In these uncertain days of social isolation and children underfoot, there are some alluring ideas for keeping busy in the garden without overloading yourself, and for entertaining bored kids.
My own garden is keeping me at arm’s length; after years of collaborating with my landscape architect friend Rick Griffin to create a user-friendly garden, I’m having to make up stuff to do when there ain’t much needing doing.
I totally replaced my once wall-to-wall lawn by enlarging planting areas connected with wide walks. I ended up with generous, curved beds for more plants than anyone would think possible, while retaining eye-soothing open spaces for birds to swoop and people to gather
Even if you love having at least some lawn to mow, there’s a simple trick to making it smaller. In a sort of backwards approach, make the lawn the dominant shape, not the beds. This makes the lawn really stand out as well as being easier to mow (no backing up). Use a garden hose, rope, or can of green spray paint to create the right shape and size lawn, then dig a very shallow ditch to make a crisp edge. The non-lawn area is simply mulched until you get around to planting stuff.
To cut down on planting time and watering, Rick and I both limit the spots in our flower beds and containers for annual flowers and the more colorful culinary herbs and vegetables, which double as ornamental plants. The smaller beds are repeated strategically to create the illusion of more color, while making them easier (and less expensive) to swap out seasonally.
I doubled the color of my tiny garden by hanging large mirrors on the back of my house. Problem is, birds kept banging into them, so I suspended crape myrtle branches a few inches away. It works well, and I see two birds for every one that perches there. This week an aggressive male redbird has been protecting his space by pecking at his reflection.
This week I relented and put out some bird feeders, which instantly attracted color, motion, and drama close to my kitchen window. I hung some hummingbird feeders and a platform with raised edges to keep sunflower seed from blowing off when birds come and go.
Yeah, squirrels are a problem, but, like lizards, hummingbirds, and the hard-headed cardinal, at least they are entertaining. Which is important right now.
With all the ideas being bandied about these days for keeping occupied with small garden tasks, there are some caveats as well, beyond being wary of snakes and unexpected wasp nests which are being frantically built in the most unlikely spots.
Some medical professionals are warning that emergency rooms are seeing an uptick of weekday accidents involving DIY projects. From repairing the mower to building stuff that involves saws and hammers, or anything really that involves power tools, sharp blades, or ladders, be extra careful that you don’t end up taking resources needed by hospital and doctors’ offices for other people. As one doctor friend put it, “Repair and reconstruction can take up many precious hours of theater time.”
I am putting together a brochure on things you can do with out-of-school children, which some of you may enjoy yourself. It has some super-easy plants for a small raised bed or container kitchen garden, plus little projects such as making a bird feeder, creating a simple above-ground water garden, planting for butterflies and other pollinators, making an easy scarecrow, vine teepee, weather station, and more. Email for a free copy.
Meanwhile, what are you doing to keep sane in the garden?
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi author, columnist, and host of the “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to email@example.com.
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