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Gardening for LazyBones Part One

Gardening For Lazy Bones Only!

Guest Article by His Laziness Stravo Lukos

If you like to work hard, sweat, grunt, and hurt, read no farther. Seek counseling instead. If, however, the thought of tearing up tough sod, breaking through hardpan, endless watering, feeding, pruning, and weeding is as appealing as an amputation, you're at the right place. To me, the two filthiest four-letter words in the English language are hard work. Are you with me? Good. Let's start daydreaming.

The Little Picture

"What happened to the Big Picture?" Relax. We're going to move slowly, a piece at a time, like a puzzle, and put that big picture together at a civil pace. Take a look at your grocery bills for the last five or six months. Okay, two months. Two weeks? Guess. How much was spent on produce? My wife's a vegetarian, so produce ranks high on our list. Try to generalize how much of what you buy each month, then price these items at your market. Remember, prices fluctuate on foods seasonally, so a long-term average works best.

Which of those fruits, nuts, and vegetables could you grow in your climate? If you don't know, go here, to the national arboretum, and find your hardiness zone: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ushzmap.html Notice that I said "hardiness zone." This doesn't tell you what will grow in your area; it only gives you a clue as to what won't survive your winters. If you live in a sun-blasted desert, don't plant a weeping willow, even though your hardiness map says it's not too cold for this tree. It's too dry. You would need to water the poor tree constantly just to keep it alive.

Another tip to remember is that evergreens, which include rhododendrons and barberries (in some regions), grow all year whenever it's warm enough for the sap to flow. Deciduous trees go dormant until late winter or early spring, but not evergreens. If your winters are dry, you must give your plants a good soaking before the first hard freezes arrive. It's also a good — no, great idea to Wilt-pruf® .

While we're on the subject, most of your trees need a good, deep soaking once a month during the summer heat. Sprinkling doesn't cut it and will encourage a weak root system near the surface. Buy a few soaker hoses and leave them on all night around each tree at the drip line, not around the trunk. If you're going to xeriscape, the water bill will not be excessive compared to soaking a water-hogging lawn full of pampered, wimpy grass. And if you absolutely must have grass, consider a native species or water-thrifty buffalo grass or, my favorite, Dutch White Clover. These might go dormant during the heat of summer, but they won't die off, harbor diseases, and invite insect larvae, like leatherjackets, to proliferate. You can walk and play on the grasses and clover without destroying them, and you'll rarely mow, never weed'n'feed, and hardly ever water.

Doesn't that sound relaxing? You know it.

If it seems I've digressed from the topic, I consider trees a part of the whole gardening experience. Some crops, like potatoes, don't like a lot of sun hammering them. Plant them and other root crops where the shade of trees and buildings will protect them from 1400 hours (two P.M.) to sundown. Keep in mind that most vegetables need a solid six hours of sunlight. Mine enjoy the morning sun and are shaded during the scorcher hours of afternoon. If, however, it is impossible to plant a shade tree or fence for your cooler growing crops, you might use muslin or a similar material to protect your plants. Staple the cloth securely to a cedar stake every five feet and see that the shade falls on your garden at the desired times. These shades can be pulled out easily and rolled up for fall and winter storage.

Now comes the most important step in the whole process: Pull out the quad paper and start planning. Recall that list of produce you wrote earlier? Look it over and decide how much room you have to grow what. Look up the needs of each plant and give serious thought to how much effort you're willing to put into growing them. Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, but not blanched celery. I never have and never will grow the stuff, period. Imagine having to mound a plant as it grows simply to make it pale to white? Who ever thought of such nonsense?

Broccoli is another plant I won't grow again. It's not particularly difficult to grow, but if you want those store-bought heads and thick stems, you'll spend all your time tending the brocs and nothing else. Mine always were aphid havens, no matter what I planted to discourage the little monsters. Go ahead and try these delicious greens, but don't go crazy if you have the same results as I. Simply switch and let others do the fussing.

I refuse to weed. Everyone should. If you grow intensively, your plants will shade out and starve out all but the most determined competitors. If some weed pokes its head above the crowd, then I watch to see what happens. If both plants thrive, I pay no attention to the intruder; however, if my veggies start to look sickly, out pops the weed. Usually, only compatible plants will cohabit with your thickly grown crops, so don't sweat it.

Look at the sketch you've drawn of your garden space (and make it BIG). Note the shady zones, the sun-drenched areas, and the partial (mixed) zones. Different crops like different amounts of sunlight and heat. Corn will take whatever sun it can get, but beets like it cooler. As a rule, root crops and tender, leafy greens like cooler temps, while stalks and vines are sun seekers.

Stravo Lukos has been gardening and landscaping since he was eight years old. "Every oldtime Greek and Italian had a garden. It was the 11th commandment." Now, 44 years later, he still is learning and experimenting in lazier, more efficient, less expensive ways to grow plants. He has a BA in English, with several courses in forestry and soon, a certificate in horticulture. His yard is a wildlife sanctuary, veggie gardens, and a fruit-nut-and-berry patch.

Other interests include hiking slowly, camping in luxury, teaching kids how to garden, reading in bed, road bicycling on level ground, hugging his dog, smoking cigars, and cuddling with his wife in front of the television. Life is good.

You can contact him at freeman@rovin.net ,but it'll take forever to receive a reply-- if he gets around to it.



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