The garden tour two weeks ago was a great success and a great deal of fun. It was wonderful to see how many people were interested in native plants and more naturalistic landscaping. There were lots of questions and comments about specific plants, but the one question that kept coming up was about how much time it takes to keep the garden up.
It surely looks like a lot – there are 2 acres total, with about 4000 square feet of garden beds and another 1.25 acre of open space and groves of trees and shrubs. The rest remains wild. So my answer to the question about how much time it takes surprises people.
The spring is the busiest time. From late March to early June, I spend 12-20 hours a week, for 150-200 hours total. I am doing spring cutbacks and cleanups, lots of weeding, spreading compost, setting up the vegetable garden, and planting my pots of colorful annuals. Then I have that year’s set of projects – planting a new bed, revising and rearranging another bed or two, maybe transplanting shrubs that are in a too-shady spot. I try to budget my projects by how much time and energy I have, so my progress is gradual.
By mid-June, the projects are done and the perennials and grasses are filling in. The weekly routine drops to 1-2 hours, and focuses on general maintenance, mostly weeding and watering. I plant densely, and use ground covers and mulch so there are few spots for weeds to take hold. (Except for the vegetable garden, of course.) I keep an eye on the rainfall, and give the garden beds supplemental watering every two weeks if we don’t have rain. I have only a few plants that need deadheading, and this takes maybe 15 minutes a week. I don’t do staking or cutbacks, leaving the seedheads for the birds.
So by July, I can sit back and just enjoy the garden. Walking around every day, often with camera in hand, or viewing the cottage garden from the patio, or just sitting and watching the pollinators at work are the rewards for all that spring activity.
I especially appreciate the plants that bloom in the mid-to-late summer; they give the garden a whole new seasonal look.
In September, I can begin to think about fall and winter chores – invasive control and pruning. But until then, it’s time to just enjoy.