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Garden Construction for People Without a Lot of Spare Hours

You have a life. The world didn't end when 2000 began. Maybe you enjoy gardening but have other full-time duties that prevent you from devoting hours and hours to building and maintaining elaborate gardens. Yet, you'd like an attractive yard, lawn, and garden space without a lot of time and expense. Non-gardening is for you!

Easy Composting

Composting is easy and a natural activity. It's only all the books and hype about it that makes it seem to be such a big deal. If you have garbage, you can compost. It doesn't matter if you even have a yard or lawn. I have always composted; twice from second-story rental apartments where I didn't even have a yard. An ice-cream bucket works well; a large garbage can with tight fitting lid works even better. Granted, this will not be quite as simple as putting a couple of large garbage cans outside and filling them with garbage, but it will work just fine. You can actually produce all the compost you will need for houseplants and garden from an indoor system. Shake up the ice cream bucket occasionally to mix, don't open it except to add more garbage, as it will smell like decomposing garbage. When one pail or can is full, stop adding and start in on another. It takes a while to make compost. Just how long depends on what you are putting into it and on other conditions such as air and temperature.

Outdoor composting is even more simple. Have a couple of garbage cans placed where your garbage service will not automatically empty them and where neighbors won't be tempted to toss in candy wrappers and beer bottles. You can add a few leaves in the fall, eggshells, vegetable waste and coffee grounds seem to work the best. Don't add bones or meat products though, as they will produce flies and attract loose cats and dogs. Keep your cans tightly covered. I dump a 3/4 full can into an empty can to mix the contents. This need only be done once. In the spring I use one can for houseplants and gardens. Unless you have really huge gardens, one can of compost will probably be enough every six months. If not, use more cans. In the fall and winter I also compost certain items directly into the garden. Coffee grounds, vegetable parings and peels and eggshells work well. In my area the garden has long since died and snow is usually covering the yard. My gardens are somewhat raised and bordered by railroad ties, so easy to find even in the deepest snow. It probably wouldn't work to compost directly in a really fussy neighborhood, your neighbors might complain if they saw you dumping garbage in your yard. Use the before-mentioned garbage can method, if that's the case in your area.


First, consider what's available for you to work with. Is the building-block material of your potential garden clay, sand, rock, or a mixture of these? Next, look at what grows there naturally. This is the really easy method of gardening, so easy that it's non-gardening! Wild and field flowers can be beautiful, all you need do is to help them along with keeping the destructive elements away, and putting good ones in. Tethering dogs in your yard may not be your style, but some sort of fertilizer is great to encourage your garden. Houseplant fertilizer mixed up in a pail or watering can works well. Don't leave it lying around for little kids or pets to get into, though, the mix is toxic. I use large quantities of compost and fertilize with Miracle Grow only a couple of times per summer. Wild flowers and plants, especially, cannot handle a lot of fertilizer. I mix vegetable gardening, herbs and wild flowers into a garden that pleases me. Do what makes you happy. There isn't a certain, correct formula to gardening.


Herb-growing is another facet of gardening that sometimes has a mystique all out of porportion to the actual effort of growing them. Herbs are like weeds; some ARE weeds. Weeds grow very easily and naturally in their native environment. Perennial herbs need only be coddled a little when first started. Once they take hold they can usually take care of themselves. Herbs can be expensive if ordered from catalogs or purchased from nurseries. Try asking around first, you may be surprised how many gardeners are willing to give you herb cuttings, I was. Rummage sales, school or church bazaars are other good sources of cheap plants. Try whatever is available in your area before purchasing expensive herb plants. If you are new to herb growing or gardening in general, try growing some of the mint family. Mints are interesting, easy to grow once you get them started, they can propagate so rapidly that you may become one of the gardeners giving away free herb plants! I started with a Chocolate Mint plant, it was interesting, conversation-provoking and easy to grow. I was soon giving plants away as gifts. The recipients liked the unique chocolate-mint smell of the little plant. Catnip is a mint, if you have cats. There are many other types, such as spearmint that are easy to grow and spread like weeds. They make a tasty tea too, if you or your friends enjoy tea. Lemon Balm is easy to grow, as are many other herbs like oregano, and other cooking herbs. In fact using fresh herbs can make people rave over your cooking even if you are just a so-so cook like me.

Rock Gardening Without Breaking Rocks

The ease or difficulty in making a rock garden depends on what you have to work with. This is true of any garden. The secret of easy gardening is to work with what you have available. Do you have a lot of rocks in your soil? Can you get a quantity of rocks easily? I have always saved rocks and put them into the large pots of houseplants, and used rocks for decoration. If you have a storehouse of rocks, kids that collect rocks, or a rocky yard, maybe a rock garden is for you. Having rocks loose around the house is probably the easiest way of getting them. If there is a beach nearby, it could be a source of smooth, beautiful rocks. Be sure that this is legal in your area before you and the kids take your pails there to collect! Digging rocks from your yard could be a time and energy-consuming task unless you are forced to dig up your yard for other reasons: I had a gas line dug up in the yard. It uncovered a lot of nice big and medium-sized rocks. Some friends in the country had to have their septic dug up; also uncovered enough material for a rock garden.

So, okay, you have the rocks, now you need material to go in between them, since plants need soil to grow. If you are a composter, like me, you will nearly always have a ready batch of material for planting. [Composting is a simple way to utilize garbage, not the involved, technical procedure that some articles make it out to be. Easy composting is explained above.] Set your rocks layer by layer onto the area you would like your rock garden. If you have compost ready, use it to pack between the rocks. If not, use any sort of soil that you can come by easily and cheaply, it's not a big deal. Plant flowers, seeds, whatever you would like to see growing in your rock garden. Start small, you can always add later, or just let the rock garden alone to do its thing once you plant a few things, that's the fun of rock gardens. I have seen strawberries grown in rock gardens, and the typical succulent and ground-cover plants too. I transplant plants like ground ivy, butter-and-eggs, and other wild plants from other areas of my yard into my rock garden. Use whatever plants you like to see that are easily available to you. The only warning is to be sure to water the garden in the beginning. Later it will not be as important, as the layers will hold in moisture. Water your rock garden gently while the plants are taking hold; I use an indoor spray bottle.