by Lisa Watters-Lain, Arizona’s Garden Gal, Watters Garden Center
Time seems to stand still when the stressed voices repeat themselves in my head. But in the garden, time flies. An unplugged afternoon seems to melt away like a fading sun. Gardening is my escape from a hyper- connected world of Facebook, inbox and scrolling Instagram posts. It becomes my inspiration when I’ve spent too much time writing behind this screen. A good garden is like coffee time with your thoughts. You can watch a sunrise, enjoy the majesty of a butterfly or marvel at the buzzing of hummingbirds.
“Gardener” is a label I proudly wear, but there are some unpleasant tasks, which I could do without. Weeds are my nemesis, watering is a bane and chemicals can have a negative impact on one’s health. My motto in the garden is to simplify. Do something right the first time, so you won’t have to repeat it. Embrace quality over quantity. Here are some tips to help you simplify:
Feed the soil – Start with great soil and you’ll grow great plants. Many gardeners only view mulch as decoration. Composted mulch does make a garden look more attractive, but it also keeps the soil and plant roots cool, retains moisture so you can water less often, prevents weeds from sprouting and feeds the soil. With this alone, you can cut down on watering, weeding and fertilizer time.
Choose lower maintenance perennials – Make perennial flowers that can take care of themselves the backbone of your garden. Plants like red salvia, blue Russian sage, agave, yucca and sedums look good all season and don’t need deadheading, pinching or staking.
Raised beds & containers – It’s much easier to control your garden with definite boundaries. You control the soil, water, exposure and even limit the growth of the plants in containers. Raised beds separate garden beds from their surroundings. Ideally, lift the beds up by 12 inches or more. You’ll have the benefits of controlling your borders and you’ll be saving your back from some bending.
Insider container tip – Fill containers with Watters Potting Soil. This local soil recipe was created with mountain plants in mind. Plants love the flavor and root deep into the soil without becoming soggy wet.
Group plants by their needs – I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “right plant for the right spot.” Put sun lovers in the sun and ground covers where they can roam. But consider how efficient it would be if you put all your water hogs together so you turn the sprinklers on in one area and be done. The same logic should apply for plants that require a lot of deadheading or vegetables that need a daily harvest. You can still mix in different bloom times and variations in color, form and texture. It’s just the heavy maintenance chores that should be consolidated.
Drip Irrigation – This is one of those suggestions that sounds like it’s going to cost a fortune and require a professional to install, but it doesn’t have to. Here at the garden center we reduced drip irrigation to a tinker-toy level. There is an initial cost, although nowhere near what you might think, and you need some measurements. Drip irrigation is far more efficient than any other type of watering. It pushes water deep into the root level. Add an inexpensive timer and think of all the time you’ve saved yourself. Aqua Boost Crystal cuts the number of times you need to water in half. These Watters-created crystals absorb 200 times their weight in water and hold moisture at the root level. Beneficial mycorrhizal fungi are used in this formula to revitalize garden soil and stimulate additional root formation. This is a must for raised beds and container gardening.
Watters All Purpose Food – Watters All Purpose Food 7-4-4 was created with mountain plants in mind. It feeds landscape plants better and is less likely to pollute your well and the local water sources. Because of the slow breakdown of this food, plants have time to take up and use all the food, unlike synthetic fertilizers. Use it three time a year – spring, summer and fall.
Prevent weeds – Pre-emergents prevent seed from ever germinating, but timing is everything. I use Hi-Yield Weed & Grass Preventer twice per year and rarely have weed outbreaks. Apply in the winter, then again just as the summer monsoons arrive. This winter/summer application greatly reduces the weeding work. One bag covers a very large garden plot.
Children in the garden – Ken and I have raised four children here at the garden center. The kids, especially the boys, spent untold hours filling coffee cans with worms found under nursery pots, then released them into the home gardens. Youthful delight is found in the magic of insects, a vegetable harvest, flowers emerging from the ground or feeding fish in a pond. Kids like to be outdoors. They just need a mature gardener to lead the way. Show your children and grandchildren how exciting gardening is.
Until next issue, I’ll see you here at Watters Garden Center.
Lisa Watters-Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted through her website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.