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The first rule for creating a no-fuss garden is to select plants that will do well for you. Evaluate your yard's growing conditions and select varieties that thrive there. Daylilies, such as the one pictured here, are virtually pest-free picks for hot, sunny spots, for example.
Spreading a 1- to 2-inch-deep layer of mulch over your garden is one of the best ways to make gardening a breeze. Just about any kind of mulch will stop most weeds from growing and help your soil hold moisture when the weather's hot and dry. Mulches made from organic matter (such as cocoa hulls, shredded bark, or compost) do double duty by improving your soil as they decompose.
Why bother hauling a hose and sprinkler around your garden beds and borders? Save time, energy, and cash with a water-saving soaker hose. This device is permeable, so water slowly seeps out through its length. Lay it in your gardens and cover the hose with mulch (so you don't lose much moisture to evaporation). Then all you have to do is turn on the water.
Here's a hint: Attach your hoses to an automatic timer and watering becomes even easier.
On hot summer days, container gardens may need watering daily. Don't let your planters become a chore; use a drip-irrigation system to keep them moist. A simple drip-irrigation kit from your local garden center or hardware store takes just an hour or two to install. Once it's set up, it does your watering for you for the rest of the season.
Prevent weeds from being a big problem by yanking them out when they're young. The smaller the weeds are, the easier they are to pull. Plus, you keep them from reproducing. A single crabgrass plant can make 150,000 seeds in a season. Pull the crabgrass before it matures and that's 150,000 fewer weeds to whack in the future!
Weeds aren't the only plants that produce lots of seeds -- some of our favorite flowers (including black-eyed Susan, cleome, and datura) can also fill your garden with their offspring. Stop self-seeding bloomers from getting out of hand by deadheading, or clipping off flowers as they fade.
Stop grass from invading your plantings by installing edging between your garden beds and the lawn. You can use just about any material, from bricks to plastic, to edge with -- but the most effective materials extend at least 6 inches deep so grass roots don't find their way underneath.
Here's a hint: Save even more effort by installing a flat edging you can run the wheels of your lawn mower over. That way you can cut the lawn all the way to the edge of your beds and borders.
Use a garden journal to save time and effort. Jot down notes every week as you garden, then refer back the next year. For example, if you noticed that your phlox started getting powdery mildew last July, try spraying it with neem oil or a fungicide this June to prevent the disease.
Here's a hint: Taking pictures of your garden through the seasons is fun. It can also be valuable: Snap some pictures of your garden in spring when the bulbs are blooming, then refer back in fall at bulb-planting time so you know exactly where to plant new bulbs for the most impact.
Working sticky clay, loose sand, or rocky soil becomes a breeze if you garden in raised beds. Simply fill your beds with high-quality topsoil and compost and you have perfect soil. Raised beds drain better than regular garden soil -- so you can plant sooner after rain. And they warm up earlier in spring so you can get a head start on the spring planting season, too.
Here's a hint: Build your beds small enough so you can reach them from both sides. That way you never have to walk on and compact the soil. Or get muddy feet.
It can be tough to grow (or mow!) on a slope. Terrace your hillside to take care of the problem. Though building a terrace can be expensive up front, it saves you a ton of time and effort in the future.
Seasoned gardeners know the value of compost. It pushes apart sticky clay particles so soil breathes better and water drains faster. Adding compost also helps sandy soils stay moist longer and retain more nutrients for plants. That's not all: Composting saves you money. The more you compost, the less you have to throw in the trash.
Gardening is easy, especially when you use the right tool for the job. Pick tools that are the right size for you and fit comfortably in your hands. And keep the blades on your shovels, pruners, etc., sharp by having them sharpened at your local hardware store (or sharpen them yourself with a file) every spring.
It might sound obvious, but when you're planning your garden, keep it as simple as you think you have the time and energy to maintain. It's easy to go overboard in spring and buy more plants than you can easily take care of. Instead, start simple. After all, you can always add more as you go!