Go With The Flow

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Charles Darwin

Are you at the point where you feel you need to downscale your garden? Things can get overwhelming for so many different reasons. Gardens created when one was young and healthy can be daunting as the now older knees and back only bend or straighten when accompanied by groans or the energy level needs regular topping off with a nap. Personal life changes, work responsibilities, new passions can all prevent a gardener from getting to the garden consistently. You don’t want to stop gardening but you need to do less right? You love to tend to the garden but wish you could scale down the work – I know exactly how that feels. If only the garden could look fabulous without all the work …

Smile, breathe deeply and go slowly – Thich Nhat Hanh.
In other words, do not fret. A garden should not be a cause for anxiety. That would entirely defeat the purpose wouldn’t it? It is very easy to focus on how much there is to do. With a little planning, organizing and rethinking, you can have that beloved garden and still tackle your life. Create a garden that evolves with you.In my case, a garden is imperative so, whatever is going on elsewhere, I know to adapt the garden to that status.This,after all, is my sanctuary – where I come to restore balance in my heart.

Lets examine those elements that take up too much time/effort and get practical. The first to come to mind is that ubiquitous green expanse – the lawn. That single feature consumes vast amounts of time, energy, products and money solely to look golf course beautiful. Such a waste. I’m not suggesting getting rid of it all together because some lawn is good. Just so long as there is enough to picnic, play a game (croquet not badminton) or for the sheer joy of having grass caress your bare feet. More is not needed. Reduce the lawn area by adding new trees, shrubs, flower beds and hardscaping. I converted the lawn in the back garden into a ‘meadow’. It gets mowed just twice a year. Next, stop desiring a lawn that does not include clover, the occasional dandelion, viola or runaway snowdrop. The plants we see as lawn weeds support very important wildlife. Raise the mower blade to keep the grass at about four inches. What hopes of lawn stripes and pristine grass you give up, will be replaced with more time to do other interesting things.

Shrubs and trees require minimal maintenance. In turn, they provide terrific focal points, create shady resting spots, food and shelter for birds, butterflies, bees and other good bugs, offer privacy and, year-round structure. So, plant more!

Between good mulch and ground covers, weeding becomes a task easily addressed. Spending just fifteen minutes to a half hour on an almost daily basis, will be sufficient to keep the garden looking smart. Plus, those minutes spent pulling weeds is an excellent opportunity to mentally sort out gnawing problems, decompress after a tough day, calm an overwrought mind or plan your next creative endeavor. This easy, repetitive effort is quite meditative. Multi-tasking that actually works!

In the flower borders, adopt a policy of ‘right plant in the right place’. Avoid all others however tempting. Raised beds make it convenient for those with back or knee problems. Fussing, frustration and fuming will become a thing of the past.

Vegetable gardens require a fair amount of time and work. Grow only what you know you and your family enjoy and can consume. If this too is hard to cope with, give yourself permission to do away with the potager. It is okay. No one important will think less of you. Instead, join a Consumer Supported Association and pick up a weekly share of fresh, organic, local produce. Not only will you continue eating healthy but, your local farm community will be appreciative of your support. Go on-line and find the CSA that serves your area.

Finally, banish old beliefs of slaving in the garden. Promise yourself that you will enjoy it without guilt. Sometimes the grass may be a little long, other times the plants may be in need of deadheading. It is all right. Ignore the random weed and settle in to enjoy your piece of paradise. The pleasure is all yours.

My meadow in May. Camassias abound.

My meadow in May. Camassias abound.


Close up of the meadow

Close up of the meadow


Creeping Jenny covers the ground in the side path. Pretty and functional.

Creeping Jenny covers the ground in the side path. Pretty and functional.


Raised beds in a potager

Raised beds in a potager


Raised bed
Flower beds at different levels

Flower beds at different levels


(c) 2013 Shobha Vanchiswar

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3 thoughts on “Go With The Flow

  1. Terrific, Shobha! Great advice, especially about the lawn. Letting “weeds” like ajuga and snow drops flower in the lawn before a delayed first mowing creates islands that paths can be mowed through for a month or so. In essence, it’s a weed-free flower bed! So nice to meet you today. Please email me. Thanks!

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