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June 03, 2015 | Donna Balzer

Small bite approach

You don't have to get all your gardening done in one go

newDonnawebAre you doing all your own gardening this summer?

Are you ready to rock 'n roll in the radish patch and primp your patio?

While your internal kettle is boiling and your energy is high, you probably think you can do it all in one big push.

And then reality sets in.

You just don't have enough time. Instead of a marathon garden workout, you need the small-bite approach to gardening. Don't look at your garden as a huge mess needing to be tamed over a weekend. Lighten your load and start looking at tasks in tiny nibbles or tasty snacks wedged between your other daily tasks. >>> Keep the shears by the back door so when you run out with the garbage, you can clip back dead perennial bits from last year's growth on the way back in. Your tall ornamental grass is the trickiest to cut if you leave it too late, so tackle that first.

>>> When out buying groceries at the market or light bulbs at the hardware store, toss a bag or two of compost or worm castings into your cart. Then, just before the evening dog walk, take a minute to scatter a bag on top of a soil bed. If time allows, fluff the compost into the soil on your way home from your walk with a garden fork or hand-held four-prong mini-cultivator. Even if you don't have time to fluff compost into the soil, it still fertilizes your plants. Work your way around the garden, adding compost all summer. It is almost impossible to add too much.impossible to add too much.

>>> Buy your frost-tender plants gradually as you are out running other errands, but leave them under the eaves or on the patio where they are somewhat protected. A mild spring is like childbirth – it's easy to forget the pain of birth and forgetting late frosts is no different.

But frost-killed plants are not pretty, so limit the planting, not the buying of the tenders plants such as impatiens, begonias, coleus, marigolds, tomatoes, eggplant, squash and cucumbers until you are certain your yard will not get frost. In Calgary, don't plant tenders until after the first full week of June. Meanwhile, plants are hardening off in a comfortable spot and are assembled and ready to plant when you are.

We all start the season with energy and ideas. But then summer vacations and long evenings in the hammock take over and we slowly let things take care of themselves.

You can do it all in one big marathon weekend of gardening, or you can set priorities and dig a few weeds out on your way to dump the garbage.

It's not about total time in the garden, but about time efficiency. Every minute you spend in your garden brings you joy and happiness. Tackle the tasks in small bites and fill up your senses slowly while you enjoy your summer.

Donna Balzer is a garden writer and entertaining speaker. Check out her blog at or follow her on twitter @NoGuffGardener.

Tagged: compost | Donna Balzer | Garden | Green Living | Guest Column

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