3 Ways to Enjoy Gardening More

Revitalize Your Love For Gardening 

by Sandy Swegel

We had our first 100-degree day which always reminds me that I prefer to be a fair-weather gardener and garden where it is cool and partly shady.  Sometime mid-summer, gardening can become a chore rather than a delight. So on that hot day, I thought about what I could do to revitalize my love of gardening.

Put Down the Phone.

Really.  I know we’re all addicted to our phones and incoming text messages.  Scientists say it’s an actual chemical addiction with little dopamine rushes every time the alert sound goes off.  But it also means you are only half conscious in the garden.  How can you learn to listen to the fairies and devas if you’re always on the phone?  Or how can you see the early signs of pest infestations or the amazing tiny native pollinators if you’re not fully present?

Show the Garden to Someone Who Knows Nothing of Gardens.

City folk or small children are good subjects.  You’ll find out what you love when you’re doing show-and-tell to your garden newbie. You learn your attitude to dandelions has softened when you find yourself explaining that dandelions are the first foods of the year for bees.  And those caterpillars you might think of as pests….you love lifting the leaves to show off their hiding places. Your love of the mystery and surprise of nature shows up when you introduce a garden to someone new.

Forget that you know the difference between Plants and “Weeds”.

Every few years my town has an artists’ garden tour where we visit the homes and studios of local artists.  These artists have gardens with incredible detail to shapes and textures and color combinations.  They are often inexperienced gardeners but rather just using the green growing things as another medium in their art.  They don’t know that pretty purple flowers are thistles that should be yanked.  And uncut grassy weeds look nice blowing in the wind in their minds.  If you forget everything you know about plants and just walk around your garden looking at the pretty colors and textures and how the shapes look against the sky, you’ll have a whole new love for your garden.

Photo Credit: http://20minutegarden.com/2011/06/28/garden-advice-a-phone-call-away/




Heirloom vegetable seeds for sale

Wildflower seed mixes

Tackling Weeds

What to do When You Are Overwhelmed by Weeds

by Sandy Swegel

Our friend and blog reader CJ recently sent us some great suggestions about tackling weeds when you are absolutely overwhelmed by weeds on your property.  She has a large hilly country property that is atop a mesa so weed seeds fly in from miles around.  Her gardens are xeriscaped and mulched which helps discourage weeds, but last Fall’s flooding here in Colorado has created a bumper crop of tall lush weeds that threaten to take over everything.

If you have more weeds on your property than you have hours in the day to pull, here are her suggestions.

First, I tackle any weed that is threatening the life of a plant I care about.
I weed an area around the plant perimeter. This doesn’t take too long, and often is the first weeding I do in the spring.

Second, I must give priority to any weed that is going to seed.
Especially if it is upwind from my beds.   Downwind, given our terrain, I don’t care too much.   I just weeded cheatgrass and that thin sticky thing with tiny yellow flowers along the driveway berm.  Got the whole thing weeded in a little over an hour.

Third, I weed where the weeds bother me…as in, if something is getting ready to bloom, I don’t want to stare through a bunch of weeds to see it.  So I try to be aware of focal points, and where the eye is naturally drawn to.

Finally, with noxious weeds, my rule is just to get rid of them before they release seeds, at all costs, but not necessarily as a first priority if they are still flowering.   (and yes, I left the donkey tail this year until now because it is the first thing in my garden for the pollinators, along with the dandelions.)

Of course, sometimes when I just need a rush, I go out and pull the biggest weeds I can find, so after 30 minutes I have this pile twelve feet high and feel like I’ve really accomplished something.   :  )

Thanks to CJ for sharing her wisdom of many years of living on the windblown high plains.  I love the idea of the adrenaline rush from a frenzy of pulling big weeds.  I do love doing that too!



Photo credit http://bikesandbirds.blogspot.com/2010/07/weeds.html




A Wild Thicket

Keeping a Little Wild in Your Garden

by Sandy Swegel

When it comes to our gardens, we Americans are of a divided heart. Deep in our ancestral memories are the manicured gardens of Europe.  We swoon over the groomed roses and delphiniums of England, We admire the orderliness of rows of Tuscan poplars. We see the almost mathematical grid of Versailles echoed in Jefferson’s Monticello. We use raised beds to confine our vegetables just as the medieval cloister gardens were enclosed.


 At the same time, we Americans are a frontier people, dazzled by the wildness and grandeur of raw untamed nature.  Grassy plains and dense woodlands and mountains majesty tug at our hearts even as we tend our suburban plots.


To fill the needs of our wild nature souls, I think it’s always good to have a wild area in our yard. One that manages to thrive only on what nature provides and provides a haven for small wildlife.  Generally, there is some place in your yard that already refuses to be tamed. Someplace wild plums keep sprouting and sumacs come unbidden.   This is the area to encourage in your yard – your secret garden, if you’d like – or just the area you see from your kitchen window reminding you that beneath the dishes and chores and children and jobs, you have a wild spirit too.

My favorite thicket started with the wild plums that kept coming back. Over time, a couple of chokecherries worked their way in, and the patch of lemon balm appeared all on its own.  Birds planted wild roses. Squirrels brought in nuts. I decided to play along with nature and seeded an unruly pollinators’ hedge filled with the nectar and pollen-rich flowering plants that bees and butterflies crave. I let the wild queen anne’s lace have some space in the back and I didn’t pull the dandelions. I did plant one of those tall dark purple butterfly bushes for structure and I seeded a buffer zone of grasses and wildflowers to create a neutral zone of sorts between “The Lawn” and “The Thicket.” 

 I don’t really “garden” the thicket but over time I’ve planted some naturalizing crocus and daffodils and a handful of seeds a decade ago that keep the spring display stunning.  About the only care I give the area is water during really dry spells and a birdbath of water because butterflies and birds and bees need something to drink.

 I am proudest of my tended garden…the showy beds of vegetables and annual flowers, the elegant stretches of roses and flowering shrubs and tulips in Spring. But deep down, it is my thicket that I love the most.