I’m often asked how to keep up with the care of your pollinator garden. Many homeowners want low maintenance gardens that they only have to prune a couple times a year and spend as little time as possible in the garden. These type of gardens are the beginning of the word ‘chore’. When they are in the garden it is hard, laborious, boring work. So then they want even more maintenance free gardens. Yes, a pollinator garden will require tasks to keep it beautiful. But once you experience a garden like this and enjoy the life you have created for our tiny but important family you will be hooked. Once you are hooked finding time to do other things in your life will be your new challenge.

Monarch on Itea Flower

Keeping up with your garden is like keeping up with your home. It is never done and if it gets away from you it can be overwhelming and turn into a chore rather than a labor of love. How many times do I put off gardening and wait for an entire day that I can spare to get it back into shape. So what is the answer? Don’t have long stretches of neglect.

About 15 years ago I joined the online mentor and coach Flylady to help me keep my home in order. This free mentoring literally saved my marriage and kept my home 15 minutes away from company ready at all times. Flylady refers to our syndrome as CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome). Have you ever had someone stop by and you spent the first 5 minutes apologizing for your messy garden or house? I still follow Flylady’s housecleaning plan and receive her emails daily. When life gets in the way and the house gets to be a mess again, I jump in anywhere, set the timer and go. As she always reminds us: “We are not behind and we don’t need to catch up. Just jump in where you are.” Let’s see how to apply Flylady principles in our garden.

First break your garden into manageable zones. Mine are:

  1. The Vegetable Garden & Compost Area
  2. The Woodland Shade Garden
  3. The Poolside Garden
  4. The Front Garden Beds
  5. Garden Shed or Garden Storage Area

You can spend 15 minutes a day in one of those zone for that week. You may not have a vegetable garden or a lawn so everyone will have to make up their own zones. In the house we call areas that collect clutter, hotspots and if you are like me you have those in your garden too. Piles of empty pots, tools getting rusty that I didn’t put away, dead plants and old plant tags scattered around. Another thing I do is throw things in the Garden Shed to deal with later. In the home that might be my closet or under the bed. Out of sight, out of mind. These areas can easily become overwhelming so 15 minute fire drills will keep these hotspots manageable.

15 minute timer task samples:

  1. Weed
  2. Clean gardening tools
  3. Clean birdbaths
  4. Clean bird feeders
  5. De-clutter any zone
  6. Deadhead in a zone

Some of my Daily Tasks to keep the stress away:

  1. Refill birdbaths, fountain, and bird feeders
  2. Weed in a zone
  3. De-clutter in a zone
  4. Sweep entry porch
  5. Water stressed plants, seedlings, or containers
  6. Pest patrol
  7. Deadheading (I just chop and drop or hide them under the plants to decompose)
  8. Pick up dog waste

Bumble Bee on a Sundrop

Another great help is to have your tools and gloves near your back door. Most of the time I leave my house through the garage. I have my tool belt which has three sizes and types of clippers, and my trowel. I have a small fanny pack that has gloves, plant tags and a sharpie, and a notepad and pencil. I put these on for my 15 minute tasks. Right outside the door is my bucket for weeds. Even walking to the mailbox or taking out the trash can give you a moment or two to pull a few weeds.

The trickiest part for me is to not get distracted with the task at hand and end up out in my garden longer than planned. That’s why the 15 minute timer. Also, the notepad is essential because I can write down other things that need to be done instead of jumping over and doing them too. The other morning I announced to my husband that I was heading out to the garden and he replied: “See you for dinner.” Okay, maybe I don’t always practice what I preach but we aren’t going for perfection here.

You can also have a Garden Blessing Hour one day a week. Its not a detailed gardening but just touching on 6 areas for 10 minutes each. Set your timer and go!. We will not complete everything in 10 minutes but as hard as it is, stop at 10 minutes and move to the next one. This can actually be a lot of fun because you are moving a little faster to beat the clock and get a little more exercise this way. Some will take less than 10 minutes so I have given you 7. Set you timer and go!

  1. Pull weeds
  2. Deadhead (Chop and Drop)
  3. Refresh water in bird bath/add bird seed to feeder
  4. Clear any clutter
  5. Add some plants or seeds
  6. Water stressed plants
  7. Patrol for pests

Karen and I weeding with our Hori Hori Knives

These are ideas to help you get CHAOS out of your garden. Your timer is your best friend. Having priorities of course will help too. Mine are:

  • Watering so plants don’t die.
  • Deadheading so plants keep blooming (unless it’s fall and I want seeds for birds).
  • Weeding so seeds don’t make a thousand more plants.
  • Fresh water for the birds so they don’t get sick.
  • Pest Scouting so I can manage them with non-toxic solutions before they get out of control or leave them so they can be food for something else.

What we are not allowed to do is be hard on ourselves when we can’t get some of these tasks done. Life can throw us curve balls at any time. All we can do is the best we can. I also have dear friend that loves to play in the garden with me so when you get behind get a little help from your friends. When anyone asks me how I have time to take care of my garden I always say: “It’s not difficult with my timer, my zones, my daily tasks, my priorities and a little help from my friends.”

 

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About Ann Barklow

Ann is a Certified Horticulturist, Master Gardener and Arborist with 35 years in the Horticultural and Landscaping Field. In her community, she serves on the Piedmont Tech Horticultural Advisory committee along with Bee City USA, America in Bloom, Lakeland's Master Gardener Board of Directors, and the Festival of Flowers Committee. She is a Strategic Partner with Park Seed, Wayside Gardens and Jackson and Perkins - educating on pollinators and wildlife.

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