Gardening should be fun, not stressful and here’s how

By Marilyn McKinley

OSU master gardener volunteer

You hear it often: How do I make gardening simpler and less work?

It becomes a goal, a New Year’s resolution, a dream for most of us. My theory about garden resolutions is that they make you feel good, but by the time you can tackle the task – after the spring thaw, the resolution is forgotten.

I read an article recently that said stop setting goals; set intentions. That sounds more realistic and fun to me than trying to meet (or remember) goals. I’m constantly trying to come up with ideas about downsizing; reducing maintenance; having a more sustainable, environmentally friendly landscape; enjoying my gardens more; reducing stress.

Gardening is supposed to be enjoyable. It’s time to start analyzing. Think about what you want and ways to get it. Make a list. Put it on the fridge, in the garage by the tools or the garage door button. Include things like:

What is my biggest challenge and how can I better deal with that? The winter months are the perfect time for researching that.

What do I want my garden to give me – for example, more pollinators, less weeds, less maintenance, more fragrance? Write it down. You might change your mind over time.

The idea is to really think about your garden and what it can give back to you. Write just the questions, leaving lots of blank space to jot down ideas as they come to you.

Some thoughts I have are: Reduce water use. Install drip irrigation. Replace thirsty plants with more drought-tolerant ones. Improve the soil. Go native; once established, native plants need little care. Learn which plants support pollinators.

Time needed in the garden can be overwhelming. I suggest breaking it down. Spend 30 minutes a day tackling a task. A sense of accomplishment is your reward.

Do you need to add seating so you can enjoy spending time in your garden just watching, smelling, listening? It’s easy and so rewarding. Enjoying the fresh air, gentle breezes, birds’ serenades is good for your heart and soul. Your garden should be your place to escape and recharge. What other spaces in your gardens can give you rewards for spending time there?

Introduce your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and neighbors to the joys of gardening. Who, if not you, will teach them about how special and important plants are to our planet? Do some research and share some amazing numbers about plants, pollinators, etc. Keep a garden journal. Create a wildlife habitat. Compost.

Bottom line – learn more about your garden, make it work better for you, and most importantly, spend more time enjoying it.

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