11 Gardening Tips, Tricks, and Hacks to Make Flower Gardening Simpler and Less Annoying
Gardening…awesome, isn’t it?
Feeling your hands down in the soil, gently weeding, whispering sweet nothings to the beauteous blossoms, sprinkling love on their gorgeous petals while you bask in the sunshine?
Although flowers…flowers are awesome.
Thanks to my local nursery’s willingness to take credit cards, I have a buttload. Beds of beautiful perennials and bulbs. And deck pots overflowing with pink and purple annuals.
But to me, gardening feels less “love sprinkle-y” and more “how long can I put off watering before the hanging white lobelia enters its ‘do not resuscitate’ phase?”
In other words, it’s possible to love your garden without loving to garden.
Today I’m sharing a few of my self-tested tips (tricks, hacks, what have you) to get the end results…with or without all that sprinkled love.
Instead of gambling, wondering “how long can I wait before this healthy plant turns into Clark Griswold gasping in the desert with his pants tied around his head,” you’ll be more “let’s get this done quickly while my umbrella drink is still frosty.”
This isn’t a how-to guide on growing gorgeous blooms or keeping cutworms off the impatiens. It’s more of the “how to find your trowel without unleashing a pile of scary, spider-covered shed debris on your head” variety.
‘Cuz that hurts.
Laziness – It’s An Art Form
Mostly, I minimize excuses.
- To avoid that dark, cobweb-filled shed, I keep an everyday gardening bucket in the garage, right up front next to the big rolling door. So I don’t even have to go in.
It has a bucket insert with lots of pockets, but I don’t overthink it. In this case, over-organizing would be a hindrance. I wouldn’t be as willing to put my tools back if I had to be all persnickety about which trowel goes in which pocket. The important thing is that they all belong in the bucket, and that’s where I find them because that’s where I put them. Because it was easy. Boom! Organizing that serves me, no cuteness necessary.
The bucket contains my:
- Weed stick
- Bypass pruners
- Pruning saw
- Garden shears
- Regular scissors
- Box cutter
- Big ole tube of Desitin
Wait, did she say Desitin?
Welcome to My BackYard: Clothing Optional
Okay, it’s not what you think. I’ve been known to do many embarrassing things in my driveway, but applying butt cream to my bottom is not one.
- If your hands usually look like you strangled Kermit or mined coal after you garden, glob a little Desitin around your fingernail beds before you begin. You can also drag your nails across a bar of soap to keep the dirt out while you work.
- Speaking of soap, a bar in the toe of a thin sock tied around your hose faucet makes it easy to wash up and keep the mulch dye and dirt off your front door. And any other surface you touch on the way to the sink.
With your distraction level, that could be a lot of surfaces!
Or suck it up and wear your gloves. What a concept, right? I hear you – I hate them too. Still…
Oh, and if you’re going to wear them, get good ones. Don’t bother with Dollar Tree. No point in gloves that just let all the dirt in anyway.
You Did Remember To Get the Baby Out Of the Car First, Right?
Okay, now let’s talk about impulse gardening. Like when you pull up in the driveway and decide right this minute to tackle the maple tree seeds sprouting all over your flower beds.
On the one hand, even though it might distract you from something else, at least you’re accomplishing something. On the other hand, how many pairs of pants or shoes have ended up in the donate bin due to accidental grass or soil stains? Or, at the very least, how many times have you worn your regular shoes into the house afterward, bringing in all that black soil along with you?
Who tracked in all this dirt?!!!
Oh wait, that was me. Sorry.
- So keep a pair of yard shoes in the garage, maybe even in your gardening bucket. Even if you don’t bother to change into them for impulse tasks (some of us never learn), at least you might remember them when you weed whack or mow the lawn.
Or did you forget how green your feet get when you mow?
And being yard shoes, you’ll be more inclined to take them off before you go back inside.
You can also keep some of those little surgeon shoe covers that painters use for the quick tasks.
To avoid ruining your pants knees, a kneeler or knee pads work great. I also keep yard clothes in the mudroom during spring and summer because when I get dirty, I get really dirty.
Yeah, I’ve been known to change clothes in the garage. At least it’s not the front yard.
I Don’t Know What Happened To Your Phone, Honey – Maybe Those Darn Kids With Their Super Soakers?
So that takes care of one part of the yard. But what about the deck pots in the way, way back? I mean, we can’t be expected to walk a million miles allll the way around the house every time we need a tool, can we?
Maybe you’re not as whiny as I am, but you’ll still benefit from tips on the lazy way to keep flower pots out back.
We’ll start with making the potting process easier.
- When you store your pots each year, include everything you need to re-pot in the spring (not the tools, the other stuff). For example, with my pots, I store:
- The spray bottle I use for sanitizing. I empty it before storing, but having the spray bottle for bleach right there makes it so much easier in the spring.
- Water soluble fertilizer granules aka Miracle-Gro.
- Packing peanuts. I use these to fill in the bottom of the pots to save soil and make them lighter. If you, too, use packing peanuts, here’s a hint: do not use biodegradable – I accidentally used biodegradable one year and they dissolved when I watered, causing the soil to cave in on itself.
Go ahead laugh. I’d join you but I’m the one who had to redo eight flower pots from scratch.
- Shards of terra cotta, gravel, and sand for drainage.
- Decorative rocks (this tip is coming up).
- Extra soil from last year.
- When you’re ready to pot, dump the gigantic bag of potting soil into a lidded plastic tote, so you can use a plastic fast food cup to scoop the soil out. Easier than wrangling with the bag, scooping dirt out from a too-small opening. And this way, your extra soil is already ready to store.
If you don’t have a fast food cup stored with your pots or in your recycling, check the footwell of your car. I’m sure there’s one there.
It’s funny because it’s true.
Ever Try To Chisel a Dried Petunia Petal Off Of a Deck Table?
- To keep dirt from spraying out of newly potted plants when you water them, cover some of the soil surface in decorative rocks, like the black ones from the Dollar Tree. The water hits the stones and flows over, so it doesn’t kick dirt back up and out.
- To maintain the pots, keep a few tools out on the deck itself for every day chores.
Since I only pot once a year, I don’t bother keeping a trowel out back. But I do keep a cheap pair of scissors, a small container of miracle-gro, plastic grocery bags (for spent blooms and weeds – resist the temptation to throw them on a nearby table ’til later), and a weeder.
I store mine in a pot with a fake plant in it. I’ve also used a mailbox attached to the deck railing, which holds even more. You can even keep small deck tools there, like a tiki torch lighter.
Of course, make sure you keep all this dangerous stuff out of your kids’ reach. After all, you don’t want them to go on a gardening spree, willy-nilly – they might not leave any weeds for you. Seriously, though – if your kids are like mine, nothing is safe, even boring yard tools. With a mailbox, you might even be able to rig up a lock.
- As for watering, hopefully you have a hose out back. But even if you do, don’t depend on it for all the watering. A sprinkling can is a must.
Because, and this is a completely hypothetical situation, it is possible that you might get a tad tired (you are a busy person, after all) and you might decide it’s not 100% necessary to pull that heavy, heavy hose all the way up onto the deck (it’s a really long way) to reach the flowers way up next to the house (so, so far away), and you might, possibly decide to shoot the water up from where you’re standing on the ground, and it’s possible, although highly unlikely, that you could, maybe spray something electronic your husband left on the deck.
I’ve never known this to happen (I swear, I have no idea what you’re talking about, honey, this is purely hypothetical), but better safe than sorry, right? Use a sprinkling can. That’s all I’m saying. And buy a nice one – then you can leave it out and pretend it’s a decoration.
Weeds Are Like Old Man Hair – Always Sprouting Up Where You Least Want Them
And now for the most enjoyable (not) part of gardening…weeding.
You could let the weeds grow, pretend they’re wildflowers, and call it a day.
Or…maybe you like having neighbors who don’t hate you?
If so, a few tips:
- Keep a weed bucket or bag near or in your gardening bucket. Despite what you might think, you will not eventually go back and pick up those 17 sad piles of weeds you left on the ground. You won’t. Seriously. Stop the charade and take a bag with you.
As for the weeding itself, a few weeds here and there – not a big deal. But when you gaze out at a mulched area around a tree, anticipating an expanse of unbroken brown but seeing a misty ocean of green, you know you’re in for a bit of work.
Every year, our maple drops a bazillion (seriously, spell-check, that’s a word? All those other red squiggly lines, and this one you let by?) helicopters, or last year’s morning glories explode all over.
- When you have big weed clusters appear out of thin air, set a daily reminder on your phone and spend 5 minutes a day yanking out what you can (you’ll get a lot in 5 minutes). This is also when the hula hoop method I mentioned in this cleaning post comes in handy.
Or else commit to pulling 100 each time you go by (don’t forget the shoe covers and weed bag!) until it’s cleared up. 100 sounds like a lot, but with a ton of these tiny invaders all in one place, it will only take a few minutes. I actually shoot for 200 when this happens.
If you try to get them all at once:
- Your patience and endurance might not stand up to it,
- You’ll get frustrated when more pop up tomorrow,
- And next time, you’ll put the chore off until you lose a toddler or two in the weed patch.
Setting a goal to make the area better each day (eventually it will be clear, I promise), keeps it from feeling so never-ending. 100 weeds or 5 minutes, and you’re done for the day. You can move on to other pressing chores.
Like shaving your husband’s back hair.
Petunias Are the Infants of the Flower World (We Know They’re High Maintenance But We Talk Ourselves Into Thinking They’re Cute and Keep Bringing More Home)
And my bonus gardening tip today for making growing and enjoying your own flowers easier is:
Do not, for the love of all that is holy, plant petunias. Just don’t.
And, now that I’ve said that, let’s talk about the petunias I plant. Every year.
Sorry, they’re just way too much bang for the buck to pass up.
But man, aren’t petunias like the neediest flowers, ever? Their spent blooms are sticky and gross, they stain the deck, and if you neglect their deadheading for even, like, a week, it’s next to impossible to make them look presentable again without giving them a haircut even Eleven would be ashamed of.
However…they’re so pretty! And they’re like $4 for a six-pack.
So every year, I say no to petunias. Then I buy them anyway.
If this is you, here’s how to make them a tad less annoying.
Use cheap scissors that you keep on your deck to deadhead them instead of using your fingers. No more sticky fingers, so you’re more likely to actually do it.
Then I take this a step further. Once they start to get big and covered with blossoms, I lose my tolerance for everyday deadheading.
Patience is a virtue, but not one of mine.
Once they get to that point, it’s too much of a pain to search them for dead blooms. Despite my best intentions, there’s no stinkin’ way I’m scouring my petunias to deadhead them every single day. Not gonna happen.
I could just give up, but I hate seeing weak, leggy petunias, and I’m too cheap to throw them out when they get ugly. So every Monday, I cut off every single bloom.
Hold on. Hear me out.
I don’t cut off the buds. Just the blooms, even the new ones that are so fresh and pretty. When I do this, the dead blooms are all exposed, so I get them all.*
Then I let forth an evil laugh. You can’t hide from me, my pretties…
Then…I leave it alone. Other than watering and fertilizing.
By Saturday, voila – it’s covered in blooms again and they are all fresh and lovely. At one time.
So much easier – instead of bedraggled, leggy petunias and a search for shriveled up blossoms every day, you get amazingly gorgeous petunias Friday through Sunday with almost no effort.
So if you can bear bad petunia hair days Monday-Thursday, you get a great payoff for the weekend. I mean, I probably wouldn’t do this if I only had petunias, but it’s fine to have a totally green plant among all the other flowers. And you’re probably more likely to sit out on the deck on the weekend anyway.
Even if you don’t do this weekly, it’s a useful method for when they get out of control, like if you go away for a week or two. Or if you forget you have flowers to take care of (hey, it happens). Just cut off every single bloom and wait a few days.
Visitors ask me how my petunias look so full and pretty. My secret is impatience.
Virtues are overrated.
Alcohol, the Easy Way To a Beautiful Deck
So, tell me – do you enjoy gardening, or do you just enjoy flowers but wish they weren’t so much work?
Or do you avoid the entire subject and stay inside all summer?
Or do you simply drink a lot when you’re on the deck so you don’t have to see your surroundings?
Just curious. Comment below if you’d like to share how you make gardening less tedious and annoying and, therefore, more likely to get done.
I have a bunch more gardening tips I’ll share in a later post. In the meantime, I’d enjoy hearing yours. Just let me grab my umbrella drink and get settled in. I’ll be right back…
*Cut them all the way back to the previous joint in the stem – don’t cut off only the bloom. I learned this trick from the head gardener at Sesame Place who I may or may not have called after a park visit for gardening tips (sometimes I embarrass my husband). If you’ve ever been to an Anheuser-Busch theme park, you know they have the best-looking petunias in the world (or at least the parts of the world we get to see when we have a four-year-old).