provide nutrients, and help suppress some plant diseases and insect pests.

Continue growing lawn grass tall and mowing high as long as your grass is actively growing. Taller grass is more likely to outcompete the weeds and form deeper roots, making it more drought-tolerant. Minimize the stress by removing no more than a third of the total grass height each time you mow.

Sharp mower blades improve your lawn’s appearance, save time, and use fewer resources. You can mow faster with sharpened blades, and your mower will consume up to 22% less fuel. Lawns will also use up to 30% less water. Sharp mower blades make a clean cut that is less noticeable, plus the wound closes quickly, helping you grow a healthy, better-looking lawn.

Leave the clippings on the lawn.  They add nutrients, moisture, and organic matter to the soil.  A season’s worth of clippings equals one fertilizer application, so every time you mow, you are fertilizing the lawn and improving the soil.

Finish every garden chore with a bit of cleanup.  Sweep clippings, plant debris, and fertilizer off walks, drives, and patios so they won’t wash into the storm sewer.  Keeping plant debris out of our waterways is good for us and the environment.

Melinda Myers has written over 20 gardening books, including Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” instant video and DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment radio programMyers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ website is www.MelindaMyers.com.

 

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Melinda Myers
Melinda Myers
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition, and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD and instant video series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Suntory Flowers for her expertise in writing this article. Myers’ website is www.MelindaMyers.com.
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