As Mark was pulling the patio chairs out of storage this spring, he made a promise to himself to finally hang the hammock. It is time to do some swinging in the cool shade of a four-metre-high birch on hot summer afternoons.
It is now early summer, and thoughts of gardeners and non-gardeners alike turn to taking it easy. On that score, we can be of assistance. We have created a list of stuff that you can do to minimize the work and maximize the hammock time in your garden this summer:
Use native plants.Less water, disease and insect pests. Think about this – long before the Europeans arrived on our shores there were a lot of plants happily growing their hearts out without human intervention. The Native People of Canada, to their credit, left well enough alone, harvesting the odd herb or peeling a little bark here or there for culinary or medicinal purposes. But at no time did they reduce the population of any plant species to the extent that it became extinct. All of that changed rather dramatically about 500 years ago.
The plants that have survived since then are true ‘survivors’ with a tolerance for severe weather, pests, disease and drought.
There are lots of native plants now available at garden retailers, who have responded to consumers’ demands for these plants in recent years with the introduction of many nursery grown ‘natives’.
Here is a short list of our favourites:
Butterfly weed (Asclepias)
Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier) – shrub/tree
Lily of the valley (Convallaria)
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum)
Canadian ginger (Asarum)
Ferns including Christmas, Cinnamon, Royal, Wood and Marginal Wood ferns
Hemlock (evergreen tree)
Sugar maple (shade tree)
There is more to carving time out of your schedule for loafing. Consider this:
Water deeply and less often.Invest in a quality lawn/garden sprinkler that covers a large area but does not spray water high into the air, where much of it is lost to evaporation. We like the circular sprinklers that do not have the ‘halo’ effect of the old impact sprinklers.
Add organic matter to the top of your soil. By insulating the soil from the drying effects of the sun, watering is dramatically reduced. We prefer shredded cedar bark mulch but straw works very well, when laid down about 30 cm thick (this works great in the veggie garden especially around tomatoes).
Other tactics that will reduce the demands on your time this summer in the garden are:
The difference between a low maintenance garden and an ‘intensive care’ garden is careful planning, timing, quality tools well maintained and attitude.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, and on Facebook.
GuidedBy is a community builder and part of the Glacier Media news network. This article originally appeared on a Glacier Media publication.